The National Catholic Review

Conscientious Catholic voters face difficult choices this Election Day. Like both of this year’s presidential nominees, few U.S. politicians fully endorse the church’s social ethic, a moral framework that defies the ideological and partisan categories of American politics. In frustration, some might say it would be easier if Catholic bishops simply told us for whom to vote. Appropriately, they do not. Nonetheless, some Catholic leaders and commentators imply that the bishops have done exactly that. But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has chosen to focus instead on how Catholics should form their consciences in advance of the election.

In their document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, published almost a year ago, the bishops called Catholic voters to prayerful reflection on the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching. First among these fundamental ethical principles is the dignity of the human person and his or her consequent right to life, “the most fundamental human good and the condition of all the others.” Issues that involve direct attacks on life itself, such as abortion or euthanasia or unjust war, therefore, should be the first concern of Catholic voters. Our duty to protect innocent human life, they wrote, “has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.”

At the same time, the bishops reminded us of the breadth of our moral responsibility. “Catholic teaching about the dignity of life calls us to oppose torture, unjust war, and the use of the death penalty; to prevent genocide and attacks against noncombatants; to oppose racism; and to overcome poverty and suffering,” they wrote. “Nations are called to protect the right to life by seeking effective ways to combat evil and terror without resorting to armed conflicts....”

Some have argued—misleadingly—that our moral obligation to defend innocent human life means that it is never morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights. Yet the bishops have articulated conditions under which it may be possible. Given the specific choices facing voters, disqualification of pro-choice candidates is neither automatic nor universal. While it is never permissible to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights “if the voter’s intent is to support that position,” it may be permissible for a voter who rejects a candidate’s pro-abortion rights position to vote for the candidate, according to the bishops, “for truly grave moral reasons.”

Wisely, Faithful Citizenship does not specify what counts as grave moral reasons. What might they be? The voter is required to speculate: The likelihood of reducing the abortion rate? Leading the campaign to support stem cell research on adult cells instead of fetal cells? Opposing preventive war and torture? Providing health care for the uninsured? Readiness to join a new international regime to curb global warming? Salvaging the American economy?

The right to life, rooted in the dignity of the human person, necessarily implies rights to all the goods of human life, including peace and security, a home, health and employment. As Pope Benedict himself noted when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “a political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility toward the common good.” In other words, Catholics are not automatic single-issue voters, regardless of the issue. Catholic social teaching is a unity and must be applied accordingly.

A candidate’s character also matters. A voter’s decisions, according to the bishops, should also “take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity and ability to influence a given issue.” Political history should also count. Repeated failure by a candidate or a party to make good on campaign promises must be calculated into a voter’s judgment. Prudence requires voters to remember that in choosing a political candidate, they are not choosing an amalgam of ideas and policies but a person in a specific and delimited political situation. Prudence also requires voters to recall that there are different ways of responding to compelling social problems that are morally acceptable.

Conscientious voters have a momentous decision before them. Catholics should be grateful that the bishops instruct us on how to form our consciences, but not for whom to vote. As Pope Benedict XVI has noted, “the church does not impose but freely proposes the Catholic faith.” The church’s teaching, therefore, is not a political platform, nor is it a penal code that can be cited in part without reference to the whole. But neither can it be ignored, for its principles make sure and certain demands on the consciences of voters where, ultimately, the election of 2008 will be decided.


KM | 11/7/2008 - 1:06am
I experience many emotions as I read the above editorial and just about anything written/spoken by Father Reese. Sadness that the Jesuit order sinks lower and lower. Anger that they continue to lead Catholics astray from what they took vows to protect and teach, the Catholic faith. More anger that they are permitted to do so. Their egos continue to run wild, hand in hand, with their ridiculous sophistry. Stop and think. A child survives an abortion and is on the table. Our President-elect has no problem if you were to take it and throw it in the trash can or smash its head against the wall. That is evil, pure and unadulterated, as sure as marching people into a gas chamber or mass murder in an African village. There is no "yes, but . . " The discussion starts and stops there. Evil. That doesn't even include his support of abortion at any stage. Those who carry water for this man share the responsibility. Unfortunately, many who contribute to this site fit the bill.
Mary E. Long | 11/6/2008 - 7:56am
This article appeared in our Bulletin prior to the 2008 Election. To an interested, casual reader, the article seems to represent the teachings of The Catholic Church regarding "conscience". I strongly disagree. One can not vote with a Catholic conscience and give tacit approval to abortion. Personally, I'm appalled that The Society of Jesus would approve and print such drivel. Mary E. Long
Greg | 11/5/2008 - 7:58am
I voted McCain. Having said that, Obama is an honorable man and will do well with the job he is charged with. Roe V Wade hasn't been overturned in 35 years, 23 of which we had Republican leadership. Judge appointments are largely moderate due to requisite senate approval and you won't get someone radical enough to overturn this. Also, even if it were overturned, all that happens is that control of the issue goes back to the states, where some 35 of them would still allow for abortions. The abortion rate has stayed largely the same under Bush that it was under Clinton. As for FOCA. It has no chance. No moderate democrat will vote for it, regardless of what the more adamant pro life people will tell you. This bill has sat in one for or another for over 20 years and has NEVER come close to seeing the light of day as law. There is a reason for that. It is simply a device to galvanize the pro-choice crowd and to pander to their pipe dream. Demonifying Obama will not help anything. Approaching his presidency with an open mind, while understanding that we have a fundamental disagreement on abortion will be key.
