Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Voting your conscience

I was ruminating on upcoming elections, having been posed with a seeming dilemma by friends of mine who are Catholic but whose voting patterns are the polar opposite of mine.

It is my default to vote--first and foremost--pro-life, because my knowledge of faith and my conscience will not permit me otherwise.* When expressing this opinion, which almost invariably leads me to support Candidate X over Candidate Y, someone who is a fellow Catholic but supports Candidate Y will ask: "Well, what about the war with Elbonia/capital punishment**?"

This happened to me in an email exchange just this week. And I was illuminated by the answer which went something like this:

According to the teachings of the Church, is war always prohibited? No, it isn't.

Or according to the teachings of the Church, is capital punishment always prohibited? No, it isn't.

But abortion is among the greatest of evils, and it is flatly prohibited...always and everywhere. We can sit and discuss whether the Tax Reform Act of 1986 meets the Church's criteria for social justice, we can discuss if the war on terrorism meets the Church's test for being a "Just War" or we can discuss if the execution of, say, John Q. Terrorist meets the threshhold set forth in the Catechism.

What we can't do, as Catholics, is discuss whether abortion is a manifest evil. That is, as a matter of Catholic faith, as irrefutable as the non-flatness of the earth. That is one issue on which, for a practicing Catholic, there are no two sides from which a reasonable person may choose. There are no exceptions, equivocations, escape clauses.

As a personal editorial*** I find it a bit vexing to see people attempt to rationalize their views. A glaring example was an article in [a certain Catholic newspaper] about the director of Pax Christi, wherein said director went into exegetical contortions of the sort which would make any self-respecting yoga master seethe with envy to justify his support for Candidate Y. He then really went off the cliff in a fireball of flaming splinters when he expressed some other opinions (rather bizarre ones, too) as proven fact although these are readily disprovable. Opinions which, incidentally, can only be considered to be in conformity with Church teaching if we decide to use new and novel definitions of the word "conformity."

So there.

-J

* I semi-paraphrase other, greater writers on the matter, in particular, Mark Shea: In the time it takes you to read this email, countless unborn babies will be dismembered, burned and suctioned as a punishment for the crime of having been conceived inconveniently; all while our modern society, long ago cut adrift from its Judeo-Christian moorings, will sort of look around the room in a vaguely uncomfortable way, lacking the capacity to tell whether this is wrong. But when society is in the mood for a little righteous indignation it will turn on a Holocaust documentary on PBS and wonder aloud how such an advanced, civilized and cultured people could have permitted this horror.

** Or on the Church's teachings on social justice, which always tend to crop up.

*** I know I don't have to tell you, but I will anyway: I keep my editorializing confined when I am teaching. That is to say, I explain what is evil and sinful and that we must exercise our responsibilities in that light at the ballot box, but I never, ever tell anyone (in class, anyway...I'm a force of nature outside the classroom) that they should support X over Y.