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A Voter's Guide: Pro-Choice Candidates and Church Teaching

by Archbishop John J. Meyers of Newark
9/17/2004


Amid today's political jostling, Catholic citizens are wondering whether they can, in conscience, vote for candidates who support the legalized killing of human beings in the embryonic and fetal stages of development by abortion or in biomedical research.

Responding to requests to clarify the obligations of Catholics on this matter, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, under its prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, released a statement called "On Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion." Although it dealt primarily with the obligations of bishops to deny communion to Catholic politicians in certain circumstances, it included a short note at the end addressing whether Catholics could, in good conscience, vote for candidates who supported the taking of nascent human life in the womb or lab.

Cardinal Ratzinger stated that 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 a candidate's permissive stand on abortion." But the question of the moment is whether a Catholic may vote for a pro-abortion candidate for other reasons. The cardinal's next sentence answered that question: A Catholic may vote for a pro-abortion Catholic politician only "in the presence of proportionate reasons."

What are "proportionate reasons"? To consider that question, we must first repeat the teaching of the church: The direct killing of innocent human beings at any stage of development, including the embryonic and fetal, is homicidal, gravely sinful and always profoundly wrong. Then we must consider the scope of the evil of abortion today in our country. America suffers 1.3 million abortions each year--a tragedy of epic proportions. Moreover, many supporters of abortion propose making the situation even worse by creating a publicly funded industry in which tens of thousands of human lives are produced each year for the purpose of being "sacrificed" in biomedical research.

Thus for a Catholic citizen to vote for a candidate who supports abortion and embryo-destructive research, one of the following circumstances would have to obtain: either (a) both candidates would have to be in favor of embryo killing on roughly an equal scale or (b) the candidate with the superior position on abortion and embryo-destructive research would have to be a supporter of objective evils of a gravity and magnitude beyond that of 1.3 million yearly abortions plus the killing that would take place if public funds were made available for embryo-destructive research.

Frankly, it is hard to imagine circumstance (b) in a society such as ours. No candidate advocating the removal of legal protection against killing for any vulnerable group of innocent people other than unborn children would have a chance of winning a major office in our country. Even those who support the death penalty for first-degree murderers are not advocating policies that result in more than a million killings annually.

As Mother Teresa reminded us on all of her visits to the U.S., abortion tears at our national soul. It is a betrayal of our nation's founding principle that recognizes all human beings as "created equal" and "endowed with unalienable rights." What evil could be so grave and widespread as to constitute a "proportionate reason" to support candidates who would preserve and protect the abortion license and even extend it to publicly funded embryo-killing in our nation's labs?

Certainly policies on welfare, national security, the war in Iraq, Social Security or taxes, taken singly or in any combination, do not provide a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate.

Consider, for example, the war in Iraq. 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.

Abortion and embryo-destructive research are different. They are intrinsic and grave evils; no Catholic may legitimately support them. In the context of contemporary American social life, abortion and embryo-destructive research are disproportionate evils. They are the gravest human rights abuses of our domestic politics and what slavery was to the time of Lincoln. Catholics are called by the Gospel of Life to protect the victims of these human rights abuses. They may not legitimately abandon the victims by supporting those who would further their victimization.

Archbishop Myers heads the Archdiocese of Newark.

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So, we are supposed to quanitfy infanticide between two candidates who both support it? Proportionality becomes nothing more than relativism, which it never was more than in the first place.

http://www.peroutka2004.com/schedule/index.php?action=eventview&event_id=322

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Diak,

Does that mean that you aren't voting?

Dan L

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Dan, I'm still trying to figure out why you ask such nonsensical questions. Nothing wrong with an informed conscience, unless of course you don't want to be informed.

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I check out the link and it's soliciting your vote for the Constitutional Party candidate. Every Constitutional Party candidate in Pennsylvania has been very pro-life but I have to add another comment.
If this was an election like the 1976 Carter vs Ford election, where you have two candidates who can not (or will not) limit abortion.
This election is different. The incumbent President will(and has) taken step to limit abortion and abortion funding. It's not 100% prolife, but is a better record than Reagan's. The other candiate claims to be personally against abortion but takes a hypocritical political position declaring that he will increase taxpayer funding for all programs which promote abortion.
Enough said on politics. We need to pray well.

Deacon Paul

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Let�s be accurate.

President Bush supports a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution to outlaw all abortions. The only exception he ahs stated is in which the mother will die.

The President has stated that he believes that when Roe is overturned there will not be enough votes to immediately outlaw all abortions. He stated that we must start with all but the hard cases.

