Month: November 2012
British researchers have used newest technology with prenatal imaging to show that the unborn yawn. Watch this video and tell me this is only “potential” life. Anyone who applies reason could not honestly say this is only “potential” life.
It is shopping season again, Black Friday looms in the near future. With the return of cheesy Christmas music played on saxaphones in mall lobbies also brings the return of the Salvation Army “Red Kettle Campaign.”
Make no mistake, The Salvation Army does do a lot of charitable work. They run soup kitchens, assist with homelessness, operate thrift stores, work with addiction treatment and a number of good things for society. With so many good activities by the Salvation Army why shouldn’t we donate to them? Aren’t they a charitable organization the deserves support? Don’t the good things outweigh the bad? These are legitimate questions and should not be dismissed.
In order to more effectively answer these questions, and others, it is important to set a foundation on Catholic teaching regarding our cooperation with “evil.” This is not simply a way to distract from the original questions but rather to show how such decisions are rarely arrived at by a simple application of Church teaching and the light of reason.
First, the definition of evil is easiest to grasp regarding human activity as any act contrary to God’s will. (It is important to be sure to recognize we are talking about evil acts and not evil people. All persons are created in the likeness and image of God and are intrinsically good. Regardless of act, they retain their intrinsic goodness.)
As Catholics we believe that we can, in fact, know God’s will, at least partially, through the revelation of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. These two fonts of our faith help us to evaluate everyday activities as moral or immoral, good or evil. Some teachings are clearly stated in Sacred Scripture. For example “You shall not murder” comes from the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, in Deuteronomy and Exodus. Other teachings are less obvious if we only use Sacred Scripture, particularly with modern science and technology that was not present in ancient times. A good example of this would be embryonic stem cell research. Though there are Sacred Scriptures that can help us evaluate the morality of embryonic stem cell research there is not a single quote that can be culled from the Bible that speaks directly about “embryonic stem cell research.” As Catholics we are then left with the application and integration of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition is not just “what we have always done.” Rather, it is the collection of teachings lived and passed down from the very beginning of the Church through Apostolic succession, guided by the Holy Spirit and the life of the Faithful.
It is the authority of the Church that we most often rely upon to help us know the morality of a particular act, however we must also rely on the light of reason, the presence of the natural law inscribed on the hearts of each person by the Creator to know the morality, the good or evil of a particular act. This is clearly seen through the almost universal belief that murder is evil regardless of religion, culture, socio-economic status, etc.
When it comes to the dignity of the human person, the respect for human life, the Church is very clear and has been established from both fonts, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. This teaching is succinctly summarized in the document Gaudium Et Spes from the Second Vatican Council which states:
“Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator.”
Simply put, the Catholic Church respects the dignity of all life from “womb to tomb.” These teachings are non-negotiable for Catholics. These teachings are not solely to product of divine revelation but it is easy to see how anyone of any faith, or no faith, could come to a rational conclusion that these standards for morality regarding life could be universally accepted, even though they are not in reality accepted by all in society.
This brings us to the topic of the “red kettles” and The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is not an organization that combats poverty, it is a religious community. This point must be recognized first and foremost. This “church” refuses to oppose abortion. It says that abortion is a private personal decision. This is contrary to the Catholic Teaching on life. The Salvation Army supports artificial contraceptive programs and supports population control programs. These programs are in direct conflict with Catholic teaching; they not only promote and provide contraception to persons in developing nations but have actually participated in FORCED sterilization.
After considering the Church’s teachings on life, which includes artificial contraception because of the assault on the dignity of the person that such activities include, and the specific instances in which the Salvation Army contradicts Catholic teaching, it is important to understand how to evaluate the morality of human acts.
This is found in the Catholic Catechism in Part Three, Section 1, Chapter 1, Article 4, 1749-1761. The morality of an act must rely on the object chosen, the end intended, and the consequences that follow, all three must be good. The intent is not the only aspect of a human act. With regard to donating to organizations the intent is usually always good. This is the case with the Salvation Army. The final qualification of a morally good act, the consequences that follow the act, is the point of the act that we must evaluate with regards to donating to the Salvation Army. When one donates to organizations like the Salvation Army the intent is good, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, etc. But the consequences of the donation go far beyond these noble and morally sound activities. The consequences of giving money to the Salvation Army allow that organization the ability to support other activities that are objectionable due to their intrinsically disordered nature and direct attacks on the dignity of the human person.