Steve Perzan | 11/3/2008 - 11:37pm
Voting Your Conscience The Catholic Church is often criticized for its authoritarian views and dogmatic principals, but for all the criticism hurled against it, no one can deny its relentless promotion of the poor; its stooping to lift the down-trodden and broken-hearted; its unmovable defense of the unborn and right to life. The Church uses its vast spiritual powers to rid us of our devils and serve as a correction on a secular society bent on belittling life in all its stages. Yet, the world itself is not monolithic in its opinions nor is it totally callous in its evaluation of life as it sees it. While perhaps not seeing itself responsible to an eternal cause it does share in the sense of the need for a brotherhood of man and a common set of rules, especially in a world whose deepest desire is echoed in the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all get along?" Wherever and whenever the human chant "can't we all get a long" and the demands of faith meet, men and women of goodwill can and should engage in honest and ethical debate. In a not too long ago interview on Meet the Press, Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, stated that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter, and should not be “imposed” on others. The Catholic Church bristled that "one of its own" could say such a thing and quickly responded that the Senator was wrong! No doubt the Catholic Church is and has been a prolific voice and faithful witness in proclaiming and protecting the rights of the unborn and making all sensitive to life. Yet, in a pluralistic society where anathemas seem common place there is still the need to hear the voice of the human community --- "Can't we all get along?” Sadly, the Catholic Church in the necessity of protecting life has forgotten to respect one of life’s most important principals -- the supremacy of conscience. During a 1930* Catholic Hour radio address, Fr. James M. Gillis, C. S. P., spoke: "There are some who fancy that the Church is held to be the keeper of the conscience of Catholics. But no institution and no person, no Church, no pope can claim dominion over conscience. Amongst all inalienable rights, the rights of conscience come first. A man has a right to call his soul his own. No one may usurp another's conscience. Nor may any man surrender conscience. In the moral life conscience comes first and last; first, since the soul is antecedent to the Church.” In the debate to protect life some contemporary Catholic Church leaders seem to have forgotten that long standing belief of the supremacy of conscience. Someone like Joe Biden who is a devout practicing Catholic, a man of conscience and faith, must struggle mightily to hold onto his faith yet respect his oath of office. Biden believes his Church's teaching on abortion, but how does he legislate for those who he is elected to represent, whose conscience remains different from his? Can he impose a law of his own beliefs --- one that seeks to muffle the cry, “Can’t we all get along?” Even scripture must be assented to by an act of faith, and only in that act of faith can it serve as guidance for one who believes. St. Paul reminds the early Church of the supremacy of conscience in a letter to the Corinthians: "Whereas knowledge inflates; love up-builds. And when you sin thus against your brother violating their conscience, you sin against Christ." 1 Cor 8:1, 12 The Catholic Church has always protected this inalienable right of conscience, yet in its quest to protect the inalienable rights of the unborn it has violated its own long held principal and acted against charity condemning some of it most practicing and loving members who also happen to legislature laws. “...Conscience is man's secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God....” Catechism of the Catholic Church #1776. * For the record the date of that Catholic Hour broadcast was November 16, 1930.
MICHAEL LYDON | 10/31/2008 - 6:49pm
I have decided to vote for Obama despite his pro-legalization of abortion stance. Legalized abortion is a fact of life in America and it will stay that way; 24 of 36 years of Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices have not seen fit to overturn Roe vs. Wade. And I am not convinced that either Justices Alito or Roberts would overturn it. I also remain unconvinced that even if a Human Life Amendment were passed, all abortions, or even most, would cease; what would develop is a HUGE black market, especially for poor people who could not go to Canada, Mexico or Europe; this black market, to me, is a much worse evil than the current state of affairs. Furthermore, during Clinton's administration, the number of abortions went down significantly. I agree with the writer who proposed that making abortion illegal is not the most effective way to deal with this brutal fact of life. MJL
Sonya | 10/30/2008 - 7:19pm
If pro-life Republicans believe the lives of the unborn are worth defending and outweigh all other issues, then pro-life Republicans need to lobby the Republican party to change their policies to support a consistent ethic of respect for life - the seamless garment image makes sense and communicates the interdependence of all life issues. If the Republican Party also supported peaceful solutions to international conflicts, economic justice, an end to the death penalty, removal of impediments to health care access for all, support of working people, humane treatment of prisoner, etc... they'd have all the votes that they'd ever need. But no, the drum beats for the unborn and then those souls get thrown under the bus of political expedience. If the pro-life voices in the Republican party would work to change the party from the inside to include life-affirming stances on all life issues, the party would have no problem attracting Catholic voters (I believe Sam Brownback is beginning to see the light on this…). But does anyone think that this profound change will ever happen? Sheer greed, prejudice, classism, empire-building, disregard for the planet we all depend upon for life, and a pro-war mentality have trumped the lives of the unborn in the Republican party for decades. Admonishment works both ways, my brothers and sisters. The lives of the unborn depend upon your conversion and your courageous stand for support of human dignity for all. Those of you who condemn others as having an insufficiently-formed conscience and therefore undeserving of being Catholic are walking around with planks in your eyes.
Brian Krezman | 10/29/2008 - 5:46pm
There is so much to say but in the reader's interest I will try to make it succinct: I am struck by the fact that this year's letters in response to this and other reasoned explanations of this issue carry an increasingly fear-mongering, intimidating and bullying tone to them. This is a mirror image of the behavior of the McCain campaign over the past several weeks. Can anyone tell me when the church took over the responsibility for forming our consciences? My Catechism tells says that it is my responsibility to ensure its formation (# 1783-1798) My bishop will not be standing next to me when I have to account for my choices. The desire to let the Church do it for us is symptomatic of the frightening tendency to cede our freedom to outside authorities such as government or church leaders. I too have come to the conclusion that Donald Rampolla has. I cannot, in my deepest heart of hearts, justify voting for John McCain. I cast my ballot (on October 23 thanks to early voting in Ohio) for Barack Obama with continued sadness about the number of abortions in this country but with great hope that the terrible direction in which the country has been led by the executive branch in Washington for the last eight years can be gradually reversed. Every day I place myself at the mercy of God without whom I would not exist. However, I am sickened at the way that so many in the right to life movement have taken it upon themselves to speak for God and try to intimidate others to accept their interpretation.
Enrique I. Alonso | 10/28/2008 - 5:18pm
How exactly does the church define 'innocent' life? Is it life: 1.untouched by original sin? 2.baptized and never sinned again? 3. baptized, then sinned, but repentant and absolved? 4.unbaptized but never sinned? 5.unbaptized, sinned, yet repentant? 6.not guilty of a crime in a given culture's legal code? Could someone please enlighten me.
Joseph Franklin | 10/25/2008 - 2:13pm
The Bishop of Scranton, PA., Joseph F. Martino offered these thoughts at a forum, which took place at St. John's Catholic Church in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, on October 19th, 2008: "Another argument goes like this: 'As wrong as abortion is, I don't think it is the only relevant 'life' issue that should be considered when deciding for whom to vote.' This reasoning is sound only if other issues carry the same moral weight as abortion does, such as in the case of euthanasia and destruction of embryos for research purposes. ... National Right to Life reports that 48.5 million abortions have been performed since 1973. One would be too many. No war, no natural disaster, no illness or disability has claimed so great a price." "No social issue has caused the death of 50 million people," he said. He also touched on just war. "Even the Church's just war theory has moral force because it is grounded in the principle that innocent human life must be protected and defended. Now, a person may, in good faith, misapply just war criteria leading him to mistakenly believe that an unjust war is just, but he or she still knows that innocent human life may not be harmed on purpose. A person who supports permissive abortion laws, however, rejects the truth that innocent human life may never be destroyed. This profound moral failure runs deeper and is more corrupting of the individual, and of the society, than any error in applying just war criteria to particular cases."
