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May 13, 2004

Comments

Mark of MP

Since Bush's compromise re stem cells was deemed "morally unacceptable" (see here) by the USCCB, doesn't Bishop Sheridan's guidance (with respect to "Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia") lead us to the position that a vote for either Bush or Kerry is morally unacceptable?

Rich Leonardi

Uh, even assuming your premise, Bush doesn't claim to be Catholic.

sj

"Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences."

"Candidates" not "Catholic candidates."

Rich Leonardi

"Licit" and "illicit" typically are canonical terms that describe whether an act has taken place in accord with the norms of Canon Law; Canon Law determines the way *the Church* is governed.

It's also worth noting that in the sentence immediately before Bishop Fiorenza's characterization of Bush's "morally unacceptable" stem cell policy of three years ago, the Bishop claims "President Bush has reaffirmed his support for a ban on human cloning and other policies that deserve support in their own right".

Has the Vatican said anything about Bush's policy in the intervening three years?

Ken

So is Senator Santorum outside the Church for endorsing Sen. Specter?

Glenn Juday


I believe Evangelium Vitae indicates that where a vote for a candidate with complete adherence to Catholic principles in defense of life is not possible, it is permissible for Catholics to vote for the candidate who would most mitigate already established evils.

David Kubiak

'I wish to affirm my brother bishops who have proclaimed the truth...' Sadly this sounds a lot like the Episcoplians during the gay bishop debate. In an age of instantaneous communication it is intolerable for the Church to maintain significantly different attitudes on this question from diocese to diocese. The Church's claim to teach authoritatively on faith and morals becomes subject to ridicule when every time people quote Bishop Sheridan they get Archbishop Pilarcyzk quoted back.

And by the way what kind of public relationship has been developed between Archbishop O'Malley and Senator Kennedy, who I imagine must turn up at some important liturgical events in Boston.

catholic

It is nice to know that according to this Bishop all democrats and republicans must be outside the Church. Now that the Church has been "right-sized" those yearly audits concerning abuse will be much easier. The committee will just have to contact the remaining parishoner to ask if he feels violated in any way.

Fr. Rob Johansen

"Catholic" wrote:

It is nice to know that according to this Bishop all democrats and republicans must be outside the Church.

Please explain how you arrive at this conclusion.

catholic

"There must be no confusion in these matters. Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences."

Bush supports abortion in cases of rape and incest and also supports illicit stem cell research, that places any Catholic who votes for Bush "outside full communion with the Church". Of course, those who would vote for Kerry will likewise, according to the statement by Bishop Sheridan, "outside full communion with the Church".

Presumably, if you are Republican, you will vote for the candidate of your party, which will be Bush. If you are Democrat, you will vote for Kerry. But, if you cross party lines on principle, you will still be "If you are Republican, you will vote for the candidate of your party, which presumably will be Bush. I guess that leaves Ralph Nader? Oops... too bad. He is pro-choice to. Guess you have to withhold your vote to take communion.

It is time to stop politicking with the Eucharist.


Todd

Peace, all.

It's clear that Catholics are only likely to be in full communion in monarchies and dictatorships. The Vatican can sign concordats with these and cover the "outside full communion" rap for the rest of us.

Now I see what the anti-NRB bishops mean when they talk about taking their time.

Archivist

From Evangelium Vitae (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html):

"...In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it".

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent...In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects."

Donald R. McClarey

Liberals should appreciate the bishops speaking out. Isn't one of their cant phrases "Speaking truth to power"? The bishops are doing just that to Catholic pro-abort politicians. You cannot be pro-abort and a Catholic in communion with the Church. Time to choose.

Jason

>>>"....Let us all pray for those politicians who claim to be Catholic yet continue to oppose the law of God and the rights of persons that, by the grace of God, they will be converted once again to the full and authentic articulation and practice of the faith."

What's this? A Bishop speaking forthrightly and unambiguously on a Truth of the Catholic faith?

Quick, the news is reporting mass Jewish conversions....

catholic

"What's this? A Bishop speaking forthrightly and unambiguously on a Truth of the Catholic faith?"

No. It is a Bishop telling you don't vote or don't come to communion. In a perfect world, his opinion would be right because in a perfect world there would be a perfect candidate for whom to vote.

In the real world which we are charged to oversee, to withhold one's vote is also a vote. Failure to cast a vote because perfection cannot be obtained is to accede to the will of those who have no compunctions over the morality of their votes.

Jason

Catholic,

You seem very confused. The Bishops words arent spoken with prejudice to the church's teaching that it is morally licit, in a case of two imperfect politicians, to vote for the one who will do more to advance human life. We also have a right not to vote. If nobody deserves our vote, then nobody will get it. That is the route I personally must take.

Rich Leonardi

"Catholic" et al.,

The content and context of Bishop Sheridan's remarks indicated that they are directed toward politicians who call themselves Catholic.

Why else would he conclude his remarks by thanking his brother bishops for admonishing *Catholic* politicians?

If you want to take one line from his fairly focused pastoral letter and turn it into a blanket condemnation of all politicians, I suppose you are free to do so. But I hardly think that was Sheridan's intention.

al

Rich,
With the additional observation that in a democracy in a sense we are all legislators, and so therefore no prochoice vote is permissable.

Its an absurd charge anyway. If you don't think abortion is the number one issue in the election, then you are either ignorant, or not in full communion.

sj

"Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance."

Later on he makes the same statement with respect to "any Catholic" who would vote for "a candidate who would promote so-called same sex marriage."

His intentions seem clear. He's condemning voters as well as politicians.

Rich Leonardi

sj,

I agree that Bishop Sheridan is "condemning voters as well as politicians", but he isn't doing it in such an overbroad way that it establishes a moral equivalence between all politicians or, for the purpose of this exchange, two.

