Sunday, September 19, 2004

A response to 'Catholics for Democracy'

I guess my emphasis over the last week or so on the issue of "proportionate reasons" has bothered some folks over at Catholics for Democracy. hugetim raises some points I wish to address.

First, he writes, "that Cardinal Ratzinger has not, in fact, reiterated that Catholic teaching does not prohibit pro-life Catholics from voting for pro-[abortion] candidates." In none of my writings or posts has it been claimed that Catholics are prohibited from voting for pro-abortion candidates. There are some scenarios where a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Examples of such scenarios have been provided by Jimmy Akins, Father Frank Pavone, and Bishop Rene Henry Gracida. But, given the positions of our two presidential candidates, this campaign does NOT present itself as one of these scenarios. Given the differences between President Bush and Senator Kerry on abortion and the Church's consistent teaching on the grave sinfulness of supporting abortion, it is difficult to give any reasons which would allow it to be considered not sinful for a Catholic to vote for Senator Kerry. I challenge hugetim to name the "proportionate reasons" which he thinks would permit a Catholic to vote for Senator Kerry. It is one thing to write that I am wrong and another to point out why he thinks so.

Next, take the following statement, "the bald-faced lie that Ratzinger (or some other Vatican authority) specified that proportionate reasons can only be abortion related." Okay, let's look at the nota bene again from the Ratzinger memo,

[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’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.]

And here's more from the memo proper,

The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin.

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.

I guess Cardinal Ratzinger is the liar? Am I missing something here?

Next, hugetim writes, "only peripheral abortion issues are at stake, which clearly do not dominate other issues." Abortion not on the table? Maybe the two candidates have not emphasized their positions on abortion, but to many voters, esp. Catholics, their positions are important. (In fact, Senator Kerry's views may be affecting voters in some battleground states.) And as stated above by Cardindal Ratzinger himself, "[n]ot all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion" I have been arguing that there are more than just "peripheral abortion issues" involved here. Though we may wish more could be done to end abortion, Catholics must look to what would happen under a Kerry presidency. We would likely see moves to:

- require hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to make abortion readily available
- require medical students to learn how to perform abortions
- do away with conscience clauses, so doctors and nurses opposed to abortion, would be forced to perform them or risk losing their jobs
- require more institutions to cover abortifacient contraceptives in health insurance plans
- use federal money to promote and pay for abortions here and around the world
- appoint only federal judges (and Supreme Court justices) who would uphold the Roe decision

As well, all progress on the federal level in regards to parental notification/consent laws, informed consent laws, partial birth abortion laws, other pro-life legislation, and an increased emphasis and funding on abstinence education would all be halted and likely reversed. This may look "peripheral" to some, but in the fight to build a Culture of Life in this country, a Kerry presidency would be a great defeat. After reading this, how could one think otherwise?

As for my supposed distortion of Catholic Just War theory, I am unsure about where I am distoring or "dissenting" from it. Point out where exactly and I would be happy to address it and expand my views, esp. in regards to how the Bush administration decided to go to war and wage it. There are great resources out there (Ratzinger Fan Club, Bishop Fulton Sheen, St Thomas Aquinas, Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Just, Catechism, George Weigel, Michael Novak) and I reference them when I do write about it. To suggest that I dissent from this teaching (and supposedly others) because I rarely write or comment on it (and others) is mistaken. (Browse all my posts to see what I write about. Your characterization of the Catholics for Bush blog seems malicious and a cheap way to discredit it. Nice try though.)

I would like to comment on a few statements hugetim makes on the war in Iraq. I would like to remind him that the only reason inspectors were back in Iraq (after being kicked out in the late 1990s) was because of the serious threat of force from the United States.

Were the Iraqi's really "fully cooperating"? I would say that is very much up to debate. If they were and they had nothing to hide then why did they just not open up their country to the inspectors and answer all their questions? Not one Kerry Catholic has ever answered this. It is not difficult to wonder why.

As well, to suggest that four more weeks would have shown that there were no WMDs is misleading. It took MONTHS to show that the intelligence was either wrong or that these weapons were moved (to Syria, Iran) or still remain hidden. And we continue to look even now. How one thinks four more weeks would have solved this is a mystery.