The question one might ask, and is in fact a responsible question to ask, “so what? Don’t the good things they do outweigh the wrong?” The answer is simply “NO.”
But it would be unfair to leave it at that, it would also be lazy on my part to do so. I would like to answer that first question with this one to start. “If you have a choice between donating to an organization that feeds the hungry worldwide, assists the homeless, helps with human trafficking programs, helps with developing nations’ disease prevention, supports mental health programming, works with drug and alcohol addiction programs, assists with access to healthcare, assists refugees in relocation programs, helps provide potable water to those without, micro-financing, disaster relief, and literacy programs with one that does all of these things but also supports artificial contraception and population control programs and refuses to oppose abortion which should a Catholic choose?” The truth is that the Catholic Church and Her various agencies, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, to name a just few, do all of the things that the Salvation Army does but are in complete communion with Holy Mother Church and do not condone or participate in direct attacks on human dignity. Furthermore. roughly 95% (give or take the year) of all donations that go to Catholic organizations go to direct services and not overhead.
As said before, good intentions are not enough to make an act moral and good. One cannot do evil in order to do good. The Salvation Army, for all of the good it does, also promotes, condones, and participates in acts of evil with the donations they receive. This is not to say that the people who are a part of the Salvation Army are evil, by no means is this what I am concluding. But it would be a lie to claim that all of their activities are morally acceptable for Catholics to support with their funds. Think of it this way. For every dollar given a particular percentage of that dollar goes to support activities that contradict Church teaching. It is easy for someone to say “I give a dollar and I don’t want it to go to those programs so I make sure that it goes directly to the programs I want.” This is not exactly easy to do since all funds eventually end up in one large pot (or red kettle, if you will). If the budget of their food programs is completely met by specified donations like the one just mentioned that leaves other funds to support activities contrary to our beliefs. This is why some bishops have directed their flocks to discontinue support of Susan G. Komen because of that foundation’s support of embryonic stem cell research and its support to Planned Parenthood. The list of non-profits that intend good but do evil is shockingly long. Michael J. Fox foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and many more support varying activities that contradict Church Teaching.
Good intentions are not good enough for an act to be morally acceptable according to Catholic teaching. If one wishes to be in communion with the poor by donating their time or money it would seem to be morally illicit (prohibited or unacceptable) to donate to the Red Kettle Campaign of the Salvation Army. Fear not! One can still support the poor and vulnerable through other organizations that UNIVERSALLY respect human dignity.
For alternatives to donating consider: International Poverty relief donate to Catholic Relief Services ; Local Poverty relief and social services donate to Catholic Charities ; Working for Institutional Change to aid the poor donate to Catholic Campaign for Human Development ; Cancer research, orphan disease research, heart disease research, etc. John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute (uses adult stem cells only)
Resources that provide evidence to show that The Salvation Army and its Divergence from the Catholic Faith
The War Against Population: The economics and ideology of world population. Written by Jaqueline Kasun, published by Ignatius Press. Page 234.
Americans United for Life. Dishonorable mention list of non-profits.
Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion and the Federal Government by Donald T. Critchlow, page 46.
Population Research Institute: War on Population in Kenya
Life Decisions International (see page 8)
Salvation Army policies on abortion, contraception, sterilization, artificial conception methods
According to one Salvation Army group the average percentage that actually goes to services from the red kettle campaign is 82-83% this leaves approx.. $.17 to $.18 of every dollar to go elsewhere.
Relevant Radio Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N26x3bbp_ZI&feature=player_embedded
This entry was posted in Current Events and tagged black friday, catholic charities, catholic relief services, catholic social teaching, donating, human dignity, poverty, pro life, red kettle, salvation army, shopping, thanksgiving.
The tactics of many who engage in the anti-abortion efforts themselves can create assaults on the dignity of the human person. The most egregious are those who attack abortion doctors. However, something that is often ignored is the use of photos or videos of aborted children as a means to grab people’s attention or to “educate” them about the reality of abortion. I am forever abhorred by the “pro-lifers” who use pictures of dead children as shock value but propose it as “education.” I would argue that it is taking advantage of a person and is not only unethical but immoral.