Mio


Bp. Sheridan's heart obviously is in the right place, but this thread is sufficient evidence that he might have been advised to include a line about the "candidate who's wrong on one life issue vs. candidate who's wrong on lots of life issues" situation.

Mio

Incidentally, has anyone run across a list of bishops who've addressed this issue (pro or con)?

I'm having trouble remembering all the players without a scorecard, given that there doesn't seem to be a unified game plan.

Christine

It's Friday -- I'm feeling a little crabby -- forgive me, but posters who keep referring to Catholics "taking" (although non-Catholics can be given some leeway for not knowing the difference)Communion -- Catholics don't TAKE Communion -- they RECEIVE Communion -- there's a world of difference in those statements.

There, now that I've been a self-righteous prig I feel much better.

chris K

Now then, for grown up Catholic voters: if there is a choice between a candidate who doesn't mind killing up to and including infanticide (seemingly Kerry since he voted against the limits to Partial Birth) and one who may sympathize with victims of rape or incest, and if many Catholic voters realize that if they don't vote at all their non-votes, in a way, will go to the elimination of lots more lives, what is the moral thing to do in the real world?? Catholic teaching does include the lesser of two evils promotion. Otherwise all these "teachings" suddenly erupting from our shepherds leave consciences doing nothing, out of fear, but continuing to count the number of angels that fit on the tip of a pin.

William Tighe

"Receive communion" is a relatively recent term; "take communion" was the common term for English Catholics in the 17th & 18th Centuries. Before the Reformation, the common term was "to take one's rights." There is no reason to fuss about these terms -- and if one wishes to "vent" it is always a good idea to make sure you know what you're talking about first.

Gerard E.

The stinging part- his admonition that Catholics who vote for candidates advocating abortion, stem cell research, or euthanasia fall under the same need for repentance as the candidates themselves. Will need to chew on it in facing situations like those coming in November: our pro-choice Republican incumbent Senator- who barely squeaked past his pro-life primary opponent- against his Democratic pro-choice challenger. Or two women, the Democrat only slightly more pro-choice than the Repubican- facing each other to replace the Democratic Senatorial candidate in Congress. Very scary. Very challenging. And from a document as far removed from the usual vacuous bishops' pronouncements as Macbeth to a high school English paper.

Christine

William,

"Receive" is the accepted terminology today. I have NEVER, NEVER heard any priest refer to "taking" Communion and I stand by my statement. It is the gift of the Lord to us, not something we "take" from Him.

We are not living in post-Reformation England. I'm done with the subject.

Zippy

Chris K. wrote:
"Catholic teaching does include the lesser of two evils promotion."

No it does not. It is Catholic dogma that you may not do evil that good may result. Even when the principle of double-effect applies it can only apply when the act is not evil in itself.

One of the general problems with democratic voting (irrespective of who you vote for) is that it promotes, via ritual, the "lesser of two evils" heresy otherwise known as proportionalism.

c matt

Gerard:

Interesting point. What to do? On one hand, you don't want to give the Pro-Death party another seat in the Senate; on the other hand, the so-called Pro-Life party's candidate is no better than the Pro-death candidate. To some extent, you want to teach the so-called Pro-Life party a lesson by having them lose. Otherwise, they will simply conclude that they were right all along to endorse a pro-death candidate b/c he won (very similar to the McClintock/Schwarzetc. debacle).

George

So I am supposed to check in with the Vatican (Evangelium Vitae) and the local bishop appointed by them, and carefully cross reference their guidance (helpfully available for downloads in PDF files) to one of the many pro-life voting guides, and then decide who to vote for. Democracy in action.

And that is the Catholic Faith in 2004? I don't think so, it is so far away from everything I believe, I don't even know where to start. It is a such a joke.

P.S. I won't be voting for him, but I will let you in a secret. If you are pro-life and a voter in Pennsylvania, it is O.K. with the Church if you cast a vote for Santorum. Really. Just don't get caught clapping at the Bush rally when Giuliani, a true hero, starts to speak.


Chris-2-4

Mark of MP, et al:

While the Bishops may have determined that the President's decision on the stem-cell research is morally unacceptable, I think it is incorrect to say that the President SUPPORTS illicit stem-cell research. While he did allow funding to continue on a limited basis, he was clearly conflicted about the decision which was a very difficult one. And he does not support "illicit stem cell research" as properly understood (an ongoing method that continues to destroy embryos).

If you would like to read his remarks you should be able to tell that he does NOT SUPPORT ILLICIT STEM CELL RESEARCH. He allows for further research on existing stem cells harvested previously. There is a fundamental difference.
Remarks by the President on Stem Cell Research

Patrick Rothwell

Although Bishop Sheridan's heart is in the right place, others on this comment box have pointed out some of the problems with his sweeping statements about people committing grave sins by voting for this or that candidate. Another problem with sweeping statements is that the choices that voters face in an election do not always fall along the lines that is commonly supposed.

Let's take, for instance, a Catholic working-class family lives in North Carolina or South Carolina where the father has worked all of his life in the textile industry. The mother has also worked in the textile industry until she started to have children and stayed at home to raise them. They now have three children, two of them teenagers. Unfortunately for them, due to the pressures of competition from textile imports, mills are closing throughout these two states and the family have no other vocational skills.

Candidate X for President is firmly committed to the pro-life cause, but he is also committed to free trade and has no political interest in preserving textile jobs in the Carolinas because the business interests that support him want cheap textile imports. Candidate Y for President, on the other hand, proposes to impose tariffs on textile imports in order to protect the textile industry in those states. He believes that this will help his prospects in states with endangered textile mills. However, Candidate Y is firmly pro-choice and has stated that support for Roe v. Wade is a litmus test for judicial nominations and that his administration will support abortion at every level.

