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Some Lingering Questions for the Church in the Wake of the Last Election

December 3, 2012 77 Comments

There are many lingering questions in the aftermath of the recent elections here in America. Among them is the role that the Church does or should play in giving Catholics direction on how to vote. What should the clergy say? How far should they go? When are voter guides too specific and when are they not specific enough? Is it enough for the Church to preach principles and let Catholics connect the dots?

And, even if one concludes that the Church should not endorse or exclude particular Candidates by name, what about specific issues? Should the Church in such cases also preach only principles or should the Church specifically ask or direct Catholic to vote “No” on “Proposition ##” and “Yes” on “Proposition ##.” Is that going too far? When?

A recent article by Vincent Miller, at the CNN Belief Blog provides some reflections that may be helpful in framing a discussion. I would like to excerpt his remarks and make a few comments of my and elicit your thoughts.

As per usual the author’s quotes are in Bold, Black, Italics, and my remarks are plain red text.

President Obama’s narrow victory among Catholic voters this week will be seen by many as a political loss for the U.S. Catholic bishops, who appeared to be openly opposing Obama during the presidential campaign.

Hmm… I think a lot of conservatives would take issue with the premise that the Catholic Bishops, as a whole, openly opposed President Obama. It is clear the Bishops stood opposed to the threats to religious liberty contained in the HHS mandate. But most conservative Catholics with whom I spoke found the American Bishops far from clear on the need to oppose Mr. Obama. Indeed I personally got a good amount of “hate mail” directed against me personally, but more often directed against the Bishops, by politically conservative Catholics who thought the Bishops and pastors should have led a clearer charge against the President’s re-election and should have stated that no Catholic can vote for a candidate like Mr. Obama.

….There is more at stake here than politics.

Though I agree with the bishops that the exemption for religious employers in the White House contraceptive insurance mandate is too narrow, the bishops’ posture toward the administration during the election poses a major risk to the Church because it left the impression that there was only one legitimate Catholic choice for president – Mitt Romney.

Again, many politically conservative Catholics who wished the Bishops had been that forceful, would disagree here with Mr. Miller. Though he does cite the example of Bishop Jenky of Peoria, (in a section not included in these excerpts), Miller’s contention, that the Bishops left a clear impression that Catholics could only vote for Mr Romney, would be strongly disputed by many on the Right.

The result is that half of the Catholic electorate felt it was being judged as voting “against the Church,” even though such voters weren’t actually dissenting from Catholic teaching. They were, instead, making the complex decisions that any serious voter must, weighing their own moral commitments against a candidate’s professed values, the policies they propose and how much is likely to be accomplished on a given issue given the political climate. Voters must weigh the mix of positions of both candidates, not just the objections against one. This year, they had to weigh, among other things, a new problem with religious liberty against the Republicans’ earnest proposal to replace Medicare’s guaranteed coverage with a subsidy for private insurance.

And here, I think we come to the critical question. For the slightly more than one half of Catholics who voted for President Obama, voted knowingly for a candidate who stands foursquare against many critical Catholic teachings. And in this sense they did vote against, or choose to disregard, what the Church teaches.

But, as Vincent Miller opines, is that what they were really doing? Were they dissenting against Church or her teaching explicitly, or were they weighing what they consider to be many critical factors in how they voted?

There is an increasing movement, especially on the political right, in the Church, to speak of the non-negotiables. These non-negotiable’s include the Church’s fundamental moral teachings such as abortion, redefining marriage, euthanasia, and so forth. In calling them non-negotiables, it means the Catholics should never vote for anybody who holds positions in these area contrary to the Church teaching. Exceptions to this rule would be rare, if not nonexistent.

To a large degree, I am compelled to agree, and do not see how I could ever vote for a candidate who is pro-abortion, sought to advance physician-assisted suicide, or supported the redefinition of marriage. And I would personally hope that all Catholics would begin to hold this view. If we were really to stand together on these issues, we would be a formidable political force.

However, it would seem that even a large percentage of church-going Catholics do not see matters this absolutely. Instead, as our author describes, they weigh many factors when going to vote. Perhaps, even though they are opposed to abortion, they are also passionate about immigrants’ rights and the fate of the health care plan. And while many of us in the pro-life movement would wish that abortion always trumped every other issue, many Catholics, simply do not see it this way.

This is also influenced by the fact that many do not see that abortion is likely to change much, no matter who is elected. Many will debate that premise, but it remains true that even having passed through eras of largely Republican-controlled government, abortion still remains largely legal in this country. There are other factors that weigh in on how Catholics vote, but suffice it here to say that the non-negotiables rule is not one that holds sway with many who seem to be more prone to weigh many factors.

As a priest who is personally convinced of the “non-negotiables” argument, I do wonder however the degree to which it can be considered a binding norm on the faithful, which I must preach. I am cautious of simply articulating it from the pulpit since the pulpit does not belong to me and I am careful about preaching things as binding on the faithful from the pulpit, when they may be matters that are still the realm of prudence, rather than expected discipline. The norms from the USCCB do not for example adopt the non-negotiable rule.

The notion of weighing many factors was also mentioned by then Cardinal Ratzinger in his 2004 memo “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

Thus, while there are many legitimate debates to be had about what is meant by a proportionate reason, I am not sure I can preach the non-negotiables approach (even though I like it) as binding on Catholics and I also understand why Bishops have been careful about that as well.

By putting voters in a “with us or against us” bind, some of America’s bishops have risked eroding their own authority. They imply that specific political judgments are matters of Church teaching, when by Catholic tradition, the more they descend into the details of policy, the less certain their judgments become.

But again, I must ask, which bishops? I can think only of a very few, really only two who could really stand accused of what Miller accuses the whole body of doing. Again, most conservative Catholics see just the opposite and many go so far as to call the Bishops ineffectual. Thus, if there is an impression of a “with us or against” mentality it comes more from fellow Catholic laity.

But now we come to Mr. Miller’s suggestion, that I specifically want to ask you about.

Bishops must allow room for and respect believers’ own specific political judgments. The Second Vatican Council taught that it is primarily the responsibility of the laity to undertake the secular work of inscribing “the divine law…in the life of the earthly city.”

The way out of this crisis (I think crisis is too strong a word) is for the bishops to carefully respect the necessary limits involved in the task of forming the consciences of lay believers. They must teach moral principles and, yes, argue for their specific application, but always (avoid saying always) in a way that respects individual judgments about how best to enact these principles. At times this formation might even require forceful challenge, but it should never (avoid saying never) assume ill will or ignorance when the faithful vote differently than they desire.

Trusting laypeople to make the political decisions that are properly theirs gives them room to embrace the Church’s doctrines, even if they cannot enact all of them in their voting choices. This is essential to sustaining a Catholic identity separate from the divisiveness of partisan politics. This election season like none before left many Catholics feeling like the Church gave them no such room.

I think there is a lot for conservative Catholics to agree with here. I have been hearing for years a deep resentment on the part of the faithful at the way Bishops in the recent past interjected themselves into the “political arena” when they wrote pastorals on economics, nuclear weapons, Immigration, capital punishment, racism, poverty and so forth. There was particular concern especially on the Right that the bishops were predictably left wing on these matters and that they should stick to theology. Fair or not (for many of the issued covered did involve important moral principles), most did think of the bishops as straying too far into the temporal and political order that rightly belongs to the laity.

Now however it is often the Right within the Church that does not see the Bishops as doing enough. And while I put a few brief red remarks in the paragraph above, I largely find Mr. Miller’s remarks classically conservative. And his cautions regarding the limits of clerical involvement in the temporal order are very much rooted in the kind of traditional training I received, namely that we clergy should stick as much as possible to Catholic principles and avoid even a hint of partisan preference in our remarks. Further we were taught that the temporal order belongs to laity and prudential judgments and political debates should be left for them conduct.

Mr. Miller goes on:

The Catholic Church will enhance its public authority by speaking out in a way that supports and challenges both parties. Prophets are respected when they are perceived to be an independent and fair voice. When the deep coherence of Catholic moral teaching is communicated, it can free people from our partisan moral straightjackets. But when parts of this teaching are passed over in silence, the Church puts itself in a partisan straightjacket. Here too I am largely in agreement.

The Full article can be read here: Bishops’ Election Behavior Threatens Their Authority

So then, a few questions to ask you about:

  1. Do you really think the Bishops, as a whole, taught that Catholics could only vote for Mitt Romney?
  2. Should the non-negotiables position be insisted on from the pulpit, or are the clergy going too far if they do this?
  3. What are the limits that should be observed by clergy in times like these?
  4. Of lay people who voted for President Obama, how do you see their vote?  Does it make them a dissenter, or does it mean they weighed things differently?
  5. Then Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned in his 2004 memo of some possibly having “proportionate reasons” to vote for a pro-Abortion candidate. How do you understand the word proportionate. Is there any room for interpretation in the meaning of this word?
  6. While most of us in the pro-Life movement ardently think that Abortion must be the premier issue to be considered, followed closely by the other non-negotiables, is this view officially taught by the Church? And must it be definitively held, such that one who votes for a pro-abortion candidate for “proportionate” reasons is ipso facto a bad and dissenting Catholic?
  7. Bottom line, how can clergy walk the increasingly narrow line of staying away from partisan trip-wires and still proclaim authentic Catholic teaching? My own experience about this is that it is much harder near elections, but now that political season is over, we need to step up the teaching  in a less charged environment.
  8. In what ways should the clergy  pipe down and allow laity to take proper leadership in the temporal order, and more specifically politics.

I am not asking every respondent to answer all these questions. They are just to frame the discussion. Frankly the whole intersection between faith and politics these days is a real thicket, and I am not sure exactly where the clergy should aim, since in preaching principles, it is hard to remain general and abstract in many cases.

In commenting please try to avoid Bishop bashing and references to Canon 915. I hope to keep the discussion broader than refusing communion to pols. The question on the table is how to navigate the intersection of teaching the faith and staying clear of having the clergy giving direct political directives, and if such a distinction is even possible today.