Abortion is evil. It is the unjust killing of an innocent child. We know this to be true. Anyone who engages in the practice of abortion is committing evil (though they are not themselves “evil” because we are each created in God’s image and retain our intrinsic dignity, more on this later). Real images, pictures, videos of an abortion or the aftermath of an abortion are images of evil. We must realize that evil exists in this world, that there is such thing as evil. When a person witnesses an abortion or the images of an abortion, ie an aborted child, they are in the presence of evil, they are engaging in the battle between good and evil. It is wrong to force another person involuntarily into this battle beyond what they are already engaged in their everyday life (i.e. from temptation to sin, etc.). Anyone who is going to directly engage in battle must prepare themselves for such an endeavor. We don’t send soldiers into war without guns, ammo, armor, etc. so we should not force others into the battle against evil without proper preparation. Those who use images and videos of aborted children either for its shock value or for “education” are ignoring the fact that they have now taken that child and are no longer regarding that child as an end in themselves, but now they are using that child as a means to an end. Although the end is good, ending abortion, the means is not. We cannot denigrate the dignity of a dead child for the sake of ending abortion. Just like we can’t steal in order to donate to a charitable organization. We cannot do evil in order to do good.
That being said, there is a place for the proper use of imagery that is actual footage of an abortion or photo of an aborted child. How is this possible? Well, the closest analogy to the use of pictures of aborted children would be the use of human bodies in medical research or in educational hospitals to teach future doctors about internal medicine. The dead are not used solely as a means to an end if they are properly respected, such is the way with the aborted child.
1st, we must remember that viewing such images is a direct engagement in evil and therefore, using our analogy of battle, we must prepare ourselves and others for such a battle. A person needs to be told what they will see in advance. Prayer is also necessary in preparation, bringing God’s presence into that battle is a solid foundation from which to gain the strength to engage in the battle against the evil of abortion. There must also be a means to debrief or process what those gathered have just witnessed. To share their emotional reaction, to know that they are safe and have a support system to rely on. And, once again, prayer to bring God’s presence to the forefront.
2nd. Like any war in the United States, we have a volunteer army. A person should rightfully have the choice to view those images or not and should be given the opportunity to give consent. I have had people tell me that they have the choice to look or not, this is not what I mean. A person must be given fair notice of what is to be seen and then be allowed to continue or not. They should not be drafted or conscripted into this battle with evil.
Some would ask “why not? Evil exists; it is wrong to ignore it or try to make it ‘nice’ for people.” Again, we do not put people who have stage 4 cancer on the front lines of a war, why would we force people who are spiritually weak, whether from sin, or, in the case of someone suffering from tragedy, to see and in doing so engage in the battle that is not safe for them to participate in?
Ultimately, it is an abuse of the child that has been aborted to use them as a means and not see them as an end in themselves. Their life was sacred, and as Catholics, our souls are embodied. We are not just ghosts in a machine, but rather, our body and soul are uniquely connected to one another. This is why we have funeral services and prohibit cremated remains to be “spread to the wind” or “released into a river”. Our body has dignity specifically because it is joined to our soul and therefore deserves dignified respect even after the soul has gone from it. It is not a “pro-life” action to use pictures of aborted children as propaganda, it demeans the sanctity of life, it denies the intrinsic dignity of the child that was murdered and it is morally unjustifiable.
It may be asked, “how is the picture equivalent to the child itself? Isn’t it only inappropriate to use the actual aborted child instead of the pictures?” The aborted child is not the exact same as a picture of the aborted child. I would draw your attention to Bl. John Paul II’s theology of the body, and although it is not considered to be the same level of magisterial authority as a conciliar document or encyclical, I think the application of JPII’s discussion of sex and art is readily applicable to the use of imagery of a human person who has been aborted.
“Value of body in interpersonal communion
3. In this case, it is evident that the deep governing rule related to the communion of persons is in profound agreement with the vast and differentiated area of communication. The human body in its nakedness—as we stated in the preceding analyses (in which we referred to Genesis 2:25)—understood as a manifestation of the person and as his gift, that is, a sign of trust and donation to the other person, who is conscious of the gift, and who is chosen and resolved to respond to it in an equally personal way, becomes the source of a particular interpersonal communication.