As for the death tolls in Iraq, hugetim claims to "have seen the numbers". Please share them. Show us that the 4000+ daily abortions in this country pale in comparison to the lives lost in Iraq. Even if the numbers favored his argument, he is missing the point. Abortion is about the taking of an innocent human being. George Weigel puts it one way that 'Catholics for
Democracy' might understand:

Why does the Church stress the priority of the life issues? Because it is always a grave evil to take the life of an innocent human being. Because the rule of law is jeopardized and the public moral culture that makes democracy possible is corrupted when moral wrongs are declared "rights." Because democracy cannot long endure when one class of citizens arrogates to itself the "right" to declare other human beings outside the community of common protection and concern.

In the end, we all must remember what Archbishop John Meyers recently wrote on the Just War debate,

Although Pope John Paul II pleaded for an alternative to the use of military force to meet the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, he did not bind the conscience of Catholics to agree with his judgment on the matter, nor did he say that it would be morally wrong for Catholic soldiers to participate in the war. In line with the teaching of the catechism on "just war," he recognized that a final judgment of prudence as to the necessity of military force rests with statesmen, not with ecclesiastical leaders. Catholics may, in good conscience, support the use of force in Iraq or oppose it.

I look forward to a response.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most proportional of reasons to ban killing embryos EVER!

Don't the Catholic Church teach that shooting spunk anywhere but in your wife's fertile womb is sin? Should we not nip this in the bud and outlaw condoms, birth control pills, and male/female enhancement drugs? Did you know that countless embryos get killed off by these things? Did you know that 50 Million+ get killed every year by birth control devices? Explain that one, or do you not believe in the Catholic Church's teachings? Hmm...kay?

50 Million+ versus 1.4 Million deaths annually. Also, you still haven't come up with a good reason to go against the Pope and go pro-killing-war. As I stated before, you come up with a good honest argument for killing people in Ira, I will vote for Bush. Why did we not spread our liberty in Iran, Syria, or N. Korea? Why?

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One country at a time buddy. Patty

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why save 1.4 million when you could save 100 times that number by pushing for a ban of contraceptives? It's scientific and religious fact that contraceptives kill many more embryos than abortion doctors do, we do not hear from anybody about this- why is that? Hypocrisy and misapplied effort on the part of the religious right.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Tim Huegerich said...

I apologize for the delay, but I no longer have time to write daily wordy posts like the above (and some of my previous blogwork).

Let's first look at the pivotal Ratzinger quote: "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." My point was that Cardinal Ratzinger did not say that such proportionate reasons need to be abortion related, as you repeatedly claim on your site. For an entire week, you repeatedly propagated the notion that a proportional reason such as:
The more anti-abortion opponent has also deceived the country into supporting an unjust war (which he had been planning since the beginning of his presidency, though he apparently waited until after the end of "major combat operations" to devise a plan for the securing anything in the country other than its oilfields), spitting in the face of the very idea of international law and international authority (indeed defining international cooperation as succumbing to coercion by him, without cracking a smile), setting international cooperation years back in the process (cooperation that is the hope of refugees, people dying of hunger and treatable diseases everywhere), and setting the precedent (as well as defining as official US policy) that any nation that feels (no solid evidence necessary) there is even a possibility that an enemy may attack it at any time in the even distant future has a legitimate "right" to attack and invade "pre-emptively" (actually, preventatively, because pre-emptively is defined as a response to an imminent threat, evidenced by troop movements or other manifest evidence), subject to no one; all of which sets a course for frequent, consuming wars throughout the world in the years to come, rather than working (e.g. Using some of the $200 billion for Iraq) to end the wars that are currently raging throughout the world (e.g. Sudan, Liberia, Congo, Cote d'Ivore, Haiti, Columbia... irreparably disrupting the lives of innumerable already impoverished peoples).

Just an example, which I admittedly do not have time to comprehensively document here. Perhaps, just for the sake of argument, grant the truth of the above (which is in some places an understatement)--could that be a proportionate reason?

Regarding peripheral abortion issues, I do not think of them as unimportant, but you continue to distort their significance when you speak as if "4000+ daily abortions" hang in the balance. As you well know, Bush has repeatedly stated that he does not "think the country is ready" for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. He does not support overturning it, and he has given indications of appointing pro-choice justices to the Supreme Court (while appointing pro-lifers to impotent lower courts). So, the peripheral abortion issues are important, but not important enough to outweigh many other issues of life and death. Finally, it is indefensible to speak of Bush supporting a Culture of Life, given his abortion position (life for you, child, unless you were conceived during incest or rape, or before the country is "ready for" the law to change), not to mention his positions and record on war, "usable" nuclear weapons, the death penalty, and a wide range of environmental and economic justice issues that critically affect the life and life-span of many throughout the world. The Culture of Life is not only about the unborn, and I simply would like you to recognize that. Thus this oft-overlooked quote from the Doctrinal Note on...Catholics in Political Life, the context of which you may wish to emphasize at its expense: "The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good."