James Lindsay | 10/24/2008 - 7:44pm
Archbishop Wurl of Washington, in an interview with National Catholic Reporter, shared that prior to Roe the penalty for abortion was a fine. This means that the reality of the situation is that there are those in the Church who believe it is a great evil to not vote for the prospect that states will have the right to enact a fine. If the RTL party faithful appreciated the practical implications of what they were sacrificing for they would be aghast. That they are accusing others of grave sin for not supporting such an outcome is tragic.
James Lindsay | 10/23/2008 - 6:38pm
Mr. Johnson and I both know that the Partial Birth Abortion Act was an invitation to nullify Roe v. Wade, an invitation that Kennedy, Alito and Roberts did not take. As such, the whole effort was a failure. It was also not what it was sold to be - as it did not include trimester limits. Any third trimester abortion is exteremely rare, if it has occurred at all. The composition of the Court is also irrelevant to its continued existence. It will likely be amended legislatively to include a health exception and trimester time limits. The entire strategy of overturning Roe judicially is suspect, as it relies on a reading of majority rights that is incompatible with our Republic - the protection of minority rights at the federal level. It would be better if the Right to Life movement pursued legal recognition for all potentially viable children at the federal level, which is constitutional under Congressional enforcement powers in the 14th Amendment. Of course, taking such an action would deradicalize the movement, limit its usefulness to the Republican Party and generally kill the GOP's fundraising. The onus is not on the Democrats to defend abortion. Rather, it is on the Right to Life movement to offer something more than the death of a thousand cuts it has offered to date - and which may or may not be overturned by the Freedom of Choice Act (which probably is also a fundraising and radicalizing tool - I doubt it has the votes to pass the House - making it a red herring). To really diminish abortion, the Pro-Life movement should support a tax credit backed living wage for all workers, regardless of their base salary level. A tax credit of $500 per month federal and a fraction of that at the state level would likely be sufficient. Of course, most of RTL's membership would consider such a thing socialist, which shows the true character of the movement.
Douglas Johnson | 10/23/2008 - 6:51am
It would be a shame if people made their evaluations of the presidential candidates based on the mistaken ideas that nothing positive has been accomplished by elected pro-life lawmakers during the Bush Administration, and/or that Obama's position is less radically pro-abortion than it really is. On the positive side, despite the constraints imposed by the Supreme Court, the pro-life side has had significant gains. At the federal level, despite stiff resistance from pro-abortion interest groups and their congressional allies, under President Bush we won adoption of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, protections for pro-life health care providers, coverage for unborn children under SCHIP, and other important pro-life laws and policies. At the state level, we've enacted hundreds of laws -- parental notification, informed consent, waiting periods, curbs on tax funding of abortion, and others -- and there is empirical data that these laws in the aggregate prevent hundreds of thousands of abortions. However, virtually all of these limits on abortion would be nullified by the proposed federal law, the so-called "Freedom of Choice Act," which Obama has cosponsored. This bill would make partial-birth abortion legal again, require tax-funded abortion on demand, and invalidate virtually all state and federal limits on abortion, including parental notification laws. This bill also provides that "A government may not . . . discriminate against" abortion "in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information." This is the furthest thing from a formula for "abortion reduction." On July 17, 2007, Obama told the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do." Obama has made made other commitments that, if implemented, will radically shift public policy in the pro-abortion direction. He opposes renewal of the Hyde Amendment, the federal law that cut off Medicaid funding for abortion. By the most conservative estimate, more than one million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment. But the Hyde Amendment is the type of law that must be renewed annually, and it would be at dire risk under a president who is so firmly opposed to it. If the Hyde Amendment is lost, it will result in many thousands of additional abortions annually. Certainly, nominations to the Supreme Court are a major concern. The Supreme Court upheld the ban on partial-birth abortion in April, 2007, by a bare 5-4 vote. Both of President Bush's nominees voted to uphold the ban. Obama severely criticized the ruling, siding with the four dissenting justices. If the dissenters are joined by a fifth pro-abortion appointee, the Court itself could strike down many pro-life policies. Obama made it clear that if given the chance, he will appoint justices who agreed with those dissenters. In a formal written response to a questionnaire from a leading pro-abortion activist group, Obama even came out for cutting off all federal aid to crisis pregnancy centers -- the centers that provide practical assistance to help women carry their babies to term. Documentation of all this, and more, at Douglas Johnson Legislative Director National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) legfederal // at // aol-dot-com
James Lindsay | 10/22/2008 - 7:30pm
Evangelicum Vitae is incorrect about ensoulment, which the Church will never admit because it calls papal infallibility, or at least the infallibility of the Magisterium into question. Prior to Gastrulation, stem cells exist within a structure which will eventually be the bag of waters. These cells exist merely as cells and have no more spiritual merit than the stem cells in bone marrow. After Gastrulation, twinning cannot occur and the cells organize into a coherent whole in a way that makes it obvious that a soul is present. Prior to Gastrulation, the genes of the father have no effect (I was not me until I was the effective product of both parents) and demi-human stem cells continue to divide. Unless the Church is willing to recognize the souls of the products of bestiality, it cannot recognize ensoulment prior to gastrulation since ontologically such stem cells are no different than fully human stem cells. The question of when legal life begins is more complicated then when a soul is present. To give a first trimester embryo or fetus legal existence apart from its mother would be unworkable. The burden of making it workable is not on the supporters of the status quo, but on those who would change it. Personally, I would rather finese the question of rights and make every family economically and socially viable, including those started by teens.
James Lindsay | 10/22/2008 - 7:11pm
The Bishops come from a position which fails to recognize that whether one supports or opposes abortion, legal abortion is the law of the land. The burden of argument is on those who would change the law. Unless a reasonable alternative is proposed, support or non-support of fetal rights is merely a political ploy.
tessa | 10/22/2008 - 5:02pm
Church teaching is clear.... except for those who unfortunately try to form their conscience through what they read in this magazine... The Nuremberg trials for the Nazi criminals will be nothing compared to the account we shall all give upon our death... deforming the consciences of Catholics is a grave matter. All other issues at stake this election are null if any of the 5 non-negotiable issues are ignored: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, marriage between a man and a woman and human cloning.
