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healthy & wealthy & dead

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 19, 2006

Well, U.S. elections are coming up next month, and that means another crop of Voter's Guides designed to give Catholics permission to yank the lever for pro-abortion candidates.

The latest to hit the market is called Voting the Common Good: a Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics. It attempts to disarm conservative criticism by grabbing its own skirts at the outset and dropping a curtsey to "key themes" that include "Life" and "Family" -- then goes on to explain why they can be safely ignored in the polling booth.

Voting the Common Good differs from its predecessors in aiming less to provide rationalizations for Dems to vote the party line, and more at supplying sound-bites for confounding pro-life and pro-family activists. So, whereas earlier voter's guides cited masters of Catholic social thought such as Joseph Califano and Saul Alinsky, the new model quotes Pope John Paul II three times and even Cardinal Ratzinger once. Clearly the heavy names are intended not to instruct the voter but to silence objections from believing Christians (renamed, in election years, "the Christian Right"). I got a kick out of VCG's Ratzinger-for-Rahm ploy:

Is it okay to vote for a "pro-choice" candidate? When confronted with this question in 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) responded that it could be acceptable for a Catholic to vote for a "pro-choice" candidate if "proportionate reasons" exist, and if the voter is voting based on those reasons and not the candidate's "pro-choice" beliefs. It is never acceptable to vote for a "pro-choice" candidate merely because of that candidate's position in favor of legal abortion.

The case Ratzinger was addressing in 2004 is that in which ALL the candidates are pro-abortion (such as obtains in most of Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois), and in which the Catholic is faced with the choice of voting for a pro-abort or not voting at all. In such a predicament the cardinal said it's licit to cast one's vote for the least pestilential candidate (e.g., the one who's willing to draw the line at partial birth abortion, if he exists). Voting the Common Good turns this permission on its head and does a classic Bernardin:

Many "prolife" candidates talk a good talk on ending abortion but don't produce results. On the other hand, there are candidates who don't believe in making abortion illegal, but who support effective measures to promote healthy families and reduce abortions by providing help to pregnant women and young children.

Sure, sure. And in 1943 there were good Nazis who, while they didn't believe in outlawing the gassing and cremation of non-Aryans, supported Reich-funded family clinics for hair-bleaching and rhinoplasty so as to reduce the need for race-based Sonderbehandlung. Back to the text:

Catholics must look at a candidate's position on other life issues. Can one really claim to be "pro-life" and yet support the death penalty, turn a blind eye to poverty, and not take steps to avoid war? Our Church teaches that the answer to this question is "no."

Seamless garbage.

The point is that homicide is not commensurable with temporal benefits the state may provide for or withhold from its citizens, and it is mischievous to claim the contrary. There are electoral races in which the rival candidates propose radically different and mutually exclusionary public policies on abortion: one policy exposes a disfavored class of human beings to unjust killing, the rival policy would protect the same class from that fate. In such races, you can use your vote to make a concrete endorsement or rejection of a fundamental human good. You can contribute to a beneficent outcome or contribute to a maleficent one.

But the situation does not obtain in the case of, say, welfare relief. The difference between Republicans and Democrats on ADC, school lunches, health care, social security, etc., is one of degree, not of kind. Perhaps the Dems want to devote 26% of GDP to social relief programs and the Republicans 19% of GDP. If their respective place on the spectrum makes the Democratic position the moral choice and the Republican position the immoral one, would a Green Party or Socialist candidate who proposed spending 33% of GDP on relief thereby make himself the only licit Catholic option, such that both the Republican and the Dem were immoral? Of course not. Unlike abortion, this kind of spending is a context-conditioned choice, and spending levels for which liberals now condemn Republicans were themselves proposed by the Democrats in the 1950s, for which they received the endorsement of bishops and moral theologians.

