Thursday, July 27, 2006

Voting For Bush is Non-Negotiable! Yeah, Right!

As part of the plan to absorb the Catholic church into the Republican party, the Catholic Answers group came up with a list of 5 non-negotiable issues for Catholic voters. What are they? Abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, stem cell research, and human cloning. It defines them as the only "things on which there is only one acceptable "side" for a conscientious Catholic". OK, so what does that mean? Simple! "Find out where each candidate stands on each of these issues. Eliminate from consideration any candidate who is wrong on any of the five issues. Vote for one of the remaining candidates." Now this is interesting. Even though the group goes to great claims to claim that this is a non-partisan list, I think a 4-year old could see where this is going. In the words of E.J. Dionne:
"Not social justice. Not war and peace. Not the death penalty. The leaflet might as well have said that voting for President Bush was a non-negotiable position for Catholics".

"Republicans who broke with the Church on all manner of other questions related to poverty, social justice, war and peace, and the death penalty were left (so it seemed, anyway) undisturbed."

The problem is that these ideologues largely went unchallenged. And it still goes on today. When Cardinal Mahony discusses immigration in light of Catholic social theory, he is roundly mocked by the right. You see, it's not a non-negotiable issue! What this really means of course is that Republicans are given a free pass to basically ignore Catholic teachings that might inconvenience them.

And look at the list, for God's sake! I guess people can argue that the most important principle is the sacredness and dignity of life, which is why four of the five are on the list anyway. But even here, no mention of war? torture? the death penalty? Certainly torture should be on the list, given that there is absolutely no room for dissent on this issue among Catholics. But to even talk about this would embarrass Bush, of it stays off the list. More generally, what happened to the whole gamut of issues listed in Gaudium Et Spes #27 ?
"The varieties of crime are numerous: all offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and willful suicide; all violations of the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures; all offenses against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, degrading working conditions where people are treated as mere tools for profit rather than free and responsible persons: all these and the like are criminal: they poison civilization; and they debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the creator."
No, these are absent from the list. And why is gay marriage there? A Catholic teaching sure, but it is surely not on par with culture of life issues as enunciated above!

Anyway, it turns out that it's a lot more complicated than the ideologues make out. I'll quote none other than the man who used to be called Cardinal Ratzinger. In a 2004 letter dealing with communion and pro-abortion candidates (an issue for another day!) Ratzinger wrote at the bottom:
N.B. 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├é’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate├é’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.
There you have it. What he is saying is that it is wrong to vote for somebody because they support abortion and euthanasia. But if you do not support these positions, it is still fine to vote for them for "proportionate reasons". Again, this is not hard to decipher. Take the following example: a candidate adopts a pro-life position, but refuses to back it up with measures to reduce the incidence of abortion. So you are pretty sure abortion rates will be unaffected by him being elected to office. He also supports an unjust war, torture, the death penalty, and social and economic policies that favor the rich (especially his donors and their friends), and refuses to environmental issues seriously. His opponent supports abortion, but takes the opposite opinion on the rest of the issues. Conclusion: it's a no-brainer, you can vote for the second person! See, that wasn't so hard...


John Lowell said...

The Catholic Answers voter guide was an affront to the USCCB. Not unlike Bishop Chaput's public treatment of the alleged civic responsibities of Catholics it represented a poorly disguised attempt to muscle Catholics into voting for Bush. Chaput had it a obligation to vote and if confronted by two evil choices a further obligation to choose the lesser of the evils. Yet the CCC has a Catholic's obligation as involving the "exercise of the right to vote", not simply the act of voting, and there is a world of difference. The view of the Catechism does not exclude abstention - the choice I made - as a legitimate form of the exercise of the right to vote while Chaput's does and would even go to the extent of making your choice for you. It was all very obvious. I understand that Catholic Answers has run into trouble with the IRS as to it's tax exempt status because of the guide. They deserve that kind of treatment, frankly.

John Lowell

M.Z. Forrest said...

You can see latest incarnation of this in, an organization created so that Keating and Akin could give their full support to Republicans without threatening Catholic Answers's tax-exempt status. It would be nice if they were just honest about the whole project.