The Bishops give good advice on voting

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Written for NCR but not accepted This version October 2008

   The Bishops of the United States issued a significant document for Catholics to read and ponder while we prepare to vote in the fall elections: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility.

  The Bishops  very clearly state that they are not telling voters for whom to vote or not vote (7) and “As Catholics we are not single issue voters” (42).”

 They tell us that  We can choose different ways to achieve social justice and the common good (11) but they warn us that we must not support policies or laws that are “intrinsically evil” (22). One of these intrinsic evils they write is abortion.  For a voter to vote for a candidate who favors abortion is participating in evil (31) and cannot vote for that candidate if the “voter’s intent” is to support that position(34).. I get the point. Abortion is a very serious issue and problem in this country and Catholics need to have their consciences finer tuned to this moral issue.

   The document tells us to form our consciences based on reason and church teaching (17). It says that we must use the virtue of prudence (17) in determining for whom to vote and that we must base that vote on the social principles of Church teaching: human dignity, family life, preferential option for the poor, principle of subsidiarity, rights and responsibilities, dignity of work, solidarity with all human beings, and taking care of our planet (44-55).

   The right to life is linked to other basic life needs (25) and a candidate must profess a consistent ethic of life to warrant a Catholic’s vote (39). This  means protecting innocent life whenever threatened or diminished such as racism and discrimination, lack of adequate health care, poor educational opportunities, torture, hunger, mistreatment of immigrants, war, and social services. They also admonish us not to use abortion as an excuse to ignore the above mentioned life issues (29).

  The Bishops vigorously called for a renewed kind of politics “Focused more on moral principles than on the latest polls, focused more on the needs of the weak than on benefits for the strong, and focused more on the pursuit of the common good than on the demands of narrow interests”(61).

   The bishops tell us that abortion should not be considered one of many issues. Let’s look at the moral aspects of a decision to have an abortion. A woman decides she wants an abortion so goes to the clinic and has the procedure done.  The only persons involved in that decision are the woman, her doctor, and perhaps her male partner and of course her unborn child. Even though millions of women are making this decision it is truly a personal decision in each case. There is no government policy or directive that requires a woman to have an abortion. In fact, the opposite is true: health care providers take extraordinary measures to preserve the life of the unborn.

  On another moral issue, President George W. Bush made a decision to wage an aggressive preemptive war in Iraq for which he advocated strongly in the United States, the United Nations and around the world. His argument was based on lies sor at best faulty intelligence. Pope John Paul II and Bishops warned Bush not to go to war.

  Bush’s decision has resulted in over 4,000 American deaths and over thirty thousand Americans wounded and maimed for life, not to mention the disruption in family life that these deaths and wounds have caused. His decision has also resulted in the destruction of Iraq as a country and place to live. It has spawned the growth of insurgent and terrorists. Tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed. Millions more have been displaced.

   This documents has led me through this process of discernment and it is very clear that Senator Barak Obama will advance the social justice agenda outlined in this document far more than Sen. John McCain. While Obama supports choice regarding abortion, he has never supported the war. He supports increasing taxes on the wealthy, supports humane policies for immigrants, health care for all, and vigorously opposes discrimination of all kinds. McCain on the other hand supports even more tax breaks for the wealthy. He supports the Iraq war even if it takes one hundred years. He flip-flopped on the immigration issue from a humane treatment to a punitive treatment. I am going to use my conscience and prudence to vote for Sen. Barak Obama when I get the chance.

            I am joined in this thinking by three prominent Catholics. Douglas W. Kmiec [i] and Nicholas P. Cafardi [ii] are two Catholic professors who are staunchly opposed to abortion. They have concluded that Obama and Biden represent the Catholic social justice goals more than McCain and Palin. Fr. Richard McBrien [iii] says that these single issue bishops violate their own teaching.

            Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, was a former constitutional lawyer for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. [1] Cafardi is a law professor and former law school dean at Duquesne University, a Catholic school in Pittsburgh.[2] Fr. Richard McBrien  is professor at Notre Dame University. [3]

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[1] Mary Barron, “Obama values draw one time Reaganite to Democratic ranks”, National Catholic Reporter, August 27, 2008.   http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=print/1677

[2] Bruce Tomaso, “An anti-abortion Catholic supports Obama -- here's why”, The Dallas Evening News, October 3, 2008.   http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/10/an-antiabortion-catholic-suppr.html

[3] Thomas C. Fox, “Theologian says one issue bishops violate their own teaching”, National Catholic Reporter, October 7, 2008.  http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=node/2089



[i] Mary Barron, “Obama values draw one time Reaganite to Democratic ranks”, National Catholic Reporter, August 27, 2008.   http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=print/1677

[ii] Bruce Tomaso, “An anti-abortion Catholic supports Obama -- here's why”, The Dallas Evening News, October 3, 2008.   http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/10/an-antiabortion-catholic-suppr.html

[iii] Thomas C. Fox, “Theologian says one issue bishops violate their own teaching”, National Catholic Reporter, October 7, 2008.  http://ncronline3.org/drupal/?q=node/2089