As has already been said, this is a particular communication in humanity itself. That interpersonal communication penetrates deeply into the system of communion (communio personarum), and at the same time it grows from it and develops correctly within it. Precisely because of the great value of the body in this system of interpersonal communion, to make the body in its nakedness—which expresses precisely “the element” of the gift—the object-subject of the work of art or of the audiovisual reproduction, is a problem which is not only aesthetic, but also ethical. That “element of the gift” is, so to speak, suspended in the dimension of an unknown reception and an unforeseen response. Thereby it is in a way threatened in the order of intention, in the sense that it may become an anonymous object of appropriation, an object of abuse. Precisely for this reason the integral truth about man constitutes in this case the foundation of the norm according to which the good or evil of determined actions, of behavior, of morals and situations, is modeled. The truth about man, about what is particularly personal and interior in him—precisely because of his body and his sex (femininity-masculinity)—creates here precise limits which it is unlawful to exceed.”
4. These limits must be recognized and observed by the artist who makes the human body the object, model or subject of the work of art or of the audiovisual reproduction. Neither he nor others who are responsible in this field have the right to demand, propose or bring it about that other people, invited, exhorted or admitted to see, to contemplate the image, should violate those limits together with them, or because of them. It is a question of the image, in which that which in itself constitutes the content and the deeply personal value, that which belongs to the order of the gift and of the mutual donation of person to person, is, as a subject, uprooted from its own authentic substratum. It becomes, through social communication, an object and what is more, in a way, an anonymous object.
As can be seen from what is said above, the whole problem of pornovision and pornography is not the effect of a puritanical mentality or of a narrow moralism, just as it is not the product of a thought imbued with Manichaeism. It is a question of an extremely important, fundamental sphere of values. Before it, man cannot remain indifferent because of the dignity of humanity, the personal character and the eloquence of the human body. By means of works of art and the activity of the audiovisual media, all those contents and values can be modeled and studied. But they can also be distorted and destroyed in the heart of man. As can be seen, we find ourselves continually within the orbit of the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. Also the problems which we are dealing with here must be examined in the light of those words, which consider a look that springs from lust as “adultery committed in the heart.”
It is clear that JPII is addressing the communal nature of the conjugal act. Where the connection can be made between pornography and a picture or video of an aborted fetus is here:
“Neither he nor others who are responsible in this field have the right to demand, propose or bring it about that other people, invited, exhorted or admitted to see, to contemplate the image, should violate those limits together with them, or because of them. It is a question of the image, in which that which in itself constitutes the content and the deeply personal value, that which belongs to the order of the gift and of the mutual donation of person to person, is, as a subject, uprooted from its own authentic substratum. It becomes, through social communication, an object and what is more, in a way, an anonymous object.”
The abuse of an image of a person lends itself to treating the subject (the aborted child) as an “anonymous object” in a similar way as the abuse of the image of a nude person does.
However, John Paul II does not outright prohibit the nude body in art, and, as we can see in artwork in the Vatican museum, such art is prominently displayed. If this is the case with the nude form then there are instances in which the representation of an aborted child can be legitimately used as long as it is not treated as an object, desensitizing us to the reality that is being depicted. Considering the example of modern journalism, particularly cable news, is an effective analogy and connection to what I am speaking. We can easily recognize this when the depiction of war, famine, etc. is being consumed for profit, for pleasure, rather than for education and understanding. Take your pick of any cable news channel, MSNBC, CNN, Foxnews, each one of these stations constantly crosses the line with regard to their use of video footage of atrocities and packages them to be no different than the latest episode of the Jersey Shore. Whereas, the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, or the Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, use footage to help people understand the atrocities that have occurred in our history in order to prevent them from occurring in the future.
It is possible to depict an evil act in a morally justifiable way, your example of the crucifix is one clear example of this. But we must be careful how we approach such depictions, particularly when they are not religious sacramentals or devotions but rather temporal realities that we seek to display for other’s consumption. Dramatic representation of the stations of the cross is different than gathering around together to watch an execution, particularly for entertainment purposes.
Perhaps it would be possible to make a model of a hypothetical aborted child? The model of an aborted child being made, and then a picture being taken of it, and then being displayed is different from an actual photograph of an aborted child but again, we must be careful with how we display it, the intent for displaying it, because it still risks objectifying the subject from which it was based upon.