The Catholic working family is in a quandry. The father is pro-life, but his livelihood is in danger and he must feed himself and his family. He goes to his pastrish priest and says that he reluctantly voted for Candidate Y. His pastor tells him in response, that from this time forward, he is not to receive communion until he repents of his vote.

Was it a sin for the father to vote the way he did? Should the pastor denied him communion?

Zippy

"Was it a sin for the father to vote the way he did? Should the pastor denied him communion?"

Yes. Proportionalism is a heresy. You cannot do evil that good may result.

Conor Dugan

Bishop Fiorenza's statement after the Bush's stem cell decision has been criticized by orthodox moralists. John Finnis for one; he told me that he thought the statement of Fiorenza was faulty and that Bush's decision was morally licit. There was at least one in the National Catholic Register as well.

Donald R. McClarey

Gee Patrick, I didn't realize that textile workers in South Carolina were chained serfs who couldn't find other jobs. My job or supporting a candidate in favor of slaughtering kids in the womb? Doesn't strike me as a hard moral choice.

Whitcomb

Patrick, no on both counts.

In the first place, if I had spoken to this man before he went to his priest, I would have told him that he was under no obligation to tell a cleric how he voted.

The first duty of this man is to feed, shelter and clothe his family. I don't know that tariffs are the answer to his problem, but if he sincerely believed they would save his livelihood then his vote is defensible. The pastor should not deny him communion.

Bishop Sheridan is demanding a level of purity that is simply unachieveable in our democracy. He in effect asks us to retreat into a Catholic ghetto, where we can all applaud ourselves for not voting.

Zippy

"Bishop Sheridan is demanding a level of purity that is simply unachieveable in our democracy. He in effect asks us to retreat into a Catholic ghetto, where we can all applaud ourselves for not voting."

And of course that represents a problem with Catholicism, not a problem with liberal democracy, eh?

Patrick Rothwell

"Yes. Proportionalism is a heresy. You cannot do evil that good may result."

I disagree that a decision to vote for pro-choice candidate Y in the circumstance I described is the "heresy" of "Proportionalism." I see such a vote as yet another form of the principle of the double effect carried into practice.

Rich Leonardi

Patrick,

The principle of double effect presumes that the action contemplated be in itself either morally good or morally indifferent. That doesn't apply here. See Fr. Rob's blog for more on that subject.

Whitcomb

Donald,

I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that our mythical textile worker has a high school diploma and nothing more. He's got a few mouths to feed and, to get a better job, he's probably going to have to get some more education at a community college or a training school--all the while holding down a full-time job. Not a simple task, especially with babies popping up with some regularity.

Zippy

If acting in a way that will kill children for the sole purpose of generating personal economic benefit is not proportionalism then I don't know what is. Bishop Sheridan at least seems to agree with me.

Susan

Zippy,

Not feeding one's children eventually kills them too.

Rich Leonardi

Susan,

So, in your view, Catholic parents are free to disregard Catholic teaching as long as they merely assert that it impairs their ability to "feed" their children?

Every man a priest and every conscience a magesterium.

Zippy

Yeah, if that hypothetical guy had stayed out of the voting booth his kids would have died.

Malarky. Why all the excuses for proportionalism? Because it is trained into you every time you participate in the secular Ritual of the Proportionalist Heresy. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

Zippy

So next time one of my kids needs a kidney I'll just go kill another kid and take his.

amy

Okay. Let's move away from smart comments and back to substance, please.

T. Marzen

Patrick Rothwell:

The principle of the double effect does not apply. Its first requirement is that the act at issue cannot be in itself evil. For example, one cannot support a law that allows the execution of the innocent AND institutes a wonderful social welfare program that will save all the poor claiming the principle of the double effect because such support involves endorsing an intrinsic evil. . . murder of the innocent. . . regardless what good it might otherwise do. This is so even if the probable alternative is passage of another law that requires execution of even greater numbers of innocent persons.

But this doesn't lead to the conclusion that you can't, say, vote for Bush in a Bush v. Kerry contest though. One can vote for a law that diminishes the number of innocent persons executed even if it is not perfect, as Evangelium Vitae provides. So one could vote for Bush because he at least offers some prospect of reducing abortion, etc. Kerry would resist any change in such regard, and he would in fact actively fund and facilitate hundreds of thousands of domestic and foreign abortions. So it is not possible to support Kerry.

Zippy

OK, so let me recap the substance of the exchange.

I said that you can't perform an act that deliberately kills children or contributes to their killing for personal economic benefit.

Susan replied that in our hypothetical, failing to acquire that money in that way would result in the starvation of the hypothetical worker's children.

I reiterate that you can't go across the street and kill your neighbor's children in order to get food for yours, even if you have convinced yourself that God has abandoned you and they will starve to death if you don't.

Furthermore, this hypothetical doesn't apply to anyone here. There is not a single person here whose children will starve if they don't vote in the next election.

The reason there is such an ardent defense of proportionalism isn't because some commenter's child is about to starve to death if the election doesn't go a certain way; it is because proportionalism is built into modern liberal democracy, and is reinforced in the minds of the electorate through the voting ritual.

c matt

Bishop Sheridan is demanding a level of purity that is simply unachieveable in our democracy. He in effect asks us to retreat into a Catholic ghetto, where we can all applaud ourselves for not voting."

"Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect"

Now, who was is that said that?

chris K

Chris K. wrote:
"Catholic teaching does include the lesser of two evils promotion."

No it does not. It is Catholic dogma that you may not do evil that good may result. Even when the principle of double-effect applies it can only apply when the act is not evil in itself.

In the case I cited, you would be doing a good ... not an evil. If you failed to act, you would be promoting an evil that could be stopped by your action.