There was a time when Clergy involvement in politics was more accepted. To some extent the Civil Rights movement crossed political distinctions. Here is an excerpt from Dr. King’s Last sermon the night before he was killed.

Comments (77)

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  1. TaillerHuws says:

    Was St. John the Baptist wrong in his approach of telling Herod and his wife that they were living an immoral life? Well, he was beheaded. But so was St. Thomas More — for keeping his integrity and loyalty not only to God, but to those who looked up to him as a Catholic leader. Neither of them deserved to be beheaded. And what of Bishop St. John Fisher? Their good leadership deserves to be honored by good followership.

    • gedda fan says:

      never mind Moore or Cardinal Fisher- what of the Christ? When He drove the money changers out of His Fathers house- should He have taken a negotiable position and been more considerate of the poly issues confronting those making a living in The Temple? i fear it is positions like yours Monsignor and the majority of Jadot sort of Bishops we are burdened with [ think Howard Hubbard ] that will continue to allow pseudo-Catholics to put their immortal souls at risk because you’re not convinced you can preach Christ crucified- what you do to these, the least of thy brethren, you do unto Me? Voting for Obama is voting for an abortionist and pro infantcide fanatic who exports abortion as contraception to the world? what possible issue[ including possible deportation] might intelligent Catholics be wrestling with that would trump the right to Life and allow them to vote for this miscreant? with you abstaining from putting in your oar as a pastor? Holy Milk Toast Batman – will the Holy Ghost give us a Thomas More for our age – is that Randall Terry or do we seek another?

  2. Dave Smith says:

    I think that to the question of “proportionate reasons” and the leaving of political involvement to the “laity” a distinction needs to arise that was not mentioned. The “laity” in this instance should be regarded as Catholics who have been properly catechized, their consciences formed by the Church and therefore, people who “think” with the Church. To leave it to the unformed is like leaving the sheep in charge of themselves. Most of them are going to get lost or tangled in some calamity.

    To some of your other matters, I feel that the Bishops and priests were not all on the same page and that we who sit in the pews saw the same diversity of opinion that we see among the flock. The sleeping giant roared like a church mouse and few were even aware of it.

    My feeling also is that many priests and Bishops fear the loss of their tax status more than they should. We have tested that IRS ruling years ago en masse. We should not fear to teach the hard things; abortion, contraception, masturbation, homesexuality and other moral issues from the pulpit. If they fear that the parishioners won’t approve, that is simply unfortunate. The truth should be taught in season and out of season and if we are left with a remnant of believers we will be a stronger Church for it. Today there is a general laxity in Catholic faith that reminds one of the letter to Laodicia: a lukewarm faith that is not worth preaching in the parish, fighting for in public and certainly not one to die for as our ancestors did and many are doing in 3rd world countries around the globe today.

  3. Liz says:

    Excellent post, Monsignor, and something I’ve seen discussed in interesting ways as I have a number of friends on both sides of the fence.

    I have a question for you about the subtleties of the non-negotiables. You briefly touched on this issue, but didn’t give it full treatment, and it’s one I see many conservative Catholics reluctant to address, in addition to being of material importance to the last election:

    What do you do if you suspect a candidate has assume the mantle of pro-life to win an election? I’m not referring to somebody who is passionate about life issues, but perhaps is hamstringed by politics once in office. What do you do about a person who seems to only care about life issues when he’s campaigning?

    Myself, I don’t believe Mitt Romney is genuinely pro-life. This is debatable, of course. But, his political record on this topic is abysmal, and I don’t trust that any sudden change of heart preceding a presidential bid is actually sincere. It seems too convenient.

    As a counter-example, Senator Santorum is somebody who I’d trust to be solidly pro-life.

    Sometimes I feel as though one political party has assumed the label of “pro-life” essentially because it “forces” a certain constituency to vote for that party exclusively.

    The only response I’ve ever seen to this query is “well, you must believe what the politician says; this is the best you can do”. This seems a hogwash argument – if I want to know what a politician believes, I will look at his voting record. If that’s in contrast to his stated position, well, I’m even less likely to trust said politician, and thus less likely to vote for him.

    Any thoughts?

  4. LV says:

    If there’s a more widely abused concept than the idea of “proportionate reasons” for voting for a pro-abortion candidate like Obama, I don’t know what it is.

    I think the best way to look at this is in light of Matthew 25, i.e. “Whatsoever you do…”

    Recall the nature of abortion, and what it does to the unborn child. Understand that by voting for a pro-abortion candidate, you are at least implicitly approving of these acts and their legal perpetuation.

    And understand that Jesus, placing Himself in the position of the unborn children killed by abortion, will call on you to defend your approval of what those acts have done to Him.

    If you believe you can still justify your vote in those circumstances, then you have a legitimate proportionate reason.

    (Needless to say, I myself am of the opinion that in living memory, legitimate proportionate reasons for voting for a pro-abortion candidate have been non-existent.)

  5. Crowhill says:

    I have always regarded the American bishops as political liberals, and I continue to regard them that way. They were opposed to some of Obama’s policies, but in many ways they support the left-leaning agenda, so it was a mixed message.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure it would have mattered if the bishops had told Catholics they could not vote for Obama. I don’t think most Catholics particularly care about the bishops’ political opinions. And I’m not sure they should.

  6. JuneT says:

    Who says there was only Obama and Romney to vote for. There were many candidates on my ballot. Perahps we all should be looking outside the red and blue for someone to vote for. Just because other candidates don’t have $$ to run a media blitz doesn’t mean their ideas aren’t the best. Maybe the Church could be a leader is looking for someone else.

    • Howard says:

      You mean in terms of 3rd parties, and I agree with that, but the “other candidates” point also brings up the other elections taking place. We have to pump in good office-holders at the bottom so that they can flow up to the top rather than simply taking whatever pseudo-option is given to us.

      We also need to be willing to punish not only the individual politicians when they turn on us, but the party as a whole. We have to let the Republicans know that we are willing to stand by and watch them lose if they do not toe the line, otherwise they have no incentive to “dance with who brung ’em”. We need a stick as well as a carrot.

      • Blake Helgoth says:

        Yes indeed. I for one am tired of being played by the supposedly pro-life party. Isn’t voting supposed to be about choosing the canidate that you think would best do the job rather (hopefully with a very well informed conscience) than a choice between the only two with a chance (acroding to the elites)? Speaking of the supposedly pro-life party, it also forcefully prevented anyone else for getting the nomination. It turns out, the entire primary was a sham – they picked their guy before it even began! I do think the bishops came off as Romney supporters because they never criticized him for supporting intrinsically evil things or bothered to tell anyone why there might have been an expectation of porportionate good to justify voting for him. Most with whom I spoke assumed that the Bishops were telling you you had to vote for Romney.

  7. Steve M says:

    This is not directly in asnwer to one of your questions but I believe the issue is “too little, too late”. It will take years to re-catechise America. If an individual has been told for years and years that the main thing is just being nice, complex theology and morality just doesn’t make it through. I would strongly opine that the average American has only just negun to hear Church teaching for the first time in decades.

    I also believe that most people think they weigh complex issues and make an informed decision but this is seldom true. Most of us have a set of beliefs that we look for someone who fits these mostly. We judge whether or not there is alignment based on a few sound bites and staged speeches. How much time did the average Amercian spend truly researching the positions of any candidate? Not watching their speeches or the news but actually tried to figure out what they were saying. Who read Ryan’s statements about the budget versus accepted the view from whichever media outlet they prefer?

    The critical mass in the Church is not to leading to deep thought but Facebook postings that look cute. It will take many years to restore a true understanding of Church teaching to the Church. This is the weakness of the Bishops and Clergy. That has come home to roost and must be changed. One great homily does not a teaching make. It is too easy to ignore your own behavior choices for one or two homilies. A year or two later we might be opening up finally.

  8. David F says:

    I think the Bishops give such a nuanced message that they fail to teach what really matters. In an effort not to offend (I guess) the message is diluted to the point where I wonder if the Bishops are passionate about defending the faith. I heard very little at mass; I had to seek out their opinion and wade through the excessively careful rhetoric to extract the implied meaning. Hardly bold leadership.

    • Howard says:

      Like, for example, “Abortion is a horrible crime, and I want you to take me very seriously when I say this. At the same time, I can think of know reason why I should not enjoy a jovial dinner with the President, who is not a bad sort, even though he happens to be the most rabid supporter ever to hold that office.”

      And this from one of the bishops who is usually held up as being particularly forceful.

  9. David F says:


    (Needless to say, I myself am of the opinion that in living memory, legitimate proportionate reasons for voting for a pro-abortion candidate have been non-existent.)

    I agree. In fact I think it’s not possible to find a legitimate proportionate reason to support a pro abortion candidate. If there is one the Bishops should explicitly define it instead a creating this false escape route/ fig leaf for democrat voters.

  10. Nathan says:

    Mr. Miller’s argument seems to presuppose two highly questionable points.

    1) Catholics are and should be conservatives or liberals before they are Catholics and when the Church opposes their party of choice should be alienated from the Church, not the party.

    2) Bishops should be concerned with whether their authority is increased or decreased by their actions in some kind of cold realpolitik view of the episcopacy.

    Of course, both of these views are backwards. As Catholics we are called to stand with the Church. We are Catholics first, Repubs or Dems (even Americans) second. And Bishops are called to preach the Gospel in and out of season, regardless of how the laity might view this preaching.

    Finally, it is absurd to claim that, especially in a two-party system, the bishops must (at all costs) remain neutral. Certainly, neutrality (when possible) is a good thing, but everyone will admit there can be times when one (or both) candidates simply cannot morally be voted for. Imagine Hitler running against St Louis IX. Even if Hitler’s solution to the student debt crisis was in all ways superior to St Louis’, Catholics could still not vote for him. To claim the bishops have to bend over backwards to equally praise and chastise both candidates in every election is ridiculous.