I ask those who wish to end abortion consider their tactics so as not to objectify the murdered unborn child or to risk opening others up to attacks from the Evil one by foisting those images upon persons unprepared to receive them. There are better ways to convince people that abortion is wrong. Emotional disgust that these images bring about will only move a person so far to act to end abortion. We must rely on scientific and rational arguments and not sensationalism and emotionalism.
Every election we seem to be given far too simplistic “rules” by others on how to decide our vote. Bumper stickers tell us “you can’t be Catholic and vote for (insert candidate’s name here).” Rarely, if ever, is this true. Something else that needs to be said is that, contrary to the political ads, polls, pundits, and your next door neighbor, jobs and the economy is not, and cannot be, the most important issue in an election when we face the options that we have been presented in the candidates this time around. This is going to be a long post, so bear with me. If you do, I hope that it will help you make your decision this election and future elections; just as important, I hope it helps to prevent us from automatically demonizing others for their vote or claim that to vote for this or that person is necessarily a “mortal sin.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has provided us a document that is meant to assist in determining how to vote without telling the Catholic voter for whom to vote. There are those who will point out that this document does not carry with it official Magisterial authority because it was not unanimously approved as per JPII’s Motu Proprio, Apostolos Suos. This is true and therefore, assent of intellect and will is not obliged upon the Catholic voter to accept everything within the document (except those parts that are direct references of Magisterial documents). However, a Catholic voter who does choose to follow such a document in charity and reverence for the grace that comes with the office of the Bishop, is well within Church teaching. That document is: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” Each Catholic would do well to at least consider reading this document in preparation for voting.
In general, with each new election cycle, there is the potential to have three options provided us from the candidates we are offered.
Option #1 – Both candidates universally support human dignity
Option #2 – One candidate universally respects human dignity, the other candidate does not.
Option #3 – Neither candidate universally respects human dignity (double effect; cooperation with evil)
With Option #1 there would appear to be no “grave” conflict that exists and so the faithful Catholic can safely vote for either person based on applying prudential judgment in discerning which candidates’ policies will be most effective. Morally, this may be the only situation in which one could argue that “jobs” is the most important issue in an election.
Option #2 provides a pretty clear-cut choice for the Catholic voter since one candidate universally supports the dignity of the human person. Since the other candidate does not, and we have a universally pro-life alternative, it would seem that nothing would be grave enough to allow us to vote for the candidate that is not universally pro-life.
Unfortunately, in most elections, including our current presidential election, we are being presented with Option #3. Neither President Obama, nor Governor Romney, universally respects the intrinsic dignity of the human person. Both candidates propose policies that are direct attacks on human dignity. The faithful Catholic is faced with a challenge. Does the faithful Catholic vote for the candidate that supports intrinsic evil or vote for the candidate that supports intrinsic evil? Does the faithful Catholic choose not to vote at all? What is a faithful Catholic to do? The following will be an attempt to help provide Catholic principles and teachings to apply in making a decision.
Many Catholics have asked me, “If both candidates support an intrinsic evil won’t I be guilty of “mortal sin” if I vote for either one?” Not necessarily and here is a little foundation to help you decide how to vote.
- The intrinsic dignity of the human person
- Principle of Double Effect
- Cooperation with Evil
Intrinsic Dignity of the Human Person
A succinct expression of issues we face in elections that are non-negotiable since they are intrinsically evil and are direct attacks on human dignity can be found in a document from the Second Vatican Council. This excerpt from Gaudium Et Spes was oft repeated in documents by Blessed John Paul II:
“27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity,(8) so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.(9)
In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, “As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.”