Rod Dreher

I don't see how the bishop could be right on this. I used to live in New York City. During my time there, Mayor Giuliani was running for Senate against Hillary Clinton. Giuliani withdrew after being diagnosed with cancer, but on election day, given those choices, I would have voted for Giuliani, even though he's pro-choice. Why? Because the only real alternative was Hillary Clinton, who is also pro-choice. Now, had Giuliani won, it would have strengthened the GOP in the Senate, which is good for the pro-life cause; had Clinton won (as she ultimately did), it would have strengthened the Democratic Party in the Senate, which is bad for the pro-life cause.

In this situation, the prudent thing for a pro-lifer to do is to vote for the pro-choice Giuliani.

Would that have put me outside the Catholic Church? I cannot see how that can be true.

Zippy

"In the case I cited, you would be doing a good ... not an evil."

That isn't what you said. What you said is that Catholic teaching allows for the choice of the lesser of two evils. That is false. Catholic teaching does not allow you to choose evil, period.

You may choose to lessen a particular evil. So for example you can choose a law that increases restrictions on abortion but fails to ban it completely, if that is your only option.

You may not morally choose one evil as a substitute for another, different evil. The notion that you can is proportionalism.

It is not that you can morally choose the lesser of two evils. It is that you can (citing EV) choose to lessen a particular evil even if you cannot eliminate it.

Brian O'Neel

Bishop Sheridan's letter is not a prescription for putting ourselves into a Catholic ghetto. It is rather a call to build a culture of life. If Candidate A is more pro-life than Candidate B, then you vote for Candidate A. There will be exceptions, such as when there is a Candidate C who is more pro-life then either A or B, but who has no chance of winning, and voting for C might throw the election to B. Moral theologians have said that voting for A in this case is licit.

Again, however, this is an exception. The rule is "Build a culture of life, and do so in the workplace, with your checkbook, with your purchasing choices, and in the ballot box."

Finally, I would simply reiterate what others have said before: Bush's reluctant decision to go forward with stem cell research on a LIMITED basis is no way comparable with Kerry's loving fondness for the pro-abortion position. For those who call themselves Catholic and are still in a quandry about whether they can vote for the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Senator (who, by the way, served in Vietnam), the issue is more one of the will than knowing what is and what is not right to do.

Incidentally, not voting is not an option. Pius XII said to not vote, especially when crucial issues are at stake, is a mortal sin.

Ken

Patrick,

Let's say that Candidate Y was elected to office and had tariffs on imported textiles enacted. We can reasonably expect the price of textiles to increase. Due to an increase of the price of textiles the demand goes down. Due to lower demand retailers will either go out of business, especially the smaller mom and pop operations, or reduce employees.

So we can see that the textile worker not only voted for the continued availability of abortion (and probably cloning and stem cell research) but also voted to move the unemployment problem to somebody else.

What would have happened if he voted for Candidate X. Due to the lower prices from imports the textile factory soon closes down. However, the former textile worker got a 6 months severance package and is eligible for 12 months unemployment benefits. The wife and two teenagers have to take part time jobs to make ends meet. However, due to those same free trade laws that saw the textile factory move out, a foreign car maker decides to build a factory a hundred miles away down the road due to lower assembly costs in the US. The husband applies for a job and gets it.

chris K

Well, Zippy, I guess the ethics of "Priests for Life" stands in grave error according to you:


Then you are confused about whether it is OK to vote for any of them, or perhaps not vote at all.

This may help to clarify the confusion: Forget about putting any labels or endorsements on anyone. Don't call them anything. In your mind, don't give any endorsements. Or, if you prefer, call them both pro-abortion.

Then just ask a simple question: Which of the two candidates will do less harm to unborn children if elected?

http://www.priestsforlife.org/elections/imperfectcand.htm

Zippy

"Incidentally, not voting is not an option."

Nonsense. If the choice was between Adolf and Josef you would be required not to vote. It is Catholic dogma, for millennia before liberal democracy existed, that you may not choose evil that good may result.

What would be sinful is political indifferentism and refusing responsibility for the public order. But voting in a specific election in a corrupt liberal democracy is not synonymous with taking responsibility for your part in the public order.

Zippy

No Chris K. I objected to a very specific statement that you made; a statement that was in fact false. That translates into all sorts of debates I never had with other people only in your imagination.

Catholic teaching does not allow you to choose the lesser of two evils. Period.

Whitcomb

Zippy, I think you mainly recapped your arguments.

No matter.

You boldly go out on a limb by stating that no one can kill his neighbor's children in order to feed one's own. Who pray tell was making that argument?

You also correctly note that we keyboard commandoes of Catholicism will have no starving children, no matter how the election turns out. So what? We're not talking about bloggers. We're talking about a textile worker who might see his job go down the chute.

There is much learned talk here about principles of proportionalism and "double effect" and so on. How about the principle of reality? We all hold our noses from time to time whenever we cast votes. 'Twas ever thus, unless you have wtihdrawn from politics altogether.

chris K

Yes, Zippy, all of those considerations are understood, but I was addressing those who felt the Church teaches something that absolutely forbids a person from even casting a vote in such situations. The cases mentioned involve two evils, and the action promoted is to choose the lesser one (objectively evil in and of itself). The action taken and promoted = an action of choice to lessen a greater evil by choosing a representation of a lesser evil has been referred to as the "lesser of two evils" by Fr. Pavone in discussions on the subject which was a promotion to my hearing. You merely elaborated on my statement to establish the conditions under which these choices are permitted, which I originally assumed was understood by most contributers here.

Zippy

You guys need to go read the discussion over at disputations:

http://disputations.blogspot.com/2004_05_02_disputations_archive.html#108393801241141622

Patrick Rothwell

The more I think about it, the principle of the double effect is not the best way to think about this issue. The best way to think about voting for pro-abortion candidates is material cooperation with evil. It is not true that the very act of voting for Kerry is an evil act in itself. The act of voting for Kerry is an act that is a means (however small) for Kerry to commit a sin. My understanding is that one can perform an act of material cooperation with evil (provided that it is not immediate) in order to achieve a necessary good or to prevent a great harm.