  11. Nathan says:

    We also have to parse the data a little more carefully than Mr. Miller seems to. When looking at Mass attending Catholics (that is Catholics who are not ignoring the obligation, under pain of mortal sin, of missing Mass on Sundays) we see Catholics that are much more in line with the bishops. Even within Mass going Catholics, if we look at Catholics that are going to confession, accept all that the Church teaches (including Humanae Vitae) I think we find even less of a discord between lay and bishop. This suggests the need for the New Evangelization more than a need for the bishops to speak in vague generalities to avoid upsetting anyone.

    If the primary concern of the USCCB is teaching only what the laity will happily embrace, in a move to avoid weakening their authority, they better avoid much more than politics. Contraception, Gay “Marriage”, Divorce, Pornography, and many other issues have greater potential than “Don’t vote for Obama” (which wasn’t even that clearly articulated) to make Catholics feel like they are being put in a “with us or against us bind.”

    Following Mr. Miller’s argument to it’s logical conclusion, maybe the bishops should articulate nothing more than vague moral platitudes with respect for “individual judgments about how best to enact these principles”, i.e. the bishops can say we should respect life, but not that we can’t procure an abortion, for that might make someone feel bad.

  12. Deo volente says:

    In a recent article, Monsignor, entitled “Sin on Sale” this appears in your list of sins:

    The sins that cry to heaven for vengeance: (CCC 1867)

    Murder (Gn 4:10),
    Sodomy (Gn 17:20-21),
    Oppression of the poor (Ex 2:23),
    Defrauding workers of their just wages (Jas 5:4).

    If a Roman Catholic cannot vote against a man who openly embraces at least two of these sins (including his allusions to infanticide before he became President), I don’t know what to say.

    As for this past election, I saw individual priests, “men with chests” as C.S. Lewis would call them, openly implore the faithful to reject the mind think of unfettered abortion and edicts affecting our religious liberty. It was these priests who are those who taught as Christ has commanded. They didn’t mention candidates by name, but the message was clear.


    • Sarah in WA says:

      Mitt Romney gave every indication that he was politically ambivalent about the right to life, and that he ould not work to change abortion policy. President Obama’s record is obviously pro-abortion. So, if you consider the abortion issue paramount, your choice is between someone who would preserve the status quo vs. someone who would possibly makes things somewhat worse than they already are on this front. What a choice.

      I think many Catholics believe Republicans advocate policies that are tantamount to oppressing the poor and defrauding workers of just wages. Consider that Republicans often campaign against social programs that primarily benefit the poor, the elderly, and the vulnerable (such as food stamps and welfare). The Republican message is often anti-union / anti-minimum wage. Further, Republicans are not consistent on the dignity of life issues, since many support the death penalty. If you look at the political situation and think, OK, neither candidate is ACTUALLY going to create positive change on right to life issues, BUT, the elected leader would make ACTUAL changes on social assistance programs and other economic matters, then perhaps a voter is justified in giving those matters more weight.

      • David F says:

        It’s pretty easy to make the argument that today’s entitlement programs and high government imposed costs are fraudulent and unjust. Todays entitlement programs are do not aid workers (note the canon says workers and refers to justice not charity) so much as they take from the working population to fund an ever increasing dependent population. You can argue this largess is charity, although it’s not voluntary, offered with love or received in gratitude. It the wage of the worker taken by force of threat of force through taxes. If the tax is excessive and serves no greater purpose it is indeed unjust.

  13. ThomasL says:

    I think it is a decent question, to borrow your example, if concern over the exact composition of Medicare is a “proportionate reason” to favor a pro-abortion candidate. But it needs not only be proportionate to that, it has to be proportionate to that, plus belief that the State, not God, has the authority to define what is and is not marriage, plus the belief that the State has the authority to define what is and is not a religion and a religious act (ie, the WH position on why it can do the HHS mandate, which is much broader than just a position on the mandate itself).

    Concern over Medicare privatization to be proportionate has to be more weighty than the sum total of all of those… not just equal to them. If they were precisely equal, would come down against the side that included intrinsic evil. It has to be /more/ weighty than all of those. And not only that, it has to be so after being discounted by the likelihood it would be put into effect. Not just the likelihood that bad effects would result from the plan (a prudential judgment) but also the odds that the plan would be enacted at all, which seems (and seemed) pretty remote.**

    I find that a difficult case to make myself, but I’d be curious–and not in an antagonistic sense–how someone found it proportionate.

    **The reason the odds come in here, is that the is nothing intrinsically evil about Medicare reform, so a policy is evaluate on what it actually does, not the mere fact that someone holds it.

  14. Dismas says:

    Wouldn’t this USCCB blog post by Cokie Roberts from yesterday ‘better frame the discussion’?

    Catholic World News describes Cokie as:

    “A strident critic of the Vatican’s doctrinal investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Roberts has criticized Pope Benedict XVI as “really lacking in the theological virtue of charity.” Her criticism of legislative measures against partial-birth abortion has also spawned controversy, though in September she criticized the Democratic National Convention as being “over the top” on abortion. In a 2012 newspaper column, Roberts discussed her support of same-sex marriage. “The forces opposing” same-sex marriage “are well-organized and highly motivated,” she wrote. “But those forces are on the wrong side of justice. And history.”

    Robert’s article compares Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katharine Drexel, Francis Cabrini and Marianne Cope.

    When our bishops give voice, on their website, to these kind of dissident anti-Catholic viewpoints why should I question or judge the Catholic election result? Might I even safely conclude that the Catholic Electoral result is just an accurate reflection of the state of affairs amonst our Conference of Bishops?

    How am I suppose to defend this kind of stuff or be expected to judge other Catholics for confusion and the way they vote?

  15. Ray says:

    The only “proportinate reason” I can see is toward the collection basket. SAD!! All this over analyzation is tedious. Catholics used to stand together for worthy causes. Our current president is the closest thing to pure evil to ever hold the office. Yet, our Church is still waffling on his worthiness. There are many who would find reasons to vote for Hitler if he were a Democrat and they could use the proportinate reason defense. Our Church has reaped what it has sown for the last 40+ years in America. We are a rudderless Church in North America and I for one will continue to pray for a true Alter Christos type pastor to come forth. All the pablum you can spew as to why we do what we do, doesn’t cut it. It is still rationalization as to why we are sinners.

    • ThomasL says:

      Well, the party platform did: “demand that the State be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens” (article 7); call for the “obligation of every citizen to work both spiritually and physically” (article 10); the “abolition of unearned (from work or labour) incomes” (article 11); the “division of profits [to workers]” (article 14); “demand.. large scale old age welfare” (article 15); “the creation of a healthy middle class” (article 16); “[no] consideration for those whose activity is against the general interest… [including] usurers” (article 18); for “the State to be responsible for… our whole national educational program, to enable every capable and industrious citizen to obtain higher education” (article 20); that “the State is to care for elevating the national health” (article 21); and “for the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power…”

      What’s not to like? Oh, wait…

      But I say this in all terrible seriousness that after replacing the words “German” and “Reich” as I have done here with the less ominous terms of “citizen” and “State”, I bet you could get not only most bishops to sign it, but to promulgate it.

  16. Maria says:

    I grew up being taught the “non-negotiables” argument, but as the years pass and I grow a little more open-minded, I think there is some nuance to this whole issue of proportionate reasons for voting for a pro-abortion candidate, etc. that I didn’t get in my black-and-white days.

    The fact is, neither candidate in the 2012 election was truly pro-life. Yes, the Republican party stated it was against abortion, but I think it is safe to say that nothing significantly pro-life would have been done in Romney’s first term. Why? Because the cultural climate of this country is already so far down the road that he would lose his second term. Besides, I doubt he was truly pro-life, given his record; politicians are strategists and they can and will adopt positions merely to get the vote.

    Given this complex situation of a party platform against abortion but no candidate with enough backbone to do anything about it, I think it could be argued that the abortion topic is almost a moot point. And this is where I can see Catholics voting for the pro-abortion candidate: they don’t think it really would make that much of a difference, and thus they see a proportionate reason to vote for a candidate who actually would make a difference on another important issue.

    Of course, this doesn’t address the point that the pro-abortion candidate would not only not oppose abortion but positively advance abortion…Obama is very much one of these.

    In many ways, I feel like the political parties are using these issues to control segments of voters. I don’t feel like the Republican party is truly pro-life or really holds Christian values. They tout these things to get my vote and then do nothing about it in public office. Then they embarrass me by strongly promoting capital punishment, heartless immigration policies, etc. And I would not be surprised if it is only a matter of time before the Republican party abandons support for traditional marriage.

    On another note, I think that even if the clergy were to stick to teaching principles (which I think they largely have), they would always be accused of supporting a specific party. The more detailed the principles are explained and illustrated, the easier it is for the layperson to narrow the choice of a candidate, etc. In other words, if there actually is a candidate that is better, the moral principles would lead to the choice of that candidate. And thus the accusation of supporting that candidate. Of course, there are thorny questions surrounding prudence, such as what constitutes a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, but that doesn’t affect the tendency to make the accusation that the clergy are “supporting” a candidate. It just means the accusation will come from the Right rather than the Left, or vice versa.

    • Martin says:

      I think this argument declaring the Republican party as inactive when it comes to pro-life issues is hollow. One has to be ignorant of the political record to believe that Republicans have not fought (and bravely) to curtail abortion.

      All you need to do is look at the legislative record to see through this specious argument. All pro-abortion legislation including the very latest–Obamacare–are the product of Democrat presidents and their legislators.

      Whenever Democrats have the means to do so, they will proselytize and fund pro-abortion projects and they do not mince words. In 2008, Obama infamously appeared as a speaker at a Planned Parenthood event and Cecile Richards (PP President) took time off to campaign for him in 2012. Obama opposed the Born Alive Act in Illinois. Bill Clinton vetoed attempts to ban partial-birth abortion during his tenure. Nancy Pelosi infamously referred to abortion and artificial contraception as economic tools in difficult times. I could go on, but I’d run out of space and time on this blog.

      Compare the fanatical adherence to the abortion industry by Democrats to Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City Policy, the Hyde Amendment, and the Human Life Amendment among many initiatives promoted or implemented by Republicans at all levels of government. If these efforts have not succeeded in changing the Culture of Death in our Nation, it’s not for lack of sincere effort by mainstream Republicans or lack of ardent opposition by Democrats.

