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24 August 2004

Catholics may vote on a variety of issues!

(Boldface indicates emphases I have highlighted.)


By Andrew Greeley

Catholics can vote for John Kerry. They don’t have to, but it would not be
a sin to do so, according to a distinguished theologian:

“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 favor
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.”

These are not the words of some radical liberal Catholic theologian who is
unconcerned about killing babies. Rather they were written by the cardinal
president of the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger. It
says that Catholics are not obliged to vote on one issue, no matter how
important that issue might be. They may vote for John Kerry “for other reasons”
so long as they are not supporting him merely for his pro-choice

That ought to settle the matter. Catholics who have been confused by the
insistence of a few bishops, some priests and some pro-life laity that they must
vote against Sen. Kerry are free to make their choice balancing all issues – just as they always have been.

This theory of “indirect material cooperation” is traditional Catholic
moral teaching. Apparently, the few bishops who excluded Catholics from
communion if they voted for Kerry didn’t know much traditional moral theology –
which demonstrates what the qualifications are for the bishopric these

The bishops of the United States actually quoted the paragraph from
Ratzinger in the documentation with their recent statement on the

In response to the question “whether the denial of Holy Communion to some
Catholics in political life is necessary because of their public support for
abortion on demand,” the bishops did not endorse the policy of that small group
of their membership who wanted such denial. “Given the wide range of
circumstances involved in arriving at a prudent judgment on a matter of such
seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual
bishop…. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent
course of pastoral action.”

The moderate, if obscure, tone of their statement indicates the dilemma
Catholic leaders have found themselves in since Roe vs. Wade.

They believe, as they must, that a constitutional right to abortion is bad

On the other hand, they know that most American women – including most
Catholics – believe that it is a right they should have, even if they do not intend to exercise
Therefore, bishops are cast in the role of those who would take away the
rights of women by the exercise of political clout. This is not a good position
to be in when you avow, as they do in their statement, the need to “persuade”
and to “dialogue.”

But how do those who disagree with the Catholic Church dialogue with
religious leaders who believe that they are absolutely and clearly right, and
that others are absolutely and clearly wrong?

I can think of only one way that bishops might earn a hearing for their
teaching. While insisting on their convictions, they should refrain from
questioning the integrity and good faith of those who disagree. Then they should
become beacons of light on all issues concerning human life, the rights of
women, and the rights of the poor and the oppressed.

Thus, while granting, for the sake of the argument, that abortion is a more
serious issue than the death penalty or pre-emptive war (or depriving workers of
their pensions or health benefits or right to organize unions), bishops might
imitate the pope and more vigorously and noisily oppose the Iraq war and suggest
that Catholic politicians who insist on the death penalty are not following the
teachings of the Church.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s “consistent ethic of life” theory might help
bishops to look less like grand inquisitors fixated on one issue, however
important, and more like men of graceful and generous concern for human life and

[Sociologist / novelist / journalist Father Andrew Greeley recently
celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a Catholic priest. The
above article originally appeared in the July 16, 2004 edition of The Chicago
Sun-Times, and is reprinted here, with the permission of the author, as a
supplement to the August 1, 2004 issue of CACP News Notes, newsletter of
Catholics Against Capital Punishment (]
Posted in Politicks on 24 August 2004 at 12:51 pm by Nate

“How’s that again?” Department: A quote from President George W. Bush

“You believe as I do that every person, however frail or vulnerable, is a
blessing and has a place and a purpose in this world. We must stand for an
America in which every life counts and every life matters. Life is a creation of
God, not a commodity to be exploited by man.”

– Remarks made in a videotaped address to participants in the July 1-3
National Right to Life Convention in Arlington, Va., by President George W.
Bush, who presided over the execution of 152 persons while Governor of Texas in
addition to three federal executions while president (as quoted in the Arlington
Catholic Herald, July 7, 2004).
Posted in Politicks on 24 August 2004 at 12:45 pm by Nate