In my hypothetical, the textile worker is doing an act which of itself is neutral (voting for a candidate of one's choice). However, that act of voting - in cumulation with other acts of voting - increases the probability that the candidate of one's choice will sin grieviously). Although voting is not an evil act, the act of voting in this particular case is material cooperation with evil. However, the textile worker can engage in material cooperation with evil so long as the textile worker does so in order to avoid great harm (unemployment), does not intend to cause candidate Y to promote abortions, and that his continued employment is not the result of abortions.

In this circumstance, voting for pro-abort candidate Y is not unlike investing in a company 401(K) in which it invests in pharma companies that produce abortifacients or in gold mining slave labor colonies in West Africa.

Zippy

Sorry, the posting software here is pretty ruthless about markup and links. Just go to disputations.blogspot.com and scroll down to the entry entitled "Friday Fantasy". Really. Just do it.

Zippy

Sorry, the posting software here is pretty ruthless about markup and links. Just go to disputations.blogspot.com and scroll down to the entry entitled "Friday Fantasy". Really. Just do it.

Jason

>>>"Incidentally, not voting is not an option. Pius XII said to not vote, especially when crucial issues are at stake, is a mortal sin."

Sorry, but my vote puts my seal of approval on a particular candidate. If nobody deserves my vote, then nobody gets it. If people would stop playing these games with accepting moderately pro abortion politicans, we could get somewhere. Politicians know we'll accept their fence treading, and so they play to both sides. How about if every Catholic refused to vote for someone unless they are absolutely pro life? No more games. Now include ALL pro lifers in that group. The time for concession has ended. The holocaust grows. Drastic measures are needed.

Jason

>>>"It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion"

Common sense tells us to read his words in light of the teaching of the Church (regarding voting for the politician or law that will more likely advance life). "Those who would vote form them" (according to common sense and charity" are those who would vote for them no matter what, because they agree with their position.

Jason

Also, someone brought up a distinction between Catholic candidates and non-catholic candidates. There is no distinction. All men are under the moral law, which prohibits baby murder.

Jason

Also, someone brought up a distinction between Catholic candidates and non-catholic candidates. There is no distinction. All men are under the moral law, which prohibits baby murder.

FBC

Count me with Jason and Zippy - this is precisely why I didn't vote for Bush in 2002: he's not a pro-lifer, he only seems that way in comparison to the other choice.

Rod Dreher: never disagreed with you before that I know of, but here I do. The problem, as I see it, is that you actually seem to believe that the outcome would have been different or better if he'd been elected rather than Clinton. That's where I disagree - the Republican Party is *not* pro-life; it only appears that way in contrast to the Democrats.

I agree with the poster who said that it's time for drastic action. We've "gone along to get along" for 30-plus years. Where's it gotten us? How many fewer abortions have there been because the Republicans have been in power?

Patrick Rothwell

Rod spake thusly:

"In this situation, the prudent thing for a pro-lifer to do is to vote for the pro-choice Giuliani.

Would that have put me outside the Catholic Church? I cannot see how that can be true."


This is where Bishop Sheridan's pastoral takes you if you follow it to its logical conclusion. It also means that Santorum is out of communion with the Church because he endorsed Spector over Pat Toomey. I wish Santorum had endorsed Toomey, but I understand the tactical logic involved. He believed Toomey would lose the general election and that one would be - in a larger structural sense - worse off than we would be with Spector. And, we also don't know what Spector will do in the judiciary committee and on the floor in gratitude for Bush and Spector saving his rear end.

Rick

I'm with Patrick.

Voting for a pro-abortion candidate does not necessitate that the voter is proabortion him or herself.

Yes, abortion is a grave issue. But it is not the only issue.

And even if we concede abortion is more important than other issues, a pro-life candidate's ability to restrict it may be limited.

(After all, despite GWB's pro-life commitment, the US abortion rate is not much (if at all) lower than it was under the pro-abortion Clinton.

And the abortion rate under Clinton was lower than it was under GHB and even Reagan!)

So electing pro-life candidate A may do little to stem abortion...but may prevent other socially just policies favored by Candidate B from being implemented.

It's clear that Catholic voters may not support abortion per se.

It's not at all clear to me that Catholic voters must always vote for the candidate who favors the greatest abortion restrictions.

Julia

Zippy:

Ever seen the movie "Sophie's Choice"?

I believe she had to choose one or both of her children would be killed.

Should she not choose at all?????

Zippy

Julia: no, I haven't seen it. And I don't see what bearing a Hollywood movie has on the objective moral fact that one cannot do evil that good may occur. It is immoral to trade one evil for another, distinct evil on the basis that one is proportionally worse than the other. That is proportionalism. That is heresy. You may not do evil even if your intent is that a "greater" good will come out of it. That is doctrine, the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church always and everywhere.

Now, what particular acts entail choosing one evil as a substitute for another, and what particular acts entail choosing the least manifestation of a particular evil (the former being always and everywhere immoral and the latter with the open possibility that it may be moral, though it also may not) is a question of fact.

Sometimes people disagree about the facts; but on this issue, all that is at objectively issue in this discussion is, what are the facts? Is voting for John Kerry an act of choosing to substitute one set of evils for a different one? How about voting for Bush?

It seems to me that if on every part of his public platform Bush will do no more evil than the status quo, then it is OK to vote for him. That strikes me as unlikely, but it is at least possible enough that it isn't intellectually dishonest to think that it is the case.

Someone who thinks that Kerry's public platform does not assert a new set of evils is clearly deluded. The justification for voting for Kerry always takes the form that yeah, his platform asserts new, worse evils than Bush's but it also corrects some of the evils of Bush. That is, the justification for voting for Kerry always takes the form of proportionalism.