Since your memory seems a bit hazy on the pre-war weapons inspections, I offer you this pre-war view from the AP:
Note: "ElBaradei, who has been monitoring the situation day to day, confirmed that he and Blix had received an invitation from the Iraqis "to visit Iraq with a view toward accelerating the implementation of our respective mandates." He did not say whether he or Blix had accepted.

"I should note that in recent weeks, possibly as a result of increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been more forthcoming in its cooperation with the IAEA," he said."

At this point, when the threat of force had demonstrably produced very good cooperation, why did Bush not halt the invasion? And your complaint that "It took MONTHS to show that the intelligence was either wrong or that these weapons were moved (to Syria, Iran) or still remain hidden. And we continue to look even now. How one thinks four more weeks would have solved this is a mystery." That actually made me laugh out loud. If you don't think it's time to draw some conclusions after a year and a half of occupying the country, then your judgment is in question, needless to say. Remember, when you are justifying a war, the burden of proof is on you. You don't blow up a place and say, "We didn't know for sure that they didn't have WMDs" (unless you are a comedian). Take a look at this article, too, for help:

Re your dissent with Just War Theory, I was refering to your Sept. 10 comment in which you said, "Remember, there were many reasons given by the president for invading Iraq, not just the belief they had WMD. There was also the repression of the Iraqi people by Saddam, the defiance of UN resolutions, and ties to international terrorists. Again, war is always a defeat for humanity, but sometimes morally obligatory. The loss of life is regreatable, esp. civilians, but we live in a different world today..." Let me remind you that in Catholic thought, war is permissible only to confront "a real and certain danger," neither of which existed in Iraq, as clearheaded people understood at the time and most everyone admits now. Sept. 11 does not change whether a war is just, as you were tempted to imply. Defiance of UN resolutions does not justify war. Interestingly, we defy UN resolutions ( for just one example). Ties to terrorists in themselves do not justify war. Interestingly, we have ties to terrorists (Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, para-militaries in Columbia, etc., and the historical examples are much easier because the files are now open to the public). I felt you were suggesting the opposite, but correct me if I was wrong.

Finally, the business about "binding consciences" is a distraction. In principle, we leave the authority to civil authorities to decide when to go to war. In a concrete situation, we citizens must make a suitably informed judgment about whether a war is just and act accordingly. In this case, Pres. Bush has made it very easy for us because his official doctrine explicitly contradicts just war theory (just as we know Kerry's atrocious explicit position on abortion, apart from his atrocious record). We know Bush rejects just war theory that urges restraint, and we know we will likely start another war unjustly (with all the implications this has for the future of peace throughout the world, which I alluded to above). In this case, we are indeed bound to oppose his war policy. In addition, Bush continues to fully support his race to war, even given what he knows now--that Iraq did not pose a real and certain threat--so we are again bound to acknowledge that he is explicitly defying just war theory. Even if you still want to vote for him, I plead with you to at least acknowledge the ways he defies Catholic teaching.

One final word on the Culture of Life. As Catholics, we are called to view the value of every human life equally, whether American or Iraqi, or Eritrean, or Sudanese, etc. That's why it is morally incongruous to spend $200 billion in Iraq for a questionable war (refering to Iraqi casualties as "collateral" as you know) with no evident immediate threat, while doing so little to change situations of hunger and easily preventable diseases (i.e. TB, cholera) from which something like a hundred thousand die every single day. Bush pledged $15 billion for AIDS in Africa, and then provided only a fraction of that amount in the budget immediately afterwards and every year since. Bush has also proposed the Millenium Challenge Account to aid poor countries, standing idly by as funding for it (still extremely inadequate, given other promises we have made through international agreements) is slashed in half. Frankly, I appreciate your zeal about fighting for the 4,000 unborn that die every day, but it is truly scandalous that you speak so infrequently about "the tragic fact that more than 30,000 children die every day as a result of hunger, international debt, and lack of development around the world" (excerpt from the USCCB's Faithful Citizenship; I could quote just as easily from the Vatican). But I could care less about these accusations--just acknowledge these issues and I will feel like we can work towards a Culture of Life together, despite our presidential differences.

4:15 PM  

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