      On the issue of Christianity and religion in general, just look at the most recent Democrat Convention to see what the Democrats think about God or Judeo-Christian values.

      The Republicans are far from perfect, but they can be reformed because there is room for Godly men and women in their party. The Democrats have abandoned all semblance of respect or adherence to Judeo-Christian morality. Unless there is a radical change within their ranks, they are morally lost.

  17. RichardC says:

    I heard a well known Catholic commentator say that, though Romney supported abortion in the case of rape and that there were third party candidates whose view were more in line with Catholic teaching, we didn’t want to ‘waste our vote’. I think that argument had merit.

  18. Michael says:

    I feel the “proportionate reasons” theory doesn’t mean anything to most voters because they feel it doesn’t apply. Here’s why…Most often the choice on the ballot (absent writing in a candidate) is between the one who is for abortion a lot (Obama/Biden and their unrestrictive views on abortion) or who are for abortion “oh, ‘just a little bit'” (Romney/Ryan with their “abortion is OK for incest, rape, health,etc.”). Since both choices on the ballot are for some sort of killing, I doubt a voter is saying that “proportionally” 10,000, 100,000 or 1,000,000 deaths are better or worse than the other.

    The solution to all this madness is a change of heart by all of us – bishops, priests, religious and laity. The change of heart is that we must strengthen ourselves by not only “believing” but truly and courageously living the gospel. That will only come about if we get back down on our knees and pray unceasingly for our own faith. UNNTIL we do so most of our candidates (and ourselves) will be weak and fall into the “abortion is not OK except for…” trap. UNLESS we do so we will follow the way of the ancient Israelites who turned their back on God only tobe cast into exile and we will follow the examples of the many other nations, peoples and empires that decayed their way into the dust heap of history.

  19. Sue says:

    It seems to me that one of the things the clergy should be pointing out is that not only is abortion murder, it is oppression of the poor. There is no one poorer than an unborn child. It has only its life, and we even let that be taken away. Abortion should be totally nonnegotiable from either the left or the right. It is the greatest social justice issue of our time.

  20. Larry says:

    I never doubted that the Catholic bishops actively opposed Obama. How could this be in doubt since Obama supports a woman’s right to abortion, gay marriage, access to birth control, fetal stem cell research, etc.? These are all issues that are actively opposed by the Catholic Church (and largely ignored by many American Catholics). I believe the final margin of Catholic votes was 52% for Obama to 48% for Romney. If American Catholics listened to their “leaders”, it should have been more like the Latino vote in reverse.

  21. Mark says:

    Ihave always voted for conservative candidates, very few have been left of the aisle, although this election changed my discernment for candidates so I shall vote right of the aisle for know on. Why you ask. The liberal pols want to take the face of Jesus from the public and replace it with the face of government, The day the Bishops’ agreed to the entitlement giveaways through the government and not through the church under FDR, man started seeing the face of government more and the face of Jesus less, so as to take charity out of the act of charity.

    If I give the man a blanket I want him to see Jesus in me, if I give a blanket to the government and then in turn the government gives the blanket to the man the man will see the face of governement and never see Jesus.
    I applaud my pastor for speaking the word of God and being very specific(not in name) what type of candidate to support. These are the times to stand as one united church of the faithful against those that are shouting us down, calling us irrelevant, and if this means, for lack of a better word, purge the progressive-modernist elements from the pews.
    I was saddened to see some parishners leave because of church teaching, especially in MN on the teachings of the sanctity of marrirage, however we will be fewer but stronger, correct that we are gaining parishners from other churches(RCIA doubled) because we took such a stand against same sex marriage.
    One last Opine, I do not know of too many Right of the aisle candidates that support what the left of the aisle stands for. The left supports:
    Abortion on demand, same sex marriage,unjust taxes, no public display of religion or church displays, promoting anti christian (Catholic) beliefs and the list continues.

  22. MarkV says:

    Excellent points, Nathan!

    My belief is that we have a greater problem than the abortion issue. I know that reading that is hard to imagine… what problem is greater?! I absolutely love reading the Early Church Fathers and accounts of the Early Church. Their faith in the face of persecution is a tough but inspiring read. But what is most often missed are the letters around the time period (like Pliny) that describe the Christians, outsiders looking in. The “problem” that the authorities had when persecuting Christians was that they were model citizens! Except for worshipping the emperor as god, Christians followed the laws, did what was right, and presented themselves as models to other Roman citizens. That should give us pause…. the only thing that Christians did wrong was worship Christ.

    But this is not a problem with what the Bishops preach or do not preach. This is We The Laity. We need to be a model example of a Catholic, and to be ready to give an account of why we are who we are. Abortion is, in a sense, a voting booth issue. Most of us have no other opportunity in life to take a stand against it. But we miss the greater point of living the totality of our lives for Christ. The point may be technically true that eating meat on Friday is not a sin. But we forget that this is what an outsider thinks marks a true Catholic… right or wrong. It is our opportunity to give an outward testimony to what should be an inward reality. We have Paul’s example in cutting his hair, and circumcising Timothy (Acts 16) immediately after winning the circumcision debate (Acts 15). Why?! He knew the outward impression was important for displaying the inward reality. Do we pray before meals? Even in a McDonalds? These are the simple expectations that non-Catholics have of us. (Sometimes I wonder why they have higher expectations of us than we do.) But if our martyred brothers and sisters are any model at all, we should go further. Do we stop at yellow/red lights or do we step on the gas like everyone else? Do we help the elderly or homeless, or do we pass them by like everyone else? Do we grumble and complain, or are we thankful and patient?

    Sure abortion is important… to us…. internally, but Vincent Miller can write articles like he does because he has not “noticed” Catholics. They are probably all around him but he has not noticed them act as such. Sure we have our bishops and the Early Church Fathers. But even more importantly, we have the great models of the unnamed Saints who have given their lives as testimony. Let us be model citizens first, so that they notice us then take us seriously.

  23. Donal Mahoney says:

    I suspect one reason why so many Catholics voted for Obama is that they were schooled (or “cathechized”) after Vatican II.

    Older Catholics, catechized prior to Vatican II, may have had better knowledge as to why voting for Obama was not something that they, for any reason, could in good faith do.

    That is one reason why the need to catechize Catholics already in the pew (or lapsed) is as important, perhaps more important, as evangelizing those not yet in the pew.

    I wonder if they still anoint the fingers of priests during ordination even though masses of Catholics receive the Eucharist in the hand rather than on the tongue.

  24. ThomasL says:

    1. Not at all.

    2. I think the principles behind why these are non-negotiable should be. Then they fall into their natural place, and become evident as non-negotiable, rather than as assertions which the faithful ought to swallow.

    3. The same as always, to tell the truth in love.

    4. I don’t think they are dissenters from the USCCB, because the statements coming from that body are not unambiguous. You cannot really have dissent from something that is ambiguous to begin with. But they may be dissenting from the timeless teachings of the Church, which I think the USCCB and the Vatican have not always preached unambiguously.

    5. Definitely room, but not so much as to render it a purely subjective judgment. “Proportionate” is proportionate to the actual order of reality as created by God, not proportionate to how I feel about it.

    6. No, I don’t think so. There are many things that can weigh in. While abortion is always important, I don’t think it is quite that simple. For example, imagine there is a pro-abortion, anti-euthanasia candidate and an anti-abortion, pro-euthanasia candidate… A bit of a tortured example, but I’m just saying that even non-negotiables are not beyond the realm of each person having to exercise their judgment in this circumstance.

    7. I see why partisan wires would be hard to avoid, but I almost wonder if it isn’t better to forget about them. Yeah, you’ll offend some people, but if you just keep preaching the truth, if you stomp an a wire here and there in the process…

    8. I think this is huge, part of the reason the USCCB and the Vatican have lost moral authority when they speak on these issues is that they seem to have an opinion on absolutely everything, and assume expertise they manifestly do not have. When either speak on economic issues, it can sometimes be exquisitely painful hear as they make fundamental errors. Why? Because they aren’t economists and to be blunt, they don’t know what they are talking about. For what it is worth, it is pretty painful to hear economists talk about religion as well. It is worse offense when the Church does it though, because it can become cloaked in the Church’s legitimate authority. But legitimate authority misused is illegitimate, and casts doubt on the whole Church (falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus). The same on a thousand other issues from international aid to global warming. Teach the faithful about charity, not about unemployment insurance extensions. About kindness to the stranger, the widow, and the orphan, not the DREAM act. Unemployment insurance may be a legitimate expression of charity (and it may not) but it isn’t charity itself. Teach charity, and leave the application to the laity, who have the knowledge of time, place, and circumstance to apply it. The Church does not possess all relevant secular knowledge. I wonder sometimes if the Church hasn’t lost all confidence in the laity, so it no longer teaches them “first things” like courage, justice, prudence, temperance, faith, hope, and charity, it teaches them “second things” like mortgage reform, immigration reform, carbon dioxide reform, and banking reform by diktat. That is, the laity don’t need to know why they should believe something, or exercise their own courage and prudence in applying a principle, they simply need to do what they are told and they’re souls will be laser-sighted to heaven, and the world will be a better place. Such an attitude areas where it lacks competence exposes the Church to ridicule, and fails in a duty to the faithful. No man can alienate his conscience as this would suppose. He is a *man*, and as Norris Clarke said, the *person* is precisely the unit of moral responsibility. No Catholic can “outsource” his moral responsibility, not even by signing it over to the Church hierarchy, and the Church shouldn’t by word, thought or deed imply that if you do, “when your last hour has come, [you will] go well baled and crated in one of the large shipments which the established order sends straight through to heaven under its own seal and plainly addressed to ‘The Eternal Blessedness,’ with the assurance that you will be exactly as well received and just as blessed as ‘all the others’.”

  25. Rick DeLano says:

    Do you really think the Bishops, as a whole, taught that Catholics could only vote for Mitt Romney?

    >> Not even close.

    Should the non-negotiables position be insisted on from the pulpit, or are the clergy going too far if they do this?

