Monday, June 16, 2008

For whom can I vote? (part 3)

At this point, it becomes a prudential decision—it has to.

Many who are very strident on this issue apply this very reasoning, and conclude they will vote for McCain over Obama. I will not condemn them, but note: they are, thereby, materially cooperating with the evil McCain endorses.

Ironically, some of the same people are arguing, absolutely, one may never, ever, under any circumstances, vote for a candidate who embraces something that is gravely evil (such as abortion)—they make that argument in relation to Obama, but then abandon that argument in relation to McCain.

After all, if you took that approach, you could not vote for Bush—because many fail to note that while Bush took a position against most abortions, he was in favor of allowing some of them—for rape and incest. While being against most is very good, being for any is gravely wrong.

But many prolifers decided that while they could not formally cooperate with Bush in this regard, they saw materially cooperating with him—by supporting him—to be justified as a way to prevent a worse evil—the election of someone who embraced abortion-on-demand. And they further reasoned that, under the circumstances, their cooperation with Bush in this matter was more remote, since we’re not faced with the immediate prospect of outlawing all abortions, with Bush the obstacle to saving those additional lives.

That’s acceptable reasoning, but again, it is prudential reasoning that justifies voting for a candidate who nonetheless is wrong on a non-negotiable. And it’s the same reasoning applied to voting for McCain, despite his support for baby-destroying research (which Bush supports, remember? He came out in favor of our tax dollars being used for it, with restrictions).

But given all that, this is why you cannot say, as some do: "you cannot, under any circumstances vote for a candidate who endorses ____ (insert a non-negotiable)."
The actual answer is, there are some circumstances where you may; but what you may not do is share the intention to do the evil—you may not support the candidate because of his or her embrace of something evil.

What are the circumstances? What does the Church say on this subject?

Rich Leonardi points to two sources for guidance—one, the observations of then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) in 2004, and the other, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who oversaw the drafting of "Faithful Citizenship" while chairman of the USCCB's domestic policy committee:

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- A "hierarchy of values" exists, which means not all political issues are of equal value, said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. "Our faith must inform our political decisions," he said, and Catholic voters are obliged to distinguish "between moral evil," such as abortion, "and matters of prudential judgment," such as tuition tax credits. ... "In our own country, despite significant victories that extend protection to the unborn, this modern slaughter of the holy innocents continues because of the policies of unscrupulous politicians," he said.
"Only in circumstances that are extraordinarily hard to contemplate may a Catholic voter support a proponent of so great an intrinsic moral evil," the bishop said (Bolding of text added for emphasis).

I may be wrong, but I think the bishop’s comments here are directed to a situation in which the contrast between candidates is clear: one is for abortion, the other is against.

It seems to me the circumstances are not so "extraordinarily hard to contemplate": we might have faced a choice this year between Obama and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is only marginally less pro-abortion than Obama. Again, McCain’s position on embryonic stem-cell research makes him, in DiMarzio’s words, "a proponent of so great an intrinsic moral evil"—but on a lesser scale than Obama. The circumstances in which one may feel bound to vote for that proponent—McCain—are to avoid a worse proponent—Obama. Again, not so hard to contemplate.

For my part, barring some consideration I haven’t thought of at this point, I shall not vote for either. But it is precisely because of this sort of dilemma I cannot agree with the blanket statements many are making.

11 comments:

TerryC said...

I fundamental agree with your point. I hope that before the election that McCain will change his mind about stem cell research. Recent advances in adult stem cell research, partially funded by the Bush administration and some of it done by scientists who could not recouncil in their own conscious the morality of continuing to use fetal stem cells, could give McCain a politically defensible reason to change his position. I pray so at any rate.

gramps said...

Once again, with Obama there is no hope of change in this position and I suspect you will find him hard left from McCain on this and many other issues. I also think Obama simply has no experience to lead this country and that anything one does to further the possibility of his election is giving him half a vote. Perot gave us Clinton and I fear that many may give their half vote to Obama by voting for someone that has no chance like a Barr, or not voting for either is that half vote to obama. If you are pro life, it is impossible to say I am not giving my vote to either the republican candidate is not pure in this area when you have the hitler of abortion on the left running against him. Peter was probably not the best choice for our first Pope. I fear that many on the right would hold off voting for Peter because he did not stand tall for Christ in his greatest time of need. McCain has a 100% pro live voting record, a number of pro life Senators like Brownback supporting him, and yet it is not enough. How about Paul, he killed people in his past so he does not past muster for a vote either. Work to change the system in some way, but for now it is what we have, two choices, the biggest supporter of murder in the history of the world in obama or McCain who has a solid pro life voting record but has some flaws. How does not voting or voting for someone who cannot win help the cause? If the prolife vote is weak, I suspect the next time we will see an even greater pro baby killing candidate and satan will have marginalized the pro life movement in this country.

Anonymous said...

"McCain has a 100% pro live voting record."

I beg to differ. Averaged over six Congresses, McCain has a 67% pro-life voting record. Check for yourself at nrlc.org.

"the biggest supporter of murder in the history of the world in obama."

Exaggeration perhaps? No, couldn't be.

I do have a question for anyone here who cares to answer: As a hypothetical, if abortion were to be outlawed immediately, what do we do about all the women who would undoubtedly have unsafe abortions performed in homes, etc?

This is where I think the pro-life movement is very, very weak. Unless and until faith-based education takes place on the importance of life, there will still be abortions. I get the impression that some pro-lifers think the problem would be solved immediately if abortion were banned. In reality, however, it is simply not so easy. Moral education is key, not simply a court ruling.

Rich Leonardi said...