The choice before voters may determine whether a single mother gets only $320 per month in relief, as opposed to $400 per month. But abortion doesn't admit of this kind of sliding-scale alternative. It's not as if Nancy Pelosi wants to excise 80% of the fetus and Henry Hyde only 64%. It's a thumbs-up/thumbs-down acey-deucey decision. Moreover, the baby that doesn't make it out of womb in the first place -- thanks to the options the law lets her mother exercise -- is in no condition to receive any of wonderful "pro-family" benefits provided by voting for Barney Frank the common good. Again, think of the happy Jews who were able to take their family picnics in the Black Forest in 1946 thanks to Hitler's marvelous autobahns; if you can swallow that, you can swallow VCG's moral equivalency line. Not otherwise.

In case the readers of VCG didn't pick up the hint before, the veil drops in the discussion of true Catholicism.

In recent years we have witnessed an unfortunate trend of religious leaders abusing their positions by using politics to impose their faith on others. True Catholicism, however, calls us to propose policies that work to better the common good of all humanity.

Think they're referring to Mario Cuomo's veto (on religious grounds) of New York's legislation reinstating capital punishment? Neither do I.

Let me sum up Voting the Common Good for the use of Sunday homilists: "Sam Brownback may hold the Catholic position on abortion, but Hillary Clinton embraces the US bishops' policy on wetlands reclamation. So go with your heart." You have to wonder why they even bother to fake it at this stage. You'll be edified to learn that the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities has distributed VCG to its 28 American campuses, but in the long run it would be simpler to pass around a bag of Valium-flavored Tootsie-Pops on election morning. The purpose, after all, is to numb the conscience, not to quicken it.

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Show 22 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Oct. 27, 2006 12:43 PM ET USA

    This Jesuit(?) approach is interesting in that it most likely presents the "apparent" common good as the "real" good. By being deceived by the distortion of the facts, what appears to be a good is by various attractions blown out of proportion to the "real" good in order to make make it apparently the greater good choice. That is how sin gets chosen over good. There are many sophist ways to try to justify evil.

  • Posted by: Convert1994 - Oct. 26, 2006 12:11 PM ET USA

    On Sunday our priest gave an eloquent homily about this "common good" issue, explaining that innocent unborn life is the weakest among us and must be defended with great zeal. He then went off on the left in general and the ACLU in particular, telling us that while the left disguises their real positions with slogans which sound good to the uninformed masses, the left's true intent is anti-clerical, anti-church, and ultimately anti-God.

  • Posted by: unum - Oct. 24, 2006 10:00 AM ET USA

    From VCG, "In recent years we have witnessed an unfortunate trend of religious leaders abusing their positions by using politics to impose their faith on others. " Obviously the VCG has a problem with the Church's mission to teach, since such teaching is merely "imposing their faith on others". It would be helpful to know VCG's funding sources and just how much was received from sources like the Democratic National Committee, Soros, People for the American Way, Ford Foundation, etc.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 23, 2006 2:28 PM ET USA

    It has always been an interesting thought to dwell on Christ's method of sacrificing himself for mankind's sins. He used the "Death Penalty."

  • Posted by: Gino - Oct. 21, 2006 7:35 AM ET USA

    Naturally there is all sorts of confusion on this matter; our "fearless" bishops foster it. Maybe a spinal tap installing some nerve into their respective bacbones would be a help. As far as they are concerned; there is no Church Militant just a Church confused and escapist!

  • Posted by: Publicus - Oct. 20, 2006 7:59 PM ET USA

    It is remarkable that we live in an age where we cannot get clear teaching on this from our shepherds, the bishops. Truly amazing.

  • Posted by: Ross Dee - Oct. 20, 2006 3:26 PM ET USA

    First of all, in-order to vote for the common-good, you have to have common-sense. Any voter that puts Abortion on the same plane, as any of the other reasons, to vote for a candidate,has no common-sense. Abortion is not just getting rid of a tissue so it is not just an issue. Common-sense tells one that the Culture of Life is for the Common-Good, Not the Culture of Death. The Democrat Party Platform and most all of their candidates vote for keeping the Culture of Death alive. No Common-Sense.

  • Posted by: Convert1994 - Oct. 20, 2006 9:07 AM ET USA

    Please do not assume from my first post on this threat that I agree with what the Jesuits are trying to do! They badly take Cardinal Ratzinger and JP2 out of context. No way will I vote for a pro-abortion candidate of ANY party! Here in Ohio we have some great pro-lifers on the ballot next month: We need to re-elect Sen. Mike DeWine and elect Ken Blackwell as governor.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 20, 2006 8:32 AM ET USA

    Mattiacum & Hammer: Go to the head of the class :-) Had Hitler died prior to the invasion of Poland he would have been regarded as a hero. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you sacrifice millions. Just ask Bill Clinton.

