Can a Catholic Feel the Bern?

“Bernie Sanders” CC Wikimedia

The question I’ve been asking myself, watching the 2-year, extra-masturbatory edition of American Idol known as the Presidential Campaign, is, quite simply — am I feeling the Bern? And in truth, my bitter, cynical, and frozen political fingers are at least luke-warmed by the guy, if only because he seems so bad at being confident, hip, and attractive. And because (and this is an aesthetic judgment) he seems honest. Comically wrong about a few life-or-death issues, but honestly wrong.

Now the inevitable response to even feeling the Tepid, much less the Bern, is that a Catholic can’t vote for Bernie Sanders, and for two main reasons — he is a (1) Socialist and he is (2) pro-abortion. Now it may be Very Stupid to vote for Bernie Sanders. It might even be Very Wrong for you or I vote for him. But it is decidedly not outside of the realms of possibility that a Catholic may, in good conscience, vote for Bernie Sanders.

The socialist thing is almost a non-issue, involving a death-spiral of whatever the hell you think you mean when you say “socialism,” so let’s recommend Mr. Antoniello’s analysis of the issue (which includes the tantalizing quote from Joseph Ratzinger, that “democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine”) and skip merrily to the big abortion question.

What follows is not a clever argument. I’m sure it has already been done. It took, I dunno, 20 minutes to cook. It is a series of pedantic quotes from boring bishops who represent our basic source of authority on the issue. (If you’re one of those folks who hear these kinds of arguments and get all “well screw the American Bishops, Pope [Insert Favorite Pope Here] said [insert out-of-context remark here]” then you can just…I dunno….just skip to the combox and do your thing. (If you’re not a Catholic (I understand this is still considered a viable life-possibility) and you feel the need to say things like, “wow, what sheeple slaves 2 the ecclesiastical hiearchy, amiright,” well, you can just comment with an “X” and we’ll fill it out with dexterous and imaginative Catholics-don’t-think-for-themselves lines, because we’ve heard them, found them silly, and want to save you the time. (And because you know what? We’re frickin’ charitable. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.)))

So anyways.

To start off with (and because we’re getting a little vague on the fact) killing people is a horrible thing to do. Sayeth the Bishops in their document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:

There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.

Bernie, insofar as he’s down with a legal system that’s down with killing people, is the just the worst. Well, not quite the worst, given that he’s pretty much a Catholic on the death penalty issue, but close to the worst. But as it turns out, being close to the worst doesn’t necessarily exclude you from being a viable “Catholic Vote.”

 A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

So, while a Catholic could never say, “you know what sounds great? Baby-death! Sanders 2016!” could that selfsame Catholic nevertheless vote for Colonel Sanders without doing it for the reason of continued child-killing in our nation? Yes:

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

So could one work up a “truly grave moral reason” for voting for Sanders? Again, the question is not whether there is some fireproof syllogism that makes Bernie the Catholic Vote, but whether, contrary to the absolutism of many good, faithful, and holy Catholics, it is possible that a Catholic could have a truly grave moral reason. It seems rather obvious that, yes, a Catholic could.

For instance, if Sanders and Trump preen-off for the Final Countdown, a Catholic could reasonably vote for Sanders for the morally grave reason that he did not want a blasphemous, anti-papal, fake-pro-life, racist to lead his country deeper into the very conditions that make abortion appear as a necessity. Or a Catholic could be convinced that the actual act of aborting a child is not limited in its quantity purely on the basis of the position of our elected officials, but on numerous other factors — the welfare a state gives to its poor, the benefits a state gives to its new mothers, the total culture of life it promotes, and so forth. In this case, such a Catholic, who is first and foremost offended by the actual fact of particular people being killed over the “positions” of various humanoids that support or tacitly accept the fact, could consider it morally irresponsible to vote for any candidate who, while calling abortion evil with the tongue, builds the world in which actual abortions increase. Again, these arguments may or may not convince, but the point is not to convince, only to show that such an argument could constitute a morally grave reason for voting for Bernie Sanders in spite of his stupid, inconsistent support of abortion.

The Bishops go on:

When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma.

Thanks, Bishops.

Now, despite the confidence of various handy-dandy Catholic voter-guides, the Bishops hold quite a few more activities as “intrinsically evil” than abortion, euthanasia, and the rest.

Similarly, human cloning, destructive research on human embryos, and other acts that directly violate the sanctity and dignity of human life are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life, such as genocide, torture, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified. Nor can violations of human dignity, such as acts of racism, treating workers as mere means to an end, deliberately subjecting workers to subhuman living conditions, treating the poor as disposable, or redefining marriage to deny its essential meaning, ever be justified.

Now, were Trump and Sanders to face off for the presidency, we would see, according to the bishops’ own words, two candidate’s supporting intrinsically evil acts. Again, “if a candidate’s position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legal abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, or racist behavior, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.” So, if Bernie’s abortion policy supports the intrinsically evil act of abortion, and Trump’s immigration policy and general waltz through life supports the intrinsically evil act of racism, Catholic voters are in that proverbial pickle of intrinsic evil. Or if Bernie faced off with basically anyone except Ted Cruz, he’d be an intrinsic-evil-supporter facing another intrinsic-evil-supporter on the issue of torture. The Bishops recommend the following to the voter surrounded by support for intrinsically evil activities:

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.

In conclusion, while Bernie is far from brilliant, he lines up with Catholic teaching in quite a few ways. He may not be the right vote for a particular Catholic, but, at least according to the Bishops, he is not excluded a priori as a viable candidate on the basis of his support for abortion. As politicians on either side of the party divide get more and more comfortable with their support for intrinsic evils, we should probably get used to the idea that no Catholic is going to be able to vote comfortably, easily, or happily for a long, long time.

oridunno could be aggood time for a third party just for fun i dunno 

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