Opposed to life itself
Murder (unjust use of death penalty, unjust war would fall into this category); Genocide
Abortion (includes embryonic stem cell research and IVF); Euthanasia ; Willful self-destruction
Violates the integrity of the human person
Mutilation; Torments inflicted on body or mind (torture, “enhanced interrogation techniques); Attempts to coerce the will itself
Insults to human dignity
Subhuman living conditions; Arbitrary imprisonment (ex. Guantanimo); Deportation (immigration policy); Slavery; Prostitution; Selling of women and children; Disgraceful working conditions; people treated as mere tools for profit (sweat shop labor)
The Council Fathers also include the example of the rich man and Lazarus, introducing care for the poor and vulnerable, the poor as a necessary obligation for society. Blessed John Paul II also includes the poor in the opening of his Encyclical “Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)” and, we find a very direct admonition from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the document “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation” which states: “Injustice to the little ones and the poor is a grave sin and one which destroys communion with God.” CDF Instruction on Xn Freedom and Liberation, p.46
It is no coincidence that “The Gospel of Life” by JPII spoke about poverty prior to speaking about abortion, IVF, euthanasia, eugenics, and embryonic stem cell research. It is not to say that caring for the poor is more important or a greater obligation, but rather to stress the importance of fulfilling positive commands of the Gospel and not allowing us to think that negative commands (thou shall not) take precedence over positive commands (thou shall) as we find in Bl. JPII’s encyclical letter “Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth)”: “The fact that only the negative commandments oblige always and under all circumstances does not mean that in the moral life prohibitions are more important than the obligation to do good indicated by the positive commandment” (Veritatis Splendor, no. 52). We find no clearer example of this obligation in Scripture than Christ’s speech in Matthew 25, “whatever you do to the least of these…whatever you fail to do to the least of these…”
We have been reminded of this obligation to not only oppose evil but the obligation to do good by the Magisterium, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but also by persons like Sister Simone Campbell. Unfortunately, Sister Campbell, at the Democratic National Convention gave a narrow and impoverished definition and explanation of this principle.
What Sister Campbell left out is that persons can legitimately disagree on the means to help the poor as long as they have, as their goal, aiding the poor. Hatred or apathy toward the poor by a candidate is not acceptable, but disagreeing on whether or not Federal resources should be used to aid the poor may be a morally acceptable policy disagreement. It is also problematic for one to approach the issue of poverty by appearing to demonize those who have an abundance, or even a superabundance, of wealth. We find in scripture, as Bl. John Paul II is clear to point out in Veritatis Splendor that the Rich Young Man is not evil because he is rich, however, he risks his own salvation because he puts his wealth, the material world, above love of God and the poor. He goes away “sad” for he had much wealth. Simply because a person has abundance or superabundance of wealth does not mean they are necessarily committing injustice against the poor. But, if their motives and policies are guided by greed, apathy or even denigration of the poor, then they are guilty of grave offense (potentially mortal sin) against their neighbor and against God. These distinctions are important and should not be oversimplified as I fear that Sister Campbell did in her address to the Democratic National Convention.
More on this as we approach the specific policies and positions of the candidates. If the phrase “arguable” is placed in connection with the particular issues that follow, that means that there seems to be evidence in which one could make the claim that the person fails to uphold that particular tenet of human dignity. However, since such arguments cannot be held with 100% certainty, the onus of proof is on the voter who would choose to use fallible assertions in their decision. One must be wary of claiming certitude on whether or not a particular candidate is guilty of formal cooperation with evil if the evidence is not objective or clear. The following is not an exhaustive list of issues regarding human dignity, nor are they exhaustive assessments of each candidate but they do provide evidence that we are facing a choice between two candidates who are both culpable in formal cooperation with intrinsic evils that attack human dignity. (most policy positions can be found at http://www.ontheissues.org/.
President Obama on the issues:
Supports abortion (almost universally)
Supports embryonic stem cell research
Unjust war (arguable with regards to the means he has continued the war in Afghanistan and Iraq)
Rejects torture – (Army field manual prohibits torture and all government agencies are to apply the Army Field Manual)
Supports unjust use of death penalty
Deportation of Immigrants highest ever
Religious freedom – HHS Mandate
Arguable – Arbitrary imprisonment (Guantanimo)
Governor Romney on the issues:
Supports limited exceptions for abortion (rape, health of mother)
Supports torture (maybe not “legal” torture but definitely supports means by which a Catholic would morally find to be torture)- “We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,” he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December
Supports Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Supports unjust war (continues to say that going into Iraq was a good idea although the Church has said that Just War was not fulfilled). Although there can be disagreements on how to move forward, the war itself has been determined to be unjust by JPII and Benedict XVI.
Arguable –Injustice to the poor (47% comment, “I’m not concerned about the poor.”) One does have some evidence to be skeptical that Romney is at the very least apathetic about the poor, if not some disdain. However, as Romney claims, his policies are not because of apathy or hatred for the poor but he believes his policies will be more effective at helping the poor. As has been stated earlier, one can disagree on the means as long as their goal is to help the poor.