  • Posted by: limbo - Oct. 20, 2006 12:52 AM ET USA

    Does voting for the 'common good' include # 7-skylark

  • Posted by: Gino - Oct. 19, 2006 7:42 PM ET USA

    The Jesuits have become a tragic group. Today is the Feast of the North American Martyrs; they would not recognize the crazies who are now the Order.

  • Posted by: benedictusoblatus - Oct. 19, 2006 7:17 PM ET USA

    "True Catholicism, however, calls us to propose policies that work to better the common good of all humanity." Well ... actually no. True Catholicism calls us to work for the conversion of souls. The Kingdom of God is not of this world. Because the clergy spend so much of their time worrying about social issues they don't succeed in the only thing that matters in the end - getting people to heaven. Spread the faith and encourage holiness and people will gladly help their neighbors!

  • Posted by: opraem - Oct. 19, 2006 6:28 PM ET USA

    wanna bet roger mahony hands these out at all his weekend masses in LA?

  • Posted by: - Oct. 19, 2006 3:54 PM ET USA

    More good news. The printed brochure is earth-friendly. They were "printed using 100 percent wind power in a carbon-neutral process," sojonet reports. And here I was worried about the brochures being irresponsible...

  • Posted by: - Oct. 19, 2006 3:40 PM ET USA

    Re: In case you cannot guess . . . Adolf Hitler.

  • Posted by: Hammer of Heretics - Oct. 19, 2006 3:19 PM ET USA

    Esalkin-- Was it...Hitler? If not, it is uncanny how much the current collective mindset in this country resembles the collective mindset of pre-Hitler Germany. The only real difference is that we've created more sophisticated tools for doing evil (like embryonic stem-cell research).

  • Posted by: Laity1 - Oct. 19, 2006 3:19 PM ET USA

    Voting the Common Good: a Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics would more aptly be named: Voting the Village Good: a Workaround Guide for Cafeteria Catholics #1-Inform you conscience - check. #2-Apply Prudence - check. #3-Vote the Common Good - B.S!! I know there are diverse issues important to Catholics. Who doesn't? But inclusion of issues such as "jobs" and "minimum wage" on the same list as ABORTION and GENOCIDE is insane and irresponsible, pastorally and socially.

  • Posted by: Convert1994 - Oct. 19, 2006 2:54 PM ET USA

    I just finished reading "Voting the Common Good: a Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics." It is VERY convincing and gives a green light for Catholics to vote Democrat with no adverse effect on the conscience. In fact, the Democrat candidates are using the term "common good" in many of their speeches this fall; I saw President Clinton use the phrase many times during a campaign speech for a Democrat US Senate candidate just yesterday.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Oct. 19, 2006 2:05 PM ET USA

    Ignatius, Xavier and the first jesuits offered 1000 Masses for the intention of the papal approval for the foundation of the Society of Jesus. Could we start a campaign to offer 10,000 Masses for the intention that Benedict XVI uses the occasion of the the Jesuit's 35th General Congregation to reform that same Society? Today the feast of the North American Martyrs could be the starting date.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 19, 2006 1:24 PM ET USA

    Long ago in a Diocese far, far away... A party arose and appointed a candidate who enriched the standard of living by making owning a home and an automobile affordable, building superhighways and environmentally friendly hydro-electric plants, and vastly improving the "homeland security." His only problem was a nagging pro-life issue. Using these voters guides it is acceptable to vote for this party's candidate. In case you cannot guess, I will post his name here tomorrow.

  • Posted by: Linus682 - Oct. 19, 2006 12:30 PM ET USA

    Fortunately, most thinking people pay little attention to what the modern Jesuits say or do. It is really is time for a lawsuit against anyone of their schools to deny them permission to identify themselves as Catholic.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Oct. 19, 2006 12:00 PM ET USA

    Pass the Tums.

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