Mary Barr | 10/22/2008 - 7:34am
Interestingly, of the 24 comments I've read, only 2 use female names, and possibly B. Chrastka may be a woman or man. I am grateful for the Editor's comments and for all who have responded. We each can only do what we believe is best in voting responsibly and conscientiously. Let us be open in prayer to guidance of the Holy Spirit in our choices as we vote.
Dr. A.J. Carlos | 10/21/2008 - 10:59pm
With not a few exceptions the comments above could be considered simplistic, if not ignorant, certainly some questionable or insincere, and maybe a not too subtle cover for deep racist streaks even though in another article in AMERICA (in this issue) a saincere and sympathetic bishop tells us it is sinful not to vote for a black man simply because he is black. Perhaps that is why these responses seem intellectually weak. Many seem to automatically accept the abortion argument grosso modo without ever thinking about it independently. They just repeat what they have been told. Are we robots or ignorant sheep? Didn't God give us an intellect to reason things out? Don't we have superb theologians who can look at these questions periodically? Why is there not a committee, including reputable theologians and qualified laity, appointed to look at these doctrines again every now and then? I am not saying we should come out with different doctrines, but Vatican II says we the laity should participate in church matters with the clergy in an attempt to arrive at answers. Why should policies always come from above? Why not examine moral questions at least every now and then? Remember Vatican II? What was that about? Let us truly keep Catholic thinking alive and not frozen in a murky past? In the excellent present article, I must admit, the editors' hands do not seem too heavy, and their remarks appear more than reasonable. But where were they (the editors and the Catholic bishops) four years ago when Catholics in the majority probably voted for someone who in many parts of the world is considered a war criminal and a mass murderer? Isn't that a terrible sin of omission? With or without intent. Besides Catholic periodicals and scattered, insignificant articles in lay publications, the Bishops opposition to the war was for the most part a well kept secret. Was it ever brought to the attention of parishioners anywhere?
Douglas Cook | 10/21/2008 - 12:23pm
Re: Donald S. Rampolla Most of your statements are Democrat propaganda and do not deserve a response. And appear to comply with your Socialist agenda. You hardly mention Abortion! Your statements are your opinion but Abortion is a fact! In the US alone Abortion kills over 1 million innocents each year which equates to some 35 million children murdered in the US (a very low estimate!) since Roe vs Wade in 1973. How a Roman Catholic who says he has "spent most of my 76 years trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus in the Catholic tradition..." can support a candidate who not only supports abortion at any time and the killing of a baby who survives the abortion (infanticide) is well beyond the teachings of the Church I received and I have had only 70 years to work from. ABORTION KILLS A COMPLETELY INNOCENT CHILD EVERY TIME! A child “*composed of a body and soul, and made in the image and likeness of God!” To me, the FACT of the true and absolute evil of abortion trumps all other excuses, justification or political ideologies. Abortion, in all cases is a grievous offence against the law of God. To support a candidate or group who promotes Abortion is doing so in “**willful thought, desire, word , action or omission”. Sound familiar! D. J. Cook (256) 772-0783 *See Baltimore Catechism No. 3, page 32 para 48. Also see Genesis 1:27. ** See Baltimore Catechism No. 3, page 39 para 64. Also see para 66.
| 10/21/2008 - 12:22pm
Re: Donald S. Rampolla Most of your statements are Democrat propaganda and do not deserve a response. And appear to comply with your Socialist agenda. You hardly mention Abortion! Your statements are your opinion but Abortion is a fact! In the US alone Abortion kills over 1 million innocents each year which equates to more than 40 million children murdered in the US (a very low estimate!) since Roe vs Wade in 1973. How a Roman Catholic who says he has "spent most of my 76 years trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus in the Catholic tradition..." can support a candidate who not only supports abortion at any time and the killing of a baby who survives the abortion (infanticide) is well beyond the teachings of the Church I received and I have had only 70 years to work from. ABORTION KILLS A COMPLETELY INNOCENT CHILD EVERY TIME! A child “*composed of a body and soul, and made in the image and likeness of God!” To me, the FACT of the true and absolute evil of abortion trumps all other excuses, justification or political ideologies. Abortion, in all cases is a grievous offence against the law of God. To support a candidate or group who promotes Abortion is doing so in “**willful thought, desire, word , action or omission”. Sound familiar! D. J. Cook (256) 772-0783 *See Baltimore Catechism No. 3, page 32 para 48. Also see Genesis 1:27. ** See Baltimore Catechism No. 3, page 39 para 64. Also see para 66.
James Ruzicka | 10/21/2008 - 10:48am
This is just a test.
