Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Catholic World News News Feature

Blunt statements for US bishops: Voting for pro-abortion candidates is gravely sinful November 04, 2008

In the final hours before today's American presidential election, several US prelates have strongly suggested-- or even openly stated-- that Catholics who support Senator Barack Obama may be guilty of serious sin.

In a Monday radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, in a clear reference to presidential candidate Obama, said that it is gravely sinful for a Catholic to "support a person who wants to go to complete full-scale war against the unborn."

"I just don’t think there’s any question that in all of Church teaching that the life issues, particularly the protection of unborn children against the crime of abortion, has to be our greatest priority," said Bishop Finn. "This is an ongoing slaughter of 4,000 children every single day for the last 35 years. And if we don’t do anything about it, we bear a lot of responsibility. If we support and promote persons who have pledged to extend it and intensify the slaughter, then we bear a great responsibility with them."

Hewitt then asked, "When you say bear a great responsibility, does that rise to the level, in the eyes of the Church teaching, to grave sin?"

Bishop Finn responded:

I think it is, of course. You know, how important is, you know, someone might say how important is my vote. Well, ask somebody if they think what they think if their vote was taken away from them, or if they felt that they had been defrauded of their vote. And I think all of us as Americans would say my vote’s very, very important. So…and then we’re talking about the willful destruction, direct destruction of a human life. And so when you couple the gravity of the sense of our vote, and the gravity of the action of abortion, and we see candidates pledge that they’re going to, for example, in addition to promoting everything that we have right now, they’re going to enact the Freedom Of Choice Act, removing all reasonable limitations. So many Americans say they want limitations on abortion. The Freedom Of Choice Act would remove every single limitation that’s been put in place by well-meaning folks for the last 35 years-- parental notification, mandatory waiting periods, counseling, the use of ultrasounds, and not to speak of the fact that taxpayers will have to pay for abortions, and also the conscience clauses will be removed from individual healthcare workers, or even institutions. So you can’t support a person who wants to go to complete full-scale war against the unborn.

Later in the interview, Hewitt asked, "When you say they will be held accountable for their votes, do you mean that it could cost someone their eternal soul?" Bishop Finn responded:

Well, of course. I mean, the decisions that we make are important, and they have…you know, these people who get elected, they don’t just arrive all on their own. We elect them. We, you and I, support them, or we don’t. And so we have some participation in that. Now you know, someone wrote to me and said well, you know, ‘I voted for Obama, I’ll repent later.’ And well, you know, I hope that God does change a heart if they feel that they’ve made a terrible mistake and to have to repent. But it’s much more important and vital that we make the right decision when it’s before us.

From Rome, Archbishop Raymond Burke offered similar views in an interview with Inside the Vatican Archbishop Burke, who was Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri, before he arrived in Rome this year to head the Apostolic Signatura, told correspondent Andrew Rabel: "My fellow citizens of the United States of America should be deeply concerned about any candidate for the presidency who supports legislation which permits the destruction of human life at its very beginning, the killing of babies in the womb, or legislation which violates the integrity of marriage and family life." Stating the case positively, the archbishop said: "A good citizen must support and vote for the candidate who most supports the inalienable dignity of innocent and defenseless life, and the integrity of marriage."

A vote in favor of a pro-abortion candidate cannot be justified by the argument that the candidate takes more morally acceptable stands on other issues, such as the war in Iraq, Archbishop Burke said. He explained:

One can legitimately question the wisdom of the decisions taken in the war in Iraq, but war in itself is not always and everywhere evil, as are, for example, procured abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and the so-called "marriage" of persons of the same sex. Engagement of the nation in a war cannot be placed on the same moral level as the nation making laws which permit the wholesale killing of the unborn or the artificial generation of human life or experimentation on embryonic human life or "marriage" between persons of the same sex.

In North Dakota, where he delivered a homily at a November 2 Mass concluding the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign, Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo agreed that no Catholic can ever vote for someone who supports intrinsic evil.

"An intrinsic evil is anything that is always and at every time wrong-- that can never be seen as a good,’’ said Bishop Aquila. "No society, and no person if he is Catholic, can ever support an intrinsic evil nor can he or she ever vote for someone who supports intrinsic evil. It is important to understand that, and to understand that truth especially in the upcoming election. Because, yes, all of us will be judged by how we vote. And, yes, there are many Catholics with erroneous consciences who have made prudential judgments that are wrong and have consistently made prudential judgments that are wrong. Either they do not fully understand the teaching of the Church or they choose to ignore that teaching and they choose an evil, and an intrinsic evil."

Taken at face value, the bishop’s words would not permit a Catholic to vote for candidates who support legalized abortion (such as Obama) or embryonic stem-cell research (such as either Obama or Senator. John McCain). The bishop’s words also appear to contradict the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2007 document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, #36, which states, "When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods."

Bishop Aquila added, "We must recognize that first must come the fundamental right to life…the respect for human life from the moment of conception to natural death … It is important for us to never give up the battle that is taking place within our country.” He continued, "I encourage each of you to continue to stand for the gift of life. I encourage you to continue to pray and fast in your own homes. I encourage you to pray in front of the abortion clinic, to pray for the conversion of all those who support a so-called right to abortion, because, by doing that, they are risking hell. When one looks at the Gospel, and looks at the teaching of Jesus, that is what they are risking."

In another interview broadcast by the American Papist blog, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said that he had made a deliberate decision to speak out often during this election year for several reasons. "One reason is that Senator Obama is the most active pro-abortion politician to run for the Presidency since Roe v. Wade," he said. "He has committed himself to do things the Church would resist."

Archbishop Chaput went on to acknowledge that for years the American hierarchy has generally avoided public confrontations on the abortion issue. He concluded, he said, that this "quieter approach to these things has not been effective." The archbishop even conceded that the US bishops' collective statement, Faithful Citizenship, is "not very clear" and has allowed for manipulation by partisans seeking to justify votes for candidates who are directly at odds with fundamental Catholic teachings.

Counteracting those partisan efforts, Archbishop Chaput made another statement that seemed clearly directed at Senator Obama:

It would be foolish to say that someone who endorses abortion as an option and runs on a party platform that has no regret at all about abortion ... to call that position pro-life is really strange.