    >> The non-negotiables are the dogmas of the Catholic Faith, and the most basic of these (“nulla salus extra ecclesiam” has not been preached for at least a generation. It makes the sheep nervous to hear things proclaimed as Absolutes. They have no experience of this, other than snickering allusions to “fundamentalism” (what in every other age of the Church would have been called “Catholicism”).

    What are the limits that should be observed by clergy in times like these?

    >> Martyrdom- mostly “white martyrdom” at this stage- is to be sought as the greatest possible grace and Sign here in the midst of the great apostasy. One can bring it upon oneself in quite easily- simply preach the dogma.

    Of lay people who voted for President Obama, how do you see their vote?

    >> As a vote for a child murdering, anti-Catholic Marxist.

    Does it make them a dissenter, or does it mean they weighed things differently?

    >> How can they dissent from that which is not proclaimed in the first place?

    Then Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned in his 2004 memo of some possibly having “proportionate reasons” to vote for a pro-Abortion candidate. How do you understand the word proportionate. Is there any room for interpretation in the meaning of this word?

    >> Two child murder advocates running against each other, I suppose. Some other similar convoluted bit of casuistry in the face of the collapse of Christian Faith in the West. The instruction is perfectly correct, as far as it goes. The problem is similar to a rational and well-informed discussion of permissible actions with regard to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    While most of us in the pro-Life movement ardently think that Abortion must be the premier issue to be considered, followed closely by the other non-negotiables, is this view officially taught by the Church?

    >> Hah. What in the world does “officially taught by the Church” mean, any longer? The Church essentially has denied the dogma “nulla salus extra ecclesiam” since the Council. This once having been accomplished, everything is up for grabs. As we see before our noses.

    And must it be definitively held, such that one who votes for a pro-abortion candidate for “proportionate” reasons is ipso facto a bad and dissenting Catholic?

    >> No. There might be two child murder advocates, and one could not be judged a bad Catholic for voting for the child murder advocate who proposes only ripping the babies apart in the first three months, when the other insists on the “right” to tear them limb from limb even after exiting the womb.

    But this is not the problem, is it?

    The problem is that the Catholics are not sickened- literally sickened- at the very prospect of bishops allowing child-murder advocates to receive honorifics and awards on Catholic campuses.

    Bottom line, how can clergy walk the increasingly narrow line of staying away from partisan trip-wires and still proclaim authentic Catholic teaching?

    >> It is called courage. It takes much more courage to preach the dogmas of the Faith, than to preach that abortion is an intrinsic evil. Most priests are afraid of even the relatively puny latter proposition. Might rock the boat, get the chancery down on you, hurt contributions, upset the YouCat generation.

    My own experience about this is that it is much harder near elections, but now that political season is over, we need to step up the teaching in a less charged environment.

    >> Start with Cantate Domino and see how that hypothesis works out for you :-)

    In what ways should the clergy pipe down and allow laity to take proper leadership in the temporal order, and more specifically politics.

    >> The “laity” has no idea of what the Catholic Church has believed always and everywhere. In important respects, the “laity” would be scandalized to hear what it is they (don’t) believe.

    Here is Satan’s masterstroke, here is how we can understand why Our Lord, after assuring us the gates of Hell shall not prevail, nevertheless asks:

    “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth”?

    • Bob says:

      Excellent response. Why do the clergy try to be so politically correct and uncomfortable when defending our faith. I think the old fashioned 10 commandments should be reeferred to once in awhile. How about THOU SHALT NOT KILL. For me, what is unclear about that? Should babies in the womb andold folks be exempted?
      Of course not, unless you are a weak kneed Catholic who voted for Obama.

    • Tony says:

      post of the day right here.

  26. Mrs. B. says:

    Nathan makes a good point: the voting pattern among Church-going Catholics was very different from the one for generically self-identified Catholics. This indeed suggests that what is most needed is not more generic political statement from the Bishops, but outstanding parish priests doing the humble work of catechesis day in and day out, along with the wonderful works of mercy the Church is always so good at.

    What we want is a sort of “avalanche effect”, where more and more faithful Catholics fill up with graces on Sunday (and when possible not just on Sundays) and lead lives that attract others (or at least make wayward Catholics stop on their tracks and come back to the fullness of the Church’s teachings) – this is not wishful thinking: I know people who converted by starting being simply “curious” about the faith.

    So, let’s have more and more Bishops truly passionate about forming these outstanding priests. I wonder if people tune Bishops out because they are seen more as “managers” than shepherds, a little remote, the special priest who shows up for the important ribbon cutting every once in a blue moon. I remember being perplexed when our parish priest decided to hire a “business manager”, but then I got it: if the priest is free of many of his managerial duties, he’s then free to dedicate more time to the care of souls. I understand it’s not at all easy for the Bishops to keep things simple in the complicate age we live in – but I do wish more Bishops took the time to connect with their “sheep” in a more personal way.

    One last point, touching on the negotiables/non-negotiables discussion: one of the problems I see is that for many Catholics there is no hierarchy of issues – it’s almost a matter of personal preference. “You volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, so it’s obvious you’re so obsessed with abortion, but don’t bother me so much. I teach English to recent immigrants and I think permissive immigration is priority #1!” I think this is why conservative Catholics resent so much when the Bishops spend so much time and “political capital” to push the so-called social justice agenda, as they agree on it at one point or another. They are seen as feeding this moral equivalence among issues. The tragedy is that the caricature of the political right deliberately planning to destroy all the social goods we enjoy exists only in partisan rhetoric (or in most media talk-shows, but I repeat myself), and it is what it is: a caricature. But a caricature that enables countless Catholics reassuring themselves that they are voting for pro-abortion candidates with a clear conscience, for the good of society. So it is possible to take a statement like the Ratzinger quote, that speaks of a theoretical possibility, and twist it so it becomes a fig leaf to protect a wrongly formed conscience.

  27. mdepie says:

    I think there is a couple of points: 1) Abortion is a premier issue because of the gravity of the crime involved ( it is a particularly evil for of murder, because of the innocence of the victim, the special duty of the person(s) usually doing the harm ( doctors sworn to protect human life, the parents, etc.) Evangelium vitae makes this clear and also makes it clear that we have a moral duty to change the law. IT is not just about decreasing the number of abortions per se, but rather a law that permits the killing of humans is such a grave disorder it undermines the basics of the social order. As a clue to this think about the fact that 85-90% of all children with Down’s syndrome are aborted. This means that we live in a society in which being mentally disabled is so distasteful that we see fit to kill such children before they are born almost always. Will this be a society that is truly compassionate or Christian to anyone? I could go on to talk about sex selective abortion ( were female children are seen as less desirable then male children, or even Ruth Bader Ginsberger’s ill considered comments during an interview in Ny Times Magazine July 7/2009) in which she said “Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. ” What populations could Justice Ginsberg possibly mean? Could it be a coincidence that in the Ny City 47% of all African American Pregnancies end in abortion and 40% of all abortions are in women below the poverty line? Will a society that sees abortion as a means to end poverty really heal its racial divisions or show compassion to the poor. So the issue is more that abortion is fundamental. It is a cause of a rot that will erode human dignity at its root.

    I suspect those who make the argument that Catholics should not be morally bound to use their vote to oppose abortion do not see abortion as all that bad. Surely they agree that at some point an evil is so grave that a Catholic simply can not vote for a person advocating or defending the evil. I would remind everyone that Hitler and the Nazis won power through elections. ( The Nazi’s won about 40% of the vote giving them enough power to allow Hitler to be appointed Chancellor by German President Hindenberg. The remaining history is depressingly well known) Would we not be ashamed for any German Catholic that voted for the Nazi party? So clearly evils that are sufficiently grave demand that we never vote for someone favoring that evil. If Abortion is legalized murder surely this is in the same category. I am not saying anyone running today is as evil as the Nazi’s but rather that some evils demand opposition regardless of any other position the candidate holds. Indeed Vatican II groups abortion with genocide in just this way. Some of the Nazi Party’s economic agenda does not sound so different than what many advocate today, they in fact made claims that big business made excessive profits at the expense of the middle class, that the state should confiscate it for the public good, that the wealthy were exploiting the poor ( the added the little racist notion that the wealthy happened to be Jewish ) but leaving aside the antisemitism, would it be fair to say, gee… those Germans who supported the Nazi’s were merely weighing complex economic issues, and well probably the big businesses were exploiting the poor and so forth… Frankly maybe they were… but the question is this, given what else the Nazis were selling did it matter? So in answer to whether this should opposition to candidates favoring abortion be morally obligatory I ask should the German Bishops have made it morally obligatory to oppose those advocating the Antisemitism of the Nazis in say 1923 ?

    One final thought: In this election cycle there was a candidate who was a “full spectrum” Catholic Candidate. He was 100% pro-life, but was also a proponent of a number of issues social justice Catholics claimed to care about. He favored restructuring third world debt, he worked hard to fund HIV treatment programs among the very poor in Africa, he was favored doing some things to help rebuild manufacturing jobs in the US ( which targets lower middle income Americans.) He uttered a pretty good criticism of the Republican Candidates when he said they jsut making sure the top tax rate was not more than 33% would not make everything in America ok. He was himself a Catholic. This was of course Senator Rick Santorum. Unfortunately no Catholic of note, certainly no Bishop , and certainly no “social justice” advocate of note bothered to call attention to his candidacy. The choice did not have to be between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama, It could have been otherwise.