Donald S. Rampolla | 10/21/2008 - 10:01am
My thoughts on this are in the follwing letter which I've sent to all of the bishops in PA following their publication of a letter which without mentioning names is clearly an endorsement of John McCain. Dear Bishop -------, This is in response to your letter (appearing in the Pittsburgh Catholic of Oct 16) to the residents of Pennsylvania. I am campaigning for Barack Obama and will vote for him on Nov 04. Since your letter appears to be a clear endorsement of John McCain, despite your statements to the contrary, I would appreciate your considering my reasons for voting for Barack Obama. It is estimated that almost 1 billion of our worlds people live on the equivalent of one dollar a day. Estimates are that worldwide each year 15 million children die of hunger, 5 million of these being under 5. In addition there are an unknown number of spontaneous abortions due to malnutrition of the mother, plus induced abortions resulting from parents fear of being unable to raise another child. Further, on account of childhood hunger millions of adults are mentally retarded, physically deformed and die prematurely. The deadly policies of the Republican administration for the past eight years have contributed to these conditions and have undercut our ability to alleviate them. • The war in Iraq costs at least 200 billion dollars a year, including both acknowledged costs and hidden costs. • The nuclear weapons upgrade program costs about 10 billion dollars a year. The implied threat of first use of nuclear weapons (we currently have over ten thousand) has been ever present. Small wonder that would be nuclear powers are trying to become nuclear powers. The Russians have recently announced that they are embarking on a similar upgrade program. Presumably all of the current nuclear powers will do the same. • Efforts to improve automobile gas mileage have been discouraged. Even a 10% improvement in gas mileage would save nationwide a least 30 billion dollars a year in fuel costs, plus unknown savings in reduced impact on the environment. • There has been a massive transfer of wealth in this country from the poor to the rich. The complete list is much longer. The money squandered by these policies could easily double the daily food allowance of the poorest 1 billion people. In addition many of these policies have seriously disrupted the world order. John McCain, in his twenty six year political career, has always campaigned for office as a Republican, supported George Bush in 2004, has voted with the Republican party over 80% of the time, is now the Republican candidate because of support from the majority of Republicans, 70% of whom think that George Bush has done a good job as president, still considers the invasion of Iraq to have been a good thing, and still supports the tax cuts that overwhelmingly made the rich richer and the poor poorer. I consider it highly unlikely that as president John McCain would significantly alter the deadly policies of the Bush administration. Having spent most of my 76 years trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus in the Catholic tradition, and the last 50 years as an advocate for peace and justice, I’ve had lots of opportunity to form my conscience on these issues. Therefore, as much as I abhor most of Barack Obama’s positions on abortion, I will vote for him on November 4. In your letter you encourage me to study carefully the church’s teaching and to exercise faithful citizenship. This I am doing. Now I really do think that you have a sincere concern for the spiritual well being of everyone in your diocese as well as the world, and I want to thank you for what you do. But I see a John McCain presidency as one that will inflict immeasurable suffering on the world, and I cannot in conscience vote for him. In any event, no matter who is our next president I pray that we will a
André Kenji | 10/20/2008 - 11:41pm
1-) Not only both support death penalty but they support the Death Penalty on a even higher level than today. The support of both of them to the Louisiana Stature is pathetic. 2-) Obama can make things even worse in the abortion thing if he approves federal funding for abortion. I don´t know. Even if a pro-life president can´t overrule Roe v. Wade a pro-abortion president will make things worse. But McCain is far from perfect in the abortion thing. 3-) On the other hand McCain support unjust wars, that are becoming massacres. We have a duty with the unborn, but we can´t forget the children of Iraq and Afghanistan. And Obama ALSO supports unjust wars. 4-) Finally, having a Pro-life Democrat Senator is a victory. We need to make clear that Catholics wants more of them. Maybe after 36 years we can have a pro-life on a Presidential Ticket...
Andrew Russell | 10/20/2008 - 5:32pm
"The intention of the voter" is frequently disregarded in the discourse regarding Catholics, conscience, and political life. It is unfortunate that many use the issue of abortion in order to ignore or surreptitiously support positions that are antithetical to being Catholic. A Catholic cannot in good conscience vote for a candidate with the intent of supporting an evil policy or position. For example, a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate if: 1. The Catholic supports the candidate because s/he will conduct war in the current unjust manner (torture, indescriminate and unexplained detentions of private citizens, policy-makers who disregard the lives of noncombatants). 2. A Catholic supports the candidate because s/he will continue to promote unjust immigration policies. 3. A Catholic supports the candidate because s/he will continue and increase unjust economic policies. Frequently, we forget that as Catholics, we are admonished to support candidates for the correct reasons. The idea that legalized abortion is the "trump card" issue, allows a party or candidate to use that issue to secure a person's vote and then disregard all other issues that may be related to the person's faith. It allows the party or candidate to lock-in a certain percentage of Catholic voters who will either shake thier heads at the other issues, or disregard the other issues, and then feel good about themselves because they spent two minutes / year to vote against abortion. If the U.S. bishops or a select few bishops insisted that Catholics vote only on the issue of abortion, we would lose our moral voice in politics. For instance, the social safety net that was put in place during the FDR / depression era might be dismantled while we are focused on abortion. Or, our nation might become involved in illegal central American wars, or preemptive war half-way around the world while we all feel good about protesting abortion. In the meantime, abortion remains legal, and many women feel that our society offers no real support to choose life. Which is the grave evil, to elect a candidate who supports "abortion rights" but works to build a society that cares for single mothers and children, or to support an "anti-abortion" candidate who does nothing to reduce abortions, or lift the burden from single mothers?
Douglas Cook | 10/20/2008 - 4:19pm
Many, many comments! Some very good. But... those who try to justify a vote for an ardent pro-abortion candidate are telling. They in no way can morally justify such a vote for it is a vote to abort! Yes, this is a single issue because without life all other issues are mute. The Roman Catholic Church is obligated to inform all that abortion and the DEFENSE and SUPPORT of abortion is intrinsically evil and is a true mortal sin. A vote for a so called pro-choice candidate is DEFENSE and SUPPORT of abortion. Remember the choice is to allow the murder of a completely innocent baby! I can think of not one reason to justify such a choice. The church cannot command a vote. Using the old Baltimore Catechism No.3 (BC-3): Lesson 1, 3. (b) "God created man to manifest His glory in a special way. He gave man an INTELLECT and a WILL that he might know, praise and love his Creator." A man using his divinely created INTELLECT and a WILL to Kill a baby blocks all of this. In the end it is your choice using your intellect and will in concert with the knowledge to either support a sinful act or reject a sinful act. BC-3 Lesson 6, 69. "to make a sin mortal...first, the thought, DESIRE, word, ACTION,...must be seriously wrong or considered seriously wrong; second, the sinner must be mindful of the serious wrong; third, the sinner must fully consent to it." God gave you the intellect and will, it is your choice! It is about the baby!
Skip Mendler | 10/20/2008 - 2:00pm
I can't help but note that both Obama and McCain are in opposition to Church doctrine re the death penalty, and McCain disagrees with the Church's position on the Iraq War. Seems to me that a Catholic who is concerned with following *all* of the Church's instructions would have no choice but to abstain from voting from either candidate - or perhaps one could write in the name of, say, one's Bishop. That would seem to be the only safe route to pursue!
Skip Mendler | 10/20/2008 - 1:33pm
I can't help but note that both Obama and McCain are in opposition to Church doctrine re the death penalty, and McCain disagrees with the Church's position on the Iraq War. Seems to me that a Catholic who is concerned with following *all* of the Church's instructions would have no choice but to abstain from voting from either candidate - or perhaps one could write in the name of, say, one's Bishop. That would seem to be the only safe route to pursue!
JOHN HART REV | 10/20/2008 - 12:20pm
Your editorial was so predictable. It's been the same tune every four years before a presidential election. You make it sound like it's perfectly alright for a Catholic to vote for someone who is pro-abortion and even voted against banning Partial Birth Abortions because of what "Faithful Citizenship" says. I also think your selective use of quotes from the Holy Father is amateurish at best. Bishop WIlliam Lori of Bridgeport Connecticut and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine in the pamphlet, "Conscience and the Catholic Voter" writes that, "And while "Faithful Citizenship" acknowledges that one may vote for a politician who supports pro-abortion policies "only for truly grave moral reasons, " a conscientious voter must question what grave moral issue rises to the level of nearly 49 million lives lost to the evil of abortion." The right to life is not the only issue but it cannot be minimized in such a way as to make it practically inconsequential and hidden beneath attempts to invoke all our Catholic social teaching. That is distraction and distortion and unworthy of your magazine.
