Fr Paul Ward of the Archdiocese of Detroit writes about the scandal the Detoit Free Press and others are causing with what he seems to think is blantant misrepresenation.
The letter of Cardinal Ratzinger, and the Detroit Free Press
On the front page of the Detroit Free Press, on Tuesday, September 7, 2004, a headline read, "Catholics allowed to vote for pro-choice candidate." See article here. With all due respect to Patricia Montemurri, this was a case of irresponsible journalism, on two counts: first, the misrepresentation of what the Church has to say, and second, the fact that she refers to a memo written about two and a half months ago as if this is somehow today's news. I'm sure the second reason was well planned timing by the Free Press so as to win more votes, by deception, for Presidential Candidate Kerry.
I was wondering whether the letter she was referring to was the one sent in early June in 2004, to Washington's Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick. (I have reproduced that letter here on my own web site for the facility of the reader, click here.) So I called her at the Free Press. Her voice mail was full, so I got to an assistant who took my message, phone and e-mail in the most courteous way. But said letter or memo fits the profile of her article, so it's reasonable to assume she referred to that very one. The fact that she didn't even once quote textually the article made me even more suspicious.
Further making me doubt her words were the teachings of Pope John Paul II where he says, "To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right" (EV, 74), referring directly and explicitly to those who are tempted to collaborate with evil for accidental, circumstantial or personal reasons.
At the end of Cardinal Ratzinger's six point letter, there is a small N.B. stating that "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."
Pope John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical Evangelum Vitae (The Gospel of Life) on this topic already, explaining some of those proportionate reasons:
"A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects." (EV, 73)
In fact, the Pope states clearly that it is never morally good to vote in favor of permitting abortions:
"This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people-even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the 'right' ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part." (EV, 20)
He goes on to clarify:
"In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it." (EV, 73, citing Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion (18 November 1974), No. 22: AAS 66 (1974), 744)
In summary, Cardinal Ratzinger did not say what Ms. Montemurri claims he has. No, Catholics may not vote "pro-choice." Indeed, it is not pro-choice, it is pro-abortion. The child has no choice, and the mother, father and whoever never have the choice or option of killing an innocent child.
Further reflection on this matter may be found in a superb essay from Dr. Robert Fastiggi, which I have published here.
Similar misunderstandings were construed from something Bishop Burke said, and he seems to be preparing a response. CNS has an article that discusses this response, which can be read here.
In this week's homily I addressed the question of why abortion is morally evil, and articulating why it Catholics may not, by Church teaching and law, vote for pro-abortion political candidates, save the extreme cases alluded to in Ratzinger's N.B. and in Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae paragraph 73. I didn't get as much time as I wanted to polish it up, but the basic argument is there.