  28. Kathy R says:

    If we have learned anything from this past Presidential election is the dire need to evangelize not just to the fallen-away Catholics but especially to those practicing Catholics whose faith should have informed their vote. The choice was clear-cut as the platforms were dramatically opposite to each other especially on fundamental life issues.
    The voting results state that 39% of practicing Catholics voted for a president and party that supports abortion, same-sex ‘marriage’ and legislation that attacks our religious freedom and conscience rights. The numbers bear the sad and discouraging facts that not only are Catholics divided; they either do not have properly formed consciences formed by the truths of our faith or they obstinately refuse to go against their long-held party loyalties and ideologies. They choose Caesar over God and this choice has eternal consequences.
    We cannot lay the blame on the bishops, as many were very vocal of the threat to our religious freedom. They warned us that to vote for the incumbent party was to participation in intrinsic evil. I think the blame lies both with the pulpit and with the laity. Some pastors and priests spoke up but I fear a majority did not. They neglected to speak up about the moral issues that are quickly eroding our society. They did not defend our First Amendment Rights.
    As for the laity, many of the Church-going Catholics are elderly and still clung to old party loyalties having never seen how their party has abandoned its founding principles and moved radically to the left. I also believe that there are quite a few contracepting, practicing Catholics who cannot part with their pills nor want to admit or accept the Church’s teachings regarding birth regulation. It is likely that they have never read Humane Vitae or heard of the Church’s wisdom and prophetic warnings on contraception. That is the real ‘war on woman’.
    We as the faithful, informed laity who support the USCCB and the teachings of the Magisterium need to approach the tabooed subject matter of politics and religion with our family, friends and coworkers. It is clear that the government is imposing its strong arm into the practices and teachings of our Church. It is the government who is imposing and enforcing coercive measures upon our Church that are contrary to our teachings. There are four levels of persecution: marginalizing, vilifying, criminalizing and outright persecution. We are clearly in the third stage and God forbid, approaching step four.
    The Year of Faith is a little late in coming but nevertheless; we have a lot of evangelizing to do. It is all in God’s Providence and as baptized, confirmed Soldiers of Christ, we must instruct, defend and be a witness to truths of our Faith. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
    As St. Paul tells us in Ephesians,
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. (Ephesians 6:10-14)
    The stake and need for evangelization have never been greater. Take your pick: sinner or a saint. It’s your choice.

  29. Don says:

    My sense is that many bishops and priests are afraid of making real demands upon the faithful. Afraid that if they tell their parishoners they are going to hell unless they accept the Church’s authority, many of them will simply leave the Church. Afraid of drawing that line in the sand and asking people to either step over it or hit the exits. Because that means empty pews, less revenue, closing parishes, closing schools. There are supposedly 70 million “Catholics” in the U.S. but only about 25 million attend mass regularly and try to accept the full authority and teaching of the Church. The others are either ignorant / uninformed or simply reject some or all of what the Church teaches.

    Being a faithful Catholic is not easy, but it is far too easy to openly spurning established teachings of the Church yet suffer no real downside (in this life, at least). Excommunication is exceedingly rare even for public figures who give scandal to the Church and mislead the faithful. Our great Catholic universities are full of professors who reject the Magisterium and teach the next generation to do the same, yet they will likely never be denied communion and will likely never even be admonished. The same is true for many leading “Catholic” politicians. This gives people the false impression that it must all be okay.

    This week the editors of the National Catholic Reporter accused the Church of injustice for refusing to ordain women and urged the laity to rebel against the Church at every level on this issue. What will happen to the editors of the NCR? Maybe a slap on the wrist, maybe a sternly worded response from the Bishops. And the NCR will still be around next week, still claiming to be Catholic and still being read by many who agree with its position and secretly say to themselves “Yeah, now THAT’s speaking truth to power.”

    Bottom line: The Church needs to clean house. Make people who openly reject the authority of the Church do so from the outside, not from within.

    • ThomasL says:

      “Afraid that if they tell their parishoners they are going to hell unless they accept the Church’s authority…”

      Is it true because the Church’s authority says so? Or is the Church’s authority saying so because it is true?

      • Don says:

        Does it matter why it’s true?

        • ThomasL says:


        • ThomasL says:

          I’ll try again… is abortion an intrinsic evil because the Church says so or does the Church say it is intrinsically evil because it *is* intrinsically evil? Is the Gospel of St. John scripture and the “Gospel” of St. Thomas not because the Church says so, or does the Church say that St. John is scripture because it is scripture, and say that St. Thomas is not because it is not?

          Does the Church proclaim the truth, or make it up?

    • Ray says:

      Agree completely!! Canon 915, the Church’s law would excommunicate many democratic leaders, who claim to be Catholic. Spineless leaders breed spineless Catholics in the pews.

  30. Ralyge says:

    Thank you for a balanced analysis of this topic. I don’t have time to respond to your questions, but I agree with your approach. Both the Catholic Right and the Catholic Left have their “pet” issues. The bishops are right to teach truths while staying non-partisan and allowing individuals freedom to discern. The right course is strengthening Catholics in deep, discerning prayer, an honest and rigorous search for the Truth, and a real life commitment to witness and action. The Holy Spirit takes care of the rest.

  31. Thanks to all the respondents so far. I want to explain that I am largely staying back and listening, but I am reading and listening.

  32. Catholic State Legislator/Lawyer says:

    Msgr: I understand that you asking for direct answers to each of these important questions, but please allow me the opportunity to try.

    1.Do you really think the Bishops, as a whole, taught that Catholics could only vote for Mitt Romney?

    A. No. The Bishops did not teach that Catholics could only vote for Romney. Unfortunately, the Bishops also failed to teach that Catholics could not, in good conscience, vote for Obama.

    2.Should the non-negotiables position be insisted on from the pulpit, or are the clergy going too far if they do this?

    A. The clergy should never fear preaching the non-negotiables of Catholic faith and moral, including but not limited to the divinity of Christ, the perpetual virginity of Mary, and the sanctity of innocent human life from conception to natural death.

    3.What are the limits that should be observed by clergy in times like these?

    A. Truth is the only limit.

    4.Of lay people who voted for President Obama, how do you see their vote? Does it make them a dissenter, or does it mean they weighed things differently?

    A. I sense that most of the Catholic laity who voted for Obama have more faith in government than in the Catholic Church.

    5.Then Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned in his 2004 memo of some possibly having “proportionate reasons” to vote for a pro-Abortion candidate. How do you understand the word proportionate. Is there any room for interpretation in the meaning of this word?

    A. The only proportionate reason to vote for a candidate who supports the killing of unborn children, advocates gay marriage and denies religious liberty is that the other candidate supports the same things.

    6.While most of us in the pro-Life movement ardently think that Abortion must be the premier issue to be considered, followed closely by the other non-negotiables, is this view officially taught by the Church? And must it be definitively held, such that one who votes for a pro-abortion candidate for “proportionate” reasons is ipso facto a bad and dissenting Catholic?

    A. In reading Sections 2270-2274 of the CCC, it seems clear that abortion is a grave and fundamental evil. A just society must protect innocent unborn human life. (“The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.”). As noted above, the only proportionate reason to vote for a candidate that supports such an unmitigated evil is that his opponent supports the same evils. In such circumstances, the voter is not a bad and dissenting Catholic.

    7.Bottom line, how can clergy walk the increasingly narrow line of staying away from partisan trip-wires and still proclaim authentic Catholic teaching? My own experience about this is that it is much harder near elections, but now that political season is over, we need to step up the teaching in a less charged environment.

    A. I will pray for you to boldly preach the truth from the pulpit and hope that you will pray for all legislators to likewise proclaim the truth in the public square.

    8.In what ways should the clergy pipe down and allow laity to take proper leadership in the temporal order, and more specifically politics.

    A. Priests for Life may offer the clergy some ideas on how to diplomatically approach this issue with your congregation. I would also invite clergy to identify, pray for and support pro-life legislators in the public square. Don’t hesitate to call your state or federal representative and voice your opinion. Ask where we stand on the non-negotiables. Keep our feet to the fire. Frankly, the nuns who live in my district are never reluctant to communicate their opinions to me. Now it’s time for the priests and deacons to become involved. May the Holy Spirit guide you through this treacherous path!

    • Don says:

      “4.Of lay people who voted for President Obama, how do you see their vote? Does it make them a dissenter, or does it mean they weighed things differently?

      A. I sense that most of the Catholic laity who voted for Obama have more faith in government than in the Catholic Church.”

      This is spot on.

  33. Philip the Slow says:

    Mr. Miller places a lot of importance on the Church “enhanc(ing) its public authority.” To that end, it should be even-handed with both political parties and avoid a too-judgmental attitude towards the laity in the difficult process of conscience formation. Above all, those individual judgments must be respected, come what may. How reasonable these prescriptions sound, if one’s goal is to gain the respect and good will of society, to be an opinion-leader. They’re very pastoral – nothing to scare the horses. Yet isn’t this precisely what the Church has done for decades? I leave it for others to decide whether It has thereby enhanced its degree of influence.

    Of course, the Church has a different goal and a different understanding of the source of its authority. Public approbation and influence it ultimately counts as rubbish. And in allegiance to the Truth, and to Charity, it sometimes must adopt strong methods. A saying of St. Augustine comes to mind: “the doctor does not stop cutting just because the patient is screaming for him to stop.” I fear we-all of us-may need some cutting. I pray that the Bishops have the courage to take up the knife.

  34. Nicholas Esposito says:

    I agree the that sometimes the “non negotiables” preaching can be ineffective. But, If the church does not preach these “non-negotiables” than that could lead the faithful to erroneously believe that all election issues have the same moral weight or gravity. This could be interpreted by the laity, that the Church doesn’t really care about one political issue over another. Its a tricky situation either way

  35. MichaelP says:

    1- no
    2- yes
    3- none, our allegiance is to Christ the King, not a 501c status
    4- unworthy to receive communion per B16. The key is “…which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” What issue in this year’s election was proportionate to abortion and sodomy?
    5- no
    6- irrelevant since there were no proportionate reasons to vote for Obama
    7-no possible
    8- a father never “pipes down” when educating and leading his children

  36. Max says:

    I’m continually baffled as to why the “non-negotiables” do not include torture, the death penalty, and this decade+ long war that we are fighting.

    It’s clear to a lot of people that there are more than a few cherry picked “non-negotiables”. The ones often cited just happen to line up with GOP candidates (mostly).

    What if we had a full list of non-negotiables and refused to vote for either a Republican or a Democrat? What if the bishop in a local race encouraged his flock to vote 3rd party? I think they’d gain much more respect.

    • Don says:

      If 50 million dead babies aren’t enough, you will never be persuaded.