And proportionalism is heresy, plain and simple.

Zippy

Chris K wrote:
"The cases mentioned involve two evils, and the action promoted is to choose the lesser one (objectively evil in and of itself)."

No. The case you mentioned in the Priests for Life quote (and the one called out in EV as well) is not a question of choosing one evil as a substitute for a distinct, different evil. It is a case of being faced with the same evil - abortion - in a more limited case, and in a less limited case. If you are morally certain that a particular evil is inevitable, then you may act to limit that particular evil.

What you may not do - ever - is substitute one evil for a different one on the basis that you think one is proporitonally worse than another.

catholic

"and one who may sympathize with victims of rape or incest,"

The children who are conceived of rape and incest are no less human beings. Have you ever heard that two wrongs don't make a right?

It is political hypocrisy to soft peddle Bush's support for murder as sympathy, while condemning Kerry.

catholic

"f you would like to read his remarks you should be able to tell that he does NOT SUPPORT ILLICIT STEM CELL RESEARCH. He allows for further research on existing stem cells harvested previously. There is a fundamental difference."

I see. The cat's already out of the bag. Let's continue our research on the mutilated corpses of this children. Well, if you see a fundamental difference then so be it.

Bush still supports abortion in cases of rape and incest. If you see a fundamental difference there, then you haven't looked into my sisters eyes, who happened to have been conceived when my mother was raped. Luckily for my sister, my mother didn't want George Bush's sympathy.

Peter Nixon

I ran into a woman I know this morning. She is in her 60s, raised three daughters, is active in her parish, and spends her Fridays ironing the parish altar linens. She is as middle of the road as they come.

The topic of Bishop Sheridan's letter came up. She just shook her head, sighed and said "at this rate, none of us will be coming up to communion."

Issuing statements that have the tone of imperial edicts is not the same as teaching. Such statements may warm the heart of those who consider themselves the Faith's saving remnant, but they will probably not persuade many who fall outside those ranks.

There is a case to be made for what many of these bishops are trying to do. They are not making it.

catholic

"Every man a priest and every conscience a magesterium."

We are all priests. Please pick up a Bible and read it.

It is a man's duty to follow his own conscience. If that leads him into ruin, then so be it. You cannot force someone against their will to conform their will to God's. You also cannot convince me that God wishes Catholics to withdraw from public policy decisions by withholding their votes.

I'm sorry you disagree, but I will vote in good conscience for the man who I think will do more to stop killing during his term. It will be a positive vote to end killing. I won't vote for the man who will promote more killing while talking like a pro-lifer. I will not feel a need to confess, because I will not have committed a sin. I will continue to kneel at the communion rail.

Karen Howard

I haven't been following this whole thread thoroughly, but on the proportionalism/double effect/voting question, there is a fairly thorough article on EWTN's Experts FAQ, by Colin Donovan. I don't know how to link to the article directly, but the main page for the FAQ is at: http://www.ewtn.com/expert/expertfaqframe.asp. Then click on Moral Theology, then on Voting in Elections. It addresses a lot of the issues that Zippy has been raising.

catholic

"Bishop Sheridan's letter is not a prescription for putting ourselves into a Catholic ghetto. It is rather a call to build a culture of life. If Candidate A is more pro-life than Candidate B, then you vote for Candidate A. "

Did you actually read his letter? He spoke specifically on two issues, abortion and gay marriage. He said, if you vote for a politician who supports either of those, then you are not to take communion unless you repent your vote.

In our national election comming up, there appear to be no viable candidates who don't support abortion under one circumstance or another. Bishop Sheridan's words are quite clear; you place yourself outside communion with the Church if you vote for any of the candidates -- Bush included.

catholic

"Sorry, but my vote puts my seal of approval on a particular candidate."

If that is what your vote does, then I would, as you, abstain from voting.

My vote, however, is cast for the candidate who I feel, in good conscience, will do greater good for the country. It is by no means a seal of approval. It is, rather, an offer of temporary employment to represent my interests.

Zippy

I'll just point out that all of this moral theological speculation about voting (including all of the EWTN materials) is new, because liberal democracy is new.

The moral imperative against proportionalism is, unlike anything to do specifically with democratic voting, always and everywhere.

Zippy

The significance of that observation, just to be perfectly clear, is that if you read something by a modern theologian on EWTN - or in an authoritative statement from the Pope, for that matter - that you interpret to endorse proportionalism, it must be wrong. In order to be right, anything that anyone at all says about voting must not be interpreted in any way that provides a license to engage in proportionalism.

Glenn Juday

I suppose it is not surprising that a Catholic blog such as this contains a substantial number of comments that are either uninformed, confused, or morally unserious on the life issues and the duties of the lay faithful in a democratic society. We live in a culture that is very powerful and effective in insinuating its beliefs, including mistaken and damaging beliefs, into all sorts of institutions. “I won’t do it if I don’t want to.” “You can’t make me!” Simultaneously, in our particular Churches we have lived through a period trimming and determined avoidance of difficult moral truths, leaving the laity poorly formed and vulnerable.

What is striking to me is that the recent moral drift is clearly ending. The destination such drift will take us has become all too apparent, and at the last minute the factors that will pull the Church back from the brink have (albeit sluggishly) been stirred into action. This new dynamic clearly has alarmed some nominal or cultural Catholics who never bargained on being seriously inconvenienced by their religion. They are correct to this extent: if they object to the moral cost of adhering to the Catholic Church, and object, on principle, to what she teaches, we cannot force them to remain in the Church. We can pray for them, patiently explain to them, help them, gently but firmly set aside the attempts at self-justification through the tactic of proliferating not particularly serious “what-if” scenarios. But ultimately, if the requirement of Catholic discipleship is too much for them, they need to know it and we need to know it. God, of course, already knows it and is anxious to extend to them the spiritual graces to strengthen them. But that will never happen if they won’t even admit the problem and ask for the help. So there comes a time when the Church must, in charity, sharpen the contradiction in their lives so that they will get back on the path of genuine spiritual growth, setting aside the cost.

Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher: never disagreed with you before that I know of, but here I do. The problem, as I see it, is that you actually seem to believe that the outcome would have been different or better if he'd been elected rather than Clinton. That's where I disagree - the Republican Party is *not* pro-life; it only appears that way in contrast to the Democrats.

Even if, for the sake of argument, I agree with you, then the fact that voting for either Giuliani or Clinton does the pro-life cause no good means that no matter who wins on election day, pro-lifers in New York are out of luck. Therefore, that frees me to choose my candidate on other issues. For someone who holds my political beliefs, Giuliani clearly would have been the better choice. I do not believe voting for Rudy Giuliani under those circumstances would have been a mortal sin.

Rod Dreher

Here's something from the NYTimes, 3/3/02, about a case in St. Louis:

One man who said his complaints about a priest went unheeded was Steven Pona. Court records show Mr. Pona, now 33, wrote to the the vicar general in 1983 contending that that the Rev. Bruce Forman, director of the Young Catholic Musicians orchestra and choir, tried to seduce him at a drive-in screening of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Mr. Pona said the incident followed at least five occasions in which the priest tried to approach him sexually.

"During the movies he had his arm around me in a funny sort of way, sort of at the waist," Mr. Pona wrote in a teenager's cursive. "I pushed his arm back forcefully and said, "Don't, I'm not that type.'

Diocesan directories show that Father Forman, who did not return calls for comment, was moved only once in the last 20 years, in 1986, to the parish where he remains pastor. Mr. Pona's letter, in a sealed envelope, was placed in the priest's file, marked, "To be opened by archbishop only," according to court records.

Mr. Pona's lawsuit, filed against Father Forman and the archbishop, was dismissed because of the statute of limitations. But as the issue resurfaced in the news in January, Mr. Pona said, he went to see Bishop Michael J. Sheridan, who at first was compassionate but later phoned to say he had researched the case and found no evidence.

On Friday, Bishop Dolan said Mr. Pona's recent complaint might have gotten lost because it arrived shortly before Bishop Sheridan left for another assignment. Bishop Sheridan did not return several phone calls on Thursday. In the interview today, Bishop Dolan urged parishioners to "tell us again" if they were unhappy with how complaints had been handled.

That was all I was able to find from a brief web search of Bp. Sheridan's connection to the scandal. I have been able to find no evidence that Bp. Sheridan reassigned molesters. But if any other bishops lay down the law to Catholic voters as he has, and those bishops have a record of coddling child molesters, I certainly hope someone points out, loud and often, that Bishop N. allowed pedophile priests to not only receive Holy Communion, but to celebrate it -- yet if anyone so much as votes for a pro-choice Democrat, they're excommunicated.

Y'all know I believe the bishops ought to be tougher on pro-abortion politicians. But this Bishop Sheridan has gone too far, it seems to me. Why is it that he has the guts to lay that kind of burden on mere voters, but hasn't seen fit to issue a public statement fraternally correcting bishops like McCormack of New Hampshire, who have behaved like utter moral cretins in the child sex abuse scandal?

Lexington Green

"...the Republican Party is *not* pro-life; it only appears that way in contrast to the Democrats."

This is meaningless. Those are the only two options on the table. What is the Republican Party supposed be Pro-Life "in contrast to"? The only thing it can be contrasted to is the actual, real-world, existing alternative. Demanding some imaginary perfection from a political party is an irresponsible waste of time. It only means you always get nothing, and the people who disagree with you the most will get more of what they want, since they are sensible enough to be willing to take what they can get and come back for the rest later. This is not about a religion question, it is a political, and hence prudential, question. We all already agree that abortion is bad, evil, horrible, etc. Tens of millions of voters don't agree with us, and a solid majority of American voters don't agree with eliminating it all together. This is the landscape, it is structural, it is the reality we must work within. That is the sad fact: What we Pro-Lifers would ideally like to see IS NOT POLITICALLY VIABLE, at least not now. So, do what? Opt out of society and wait for the Apocalypse? Or be a rational citizen and get as much as you can under the circumstances? The only question in an any election in the USA, where it is winner take all is, "who is the least bad?" As a citizen you have to make that assessment. Not voting for Bush because he is not ideologically pure is simply to hand an unearned victory fto his opponents, who are far worse.

Incidentally, my liberal Democrat wife was reading this thread over my shoulder, and cheering and saying "woo hoo" and chanting "don't vote, stay home" at all the people who say they won't vote for Bush because he is not Pro-Life enough. Democrats like her are counting on the various more fanatical elements of the Republican coalition splintering off. And Pro-Lifers who won't vote for a candidate who is less than perfect are precisely that: fanatics. I mean that as a pejorative. Fanaticism is a species of irrationality which is destructive to the cause it purports to serve.

The guy who made the analogy to choosing between Hitler and Stalin is not living on Earth. Bush is about as good as he can be and have any hope of getting elected. Kerry will be a disaster for the Pro-Life cause. There is no equivalence at all.

I am and always have been 100% Pro-Life. And this presidential election is as easy a vote as I have ever faced in my life.

Donald R. McClarey

Rod, the slaughter of millions of unborn children by legal abortion in our country is a much greater evil than the abuse scandal, as evil as it is. Some people, and I explicitly exclude you because you are not doing this, are using the scandal, a la Peter King, to argue that the Church may not speak out on moral issues. If evil humans in the Church were the criteria for whether the Church could speak out, than the Church would have been silent from the Crucifixion forward.

Donald R. McClarey

Bravo Lexington Green! Well said!

