The National Catholic Review

Last night’s spirited Vice-Presidential debate was billed, in some quarters, as a “Catholic smackdown.” The debate moderator, Martha Raddatz, made specific note of that reality, when she called the debate “historic,” as it was the first time that both candidates for vice president were—in case you’ve been living under a secular rock—Catholic. 

As our blogger Michael O’Loughlin noted, however, Ms. Raddatz’s “Catholic question” focused mainly on abortion. To me, it was not a surprising pivot, as many journalists tend to reduce all of Catholicism to a single issue. For his part, Congressman Ryan identify himself as strongly pro-life (though his reference to his daughter as “Bean” seemed oddly labored), dilated on what he perceived as threats to religious liberty and elaborated on the Romney administration’s opposition to abortion, with Governor Romney’s (somewhat surprising to many pro-lifers) exceptions for rape, incest and threats to the life of the mother. Vice President Biden, in turn, stated that his religion “defines who I am,” and spoke about his love of Catholic social teaching, his personal opposition to abortion and his unwillingness to “impose” that belief on others (though I’ve always found that odd, too—we regularly “impose” our beliefs on other whenever we legislate.)

By the way, listeners may have been flummoxed by the Vice President’s offhand reference to de fide doctrines of the church, which simply refers to the most basic Catholic beliefs, which cannot be denied by any Catholic in good standing. (Think, for example, of what is contained in the Creed.) Ironically, this was such an abstruse theological reference that the official transcript on CNN simply wrote “inaudible.”  (If they've changed it already, that means that they read this blog.)

Next week’s issue of America features an exclusive interview with both vice-presidential candidates on a variety of questions, including their Catholic beliefs. But it would be a mistake to try to vote for the “better Catholic.” Both Mr. Ryan and Mr. Biden are obviously serious about their Catholicism. Can anyone doubt that? They also offer a kind of Rorschach test for U.S. Catholic voters. Mr. Ryan is a Catholic who is clearly opposed to abortion and not so clearly in support of programs that would directly help the poor. Mr. Biden is not so clearly opposed to abortion and clearly in support of programs that would directly help the poor. They represent, in a sense, two distinct types of "Catholicisms" alive in our country today. It's a big church, as an elderly Jesuit I know likes to say.

Their commentary last night (and beforehand) also points out that no one party fully embraces the entirety of Catholic teaching.  And for those of you who would say that abortion is the only “intrinsic evil” that is at issue in this campaign, I would point you to Blessed John Paul II’s great encyclical Vertitatis Splendor, in which he speaks of a great many intrinsic evils, many of them often overlooked today, including “whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit.”

My point here, though, is not to wade into the murky waters of politics, which I try to avoid, and leave to people more knowledgeable than me. Rather, it’s to point out the impossibility of ascertaining who is the “better Catholic,” based on public pronouncements.

Yes, vote for the candidate(s) whose policies and viewpoints and voting record are in conformity with the Gospels, in accord with Christian values and in concert with Catholic church teaching. But it is impossible to look within a person’s soul and judge who is the “better Catholic,” simply based on what a person says during a campaign, much less a heated debate.

As St. Ignatius Loyola noted, “Love shows itself more in deeds than words.” And while voting records are an important indicator of a person's convictions and are in fact a “deed,” they do not, by themselves, make for a “good Catholic.”  There are other deeds and even words that will always remain hidden from public view.  You could be the most ardent pro-lifer and still be unkind to your family, uncharitable to the poor, mean-spirited to co-workers and harbor a hateful attitude towards humankind. Is that a “good Catholic”? You could be the most ardent advocate for the poor, and still be mendacious, thieving, dishonest, and deceitful. Needless to say, I’m not talking about any candidate here!

That’s why when a Catholic candidate speaks about his or her faith, it’s more important for voters to concentrate on their policies, rather than trying to worm their way into the person’s soul. Only God can determine who is the “good Catholic,” and no matter how many personal stories a person may tell about a conversion experience, going to daily Mass as a child, or the effect of an inspirational priest or plucky sister in their lives, the question of who is the “better Catholic” cannot be determined by any voter, any Catholic pundit or any priest, sister or bishop--but by God alone.

Show Comments (48)

Comments (hide)

Glen Brisebois | 11/5/2012 - 4:47pm
Don't vote for either Catholic.  Vote for the Mormon.
Vince Killoran | 10/19/2012 - 4:44pm
"Marches, donations, votes, lots of prayer and fasting, and absolutely no apathy about it.  And actually, stopping abortion would be a cause for a just war, wouldn't it?"

I don't favor the re-criminalization of abortion so my question was an attempt to understand the Pro-Life position which seems long on rhetoric and short on real action and sacrifice. 

The actions listed in your first sentence seem pretty weak if the carnage is as bad as you suggest.  But the second sentence. . . wow! Given the laws of the nation, it was perhaps foolish to write on a blog, but please confirm: are you advocating some kind of armed struggle? 

Glen Brisebois | 10/18/2012 - 8:53pm
Marches, donations, votes, lots of prayer and fasting, and absolutely no apathy about it.  And actually, stopping abortion would be a cause for a just war, wouldn't it?  It was the child sacrifice in Carthage that really disgusted the Romans.

And by the way, who cares if they're Catholic??   Better a pro-life Protestant than an abortion-permissive Catholic.

