By Adelaide Mena and Matt Hadro
The detailed platform adopted by the Republican Party this week received mixed reactions among Catholics for its positions.
It was an “extremely conservative platform” in the words of Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), co-chair of the platform committee, “one that, as I said in my comments on the floor here, upholds our moral tradition.”
Among many issues, the 54-page statement of the party’s beliefs calls for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, asks for more restrictions on refugee resettlement in the U.S., defends marriage as between one man and one woman, calls for the passage of pro-life legislation, and even includes paragraphs calling pornography a “public health crisis.”
The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List called the platform “the most pro-life platform ever,” noting how it pushed for bans on late-term abortions, sex-selective abortions, and disability abortions, and advocated for the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal tax dollars from directly funding abortions.
Tom McClusky, the vice president of the March for Life who worked in the drafting of the pro-life plank of the platform, told CNA it was “the most detailed platform we’ve ever seen,” noting that “just about every single piece of pro-life legislation that is currently out there, it is mentioned in the platform.”
“There is some concern with the person at the top of the ticket,” he said, noting the importance of “having a platform that we could lean back on to hold him accountable.”
The platform also took a strong right-wing stand on immigration. After acknowledging the contributions of legal immigrants to American society, it called for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent the entry of undocumented immigrants into the United States.
“We oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by breaking the law, have disadvantaged those who have obeyed it,” the platform said.
It also advocated for a mandatory use of the E-Verify system nationwide, as well as a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for attempted re-entry into the U.S. by someone who has been deported for illegal immigration. So-called “sanctuary cities” should be denied federal aid, it said.
The platform also called for changes to the guest worker program. “In light of the alarming levels of unemployment and underemployment in this country, it is indefensible to continue offering lawful permanent residence to more than one million foreign nationals every year,” it stated.
Jeanne Atkinson of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network expressed her concerns with the immigration plank to CNA.
“Immigration is about people and families and communities, not about walls, and punitive and damaging enforcement measures,” she said. “Immigrants actually create jobs and strengthen our economy.”
She noted the section’s first paragraph, which commended “immigrant labor building our country and making vital contributions in every aspect of national life.”
“That’s really what the focus should be,” she insisted, “that emphasis should be throughout the rest of the document”
At the end of the immigration section, the document asked for “major changes” to the refugee resettlement system.
Back in November, the party’s presumptive nominee Donald Trump floated the idea of a temporary ban on all Muslims trying to enter the U.S., as a purported security measure. The GOP platform didn’t endorse that specific position, but stated that “asylum should be limited to cases of political, ethnic or religious persecution.”
It added that “refugees who cannot be carefully vetted cannot be admitted to the country, especially those whose homelands have been the breeding grounds for terrorism.” It insisted that “our nation’s immigration and refugee policies are placing Americans at risk.”
One significant addition to the 2016 platform in the “ensuring safe neighborhoods” section is an anti-pornography plank, calling porn a “public health crisis.” This comes after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on porn back in November “Create In Me a Clean Heart.”
“Pornography is a scourge in every country, it is being fueled by globalization through the Internet and global travel,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles told CNA in an interview during last year’s synod on the family. “Everyone knows there are links between the porn industry and prostitution and human trafficking and child abuse.”
“We are in a crisis. Pornography is a public health crisis of the digital age,” Gail Dines, a professor of sociology at Wheelock College and founder of the group Culture Reframed, told CNA. Dines called it a “public health crisis” in a piece for the Washington Post in April.
She added that “it is in keeping with the 40 years of empirical research that we have that pornography has enormous social, psychological, cognitive, and sexual effects. We know that from the research, and that it is indeed a public health issue.”
Iraq’s embattled Christian minorities also have a place in the platform, which calls for attention to their plight and humanitarian aid.
“Defeating ISIS means more than pushing back its fighters while abandoning its victims. It must mean aiding those who have suffered the most — and doing so before they starve,” the platform stated.
Dr. Matthew Bunson, a contributor to EWTN, said the platform “expands the potential appeal for voters” by highlighting international Christian persecution and global repression of religious freedom, which he termed a “growing phenomenon of repression and curtailing of rights.”
For instance, it mentioned the dire need for aid among Iraq’s Christians and religious freedom concerns in China, part of the document’s “remarkably comprehensive” nature, he said.
Given concerns about Trump’s views on religious freedom – prompted by his ideas such as the Muslim immigration ban – Trump is “trying to protect his flank within the party by giving the cultural side what it wants the most,” Bunson suggested.