Zippy

How did a discussion on democratic voting and proportionalism suddenly become about the Scandal? I suppose the scandal might be obliquely related if this was about a pastoral matter. But it is not. It is about whether it is ever morally acceptable to do evil that good may result. The answer is no, and the scandal has no bearing on that question of objective morality whatsoever, other than that the scandal involves acts which are subject to objective morality.

The putative fact that the bishops are bad doesn't mean that suddenly dogmas of the Church have disappeared.

As to whether voting for Giuliani in Rod's hypothetical would be choosing the lesser of two evils, and thus sinful, - as opposed to choosing to limit a particular evil and therefore not sinful - that is a question of fact. If in any case the voter was choosing G over C even though G's platform is evil in some way that C's is not, then it would be a sinful act. You can't substitute one evil for a different one. But if G is thought to be less evil than C in every respect and on every issue, and furthermore we are morally certain that either C or G will definitely be the winner, then a vote for G would not be an act of proportionalism.

There are not many circumstances, in my view, where one side can be viewed as either objectively evil or the same on every single issue compared to the other side. (It is because of this that democratic voting, as a ritual, encourages proportionalism. Someone who was not a proportionalist would of necessity be regularly and deliberately abstaining from at least some elections).

But in Ms. Clinton's case I make an exception ;-)

Jason

>>>"And Pro-Lifers who won't vote for a candidate who is less than perfect are precisely that: fanatics."

I'm no fanatic. I just recognize that I can no longer participate in the political games people want to play with pro abortion politicians. I'll leave their conscience up to God. But as for me, I know what I must do.

If we would stop limiting the power of God, and sacrificing a hard action for the sake of "prudence", maybe, just maybe, our act of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit would bear fruit. Maybe, just maybe, if people would start leading the charge in refusing any politician unless he's absolutely pro life, maybe, just maybe, they would be the spark that gets things rolling in motion among all pro lifers. I can't sit down anymore and wait for the pro life movement to come to me. I have to do what I feel I need to do, and hope it follows. By the grace of God, I believe it will happen.

If that makes me a fanatic, so be it.

Zippy

To Lexington Green: political viability is not a consideration in objective morality. Proportionalism is always and everywhere wrong, without exception.

If the democrats are evil on some things, and the republicans are evil on different things, you cannot morally vote for either.

Zippy

Also, Mr. Green, you misunderstood the Hitler/Stalin thing. It was a quite specific cite that falsifies some commenter's assertion that there is a moral imperative to vote in every election. There is no such moral imperative.

SiliconValleySteve

Rod,

I'm a republican in California and I vote for only pro-life candidates. In a race with two pro-aborts, I will vote a 3rd party protest vote. People like Rudy Giuliani are worse than people like Hilary because they water down and oppose the pro-life position of the party. Rudy wouldn't even take a pro-life position on partial birth abortion. That's why the Conservative party of New York wouldn't consider backing him against Hilary. With the nearly 100% pro-abortion democrat party, a divided republican party offers no choice. Pun intended.

Political parties have to be big tents but abortion is just too big of an issue. I would rather have democrats win elections because we know that eventually the public will tire of them and if we only offer pro-life candidates, we will get some elected.

Now if only the bishops would put some pressure on our "Catholic" pro-abortion (maybe pro-gay marriage) republican governor arnold. And I don't care if he makes the trains run on time, I will never vote for him unless he changes his position on abortion.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Well, it's nice to have a bishop explain himself on this matter. I wonder how he feels about bishops who enabled clerical sexual predators receiving the Eucharist, since if those bishops say Mass, they would have to give the Eucharist to themselves after consecrating it.

Say, I bet Cardinal Law has said quite a few Masses since this whole crisis broke, hasn't he?

Something to think about, people.

Rich Leonardi

"catholic",

The "every man a priest" quip is taken from Luther, another self-identified Catholic who refused to submit to what the Church teaches.

Zippy

[...tap...tap...tap...is this thing on?...]

Hello, ladies and gentlemen. The scandal is not relevant to this topic. What matters is whether or not what Bishop Sheridan wrote is true.

Thank you.

Jim

Just a few hours of a blog-analysis seems to indicate that Bp. Sheridan may have hit the end of his episcopal climb in Colorado Springs. Enjoy the view!

Where do they find these lightweights?

Lee

Since I live in California, where almost every candidate is "pro choice" .... that means that if I vote for almost any Democrat or Republican, I am excommunicated under the Sheridan Rule.

Bizarre.

And no, given the track record of Bush and the Republicans, I will not be voting for them this time around, even if they are more "pro life" than the Democrats. My vote for Bush in 2000 is one of the worst I ever made ... and I do not want to reward him for the Patriot Act, waging aggressive war in Iraq, torturing POWs, and arranging economic affairs to benefit the big corporations.

Republican pro-lifers need to answer: why protect the unborn (which I agree with) ... and then (in the name of free trade, or remaking the Middle East, or capitalism) declare open season on people who have been born?

Lee

Rich Leonardi

Lee,

Because the former is a matter of doctrine, while the latter is a product of your imagination.

Jeff Z.

It seems to me that one cannot live in this fallen world without some unintentional material cooperation with evil. Just consider paying taxes. A percentage of our taxes collected supports contraceptive birth control programs. Also to invest in most companies involves financially supporting the promotion of the Gay Rights Agenda, the Pro-Contraceptive Agenda, etc. Another example is paying union dues. Some of the money supports candidates who are pro-abortion.
While it is a maxim of Catholic morality that one may never do evil that good may come of it; I think what is being referred to is something which is intrinsically evil. To vote for a candidate who supports abortion is not intrinsically evil. It depends on the circumstances. For example in a choice between that candidate and one who is even more radically pro-abortion.
Was it doing evil so that good may come of it for the USA to support the Soviet Union in the Second World War so as to defeat Nazi Germany?

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