Why is the situation not dire?  Because you're not the one being dismembered?

Vince Killoran | 10/17/2012 - 12:11am
"He looks the other way as the truckloads of corpses drive by."

Tell us a bit about what you do to stop this-a march? a donation? a vote for a politician? Surely it calls for much, much more than this if the situation is a dire as you describe it.
Michael Barberi | 10/15/2012 - 8:24pm
The opinion of many Catholics on this blog reflect the profound division within the Catholic Church over many Church teachings. I believe most of them are faithful, intelligent and informed Catholics who strive to live a life guided by the Holy Spirit in truth and love. There include those Catholics who attend weekly Mass, those that attend weekly Mass occasionally, and those that do not attend weekly Mass but who strive to live good and just lives. Some Catholic bloggers may have abandoned the fundamentals of their faith, but I believe this is a very small number. 

I don't think anyone (save for a few) that believe that those Catholics who agree with all Church teachings stand on the moral higher ground. 

Glen Brisebois | 10/16/2012 - 9:56pm
If a man thinks that fetuses are not human and can be dismembered, that's reasonable.  But Biden thinks that fetuses ARE human and can still be legitimately dismembered.  He will not defend those he believes are human.  That is sick.  He looks the other way as the truckloads of corpses drive by.

Only Obama and Biden are pro intrinsic evil, on both abortion and sodomy. 

Romney and Ryan do not favor any intrinsic evil that I am aware of.

By the way, Romney and Ryan favor wealth for the middle class.  Obama and Biden favor an enormous middle class, but one that is poor.  The former is regulated free-market capitalism.  The latter is socialism.

J Cosgrove | 10/12/2012 - 11:01am
''Mr. Ryan is a Catholic who is clearly opposed to abortion and not so clearly in support of programs that would directly help the poor. Mr. Biden is not so clearly opposed to abortion and clearly in support of programs that would directly help the poor.''

Do they help the poor?  Everybody on the Democratic party side assumes that they do.  But there is very convincing information that suggests the opposite is true.  And if that is the accurate assessment of government programs, just what is Catholic Social Teaching on this?  Horrors, Paul Ryan may have the morally superior position on this too.
Michael Barberi | 10/14/2012 - 3:37pm
JR Cosgrove,

I agree that the problems of the poor and disadvantaged is complex and more money is not the simple answer. When you talk about the consequences of our modern society, which are many, I agree that we all need to recognize them and strive to resolve them as best we can. Perhaps I read into your comments more than you were implying about contraception. We have some defenders of this doctrine who make exaggerated claims about the consequences of contraception. That is what I was talking about. 

Thanks for your explanation.
Tom Maher | 10/14/2012 - 3:14pm
Essentially Father Martin is saying ho hum noboy is perfect on abortion.  Being for abortion or against abortion is all the same.  It.s so not cool to make a fuss when abortion is not by itself of nay importantce relative to the good a socially activist governemnt policy. So be cool and don't judge. Abortion is ok.
J Cosgrove | 10/14/2012 - 9:00am

I haven't the time to discuss each of your points but I think you have missed my point.  I am not unaware of what you said.  It is not a simple one that contraception has caused all the ills of our society and by the way contraception did change dramatically in the 1960's. As an example, I used to teach marketing at Fordham and would ask my students what was the innovation of the 20th century that affected society the most.  I would get things like the airplane, automobile, computers, antibiotics, radio, television etc.  I said no.  It was the pill.  Everyone then nodded in agreement.  

The sexual revolution which needed the pill also arose in the 60's.  So to say I am saying that contraception is ''the'' problem is missing the point.  That is far from what I am saying.  What I was saying is that no one is discussing the effects it has had on the attitudes of society not whether it is valid moral policy of the Church or has made the lives of many better but others worse.  It has had unintended consequences that no one foresaw or if they did there was no way to make the argument that would have prevented its adoption and its undesirable consequences.  Specifically it has affected different levels of our society in very different ways and not to recognize that is very short sighted.  My argument is that these unintended consequences are just part of an over all pattern of good intentions gone awry.  The most devastating of the unintended consequences are the attitudes fostered in the underclass by the programs of the Great Society and its continuation to today.

We get all sorts of self righteous I am a better Catholic than you are who say what a lesser Catholic Paul Ryan is.  It is in print on this site in past OP's and in comments on this thread.  These people and this includes a lot of the authors here haven't a clue as to the forces playing out amongst the underclass or the undereducated of our society.  They think that providing ever increasing more money is the answer to the problems of the poor.  The irony is that even under Ryan's budgets there is an increase of money for many of the poverty programs and second that the poverty programs themselves that Ryan would increase money for might be the real problem.  Ryan probably understands that but it is necessary to increase these expenditures for these dysfunctional programs because the opposition would demogauge any cuts.  All these people are doing is assuaging their guilt while oblivious to the harm the things they are recommending may be doing.

There are no easy answers but the naiveté of these people gets in the way of finding some possible ways out of the mess that has been created.  These programs are not really helping the poor as their spiritual and cultural poverty has increased as their material needs have been taken care of.  That is what I believe Ryan and others see.  They do not have any easy answers but at least they see the problem while the ''let's just keep increasing the budget'' crowd are leading us to no solutions to the basic problems of the poor while at the same time undermining the stability of the rest of the society.