JAMES OLEARY MR | 10/19/2008 - 10:02pm
I have good Catholic friends who say they won't go to Mass on Sunday until after the election because they cannot stand the insanity promoted by the bishops against the Democratic Party which they hear from the pulpit. The Democratic Party is the only Party that cares about infants, unwed mothers and opposing the warmongers and the greedy billionaires who are the base of the Republican Party. I have lost all respect for the bishops. I will always go to daily Mass as long as I have life. They can't take away my faith or my vote.
adam | 10/19/2008 - 9:44pm
In the past 40 years there have been two Democratic presidents and five Republican presidents. If the Republican party was truly pro-life, it has already had its chance to overturn Roe. It has already had it chance to nominate judges to the supreme court who would overturn Roe. The Republican party ought to stop demagogue-ing this issue and do something about it. Just being told that I have to vote for someone just because they say the right words is not enough. Maybe I'm naive in thinking that politicians ought to do what they say they are going to do when they get into office. For crying out loud, I'd bet some of you would vote for Hitler if he were still alive and said that he were pro-choice. Actions speak louder than words.
DGP | 10/19/2008 - 8:19pm
Though the paragraph could be read two different ways, to lean one way or another, I think it would have been more objective and accurate of the Editors had they been consistent by saying: "The voter is required to speculate: The likelihood of reducing the abortion rate? The likelihood of leading the campaign to support stem cell research on adult cells instead of fetal cells? The likelihood of opposing preventive war and torture? The likelihood of providing health care for the uninsured? The likelihood of being ready to join a new international regime to curb global warming? The likelihood of salvaging the American economy?" As well, there is definitely a misappropriation and fallacy of false emphasis happening in a number of the quotations and references to "Faithful Citizenship." What is most often overlooked when discussing this document is the first sentence of paragraph 36: "When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma." So the most important question in this debate is this: Do all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil? If yes, then we must weigh the goods. If not, and there is only one candidate who does not hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, then there is not such required deliberation for the voter does not face a dilemma, to use the very words of "Faithful Citizenship."
THE CHRISTOFFERSONS | 10/19/2008 - 7:09pm
The editorial makes a substantial contribution to the public discourse on the issue of abortion. But it does not address an underlying problem that must be traced to ##67-74 of the encyclical Evangelium Vitae. The problem is that ##67-74 of the encyclical confuses ends with means. No one is in favor of abortion, but the encyclical does not come to grips with that issue. Instead, the encyclical defines a surrogate issue by putting the word "legalized" in front of "abortion". This strategy effectively joins a particular means -- making abortion illegal, as it was before Roe v. Wade -- with opposition to abortion. The practical effect of this strategy is to foreclose discussion of whether making abortion illegal is the best means for dealing with the problem. In effect, the encyclical uses the ends to justify this particular (and unexamined) means. The result is predictable but problematic. Anyone who is not in lock step with the policy of making abortion illegal (and overturning Roe v. Wade) is "pro-abortion", according to the encyclical. The language of the encyclical is less straightforward than that, but the meaning is the same. In consequence the issue of abortion has been reduced to politics. And it is a sad political spectacle. On one side are those who believe that wearing a "white hat" (in favor of the unborn) means taking a stand in favor of making abortion illegal. Everyone else is wearing a "black hat". Those who are unwilling to presume that "making abortion illegal" is a good idea -- much less a sensible first step in addressing the problem of abortion -- are cast as being "pro-abortion". This is logical nonsense. To paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined premise is not worth holding. Yet that is precisely what ##67-74 of the encyclical leads Catholics to do. Why did the Pope take this approach? Ironically, the somewhat tangled prose of ##67-74 suggests that the purpose was to avoid getting mired in politics. Just the opposite has happened, perhaps an example of the rule of unintended consequences. All of this should be obvious, of course. Does anyone really believe that the moral issue of abortion would cleave so neatly along party lines? Does anyone really believe that Justices of the Supreme Court who voted in favor of Roe v. Wade are "pro-abortion"? Sadly, for the last thirty-five years, we have been at war over abortion. For thirty-five years our body politic (and not just the churches and NGOs) could have been doing something constructive to help women troubled by an unwanted pregnancy. Indeed -- perhaps also ironically -- Roe v. Wade and its progeny opened the door to such constructive alternatives, but instead our body politic has been fighting over "making abortion illegal" as if it were an end (as the self styled "white hats" believe) rather than an unexamined means. My father once told me that I was once but a gleam in his eye. Every child should have the benefit of that intention. That kind of life -- the kind that a loving God hopes for us and shares with us -- begins before conception. "I knew you before you were in the womb." That kind of life is more than biology. And our body politic has sat idle for thirty-five years, locked in a misbegotten struggle over the "legality" of abortion? This is pathetic. We can do better than this. "Legalized abortion" and "making abortion illegal" are both unexamined means fit for an unexamined life, to the detriment of the life known to God before being in the womb. If we have any claim to religious sensibility we would seek a more forthcoming dialogue than the wheel-spinning charade of the last thirty-five years. Regrettably, ##67-74 of the encyclical Evangelium Vitae bears some responsibility for this burying of our collective talents.
JOEL CHRASTKA | 10/19/2008 - 4:35pm
Since there has been a Republican president for the last eight years, and there has not been a concerted effort to have Roe V. Wade repealed, I have reached the conclusion that they are just not trying very hard. It seems that this issue just gets them too many easy votes. Outside of election time, I am just not seeing the kind of commitment from our Republican lawmakers. I would like to vote for a candidate who would institute programs that make it easier for a woman to keep her baby.
James Lindsay | 10/18/2008 - 3:58pm
Let me also add that one cannot vote for a candidate who would sign legislation continuing life time limits on Temporary Aid to Needy Families, as such limits cause more abortions than the so called Partial Birth Abortion Law prevents. If Life is the pre-eminent issue, it must be applied to both circumstances and one must be conscious of the effects, not just the stated positions.