This is where I think the pro-life movement is very, very weak. Unless and until faith-based education takes place on the importance of life, there will still be abortions. I get the impression that some pro-lifers think the problem would be solved immediately if abortion were banned. In reality, however, it is simply not so easy. Moral education is key, not simply a court ruling.

Virtually every pro-life organization in this country either provides precisely the sort of moral education you suggest they do not or works closely with other organizations that do.

Father Martin Fox said...

Gramps:

As I said to someone else, commenting on a related post...

That's fine, I won't call you a bad Catholic for taking that view.

However, there are those who are arguing that a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who endorse a grave evil. They almost always frame their argument in terms of abortion, and aim it at Obama. True enough, but it applies equally to John McCain, who has endorsed a grave evil: the destruction of unborn children for "research."

That Obama endorses more grave evil is, in one respect, irrelevant. If the issue is--as many frame it--a question of can a Catholic give ones vote to a candidate who favors evil, and the answer is "no, never," then that applies to McCain.

On the other hand, when one backs away from that absolutist position, and says, there are circumstances when a Catholic may, in good conscience, vote for a candidate who endorses evil, then it becomes possible to justify a vote for McCain--precisely because the circumstances that make it reasonable.

But what I'm seeing is folks applying an absolutist standard when it's backing Obama (which I don't advocate and won't do), but then deftly switching to a "it depends on circumstances" to justify backing McCain.

For myself, I refuse to give my vote to either of these candidates.

gramps said...

Father Fox, when you say you will never support Obama "it's backing Obama (which I don't advocate and won't do)" then there is a simple question. When you do not give a vote to McCain, what is the net effect on the election of Obama, negative or positive? There is going to one or the other as President of our country and no other possibilities unless one dies along the way. Voting for the lesser of two evils means that some innocent children will be saved, correct? Not voting or throwing your vote away to one with no chance of winning then would seem by logic to mean that this supports more children dying. Name a place where Obama's election will not result in more babies or embryo's dying. So father can you show me how having a President Obama helps the Pro life movement? We will become the world exporter of abortion which would not happen with McCain.

Some will scream he will get us out of Iraq but at this point who can say if that will result in more or less killing. Maybe if Americans soldiers leave they will not die now, but Americans will die if we do not win the war on terror and in leaving give terrorist a new haven to plan. Does anyone doubt that us leaving now will result in an unstable Middle East that Iran will try to fill? Do we sit back and let Iran take over Iraq? Forget about why or how we got into Iraq. It holds no relevence to this election. Only moving forward counts. I cannot find a single place where a President Obama helps any position important to Catholics. Who would be more pro gay marriage? If the democrats have larger majorities in the congress, who would be more likely to buck the left wing radicals, McCain or Obama? Not sure why this is a hard choice.

Father Martin Fox said...

Gramps:

I'm not faulting you for choosing to vote for McCain, but I cannot in good conscience vote for an advocate of evil. That he advocates less of it may be sufficient justification for you, but it is not for me.

gramps said...

Once again, this is the simple question. When you do not give a vote to McCain, what is the net effect on the election of Obama, negative or positive? There is going to one or the other as President of our country and no other possibilities unless one dies along the way. Voting for the lesser of two evils means that some innocent children will be saved, correct? Not voting or throwing your vote away to one with no chance of winning then would seem by logic to mean that this supports more children dying.

Can one at least acknowledge that there is only this choice in who will be the next President? Not voting for McCain is supporting the election of Obama. Can we at least agree that you are advocating the presidency of Obama by this act? Would Clinton have been elected had Perot not received votes that naturally would have went to Bush in larger numbers?

I refuse to do anything to help elect Obama and that means even if I have to hold my nose to vote for McCain. Can we also agree that he will be more friendly toward both embryo and in the womb children and will most certainly not condemn ones that surive the murder attempt to death as Obama did in Illinois by not supporting a law to keep alive a child that survived abortion murder attempts. Who will appoint more conservative judges, McCain or Obama? I doubt we will ever see more liberal judges put on the courts than Obama will select. Please Father, just admit to these issues and then explain how your position is not supporting Obama.

Father Martin Fox said...

Gramps:

No, I definitely do not agree that "Not voting for McCain is supporting the election of Obama. Can we at least agree that you are advocating the presidency of Obama by this act?"

It is flawed reasoning to say one is obliged to cooperate with a lesser moral evil in order to prevent the greater one, such as: people who are against abortion should support passing out condoms because that would prevent a worse evil.

What the Church teaches is one should avoid cooperating with evil, never do so formally, and avoid material cooperation when you can.

OK, then I'm going to ask you this question:

Are you saying that a Catholic is morally obligated to vote for McCain, in order to prevent the election of Obama...

...even though McCain formally endorses something that is gravely evil...

Therefore, are you saying that Catholics have a moral obligation to vote for someone who endorses a grave evil?

That seems to be your position, but I am asking you if that's correct: yes or no.

eileen said...

I see Gramps position. I, too, have to "hold my nose" to vote for McCain. As someone said, we can pray McCain will be convinced that embryonic stem cell research is wrong and adult stems are the answer. Obama will give a blank check to the abortionists and on the embryonic research front. We have 2 choices for President if we are to participate in the democratic process. I'm choosing to vote.

Michelle said...

It must be clarified that McCain not only supports embryonic stem-cell research, but also abortion in the cases of rape and incest. It also must be clarified that it would be very difficult to pass or enforce a law banning abortion with those exceptions. In the Roe vs. Wade decision, part of the reasoning was this inconsistency. Either the unborn child is an human person (in which case, it deserves protection of the law under any circumstances) or it isn't. "If personhood is established, the whole case collapses." As long as the Republican Party puts up nominees who support the exceptions, we won't get anywhere with the law.