Getting hung up in a theological argument on contraception is not the issue.  Understanding its widespread effects may help people realize some things about the problems with the underclass they do not currently see.  The real issues are elsewhere and no one is talking about them.  In fact the tendency is to support policies that keep making the situation worse.  But boy are they better Catholics.
David Smith | 10/14/2012 - 3:59am
The problem with the Church's opposing contraception is that it turns most Catholics into mortal sinners.

When your theology distances itself so far from day-to-day life, you've cut off your own oxygen.

Abortion, however, is a very different kettle of fish. Here, we're clearly talking about murder - the killing of a living human creature in utero. Unfortunately, as a society we've come to think that moral questions are just political questions, to be solved by political fighting. As a society, we have almost no moral sense left - it's all just opinions versus opinions. Weird. Kafkaesque, if you think about it.

I suppose the reason the bishops are so focused on abortion and only now and then on ''social justice'' issues is that the former is bright-line clear and the latter are a muddy congeries of constantly shifting targets with thousands of theoretical solutions. Abortion either is or isn't; social-justice issues appear and vanish and change shape depending on the context and the observer. Abortion is a well-defined target; social-justice issues are a tar baby.
Claver House | 10/13/2012 - 11:46pm
Thanks Jim for another thoughtful article.  As I read the line about journalists:
"many journalists tend to reduce all of Catholicism to a single issue." - I thought to myself
that "many Catholics tend to reduce all of Catholicism to a single issue."  It pains me that
in this entirely endless election season I have heard exactly ZERO from any of the candidates about prisoners, the death penalty or racism.  The silence from our Bishops on these issues is equally deafening.  (To his credit, Archbishop Cordileone, recently installed in SF has gone on record opposing the death penalty.  That's good, since the largest death row in the western hemisphere is located about 10 miles from his Cathedral).  Anyway, thanks, I wouldn't dare read the other comments here as I'm sure they've attracted the usual bevy of wing-nuts.
MaryMargaret Flynn | 10/13/2012 - 11:23pm
Wow-we are a diverse group!.''Here comes everybody''.  I'm still reading but the posting that really I would like to have made is #20; Biden is prolife beginning to end; Ryan up to the moment of birth. Right on-  Ryan took the  ''no new taxes'' pledge and is an objectivist and Rand books he passes out to his staffers. (In fact second best selling book there for a while.) Ryan would cut publically funded health care to parents and their children, the uninsured-actually millions of people (or souls).  No new taxes means increasing inequality, lack of health care and basic human services.  It is crystal clear of the two choices-my vote and ardent prayers are for Obama-Biden. THe erosin of liberty from my point of view comes from within the Church, not yet here in the USA, from goverment. ''We have met the enemy and the enemy is us''.        
Kang Dole | 10/13/2012 - 7:40pm
Don't vote for the better Catholic, and don't vote for the lesser evil: Cthulhu/Dagon '12! No more years!
Michael Barberi | 10/13/2012 - 5:13pm
JR Cosgrove,

You are correct that there are many issues regarding the poor that need to be addressed. The alarming amount of unwed mothers; the disproportionate number of irreponsible fathers; families abandoned by the male breadwinner; minimum wage jobs that many can only quality for, incentivizing many to remain on welfare; the job of educaion and skill enrichment that many don't take advantage of, some for practical family reasons...the list goes on. Money alone is not the answer because there are many factors that impact the plight of the poor and the disadvantaged. Do we merely calculate the so-called need and fully fund it? I think not. We need a comprehensive or better solution, if one is even plausible.

As for contraception, the issue is not as black and white as the Church proclaims. I will not go into detail because it would 20 pages to debate it. There are a number of good books that discuss both the moral principles and the philosophies that underpin them, as well as the politics of the Pontifical Birth Control Commission and the campaign conducted after the reports to Paul VI to convince him to embrace tradition, et al.

The problem with the teaching on contraception is that the Church declared it a moral absolute, and Paul VI (really Wojtyla) asserted that NFP-Periodic Continence is the "only" licit form of birth regulation because it is "God's Procreative Plan". No one knows God's procreative plan with moral certainty. For many reasons, Humanae Vitae is "to much of a moral certitude". This means that there is some truth in this teaching, but there are just circumstances and ethical contexts that demand flexibilty. 

A few good books worth your reflection are: Turning Point by Robert McClory; The Catholic Church and Marital Intercourse, by Robert Obach; The Encyclical That Never Was, by Robert Blair Kaiser. There are other books that defend the teaching on birth regulation that you should also read. However, a great book about 'authority' is The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity, by Michael Lacey and Francis Oakley; and an interesting read called Wolyta's Women: How They Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church, by Ted Lipien; and the outstanding book Sexual Ethics by Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler.

Vince Killoran | 10/15/2012 - 12:16pm
"I think it reflects many of the Catholics on this blog and how the non-Catholics see them."

Tim, you spend a lot of time on this blog and seem always to have the last word. Thanks for reminding your fellow Catholics on IAT yet again that you do not respect their faith. 
J Cosgrove | 10/15/2012 - 1:42pm
I believe that Tim O'Leary made one relatively short comment on this thread.  I know he comments several times on other OP's but so do a lot of people.  He was commenting on Joe Biden's faith which was made very public and how it was protrayed by the media. 