      Torture is evil, and the Church so teaches, but it is also exceedingly rare – a few isolated cases in the US in the past 100 years.The death penalty is not always evil per se, but according to the Catechism, the circumstances when it is justified in the modern world are exceedingly rare. Fortunately, imposition of the death penalty in the US is also exceedingly rare (fewer than 1,400 executions in the US since it was reinstated in 1976). The Church provides just war doctrine for nations to prudentially evaluate the moral justifications for conflict.

    • ThomasL says:

      Focusing on the death penalty, the answer is because the Church’s position is not non-negotiable. The CCC says one thing, but the Catechism from Trent another. And the CCC is odd; it speaks of advancements in incarceration techniques which make the death penalty less likely to be necessary to prevent future crimes than in the past. But bishops often refer to the death penalty as “unjust”, which is not what the CCC says. And it is not unjust, or it could never have been sanctioned by the Church for 99% of its history, or be explicitly invoked in the Scriptures. Injustice is not just hunky-dory until construction on the new jailhouse is finished. It doesn’t work that way.

      Further, it isn’t really clear what those advancements are. Romans and mediaevals couldn’t lock people up in a cell? History would seem to indicate that they were pretty good at that. But most importantly, it side-steps the whole issue.

      If it the death penalty is wrong now, but wasn’t even in 1570, because now we have better prisons that prevent criminals from killing again (per CCC), we aren’t even talking about execution as penalty but as preventative!

      By that reading, the state is justified in executing a man for what he has *not* done, but not for what he has done. It is like Minority Report. Now that *is* unjust.

      No, whether thy guy is willing or able to kill again doesn’t tell us whether it is a just or unjust *penalty* for the murder he committed, because a penalty is for what you have done, not for what you haven’t done.

      A prudential judgment that the death penalty is not being justly applied is fair and reasonable to make, but it can’t be promoted to non-negotiable status.

    • I Like the Church Fathers says:

      Re Max:

      I’m not going to defend the death penalty, but I would point out that the Papal States [like all other states of the time] had capital punishment. There’s an excellent wikipedia article on the official executioner of the Papal States before the Papal States’ absorption into the Italian republic. He held the job for over sixty[!!!!] years before Blessed Pius IX retired him and granted him a pension for his long years of service:

  37. Sarah in WA says:

    The major question I had to ask myself in this election wasn’t, do I vote for Obama or Romney? It was, should I vote for either of these people, or should I sit this election cycle out (or vote 3rd party) in protest?

    It was fairly easy to rule out voting for Obama due to his positions on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. He’s not just ambivalent on these issues. He is an enemy of the unborn, an advocate for gay marriage, and an enemy of the Church’s freedom to pursue its mission. (Note: Please take note, older Catholics. The young are not all a lost cause. I was catechized in the 1990s.) But, while I felt it was clear I could not vote for Obama, I also felt a lot of trepidation about voting for Romney. I watched the campaign for months, and concluded that Romney was disingenuous, was no friend of the pro-life or pro-traditional marriage movements (reference his time as Governor of MA), and had some economic policy ideas that I thought would make our society even more strongly plutocratic / corporatist, leading to even greater disparity in income and access to basic standards of living. I understand that issues like economic policy fall into the category of “prudential judgment”, but what if you look at someone’s particular “prudential judgments” and conclude they are neither prudent nor just? I can’t get excited about voting for someone when I think 1/2 of his ideas are absolutely terrible, and the other 1/2 are so unclear that I’m not sure what he’d actually do in office.

    It literally took me until the day before the election to convince myself to vote for Romney. I read dozens of articles by bishops, priests, and lay faithful, trying to understand what to do. Again, my understanding of my choices was either, vote Romney in the hopes that he could displace someone I saw as an open enemy of the Church, OR, sit out this cycle in protest. Eventually I decided that Obama was *so* bad on the social & religious liberty issues that I had to vote for “the other guy” even though I didn’t like most of the policy details that came along with “the other guy.”

    • I Like the Church Fathers says:

      I think you made the right choice, Sarah. If only all voters weighed the issues and strategic considerations as thoughtfully as you did.

      • Blake Helgoth says:


        I was with you, but wound up up not being able to bring myself to vote for Romney. I voted 3rd party. I just could not find a proportionate reason to justify a vote for Romney.

  38. GABRIEL says:

    “For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts;”

    2 Timothy 4:3

  39. GABRIEL says:

    “and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.”

    2 Timothy 4:4

  40. Rob says:

    Is there really a “proportionate reason” to killing an innocent child? I wouldn’t want to stand before God and try to justify that one. Pastors should use their leadership positions in matters of faith to help the laity interpret what “proportionate reason” means. And common sense dictates it doesn’t include voting for a pro-choice candidate.

  41. Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

    I would just like to say that I am very proud of our Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.
    The poor defenseless, unborn children have a friend in him.
    He defends the Faith of our Fathers and loves our country.
    Ad multos annos, Bishop Jenky!

  42. Cathy says:

    In talking to folks who identify themselves as Catholic yet voted for Mr. Obama, these folks often don’t deny that killing a baby in the womb is an intrinsic evil. However, there is a dichotomy: They do not cringe and view abortion with absolute stunned horror. They feel no tug whatsoever on their heart strings. It does not weigh on their consciences. In addition, they do not worry about personal accountability before Jesus for this abomination. They do not worry about His potentially turning away from embrace of the USA because of this act. They do not worry about what an affront this is to our loving and merciful Creator.
    …Instead they place greater priority on relief of suffering to those already born. I hear this time and again. This is the “proportionality” that they use: The living take precedence over the unborn. Especially the poor and unemployed. And often this line of thinking leads to the Democratic party’s platform.

  43. Nate says:

    So let me get this straight. Catholics who voted for Obama but also say they are pro-life do so because they say that Statist welfare programs outweigh the potential to reduce the number of abortions. The Leftists want to borrow over a trillion dollars a year to prop up an ineffective and unsustainable welfare state for people and corporations. The irony! They are saddling the children they don’t murder with enormous debt and a dim future just to make their own lives more comfortable. And yet the clueless bishops claim that these massive State programs are ‘Catholic’ even as they have brought the West’s economies to their knees and create moral hazard among individuals and corporations.

    Interestingly, the key demographic that supported Obama and gave him the win was single women. The underlyng reason for this appears to be that most want a lifestyle based on birth control, abortion, and a welfare state to take care of them if need be. Plenty of men agree that is a good thing I’m sure but only a minority voted for the State to enable that kind of life.

  44. Mick says:

    Many interesting comments, insights, and thoughts. But on the issue of abortion, does any catholic, well catechized or not, with or without priestly direction, doubt the inherent evil embodied in the act? I know individuals of no faith, little faith, or with no religious background who find abortion reprehensible. True enough, I know many more with identical backgrounds, as well as many who profess to be Christians, who accept it as a “modern reality.” Inevitably, their defense of the act finds its genesis in economic considerations – to hear them tell it, ours is such an advanced and sophisticated society that the codes and ethics which guided humanity for millennia are too “primitive.”
    Never is it argued that a new truth has been discovered and, because of its obvious credibility, widely accepted. Instead, it is hailed as a triumph over shopworn fictions. Its importance is seen as so vital that the general public must be schooled to embrace it, judicial appointees must swear fealty to it, and candidates for public office are strongly admonished to not speak against it. Any doctrine, secular or otherwise, that requires substantial coercion to gain general acceptance has serious flaws.
    Finally, voting for one presidential candidate or the other is not required. There are many other positions on the ballot and, for those who embrace subsidiarity, more important.

  45. Jennifer Olson says:

    Msgr. – You asked for it, didn’t you!! Anyway, here’s my two cents for what it’s worth. In answer to question 7, which I think sums up all the questions, I think we need to start teaching the basic moral truths behind the absolutes so we can see at the root the reason abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, women priests, contraception, etc. are non-negotiable. Our culture lacks an understanding of the nature and dignity of the human person with regard to body, spirit, and gender which is reflected in all these political topics above. By taking it to the basic moral truth behind these we change the language from political “hot topic words” to moral absolute truths and help people to connect the dots to the truth wherever they may find it in both political parties. Our culture is overcome by rampant individualism, a false understanding of freedom, and a lack/loss of the virtues which have been replaced with “tolerance” and being “nice”. And this has led us to the dictatorship of Relativism. We must start unpacking the wealth of philosophical weaponry that JPII left us to combat this crisis in our culture. He left us with so much wisdom regarding these issues before he was called home to the elect and it needs to be taught ad nauseam to the faithful, so that they in turn can take it out to the rest of the world. I think that’s really what we need to hear from the pulpit, in my humble opinion.

  46. Brian Killian says:

    So then, a few questions to ask you about:

    *Do you really think the Bishops, as a whole, taught that Catholics could only vote for Mitt Romney?*

    The bishops as a whole did not teach that. I think what is significant and problematic is that the handful of vocal bishops who did seem to teach that voters could only vote for Romney (or at least *not* vote for Obama) are viewed as ‘spokesmen’ for conservative Catholics generally, and also seen as influential at the Vatican. But still, these bishops pose a problem for the faithful who fall under their leadership, if in fact those bishops are overstepping their authority.

    *Should the non-negotiables position be insisted on from the pulpit, or are the clergy going too far if they do this?*

    The rhetoric of ‘non-negotiables’ does not come from Catholic moral theology. It comes from partisan Catholic groups who publish voter guides in an imbalanced, one-sided way.

    As you noted, if ‘non-negotiable’ means that a person cannot ever vote for a candidate who holds a certain belief, then it’s just plain wrong. The Catholic moral doctrine of remote material cooperation or proportionate reason always makes it possible to vote for a candidate who holds a wrong belief (otherwise voting would be impossible). If a theoretical possibility always exists to vote for a candidate who holds a certain belief, then the belief or issue in question can’t be non-negotiable in the sense commonly used.

    Therefore, the language of ‘non-negotiables’ should never be heard form the pulpit, and if it is then the clergy has definately gone too far.

    *What are the limits that should be observed by clergy in times like these?*

    The clergy should be careful not to take away the legitimate freedom of the laity to make prudential decisions about political matters. It’s very irresponsible for a bishop to imply damnation for someone who votes for a candidate, when in fact it may be very possible for a good Catholic to vote for that candidate.