Michael Bindner | 10/18/2008 - 3:50pm
It is true that one must not specifically support a candidate because of his or her stand on abortion rights. Of course, many attitudes come in groups. For example, a belief in "abortion rights" often goes hand in hand with a belief in gay rights, rights for undocumented workers and the rights of Catholics to not be persecuted where they are an extreme minority (like Alabama, where there is still an anti-Catholic undercurrent). The rights of the fetus are not really the issue, although the pro-life movement would like to make us think that it is. The rights of minorities to challenge equal protection violations by the state are. This is a structural-constitutional issue, which goes beyond the single issue of abortion. It is not obvious that the pro-life movement is on the side of the angels in this case, given the association of the "Federalist" position with segregation and gay bashing. Supporting the unborn does not necessarily mean that one must support the remedy offered to protect them. Economic remedies may not only do a better job in doing this, but are also more in line with Catholic social teaching. Sadly, though, when one suggests to a pro-life activist that larger tax cuts for children is the answer, one is likely to be called a Socialist. Finally, one must look at the record of performance of the pro-life politicians themselves. I do not beleive Catholics are obligated to support those who claim solidarity with the unborn yet fail to follow through with any actions on their behalf. Note that Partial Birth Abortion protections do not really count, as this merely changes the method of execution and is unlikely to provide comprehensive protection to third trimester children. Republican Congresses could have easily passed a non-controversial measure to ban all abortions after 30 weeks of pregnancy, or even 23 weeks, by recognizing such individuals legally. They wouldn't for three reasons. It would kill their fundraising from pro-choice donors, it would deradicalize their base and it would force them to give up on their social conservative goal of overturning federal supremacy on civil rights.
DAVID KIERAS | 10/18/2008 - 1:28pm
I don't understand why *everything* always turns into the abortion question - it doesn't have to - see Kavanaugh's letter to McCain (Sept. 22). But even so, I think a lot of this discussion misses the point. Namely, why on earth would it would be more "moral" to vote for a party that vocally opposes abortion but has done and can do nothing about it, rather than vote for a party that claims to promote human life and dignity in other ways? Given that this is a pluralistic country, the chances of making abortion illegal any time soon are remote, and candidates claiming that they can do so are simply punching Catholics' buttons about it in a cynical attempt to attract their votes to support economic, international, or other social policies they wouldn't otherwise want to be associated with. Historically, the so-called "conservative" or "family values" party has not done as much as it could to make abortions less common or less easily available, even when it held power more fully than ever, but it continues to try to sell itself to the voters on that basis. Its candidates also don't hesitate to contradict themselves on this issue if they see votes in it (check Kavanaugh's letter again). One party honestly says what it won't do about it, the other party makes cynical and dishonest promises that it will do something that it can't or won't do. It's time to set aside the idea that in this election at least, abortion policy is grounds for any kind of decision between the two parties. If that's going to be the basis of your vote, then you might as well just stay home - you won't be making a difference. What is a basis for decision is *everything else:* We can do things to reduce abortions even if we can't make it illegal any time soon, and go further to improve social justice and reduce human suffering. We should vote for candidates and policies that will actually promote human life and dignity instead of being suckered by Rove-ian tactics into supporting otherwise anti-life policies and candidates. In short, what is the point of ineffective moral stance when you could actually *do something good* instead?
Mike Nygra | 10/18/2008 - 11:23am
I completely disagree with what the Editors are trying to do here. You are trying to take our focus off the primary issue of abortion in order to justify a vote for the most pro-abortion (I don't say "pro-choice" because Barack Obama goes way beyond that) candidate ever to run for office. All of these other issues, as "Faithful Citizenship" points out, are important. But they are issues in which "prudential" judgment comes into play. With abortion, we are dealing with an intrinsic evil that cannot be supported regardless of a candidate's position on other issues when there is another candidate available who does not support abortion. That's why so many of the bishops across the nation are speaking out against people like you editors trying to misconstrue the intent of the document. Here are a few examples: The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil (abortion) are the following: a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or “abortion rights,” a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or, b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no “truly grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year. To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil—and, therefore, morally impermissible. Bishop Kevin J. Farrell (Dallas) and Bishop Kevin W. Vann (Fort Worth) Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy? Could a voter’s preference for the candidate’s positions on the pursuit of peace, economic policies benefiting the poor, support for universal health care, a more just immigration policy, etc. overcome a candidate’s support for legalized abortion? In such a case, the Catholic voter must ask and answer the question: What could possibly be a proportionate reason for the more than 45 million children killed by abortion in the past 35 years? Personally, we cannot conceive of such a proportionate reason. Archbishop Joseph Naumann (Kansas City) and Bishop Robert Finn (St. Joseph). These are just a few examples. There are many more. Stop trying to lead people into grave sin with the illogical reasoning you are using here.
David Pasinski | 10/18/2008 - 10:53am
Knowledge welcomed, insights valuable, but NO ONE can tell me how to vote or what I must do to be a "good Catholic" respecting life. Period.
Maryann | 10/18/2008 - 9:41am
I disagree with the label, "conscientious objector" when referring to McCain/Obama views toward abortion once they get into office. The Roe vs Wade law is already on the books. What I think is more important is voting for a candidate who opposes abortion and has lived his life morally and for his country. My mother always said you are judged by the company you keep. Obama's shady past leaves lots of questions no matter how much of a golden tongue he has. Vote with your brain.
Robert Gordon | 10/18/2008 - 6:25am
This may be all well and good. However, this is not what gets to the people in the pew. The headlines feature bishops calling for refusal of the Eucharist to those politicians who do not decry abortion and seem to ignore other issues. The other issues which might be brought up are virutally ignored. For instance: do they support pre-natal and post natal care for the poor; do they support strenghtening the EPA standards against air, soil, water, and food pollution which can be detrimental to the health of the born and the unborn. Two popes have denounced the war in Iraq yet one hears virtually nothing from the American bishops on this. The popes have also denounced the death penanlty, yet there has not been the same amount of fervor in attacking the death penanlty as there has been against abortion. It appears, quite often, that the Church considers life to begin at concention and end at birth.