I could probably find more than a dozen OP's on America which do not respect the faith of Paul Ryan.  It is a general trend on this site to belittle the faith of many Catholics.
J Cosgrove | 10/13/2012 - 10:22am
''According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 82% of Catholics believe that contraception is morally acceptable and another 3% think it is morally acceptable with circumstances. ''

If one wants to have a moral and intellectual discussion of contraception, it requires that one consider all the factors and forces let loose by its introduction in the 1960's.  No one is disputing the so obvious benefits of controlling child birth which was till that time a very uncertain event in terms of control and often one with unfortunate consequences for both the children and parents.  That is where everyone goes in the discussion but usually little further.  And it is further that we have to go or else we are deluding ourselves that contraception is a harmless innovation to our world.

I am a big fan of Charles Murray which began last March when I read some reviews of his new book, Coming Apart.  I had never read anything by Murray but knew he was controversial.  I highly recommend the book for anyone trying to understand today's real problems.  They are not unemployment, budgets or health care or immigration or Middle East tensions or social security and all those are real issues.  The real issue is the fabric of American society and by extension the fabric of most of the Western world.

I then read Murray's book, Losing Ground, which is the book credited with causing Welfare Reform.  In it Murray details all the devastating ways that the government programs of the Great Society have essentially enslaved the underclass in a new way to government handouts.  It is not just monetary incentives that were provided that was the main culprit but the attitude the social workers and programs fostered within many poor segments of our society.  The African American poor were told that they were not to blame for their circumstances and as a consequence they were under no obligation to fight their way out of their poverty but were entitled to support by those who caused their predicament. And support they received as many thought it was not only a duty to do so but really the only humanitarian solution.

The results were devastating.  When I brought this up awhile back and pointed to the illegitimacy rate in the US especially amongst the poor, someone reflexively tried to prove me wrong and point to alternative explanations for the 70% out of wedlock rate amongst African Americans and the 30% rate amongst whites.  What he pointed to were explanations that were based on the widespread availability of contraception and abortion as an explanation for illegitimacy.  Seems counter intuitive to suggest that the means of not having children explains having them out of wedlock.  If you read the arguments there is some sense in what is said but it is certainly not the whole story.

The 60's also brought with it several other things besides the Great Society, most noticeably the sexual revolution and contraception and abortion for all.  But these phenomenon did not affect all parts of society in the same way.  Coupled with the perverse incentives that the Great Society had on the incentives to work and the new cultural attitudes it engendered the sexual revolution and the availability of child control has some incredible perverse incentives for sexual activity.  For a good description of the horrors that government programs and the sexual revolution brought to many of the poor read Myron Magnet's, The Dream and the Nightmare. The educated and financially secure were affected in much different ways than the poor and uneducated.

I will stop here but this is a discussion that could take thousands of pages and maybe in the end one of the conclusions might be that the Bishops and Popes were right.  A Pandora's box was unleashed and we haven't a clue what to do about it.  And if one thinks that government programs for the poor are the way to go, they had better be able to explain how they will help in the future because past efforts have had incredibly dysfunctional results with not only the poor who they served but with those on the margin who got sucked into the underclass as a result of them.
David Smith | 10/15/2012 - 1:14am
SNL humor is juvenile and not a little sadistic. I find it sad, disappointing that the show and that sort of humor are, apparently, so widely popular. It seems to say something about our culture that bodes ill for the future.
Carlos Orozco | 10/13/2012 - 9:18am
Tom #23:

I had forgotten about the leading roles "devout Catholics" such as then senators Joseph Biden and Edward Kennedy had in killing Robert Bork's nomination. Wild accusations abounded in order to keep Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. The scare tactics of the Lion of the Senate went to the extreme of implying Bork was a racist and saw women as second-class citizens.

Bork had intelectual integrity that both senators did not. He critized the flawed reasoning behind Roe v. Wade in front of the Judiciary Committee. Since then, Supreme Court nominees decline to answer crucial questions on how they view previous cases, making a mockery of the hearings.
Tim O'Leary | 10/14/2012 - 9:13pm
It was interesting to see how Saturday Night Live mocked the VP candidates. It made fun of Ryan's ''bean'' nickname for his child, and his frequent drinking of water. It made Biden out to be some stereotypical Irish bully who laughed at anything that made him uncomfortable, even when it was about war or suffering.

But the most telling part for me was how they handled Biden on his Catholicism. I think it reflects many of the Catholics on this blog and how the non-Catholics see them.

Biden describes himself as a “real world Catholic,” and then adds “I accept the teachings of the Catholic Church, but then, like most Catholics I ignore them and do whatever I want,” he explains. “I feel kind of guilty about that, but yeah, whatever.”

Marie Rehbein | 10/13/2012 - 9:15am
Walter #22,

It is impossible to determine that an abortion has occurred without intruding upon the privacy of all women.  It would require assuming that any woman could be pregnant and that if a known pregnancy does not result in a live birth then a woman has had an abortion and must prove that she didn't.

This approach contradicts the presumptions of our legal system, which presumes innocence.

How would you go about determing that someone has had an illegal abortion?

In the old days, it was only ever known if the woman showed up at an emergency room due to a botched abortion.
Michael Barberi | 10/13/2012 - 7:45pm
JR Cosgrove,

I do appreciate and now understand your point. However consider that the ills of our Western liberal secular culture can be blamed on contraception. I agree that the modernity has forstered more promiscurity than in the past, but let us put things into perspective.

