Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Voting While Catholic

This was a much bigger issue in the last presidential election because John Kerry is Catholic. Many Catholics disagree with the teaching of the Church or even with basic tenets of the Church.

How are Catholics to reconcile their beliefs and voting? What guidance do we have as we approach the voting booth and then attend Mass?

In its over 2000 year history, you can bet the Church has issued enough guidance to help us. The only problem is that many of us don't really want to know. We want to be able to do/vote as we please without considering the effect on our relationship with the Church. Of course, many of us are well aware of this guidance and what it tells us about our worthiness to receive Holy Communion. Any Catholic can tell you that if he is not in "full communion" with the Church, he should not take Holy Communion.

As Pope Benedict XVI wrote as Cardinal Ratzinger in "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles":
Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgement regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum,” nos. 81, 83).
How can we reconcile our voting with the teachings of the Church? Obviously, the first step is to know what the teachings of the Church are regarding the issues about which you care and the issues of the politicians in question.

It is clear to me that the only situation in which a Catholic can remain in full communion with the Church and vote for a pro-abortion politician is if all of the candidates are pro-abortion to the same degree and there are other differences which make one candidate preferential.

It follows that if at least one of the candidates is against abortion, there is no acceptable reason to vote for the pro-abortion candidate.

Before you shout, "What about proportionate reasons?" I again quote Cardinal Ratzinger:
A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.
Now we have to discuss proportionate reasons. What proportionate reason would allow you to vote for a pro-abortion politician?
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.
Again, a lot of this was a big issue in the 2004 Presidential election because Sen. Kerry is Catholic, but the issues are timely now as well. John McCain has a zero score from NARAL every year, while Barack Obama has a 100% score every year.

Dr. Frank Joseph really got hot about Archbishop Raymond Burke and this subject. The Archbishop initially stated that Catholics in St. Louis who vote for political candidates supportive of abortion rights have committed a grave sin in the eyes of the church, and should confess and do penance before receiving Communion. (SLToday.com 6/25/04) Then he was quoted in the Post-Dispatch on 9/02/04 as saying, "In that scenario, a Catholic who personally opposes abortion rights, votes for a candidate who supports abortion rights ‘for what are called proportionate reasons.'"

Now, that isn't any different from what Cardinal Ratzinger said, is it? You just have to decide if your proportionate reasons allow you to vote for the pro-abortion candidate. Dr. Joseph argued several examples to support his opinion that there are no proportionate reasons sufficient to allow a Catholic to vote, in good conscience, for a pro-abortion candidate when there is an anti-abortion alternative.

I agree with Dr. Joseph. I cannot imagine any reason that outweighs the millions of dead babies produced by abortion every year. Look back at what Cardinal Ratziner wrote. War, capital punishment? Not good enough. Heck, just the sheer numbers make the difference obvious.

You want to vote for Obama because he opposes the Iraq war but you are a Catholic? Please help me understand how you can, in any way, consider this proportionate to his support for abortion?

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