Ron Dirks | 10/17/2008 - 11:45pm
The editors in Voting One’s Conscience (America, 10/27/08) present a balanced summary of voting guides for Catholics based on the Bishops’ document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citzenship – I offer an additional reflection on the compromised position the candidates and voters face concerning Roe v. Wade, the “pro-choice” decision. Are Senators McCain and/or Obama prepared to uphold the U.S. Constitution and federal laws and U. S. Supreme Court decisions? If so either of them, if elected will have to uphold “pro-choice” law (Roe v. Wade) or become a conscientious objector and refuse. How can a conscientious objector take the Presidental oath of office? Senators McCain and Obama certainly have read the U.S. Supreme Court decision cited as Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and furthermore know that “A pregnant single woman (Roe) brought a class action challenging the constitutionality of the Texas criminal abortion laws, which proscribe procuring or attempting an abortion except on medical advice for the purpose of saving the mother’s life.” Although Senator McCain is not an attorney as Senator Obama is, they both know from the Court’s complete decision that the Court could not determine, in its deliberations, that the fetus is a “...’person’ within the language and meaning of the fourteenth Amendment” and stated that if “personhood” were established the case “collapses, [410 U.S. 113, 158] for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (14th) Amendment,” parenthesis mine. Furthermore, the Court said, “The Constitution does not define ‘person’ in so many words.” Ibid., IX A. To my knowledge neither Senator McCain or Obama have introduced legislation during their elected tenure or led any movement that would call for amendment of the U.S. Constitution to include the unborn i.e., the fetus or any other stage of prenatal development within the meaning of “person.” Clearly, according to the U. S. Supreme Court, Roe would not have prevailed if “person” was so included in the Constitution. It seems to me that these candidates along with the entire U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. President should place this effort on their front burners for future legislation if they subscribe to the arguments presented by Texas in Roe v. Wade. In that case Texas “.. urges that, apart from the Fourteenth Amendment, life begins at conception and is present throughout pregnancy, and that, therefore, the State has a compelling interest in protecting that life from and after conception.” The physician, nursing and other health professions should be leaders in supporting this effort in their communities since they have a level of professional knowledge that understands the biological details better than most citizens. In addition, modern common human experience of pregnancy recognizes “life” present prenataly in humans and so contains an appeal to everyone of the reasonableness that “human life” and “person” need to be identified as one and the same. I found it most instructive that the Court, after their historical review of abortion practices by nations, various religions and medical and scientific authorities, pointed out that the “The Aristotelian theory of ‘mediate animation,’ that held sway throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, continued to be official Roman Catholic dogma until the 19th century, despite opposition to its ‘ensoulment’ theory from those in the Church who would recognize the existence of life from [410 U.S. 113, 161] the moment of conception.” Cf. ibid Part IX, A. & B. I point out also that St. Thomas Aquinas (b. 1225/27 – d. 1227) re: “ensoulment theory” said in pertinent part, in the Summa Theological Question 76 Reply to Objection 3. “The embryo has first of all a soul which is merely sensitive, and when this is removed, it is supplanted by a more perfect soul, which is both sensitive and intellectual: as will be shown further on (118, 2,
Marie Rehbein | 10/17/2008 - 11:13pm
If the bishops were to teach Catholics how to behave in their lives so that they do not choose abortion, and if the the bishops were to welcome people into the Catholic faith, instead of making it the ordeal it is, so that then they could teach those people how to behave in their lives, perhaps it would not be necessary to hold politicians accountable for the immoral choices made by people they represent and over whom they have even less control than bishops do over Catholics.
Robert Koch | 10/17/2008 - 10:30pm
Voting One's Conscience editorial states we should not be a one issue voter. When I have a choice between a pro choice candidate, and a pro life candidate, I will ALWAYS vote pro life. The editors of American can never convince me of a good reason to cast my vote for for a candidate that favors murder. Regards, R.W. Koch
Leonard Villa | 10/17/2008 - 8:48pm
I think your essay was remiss in not referencing the Pope's (then Cardinal Ratzinger's) letter to the American bishops in 2004 on the issue whether a Catholic can vote for a pro-abortion/euthanasia candidate if he/she does not share that candidate's position? The Pope noted that this could be possible in the presences of proportionate reasons as remote material cooperation. The Pope also reminded the bishops that capital punishment and the decision to wage war are not on the same moral level as abortion/euthansia. Hence he notes a Catholic could freely disagree with the Church on those issues and still go to Communion. Not so with abortion/euthanasia. Thus the million dollar question: what is a proportionate reason to vote for Obama who not only has 100% pro-abortion voting record but even voted against legislation to protect babies born alive after botched abortions? That's the real question here isn't it? A number of our bishops indicated they could not think of such a proportionate reason. For any other issue to have import you have to be alive first voter-guides notwithstanding, no?
Robert Langworthy | 10/17/2008 - 8:05pm
If a certain Party takes total control of our government, particial birth abortions will start again. The blood of inocents will flow like Niagra. All who enable the proabortion crowd will share in the guilt. And one day we will meet Him and the inocents. He will point to the slaughtered babes and ask "What did YOU do to stop THIS?" "I voted for the proabortion party because I was a good liberal." Will not be the answer He will want to hear.
CHARLES SCHRAMM REV | 10/17/2008 - 7:54pm
Thank you for the balanced and informative article! There are too many who are settling for a cut and dried, single issue approach to elections. In his book, Spirituality and Justice, the Irish theologian Donal Dorr talks about different types of conversion: religious, moral, and poilticial. The last one requires a degree of knowledge about how our political, economic and social systems function and how these systems need to be critiqued in light of the values presented in Catholic Social Teaching. This is an area where many Catholics fall short.
Michael Hallman | 10/17/2008 - 7:29pm
What must be understood, and which I do not think your article makes clear, is that the life issues which constitute intrinsic evil, which includes abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, racism, torture, carry significantly greater weight than any other issue. This truth is too frequently muddied by Catholic commentators who wish to pave the way for a good-conscience vote for pro-abortion Obama, who has promised to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act and will appoint judges who are nearly certain to uphold the tyrannical decision of Roe v. Wade, unjustly and incorrectly assertion that a nation can subvert the inalienable right to life. As you have correctly pointed out, it is necessary that we as Catholics allow the Church to form our conscience. This includes not only reading the important bishop's document Forming Consciences, but also listening to the bishops as they continue to address us on these issues and expand on this document in their letters, homilies, speeches, and other addresses. And the bishops have made it abundantly clear that we as Catholics have a moral responsibility to recognize the overwhelming weight of abortion in this election as compared to debatable issues such as who has the best health care plan, who is best for the economy, and who will end the war sooner (when in reality the question must be now that we are already in Iraq, whose plan will ensure for the least loss of innocent life as we remove our troops from the country. This is not a question of whether or not it was right to go in, but what's the safest and most just way to get out). We are Catholics, and we must not allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that there are anything even close to proportionate reasons to override Sen. Obama's radical views on abortion. I am not thrilled about John McCain, but there is simply no conscionable way for a Catholic to vote for Barack Obama.

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