Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

'Non-negotiable' issues and liberal Catholic hypocrisy

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 02, 2012

An editorial in the National Catholic Reporter argues that “Catholics who bring with them a conservative political agenda” are doing a disservice to the Church by suggesting that some political issues are non-negotiable. The Reporter cites the words of Blessed John Paul II, who said that intrinsic evils include not only abortion and euthanasia but also “whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons…”

Wait; haven’t we heard this argument before? As I said at the time:

If you find a politician who openly advocates subhuman living conditions, who calls for arbitrary imprisonments, who attends fundraisers for the human-trafficking industry, who endorses government subsidies for prostitution, who demands legal protection for slavery, you cannot in good conscience vote for him.

The point—which liberal Catholics seem incapable of grasping—is that no viable candidate on the American political scene advocates prostitution, slavery, and subhuman living conditions. Every responsible politician condemns these intrinsic evils. The candidates differ only insofar as they disagree on prudential judgments about how to counteract those problems.

Ah, but the editors of the Reporter are one step ahead of us. They aren’t accepting that old “prudential judgment” dodge, they explain, “because dealing with any evil--and especially determining the best solutions in a plural democracy--will always require prudential judgment.”

True. So if candidates make different prudential judgments as to how we should go about discouraging abortions and homosexual acts, we should judge the practicality of their plans without claiming that one approach is necessarily right and the other approach wrong. Fair enough. But liberal candidates, as exemplified by the Obama-Biden ticket, aren’t even pretending that they want to discourage abortions and homosexual acts. They are proposing to increase government subsidies for abortions and raise homosexual alliances to the same dignity as marriage. Can anyone seriously think that this is an argument over “prudential judgments” on how to stop these intrinsic evils?

The Reporter editorial finds it offensive that some Catholics won’t cut some slack for politicians who take different “prudential” approaches to the abortion issue. But what about their own approach to politicians who take different approaches to the questions of poverty and unemployment? The Reporter editors aren’t really arguing that it is immoral to promote poverty, since no one does. They’re doing exactly what they accuse us nasty conservatives of doing: arguing that it is immoral to oppose their favored approach to a policy problem.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: koinonia - Nov. 07, 2012 6:18 AM ET USA

    Obama received more Catholic votes than did Romney. A recent poll indicated that slightly more than 20% of church-going Catholic women agree with the Church's teachings about artificial birth control. There are other problem areas with docility to Church teaching. Why is this so? The gravity of the problem is difficult to overstate as the sobering Catholic voting results indicate. The Church in America has had a rough go of it. As Bishop Jenky recently warned: "God is not mocked."

  • Posted by: koinonia - Nov. 04, 2012 7:31 PM ET USA

    It is the same fundamental problem; in the year 2012 there is a great deal of disorientation among Catholics. Considering the revolutionary and almost-fantastic technological advances and the growing secularism among recent generations this is no surprise. Nonetheless, virtuous living can certainly be effected by a right-ordered, informed intellect and a disciplined will animated with divine grace. We must first believe this to live it, and docility in the service of Truth doesn't hurt either.