2005 testified Supporting Unjust Use of the Death Penalty
Arguable – Persons as tools of profit– could be argued with deregulation and attack on unions
Arguable – Arbitrary Imprisonment – mandatory minimums for crimes, Gauntanimo
Religious Freedom – “wire tap” Mosques
Now that we have discussed many of the “non-negotiables” and where the two candidates stand on these issues let us consider the means by which we can vote for either person. If one would argue that to support, for example, a pro-abortion candidate is never under any circumstance permissible because that person supports an intrinsic evil that directly attacks life they would also be prohibited from voting for a candidate that supports torture, the unjust use of the death penalty, limited abortion and the likes. This simply is not the case. So how can one decide if both candidates support direct attacks on life and human dignity? The Church has long taught the Principle of Double Effect and Cooperation with evil for just such a situation.
If you would like a little background on some Magisterial sources that discuss The Principle of Double Effect consider reviewing some of the following documents:
“Attempt on Innocent Human Life” (Nov. 26, 1951) Pope Pius XII; “The Prolongation of Life” (Nov. 24, 1957), Pope Pius XII; Pope Pius XII’s speech to The Seventh International Congress on Hematology (September 12, 1958); The encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968) issued by Paul VI (implied, not directly stated); Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faithful “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation” (February 22, 1987) approved by Pope John Paul II (implied); CC Paragraph 2263 justifying self-defense; CC Paragraph 2309 just war.
The following four principles must be met for one to claim their decision is in line with the Principle of Double Effect:
“1. The action to be performed must be morally good in itself or at least morally indifferent or neutral.
2. The good effect must not come about as a result of the evil effect, but must come directly from the action itself.
3. The good must be willed, and the evil merely allowed or tolerated.
4. The good effect must be at least equivalent in importance to the evil effect. In other words, there must be a sufficient reason for permitting the evil effect to occur.” (Hayes, Rev. Edward J., Rev. Msgr. Paul J. Hayes, Dorothy Ellen Kelly, James J. Drummey. Catholicism and Ethics. C.R. Publications Inc: Norwood, MA, 1997. Pg. 54-55.)”
What do we do with this principle and how do we apply it? First, it must be said that in deciding between the candidates we have available to us we are not voting for the lesser of two evils (as the USCCB points out in their document on Faithful Citizenship); doing so would mean we are voting for evil, which is never permissible. Instead, we are voting in spite of evil.
Let’s look at some examples of what I mean. A person is morally prohibited from voting for a candidate who supports a direct attack on human dignity BECAUSE of that candidate’s position. A person cannot morally vote for President Obama because they agree with him on abortion. Doing so would make them participating in formal cooperation with evil. The third point of the Principle of Double Effect tells us that the evil must be tolerated, not willed. Voting for President Obama because the voter supports legalized abortion does not fulfill the principle of double effect because the evil (abortion) is directly willed by the voter. Regardless of why a person supports that evil position or whatever justification they give, their act is morally unacceptable. The same goes for someone who believes that some torture is permissible and agrees with Governor Romney on going beyond the Army Field Manual in interrogation techniques; such an act would be morally impermissible because such policy is a direct violation on the dignity of the person being tortured. Again, one cannot will the evil (attempt to coerce the will, torments inflicted on the mind or body) but simply tolerate it.
So, in order to vote for either candidate, the voter must be voting in spite of the intrinsically evil policies/attacks on human dignity that the candidate supports. We do have another option, we can refuse to vote for either candidate and either vote third party or write in a candidate.
Something needs to be said about “single issue” voting. As the bishops remind us, we are not single issue voters (Faithful Citizenship, 42). However, this has been taken out of context far too many times. To review, let’s look quickly at the topic in bullet point.
Catholics cannot be single issue voters
A single issue, if grave, may disqualify a candidate from our vote. If a candidate supports an intrinsic evil we can automatically withhold our vote from that candidate. For example, a candidate who supports abortion, unjust war, euthanasia can disqualify them from getting our vote on that single issue.
However it does not mean we automatically vote for the other candidate, especially if the other candidate supports an intrinsic evil.