1. Many defenders of the contraception doctrince argue that what we see today is the result of, or correlate with, contraception. Apart from the fact that a correlation is not a cause, they argue:

> The percent increase in unwed mothers. However, they fail to recognize that it is the lack of contraception and the misuse of it that causes the overwhelming majority of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Contraception does not cause unplanned pregnancies and abortion.

> The percent increase in spousal abuse. However, they fail to recognize that spousal abuse is caused by the deep emotional problems of the abuser, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment and financial problems. Contraception does not cause spousal abuse. 

> One child or no child households are not immoral according to Church teaching. Consider the number of marriages where one or both spouses are infertile, and the number of late marriages in menopause. One child is a blessing and this is not immoral, not does one child households result in an increase in immoral behavior, nor do such marriages offend God. The average number of children among Catholics mirrors the U.S. population which is approximately 2.2 children. Contraception does not enter into the "marital decision" on the number of childern in marriage. As Pius XII asserted, a couple can be excused from their procreative responsibility in marriage for good and just reasons. This means that there is no moral requirement, save for good and just reasons, to have a specific number of children, or any children at all.

> Contraception does not cause "sex on demand". Resisting temptation is a function of Catholic education, following the good example of parents, and striving to live a holy life as best we can according with the Gospels. We all fail and sin, and I don't deminish the pressure that young people today have in following the crowd. However, the causes of this is far from the availability of contraception (e.g, the pill).

> Contraception is a form of birth regulation for married couples only. The fact that many young adults take the pill or use a condom during their pre-marital years does not make contraception the cause of pre-martial sex. Nor is contraception the cause of any increase in pre-marital sex. Sex before marriage was going on since he beginning of time. Much of it was never spoken about. This does not mean that pre-marital sex has not increased, nor does it mean that contraception is the cause of it. Before the pill, there was the condom, and before the condom there was withdrawal.

The ills of the secular age is a problem and there extreme examples of it that must be deplored. Nevertheless, what is needed is for the Church of put forth an intelligible and convincing moral theory in support of Humanae Vitae that most Catholics can grasp. The Church's defense of Humanae Vitae is contradicted by human experience...e.g., artifical contraception is asserted to be an evil and destructive love of marriage, but those who practice NFP-PC treat each other as loving subjects, while those who practice contraception have a utilitarian attitude and a diabolical love grounded in not established, whatsoever, by any evidence in existential reality. 
Patricia Bergeron | 10/13/2012 - 8:56am
If you prosecute/persecute women who have abortions, why not do the same for the men who impregnated them? (In the interest of fairness, of course.)
J Cosgrove | 10/13/2012 - 6:52pm

I am not trying to get into a theological argument on contraception.  I am saying we have to get way past that and understand what contraception has wrought.  I am trying to point out the unintended consequences of contraception from a sociological, cultural and spiritual point of view.  Everyone blithely takes their positions without any knowledge of just what are the long terms effects of this innovation and the policies around it.  After reading Murray's book it was easy to see where it has led.  

We can see a plethora of one child and no child households all around the world as people weigh the troubles that raising children brings vs. the nice life they can live without children.  This obvious consequence has been discussed in a lot of areas as birth rates are plummeting all around the world.

What is not discussed is the cultural and spiritual effects that contraception has had on our society with sex on demand being the norm with each young girl expected to provide it and in turn what this has done to the males.  How has sex without consequences affected the attitudes and living practices of large percentages of the population?  A large percentage of males and a lesser number of females feel no need to take any responsibility for how they lead their lives.  Only a generation or two ago nearly every male felt an obligation to succeed and contribute but for a large percentage that is now gone.  And the percentage is getting larger each year.

My point is that few look past the immediate effect of the changes in our culture to see what is happening at the lower end.  They will blame economics or the policies of the other party but all this does is blind them to what is really happening.  Nearly every reader here is not from the underclass though I suspect a lot have worked with them either as a volunteer or as part of their job.  I see no insight by anyone here whether they be a Jesuit, an author or a commenter on what is happening.  Everyone is too busy defending their political views.  To many all that is needed is to spend more money but we have spent trillions and it has gotten worse.  What is needed is a change of attitude by the cultural and educated elite but as of this moment they are blind to their own foolishness.  Instead they pat themselves on the back and say what a good person I am because I am helping the needy without any indication that what they recommend is actually doing that or may actually be harmful.
David Smith | 10/13/2012 - 1:21am
''Catholic'' for the typical reporter is just another contention point, like ''libertarian'' or ''white supremacist''. ''The news'' is superficial and titillating - ''Let's you and him fight so our audience of soap buyers can wake up and pay attention to the commercials''. With all the internet to choose through, I'm a little surprised that anyone watches that stuff any more.

The ''Catholic'' question was forced - you can bet the moderator's friends pushed her to ask it - and insensitive, but both candidates handled it well enough. I liked Ryan's saying that his objection to abortion wasn't merely his following Catholic teaching. By the way, I didn't think the ''bean'' reference was at all forced. It was memorable, no? You remembered it, and so did I.
MATTHEW NANNERY | 10/13/2012 - 8:32am
Good Catholic is a term defined by its inverse. It almost always implies that someone else isn't.
Michael Barberi | 10/12/2012 - 9:21pm
According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 82% of Catholics believe that contracepion is morally acceptable and another 3% think it is morally acceptable with circumstances. This mirrors, but is slightly less than, the opinions all Catholics and non-Catholic opinion. 

