7/31/2008
Read the whole document, please!
An article at www.nj.com gets it badly wrong about Catholics and voting in the upcoming election. They interview local Catholics and the answers we get our less than satisfactory.

For example, they interview Rev. Ronald J. Cioffi, director of the Office of Social Concerns for the Diocese of Trenton. He presented on the recent USCCB document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" and is quoted as saying "You may vote for a person who is pro-choice if you feel you have a moral reason to support the candidate for his stand on other issues."

Let us assume for the moment that the quote is an accurate one and is not taken out of context. Although this assumption is not something I would place too much on.

The problem is, in no place does Faithful Citizenship say such a thing. As a matter of fact, the document states clearly the opposite. In paragraphs 28 and 29, the Bishops warn about temptations in public life that misrepresent or abuse the weight of consideration due to each issue and specifically warn against "misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity."

No matter how many other issues there are, taken together they do not and cannot outweigh the moral gravity that is assigned to intrinsic evils. Our desire to work for social justice in other areas does not eliminate our obligation to oppose intrinsic evils. Paragraph 28 says "The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed." And the sheer numbers and the oppressiveness with which these intrinsic evils make their presence known play a part in prudential decision-making as well.

The second problem is that the use of a single sentence pulled out of the 42 page document and used as the sole criteria for helping people know who to vote for is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. Instead let's read the whole paragraph and put the concept in context:

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

But what are these "grave moral reasons?" In order to find out, we need to continue reading the next paragraph:

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

OK, clear enough. The problem resides in the fact that immoral laws already exist and the voter is faced with limited options. The voter can either not vote (an extraordinary step) or vote for the person who will cause the least damage, or conversely, do the most good. But how do we know which issues should be given the most weight in considering who to vote for. Let's keep reading:

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.

Again, this is very clear. We are not called to be "single-issue" or "single-sentence" voters. We must take all of the issues into consideration, giving greater preference or pre-eminence to the intrinsically evil issues, and then make a prudential decision as to who is going to cause the greater good.

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