Diak is wrong in his attempt to compare this to the real infanticide that Kerry wants for America. Kerry�s voting record is so anti-catholic values that Planned Parrenthood has actually endorsed him.

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Gary, let's be honest indeed. Bush campaigned for Arlen Spector against a pro-life candidate in Pennsylvania.

He has said that America is not yet ready for the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and is on record saying as such. As a Catholic, I believe it is well past due.

Tom Daschle supported the "partial birth abortion ban". That would make him pro-life by your reasoning. Bush admitted to being the only president who authorized the destruction of life i.e. embryos in the debates. He offered no apology to the American people for his heinous act which he took responsibility for.

President Bush has yet to prove that under his administration fewer abortions would actually take place. He has had four years to prove himself in this regard with your Human Life Amendment, with a Republican congress. It is all talk. The "partial birth abortion ban" did not stop one Federally-funded abortion.

Under Bush-signed appropriation bills, Planned Parenthood now receives more Federal funding than at any other time in history. Is that the record of someone who is really pro-life? Let's be completely honest.

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I'll say it again. Peroutka is the best choice for president by a very wide margin.

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Diak, at least try to be honest.

Bush did not support Spector because Bush is pro-abortion. He supported Spector because he wants Spector to help him get pro-life judges confirmed to the Supreme Court. I think this was a bonehead move by the President but for you to turn this into a pro-abortion stance is just ridiculous.

President Bush did not authorize the destruction of embryos. This practice has never been illegal. Bush authorized funding for research of dead human embryos. That is a huge difference from Kerry who supports human cloning in order to kill the embryos.

A Republican Congress? No, there is not a real Republican Congress. The Democrats have enough votes to stall any legislation and to keep pro-lifers off the courts.

What have you done to make change your beloved Democrats to a pro-life party?

How can you vote for someone who states that you and all your fellow Catholics are not qualified to serve on federal courts? On the Supreme Court?

How can you vote for someone who voted to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions or risk losing federal payments for treating medicare patients?

How can you vote for someone who voted against the partial-birth abortion ban and against notification of parents when children have abortions and to fund abortions worldwide?

How can you vote for someone who states that Catholic theology on embryonic stem cell research is unacceptable to American morality?

You should be embarrassed for supporting abortion with your vote. What you are doing is sinful.

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Gary, let's return to honesty and perhaps also some objectivity ?

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I think this was a bonehead move by the President but for you to turn this into a pro-abortion stance is just ridiculous.
Supporting a pro-choice candidate over a pro-life candidate is hardly a vote for life, and your response indicates who is embarassed. You said it, not me.

Any attempt at justification dissolves into some kind of Macchevelian or relativistic argument. If something is a greater good, why is it not objectively supported and triumphed?

Objectively, when one supports a pro-choice candidate over a clearly pro-life candidate, the commitment to life is obvious. I am only pointing out what is the objective reality, and not "turning" anything. Read for yourself at http://www.pattoomey.org/Comp_Social.pdf and remember Bush did not support Toomey. I also submit this article from National Review Online for your perusal: http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/smith200404261204.asp

I posit rather that you are turning the completely hypothetical issue of judicial nominations away from the hard reality of where the two stood on life, and who Bush backed in the end. That case is closed.

You apparently didn't hear the President in the debate when he clearly said he authorized "the destruction of life" (his words, not mine) and further clarified he was the first president to do so. And last time I checked there was still a Republican majority in Congress with a Republican president.

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What have you done to make change your beloved Democrats to a pro-life party?
Although I don't have to respond to your pointed personal questions, I am not now nor have never been a member of the Democratic party. I was a member of the Republican party for all of my voting life until this administration, and am now a happily registered independent.

Your presumption about my political affiliation and your add-on personal comments are quite telling and predictable, and detract from the focus on the issues.

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You should be embarrassed for supporting abortion with your vote. What you are doing is sinful.
On the contrary, I support the only 100% pro-life candidate. Neither of the major party candidates can boast anything of the sort. I will vote my conscience as should all Americans and have consulted with my spiritual father regarding my choice.

The facts of this presidency stand, i.e. he is on record as saying America is not ready for overturning Roe v. Wade; he has signed appropriation bills providing more federal funding for Planned Parenthood (a notorious abortion provider) and international "family planning" than any other President, including Clinton, and he has supported pro-choice candidates over pro-life candidates.

The "partial birth abortion ban" has not prevented one Federally-funded abortion from being performed and was a useless piece of legislation. And please spare me with the philosophically bankrupt idea of "proportionality" which did not exist before the Enlightenment.


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