In terms of Repulicans, Independents and Democratics, e.g., all Americans, see below:

Abortion is morally acceptable: Republicans 22%, Independents 40% and Democrats 52%.  

Birth control is morally acceptable: Republicans 87%, Independents 89% and Democrats 90%. 

If the Catholic Church expects all Catholics to vote according to what the Church teaches, it has to offer an intelligible and convincing moral theory in defense of the doctrine on birth control. Ditto for abortion without circumstances, especially the much divisive decision in the Phoenix case. Even if the Church expects Catholics who attend weekly Mass to vote this way, it has much to do.
Thomas Piatak | 10/13/2012 - 8:16am
Biden's response to the abortion question was repulsive.  He claimed to believe that life begins at conception, but then said that his party would do everything in its power to make sure that the unborn never receive legal protection, and he attacked Paul Ryan for trying to provide legal protection to the unborn.  

Biden's reference to Robert Bork during the debate was a useful reminder of how destructive Biden's pro-abortion politics have been.  As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986, Biden was instrumental in getting the Senate to reject Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1992, opposition that was based in substantial part on the well-founded belief that Bork would vote to overturn Roe v Wade.  If Bork had been confirmed by the Senate, Roe v Wade would have been overturned in 1992, when the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood v Casey.  Assuming very conservatively that overturning Roe v Wade in 1992 would decrease the number of abortions in America by 100,000 per year, Biden's opposition to Bork has so far resulted in the deaths of 2,000,000 Americans, and Biden's promise to voters, made again in the vice presidential debate, is that the Democratic Party will never let Roe v Wade be overturned. 
Carlos Orozco | 10/12/2012 - 7:28pm
"Both Mr. Ryan and Mr. Biden are obviously serious about their Catholicism. Can anyone doubt that?"

YOU BET! Talk is cheap, especially coming from politicians. We could honestly discuss who has a greater degree of schizophrenia for saying they personally adhere to Church doctrine, but are willing to do and say anything so that Barack Obama or Mitt Romney are elected.

One "Catholic" calmy disgards the sacredness and value of the unborn while fighting tooth and nails for his boss, who happens to be a partial-birth abortion radical; the other "son of the Church" will equally disregard the principles of Just War and cover for a candidate that is already talking of greater involvement in Syria to benefit the military-industrial complex.

Do integral Catholic voices exist in politics?

C Walter Mattingly | 10/13/2012 - 6:47am
@ Marie (#12),
"The reality is that some women will get abortions no matter what, and there is not a single thing a government can do to stop it that respects women's privacy."

For "abortions" above we can easily substitute steal, kill, speed, litter, what have you, and the statement remains just as true. In the case of abortion, as well as all the above social ills, major and minor, we criminalize them because by doing so we hope to reduce the unwanted behavior. Unfortunately, people have, are, will continue to kill, steal, etc.

While we all wish to respect everyone's privacy, the right to that privacy is forfeit when one commits a social evil forbidden by a society. We have no more right to kill in the bedroom than we do in the middle of the street or the boardroom. In elective abortion, of course, the right to life is fundamentally and, except in the case of rape or special circumstances, willfully violated.
Birth control of course is a quite different question as it does not involve killing another human being. In the case of abortion, recent medical knowledge, as reflected in embryology texts, it involves just that.
Monica O'Reilly | 10/12/2012 - 6:57pm
Our Catholic faith is not just a list of 'do's' and 'don'ts' but is a way of life that encompasses every breath we take.  It is definitely pro-life from the moment of conception until and including all of eternal life!  This means that our whole life is a constant co-creating with God, through God and in God.  It means that we support,and cherish all of life, as flowing from the heart of the creator.  It means that we take very seriously Matthew 25 - the Last Judgement.  We cannot truly call ourselves prolifers if we support the life in the womb and then degrade the poor, the widow, the sick, the hungry, the homeless,the imprisoned, those of a different colour.  We cannot call ourselves prolifers if we trample over the goods of the earth with greed, and lack of concern for all of our brothers and sisters in need all over the world. We cannot call ourselves prolifers if we are war mongerers.  And,if I have more than I need and my brother or sister, in God, is in need then I truly must examen my prolife stand.  As this Sunday's Gospel says: ''It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter eternal life!''  This has much to say about prolife.  This gospel tells us to go sell all that we have and give the money to the poor and then follow Christ.  There is no room for semantics here.  It is very clear. 
So lets us all roll up our sleaves and get to work! Let us look upon everyone that lives as sacred, holy, precious in the eyes of God, not because of their name, their status in life, how much money they have, or degrees they have earned but because God made them and loves them.  They must be treated with respect and be given the opportunity to live in dignity by being paid a fair wage, and not see it all lost in taxation by the wealthy. Prolife is projustice
Elisabeth Tetlow | 10/12/2012 - 10:33pm
Biden is pro-life from beginning to end.  Ryan is pro-life only up to the moment of birth.
Robbi Kraus | 10/12/2012 - 6:07pm
Here is what is coming out in the parish bulletin this week:

Absentee Ballots for Presidential Election are due out Monday. It is important to remind early voters of their responsibility as Christians not to vote for any candidate who supports the killing of the unborn by abortion, or same sex unions or requiring churches to pay for contraceptives, the morning after abortion pill and sterilization. Both Scripture and the church are clear in noting that to do so is to knowingly participate in their actions which are evil and bring upon yourself God’s judgment. Some in our society wish to condone such behavior and silence the opposition, but God has shown through Israel’s history that people will always held responsible when we turn from God and his laws.

