The Demise Of Moral Clarity

July 22, 2008 09:00 AM

A recent article in Our Sunday Visitor entitled "Can a Catholic support a pro-choice candidate?" reminded me of the sorrowful state of the Church in America today. It would seem that anything short of precise language is the order of the day for far too many in our midst.

Let me give you an example. According to OSV, the web site of the insidious organization Roman Catholics for Obama posted a quote from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver stating that "Catholics can support 'pro-choice' candidates if they support them despite -- not because of -- their 'pro-choice' views." The quote was taken from the archbishop's Jan. 16 column in the Denver Catholic Register archdiocesan newspaper. In a May 19 column, Archbishop Chaput objected to the Obama supporters' use of the quote because they failed to include the column's next few lines, which stipulate that one must also have "a compelling proportionate reason" to justify voting for a pro-choice candidate -- "the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them in the next life."

What Archbishop Chaput had actually written, as we have quoted in an earlier blog, is the following:

So can a Catholic in good conscience support a "pro-choice" candidate? The answer is: I can't and I won't. But I do know some serious Catholics—people whom I admire—who will. I think their reasoning is mistaken. But at the very least they do sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And even more importantly: They don't keep quiet about it; they don't give up their efforts to end permissive abortion; they keep lobbying their party and their elected representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can support "pro-choice" candidates if they support them despite—not because of—their "pro-choice" views. But they also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. [All italics are in original.]

Upon our checking, we discovered that perhaps recently the organization had corrected itself and is now quoting the archbishop in full. While we are grateful that they made this correction, we do understand that the entire thought process of those involved in advancing the culture of death is based on deception, commencing with their approval of contraception, abortion and euthanasia. The denial of God does, after all, provide pretty much a free ride for anyone interested in creating amoral views as they go along in life.

But what really shocked me about this article is not who is for or against any of the politicians this election year, but rather what other bishops and prominent Catholics have to say on the subject.

Douglas Kmiec, a Catholic professor of law, wrote

Since neither candidate presents a position fully compatible with Catholic teaching recognizing abortion for the intrinsic evil that it is, Catholic teaching asks us to work for the reduction of the incidence of abortion through the most prudent way possible.

Now, my friends, all I can say is hold on there, Doug. You have missed the entire point of being Catholic!

None of us should profess our Catholicism in a way that permits us to water down Church teaching. In fact, if it is true that there are no candidates who are completely in line with Catholic teaching on the fundamental fact that the act of abortion is always and in every case intrinsically evil, don't we have a moral obligation to teach, preach and extend the truth in every way possible, or to put it another way – evangelize those we know are in error? Isn't it hypocritical to somehow place absolute truth in the closet when it comes to politics and support a little evil here and there? Where is that going to get you?

Kmiec suggests we can work to reduce murder! How about outlawing it? After all, Kmiec is a professor of LAW! Odd, is it not?

But Kmiec is not alone. Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, in a speech delivered to the Toledo Club, told his audience

I would envision very serious moral soul-searching on the part of a Catholic who is inclined to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil like abortion.

On the other hand the bishops also state that a voter should not use a candidate's opposition to an intrinsic evil like abortion to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity, as reflected in the themes of Catholic social teaching…

In other words, the intrinsic evils defined by the magisterium of the Catholic Church are debatable when it comes to politics and voting! Where is that written in the Bible? Or for that matter, in the writings of the Church fathers or the popes?

Refresher course:

Intrinsic, as defined by Webster, means "belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing."

As a follow-up to this basic definition, I quote from the profound writing of Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor

"'Intrinsic evil': it is not licit to do evil that good may come of it" (cf. Rom 3:8). He elaborates as follows:

If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain "irremediably" evil acts; "per se" and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person. "As for acts which are themselves sins ('cum iam opera ipsa peccata sunt'), Saint Augustine writes, like theft, fornication, blasphemy, who would dare affirm that, by doing them for good motives ('causis bonis'), they would no longer be sins, or, what is even more absurd, that they would be sins that are justified?" (Section 81)

And further,

As is evident, in the question of the morality of human acts, and in particular the question of whether there exist intrinsically evil acts, we find ourselves faced with "the question of man himself," of his "truth" and of the moral consequences flowing from that truth. By acknowledging and teaching the existence of intrinsic evil in given human acts, the Church remains faithful to the integral truth about man; she thus respects and promotes man in his dignity and vocation. Consequently, she must reject the theories set forth above, which contradict this truth. (Section 83)

I need not expound any further other than to say that it appears to me once again, as it has in past election years, that when the subject is politics, the rule is to ignore fundamental truth and settle for a little bit of evil.

What we need in America today is courage, not cowardice, particularly among Catholics, including those who speak for the flocks they represent. Perhaps it is no accident that years ago Church Fathers were repeating what, in our age, has become footnotes to the past among so many, though not in the writings contained within the pages of In Conversation with God, Volume II, page 176 :

Thanks to our steady and unwavering attitude, many people will feel encouraged to tackle this avalanche of false doctrine that pours down around us, and they in turn will become an inspiration for others who are still in darkness. And we will experience the truth of that phrase of Tertullian's in which he describes the pagan world which rejected Christ: they cease to hate who cease to be ignorant.

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