    Clergy should not mistake their own opinions or conclusions as the only options for other Catholics. This requires a certain discipline and respect for the complexity of the voting calculus.

    *Of lay people who voted for President Obama, how do you see their vote? Does it make them a dissenter, or does it mean they weighed things differently?*

    Most Catholics who voted for Obama were simply analyzing the situation differently than many conservative Catholics do. Some Catholics are dissenters, and some may even vote for Obama *because* he is pro-choice, but I believe that most Catholics who voted Obama, especially in the election four years ago, simply have a different philosophy of what it means to be pro-life, and a different philosophy of voting.

    Unfortunately, these faithful Catholics are branded as dissenters by other Catholics. Or it is implied that they were not properly catechized (as if all catechized Catholics would vote uniformly).

    In the election four years ago, when Obama won the ‘Catholic vote’ it was declared by Chaput and others that there was something wrong with Faithful Citizenship and that it needed revisiting. In the last election, we are now told that the Catholics who voted for Obama were simply not catechized properly. Apparently, *truly catechized* Catholics would never have voted for Obama, and a *truly accurate* Faithful Citizenship document would never have led someone to vote for Obama either.


    *Then Cardinal Ratzinger mentioned in his 2004 memo of some possibly having “proportionate reasons” to vote for a pro-Abortion candidate. How do you understand the word proportionate. Is there any room for interpretation in the meaning of this word?*

    Many Catholics dismissed the possibility of there being any proportionate reason to vote for a pro-choice candidate. Many bishops, clergy, and lay Catholics said that they just couldn’t imagine a circumstance where there would be a proportionate reason to justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate. They relunctantly allowed the possibility (only because Ratzinger was on record saying it) but denied it any reality in the current circumstances.

    The reason they couldn’t imagine a proportionate reason for voting for Obama was because they were searching for an evil that was *more* evil than abortion. When they couldn’t find one, they declared a proportionate reason non-existent.

    But what they overlooked was that abortion is proportionate to abortion. Trying to save an innocent unborn life is proportionate to the killing of innocent unborn life. Trying to solve the problem of abortion is proportionate to the evil of abortion.

    In other words, they couldn’t see that many who vote for Obama *were* motivated by pro-life concerns. They couldn’t imagine a strategy for dealing with abortion that was different than the one they were accustomed to thinking. They couldn’t see that paradoxically, one may end up voting for a pro-choice candidate for pro-life reasons, just as one might end up voting for a pro-torture candidate for pro-life reasons.

    The problem is truly one of imagination. Namely that faithful Catholics on one side of the political spectrum can not fathom the perspective of faithful Catholics on the other side of the political spectrum. Nor do they always seem to care to understand or expand their imagination.

  47. mdepie says:

    Brian: you say : “In other words, they couldn’t see that many who vote for Obama *were* motivated by pro-life concerns. They couldn’t imagine a strategy for dealing with abortion that was different than the one they were accustomed to thinking. They couldn’t see that paradoxically, one may end up voting for a pro-choice candidate for pro-life reasons, just as one might end up voting for a pro-torture candidate for pro-life reasons.”

    But really? Is this honest? Was there someone who was pro-torture? If you are referring to water boarding, I don’t think this is quite accurate an appraisal of the real choices we face. Obama has been ordering drone assassinations of various people he has deemed guilty of terrorism, even some American Citzen’s, and clearly took great pleasure in pointing out he was directly responsible for the actions of the Seals in which they shot Osama bin Laden in the head. I am not sure there is a principle in Catholic theology which says it is immoral to pour water on someone to make them feel like they are drowning but its perfectly fine to put a bullet through their head or blow them up ( along with their families) with a missile. I think on the torture etc issue Obama has clearly not been significantly different Bush. There is a whole moral theology about what actions are justified in war and what ones are not. It probably is beyond the scope of the combox to get into the specifics, but suffice to say Obama was no slouch about killing folks. I do not think one can say he was anti-torture and the Republicans are pro-torture. THe La times reports that Obama has continued the rendition of CIA detainees to secret black site prisons. Were you aware of this?

    On Feb 2009 the LA Times reported ” Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States….The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.
    The European Parliament condemned renditions as “an illegal instrument used by the United States.” Does this in anyway undermine that view that some people supported Obama because they were concerned about torture… Seems to me it would.

    As for abortion, do you really think Obama limited abortion? Besides it is not only about limiting abortion, it is that a law justifying killing some human beings is itself a violation of the just order and needs to be remedied. Do you really think that you can vote for someone who supports abortion, legalized murder, an unspeakable crime as Vatican II puts it, for “pro-life reasons?. Is this not like a pro-Nazi Cathoilcs who supported the Nazi’s in 1931 Germany because of the economic or other policy positions of the Nazi’s but ignored the virulent antisemitism. I would wager a great deal that German Catholics dd not support the Nazi’s because of the Antisemitism, but rather ignored it and supported them for “other reasons” After all the German people were suffering under the Versailles treaty that ended WW I, to some extent unjustly. There was great economic distress, rampant unemployment. The Weimar republic left Germany an economic mess ( Gee sounds vaguely familiar don’t you think…? . The BBC has described some stated goals of the Nazi’s pre WW II as follows: “Many German people had suffered during the First World War and the Depression, so welcomed Hitler’s economic policies with open arms. There was full employment, new public works and ordinary workers even had the opportunity to purchase a car to drive on the new Auobahn” Sounds swell doesn’t it. Ok so there was a little Anti-Jewish business, but gee maybe even the Jewish people would do better under these guys, after all they were Germans too… Isn’t this a little like what you are saying about supporting the pro-abortion guy for pro-life reasons? How is it different. Is it not really easy for us to think how terribly misguided a Catholic in 1930 Germany was to support the Nazi’s, and indeed they were. Before we condemn them too forcefully however we need to think how easy it is to fall for the same lie. We after all can throw the unborn under the bus because.. well there are just other important issues. Was there a German Catholic somewhere in 1930 Barvaria that thought while they were not comfortable with this rhetoric about the Jews… they did like what the Nazi’s said about building an Autobahn ( investment in a shovel ready job after all…. might even call it stimulus spending…), and putting people back to work. And boy they are sure telling the truth when they talk about how the wealthy are taking all the money from the common man ( Gee that sounds familiar too….)

    What I would ask is that can someone willing to kill an unborn child be trusted?

    I suspect the Germans who voted for The Nazi’s and ultimately gave them enough power for Hitler to assume the chancellorship did not explicitly endorse the antisemitism, and even less imaging the horrors of the Holocaust that were to follow. They rather choose to look the other way. There may indeed be similar warning signs now. This is not to say we are going to recapitulate WW II or the Jewish Holocaust exactly. An analogy by its nature is imperfect. It is to say this, many people like you, Brian, understand and probably believe that abortion is a grave evil, it is murder. Yet for reasons that are unclear to me, you do not seem to understand that it is grave in a way that is similar to the Antisemitism of the Nazi’s. It will inevitably spread because its underlying logic is cancerous. Screening for Down’s syndrome? Really is being mentally disabled so terrible? And ask your self what does it mean that 1/2 of all African American unborn children in NY are killed before birth.. is this a path to and end to our racial discord? Now we see Obama making moves to limit the religious freedom of Catholics. Where does this end? I honestly do not know. But it does not have a good feeling to it.

  48. Chris Wooldridge says:

    We either believe our faith or we don’t. It really is that simple.

  49. Blake Helgoth says:


    First, I want to thank you for bringing up this topic. Second, may I suggest a graver evil than abortion as a non-negotiable? The further surender of our national sovereignty to international corporations, banks and the UN. I have come to understand that both parties bow down to the same rulers. The 2 party system has become a ruse. We had no real choice because we choose to play thier the establishments game. No real change is goin to come from pouring all of this energy and these resources into politics. We need to return to serious mental prayer and then, once converted evangelize our culture. Only then will a clear political solution present itself – probable after much suffering.

  50. Michael P. Daniel says:

    Though I do navigate the complex issues when it comes time to vote, I nevertheless default to the fundamental issue of life itself. JPII’s comment had haunted since I first read it. I paraphrase, “A nation that kills its own young is a nation without hope.” So if we find ourselves “negotiating” on abortion and euthanasia in favor of “material gain” or the so-called “bigger picture”, I personally think we have all been stricken blind as the men of Sodom found themselves on Lot’s doorstep. First we must agree that life is sacred; anything less than this, well, there is just not much left to talk about. I know it makes me a “one issue” voter, but I’m ok with this because I do not believe for one second that we can do anything for the sake of “social justice” if we’re ok with the murder of the very “least of these”. I freely admit my stance has left me often with virtually no choice at the polls, but I cannot abide by a “kinda-sorta” stance. Life is … or life isn’t. There is no middle ground.

  51. Kurt says:

    As a Catholic who voted for Obama, I would make three points:

    1. I find the “non-negotiable” slogan has phony as a $3 bill. It was developed by focus groups financed by rich Republicans. It is applied selectively (i.e. Santorum given a pass for his vote for pro-choice Arlen Spector and Catholic GOP leader Ed Gilespie’s support for pro-choice Republicans). It gets trotted out very selectively. Moreover, what does it even mean? I’m not negotiating over my principles. My principles remain my principles regardless of which flawed human being I vote for. As to legislative text, everyone negotiates. Look at the Blunt Amendment on the HHS mandate. It protects the conscience rights of bosses, but the conscience rights of employees was negotiated away giving them no protection from having to pay for abortion and contraception in their health care.

    2. The issue that has hurt the bishops is that most of them have been silent while a minority were partisan. Not partisan by taking Republican positions. Partisan by changing the rule by which they measure — i.e criticizing Obama for doing things while silent when Bush did the same things. (I can give examples if someone cares).

    3. I really resent my fellow Catholics telling me I am going to Hell for voting for Obama (which has happened too often) when I live and vote in DC. I mean really. There are more pro-lifers in the DC Democratic Party than in the officially pro-choice DC Republican Party.

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