I'm having some issues lately with following my conscience.  Do I just not vote for anyone?
Father Jim, what do you think?
J.D. Borkowski | 10/12/2012 - 6:18pm
Robbi Kraus,

You are an adult.  You vote who is in your heart.  Take your priests advice to heart.  But ultimately take your control back from those who stole it from you.

You do not have to agree with your pastor.  

Take your freedom back.  It will bring back that good feeling that you do not have to follow what any party tells you to follow. 
Marie Rehbein | 10/12/2012 - 4:17pm
Only Vince #4 has it right.  The disagreement is whether abortion should be criminalizaed or not.  Others, especially #3, persume that believing abortion to be evil mandates criminalizing it.

The reality is that some women will get abortions no matter what, and there is not one thing the government can do to stop it that still respects women's physical privacy.

Neither party's candidates for the highest office are proposing to send legislation through Congress that would recriminalize abortion.  Democrats, however, have passed legislation that will make it easier for women to prevent pregnancies they may be inclined to terminate.

Those voters who see no difference between preventing conception and having an abortion or who have the notion that every fertilized ovum must be allowed to implant and no contraceptive can be trusted not to be abortifacient have no reason to prefer one candidate over another.
Michael Barberi | 10/12/2012 - 4:59pm
Exellent points Marie Rehbein.

I would add that there is another issue. We live in a pluraliistic society where Congress, the Supreme Court, as well as Presidents, are not all Catholic and have differing beliefs about issues such as abortion and contraception. They pass laws based on the Constitution and what is best for the public, namely all the people. Politicians that are Catholics should be influenced by their faith despite many who profess that they separate their religious belief from their public duties. However, other factors influence their decsions as well.

If most Catholics attach circumstances to many Church teachings, and these circumstances are condemned by the Church, then "what does it mean to be Catholic and what are our obligations to love God and neighbor"? The answer is not merely to obey what the Magisterium says. Most Catholics respect the Magisterium but, as mentioned, think for themselves and abide by their informed consciences. The Church calls this individualism, relativism and liberalism. However, while this may be partially true, it is mostly a construction to defend the authority of its teachings despite legitimate philosophical and theological arguments in support of these "so-called circumstances" that most Catholics believe are righteous and reasonable. 

Therefore, the larger issue is not outside the Church but within it. We live in a Divided Church and in a Crisis in Truth. The minority will claim they are the faithful few, and call the majority all sorts of disparaging names that don't solidify but further divide us. It is a moral dilemma of the highest magnitude.
Michael Barberi | 10/12/2012 - 2:54pm
It is perplexing that many have lost the bigger picture. Both Ryan and Biden are against abortion "but with exceptions or circumstance". According to the Church, there are no exceptions (even if I disagree). However, Biden is aginst Church teachings about abortion more than Ryan. Ditto for same sex civil marriage.

Some claim that this election is a vote for the lesser of two evils. However, a candidate is not defined by one issue, even if the issue is an important and emotional one like abortion.

We also have a pluarility of beliefs within the Catholic Church, inclusive of the laity, theologians and clergy. Consider the "with circumstances" (those that the Church condemns )that many Catholics "tack on" to many Church teachings such as: contraception, deportation (an intrinsic evil according to Vertitatis Splendor), abortion (e.g, the Phoenix Case), same-sex marriage (e.g., civil),  the use of condoms for seropositive couples..the list goes on. Is it surprising to anyone that candidates, even Catholic ones disagree with Church teachings (e.g., agree but with circumstances)? 

Cardinal Ratzinger said it best when he wrote a essay about social teachings and a Catholic's vote for political candidates. He emphasized that one issue does not define a candidate, or all of his policies, and Catholics must use the principle of proportionality when making such decisions. We tend to forget the wisdom of these guiding principles. 

In the end, there is very few right or wrong deciision in voting for most political candidates. I think we like to talk, critcize and blog about it....which I am in favor for.
J.D. Borkowski | 10/12/2012 - 4:50pm
I completely disagree with this post. They think we should NOT judge the candidates based on how they hold true to their faith?

NOT TRUE! I believe comparing the two choices on how each one stands closest, not only to our own values, but to their own stated faith is very beneficial in making an educated choice. One that is not just based on a political party.

If a candidate is willing to say one thing and then in the same breath say some thing else that is against his own stated values, it should be noted.  For many, this raises a huge red flag that indicates that person may lack conviction in other areas of his leadership.

Which is a big problem for many Catholics not willing to give the current administration our votes. They've broken our trust in them, and turned out to be much different than we first thought.