All issues are not equal
Ex. Gun rights do not trump human dignity
The next question someone might ask is, “If I don’t support those policies that attack human dignity, but just tolerate them, am I then permitted to vote for the candidate?”
The answer is “Maybe.” Let’s go through the 4 steps of the principle of Double Effect.
- Participating in the political sphere of society is our moral obligation according to Magisterial teaching. (CC 1913-1915). Voting, being a part of that practice, is morally acceptable. Step one is met.
- Electing a President who supports many goods but also supports evils is done through a process that is itself good, peaceful voting. The person who is elected is not done so by way of their support for evils. The person elected to the Office of the Presidency does not torture their way in, abort their way in, murder their way in, etc. The good effect, a president that opposes abortion, does not come about by way of an evil effect, their support for embryonic stem cell research. Step two is met.
- The evil must only be tolerated. The Catholic voter cannot support the evil positions held by the candidate, but must oppose them and vote in spite of the evil positions. If this is the case, the step three is met.
- The good effect must be equivalent to the evil effect. Here is the trickiest step for others to assert with certitude on whether or not it is being met. Since both candidates support direct attacks on innocent life, both support embryonic stem cell research, both support permitting at least some abortions, both promote attacks on religious freedom. President Obama supports greater expansion of abortion while Governor Romney would like to limit it to rape and health of mother. President Obama banned torture, Governor Romney would permit torture. There are other issues that could be argued that each candidate supports further attacks on human life. So, should we use a numbers approach? This is certainly one way to help determine one’s vote but, if the sole means, it risks leading people into a utilitarian approach to moral equivalence. The greatest good for the greatest amount. One could consider that more abortions occur than acts of torture? What if someone is concerned that a President Romney would engage in an unjust war (equivalent of murder) that would cost hundreds of thousands of lives? Would that make it equivalent to abortion? What about the tens of millions of people living in poverty in our nation and the hundreds of millions that suffer poverty throughout the world? Does Governor Romney really not care about the poor? Is he apathetic to the poor? Or, does he truly care about the poor, here and abroad and honestly believes his policies will help the poor more than President Obama’s policies? Don’t some of President Obama’s policies with regards to the poor also have the risk of denigrating human dignity? This is a legitimate criticism for both men. Do the billions of people who could be affected by one candidate’s policies outweigh the hundreds of thousands of unborn who lose their life? This is why the “numbers game” should only be one factor.
Another factor to figure in is how successful will that candidate be in promoting and enacting the intrinsically evil policies (Faithful Citizenship, 36, 37) President Obama has already shown that he has had success in directly attacking human dignity and religious freedom with his HHS Mandate. However, what if a person considers the reality that President Obama’s track record in the courts has not been in great favor of this mandate holding up (though it could still hold up in future court decisions). President Obama has also assassinated an American citizen without due process of law using a predator drone.
On abortion, “pro-life” Republicans held both houses of congress and the White House for 4.5 years and did not end abortion; though they did end partial birth abortion. President Obama has not given any evidence that he would seek to overturn this ban; nor could he without holding both houses of Congress. Since it is expected that the Republicans will hold on to at least on house and perhaps gain the Senate, the possibility of partial birth abortion ban from being overturned by President Obama is nearly impossible.
Governor Romney, if elected President could easily enact policies of torture without many obstacles. As Commander in Chief, he could also engage in unjust war/use of military without congressional approval or formal declaration of war(within the parameters of the War Powers Act. One could also consider that President Obama himself does not perform the abortions (though his cooperation with the evil act is still formal) while some of the issues that Governor Romney supports that are direct attacks on human dignity are direct orders to engage in the evil act. I believe that it is possible that one could come to the conclusion that, if the person is voting for the correct reasons, and has the evidence to back up their position regarding “equivalent” effects they could be permitted to vote for either candidate. However, once again, we must assert that you will be morally responsible for whichever vote you cast. Making a decision based on too much speculation, hearsay, rumors, lack of concerted study of the issues, solely on political ads, or any other subjective criteria, is flawed and risks making an immoral choice.
If all four criteria are met a person commits material, mediate cooperation with evil, and not formal cooperation.
The following diagram comes from the USCCB ethical and religious directives for Catholic healthcare of 1994 that helps explain licit and illicit cooperation with evil.
Clear as mud, right?