There is no hiding behind promises any longer.
John Flanagan | 10/12/2012 - 2:49pm
As Vice President Biden's tax returns have shown forever, he only believes in taking other people's money and giving it to favored campaign contributors. While he and his wife make, on average, as much in a year as my wife and I made over the past 12 years, we give as much in one year as they give over 20 years. He talks a good game but sacrifices little to back his charitable claims of goodness. Paul Ryan isn't great, I think an average of 2.5% to charity, but Biden is in the 0.3% range, a lot worse. 
Amy Ho-Ohn | 10/12/2012 - 12:37pm
When my car needs to be fixed, I don't hire the mechanic who I think is the best Catholic. I hire the guy who knows how to fix cars and has a reputation for hard work and honesty. I don't care if he's Catholic, what university he went to, how tall he is, whether he's the first person of his ethnicity/religion/whatever to own a shop in my town. (I am slightly more likely to hire a woman.) I just want the car fixed reasonably soon at a reasonable price.

There is widespread agreement on what needs to be done. Almost everybody agrees the deficits have to be reduced, the world should to be kept peaceful, people's constitutional rights should be protected, legislation should be coherent and efficient, killing unborn children should be made as rare as possible and those who can't provide for themselves should be taken care of. That's what it means to fix the car.

Now we just need a mechanic who knows how to get it done. I don't care if he's Catholic or not. Silvio Berlusconi is Catholic. Abe Lincoln was Protestant. 
Leslie Rabbitt | 10/12/2012 - 2:22pm
I was quite surprised to hear Mr. Ryan state the Romney stance against abortion has exceptions for "rape, incest and the life of the mother."   Seriously surprised.   My daughter warns me against "single issue" voting.  My brother tells me "a vote for Ron Paul is a vote for Obama"   I am definitely going to need some enlightenment.  Come, Holy Spirit...!
Dan Moriarty | 10/12/2012 - 12:24pm
Fr. Martin makes a good and important point - one that's hard to keep sight of in the divisive and vitriolic climate of US political campaigns. The bigger concern for us Catholic voters should be about being good Catholics ourselves, which I think means doing exactly what Fr. Martin suggests: judging policies and not people. I think the hardest thing for me as a Catholic voter is navigating the ethics of voting at all in a system where NEITHER major party fully reflects Catholic teachings on major, life-and-death issues. The seamless garment is a foreign concept to our partisan political leaders. Democrats may be more concerned with the dignity and wellbeing of the poor and immigrants. Republicans may be more clearly opposed to abortion.  But neither, for example, abides by Just War doctrine (and forget about pacifism or opposition to war in any form). I despair of ever having a true peace candidate to vote for in national elections. I can keep voting for pro-life candidates - who've made no progress on overturning Roe v. Wade, despite all the lip service they give it. Or I can keep voting for those who believe abortion should be legal, but in fact probably do more to uphold life through their social policies. But either party, it seems, will continue to murder men, women, and children, especially the poor, in my name with my tax dollars abroad. I can easily accept that both Joe Biden and Paul Ryan are good Catholics. But I'm no closer to knowing what the rest of us good Catholics ought to do on November 6th.
Cody Serra | 10/12/2012 - 12:05pm
I was struck by the paragraph in the article that reads:

 ,,,"And for those of you who would say that abortion is the only “intrinsic evil” that is at issue in this campaign, I would point you to Blessed John Paul II’s great encyclical Vertitatis Splendor, in which he speaks of a great many intrinsic evils, many of them often overlooked today, including “whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit.”

I wish our Church teachings on "intrinsic evil" would include all those mentioned above and not only abortion and sexuality sins.  That would help us in general, not just as responsible voters, to understand the broader picture of what we should include in our "examen",  Ignatian examination of conscience.

Perhaps, our labeling and divisions within our Church would decrease. Perhaps we all be more in tune with old and new encyclical teachings, without choosing just the ones we agree with.
Leslie Rohrbacker | 10/12/2012 - 12:02pm
Personally, I am offended by those who judge my Catholicism. I think the suggestion to leave it up to God is one to abide.
Angela Murphy | 10/12/2012 - 11:34am
I continue to be amazed that anyone can say that they are ''serious about their Catholicism'' and be publicly for abortion. And I have read one article after another in America glossing over the glaring hypocrisy in this position.  There is nothing ''in conformity with the Gospels'' about abortion.  The Democratic platform unabashedly promotes the destruction of human life.   No effort is spared even to regulate access to abortion in the slightest degree.  Personally, I am offended by Democratic politicians who would destroy innocent life and yet tout their ''Catholicism''.  It is entirely hypocritical to pretend to be for the poor and yet destroy the most defenseless among us.  Further, it is stereotypical thinking based upon political ideology to flat out say that Paul Ryan and the Republicans are not in support of programs that provide for the poor.  As JR states, what have the Democratic policies done for the poor?  The only thing this Administration has accomplished is to make more people dependent on the government.  There is a huge distinction between caring for those in need and fostering dependence on government programs.  Take care of the helpless and innocent among us first, only then can care and compassion for everyone can only follow.
Vince Killoran | 10/12/2012 - 11:57am
All Biden had to do was say that he did not think that justice would be done by re-criminalizing abortion.

BTW, at the end of the "Catholic exchange" Biden did put in that Ryan had strayed from Catholic social teaching.
Kathy Berken | 10/12/2012 - 11:04am
Thanks, Fr Jim. I often tire of fellow Catholics who say that abortion is the only litmus test to being a ''real'' Catholic. Catholic social teaching extends far and wide. I try to look at the whole person.