A number of readers want to know why I won’t vote for Cain

First, because he will not be the nominee of the GOP. The Rich Android will. It’s a curious thing really: the GOP (I can’t speak for Dems) keeps winding up with candidates that, oddly, nobody but the fabulously wealthy seem to want or like, yet somehow we all have the illusion that this is the end result of a democratic process. I have no explanation for that. I merely note that the phenomenon of “I’ll hold my nose and vote for this guy” is an odd thing to encounter in the overwhelming majority of voters for a party that is (supposedly) nominating candidates on the basis of majority preference. I reckon there’s some statistical explanation for how a majority of people can keep choosing candidates that a majority of people can’t stand, but I majored in English, not statistics.

Second, I will not vote for Cain because he is part of the now standard horde of “conservative” enthusiasts for torture, which the Church says is gravely and intrinsically immoral. (Note to newbies: “enhanced interrogation is GOP euphemism for “torture”. “Waterboarding” (which is a euphemism for “drowning”) is torture, and if you are inclined to try to lie that it is not, please read this first. If you still want to try to lie that it is not, please trouble somebody else’s comboxes with your lies. Oh, and note the enthusiastic applause of the base (pardon the pun) in the audience):

Yes, that’s “faithful conservative Catholic” Rick Santorum raising his hand along with Cain. Oddly, what is always studiously ignored in these discusssion is that waterboarding is but one of the forms of torture enthusiastically supported by the GOP. There are lots of others and several forms helped to murder various prisoners–something our consequentialists on the Right are as eager to discuss as pro-abort consquentialists on the left are to talk about Kermit Gosnell and his chamber of horrors. Clues for the clueless: when people die from “enhanced interrogation” it was torture. Cain (and most of the GOP field) want this fruitless, immoral, stupid, criminal and dangerous stuff revived. Actual interrogators say, “This is fruitless, immoral, stupid, criminal and dangerous.” But the GOP is all about CYA on this matter, not on what’s good for America.

Third, I will not vote for Cain because the Leader of the Free World should have a freakin’ clue about foreign affairs and not say bonehead things like, “[Y]es [the Chinese are] a military threat. They’ve indicated that they’re trying to develop nuclear capability and they want to develop more aircraft carriers like we have. So yes, we have to consider them a military threat.”

Good to know that Cain’s knowledge Chinese military capacity is somewhere around 1963.

Relatedly, the Leader of the Free World should not cavilierly say, “Whatever! Sounds fine to me!” to the prospect of a unilateral launch of war in the Mideast.

Finally, despite the patchup jobs done after the attempt to parse things in Cuomo-like manner, the fact remains that, as the American Catholic (not exactly a lefty site) says, Cain’s rhetoric on abortion is “muddled“.

But, as I say, none of this matters because the guy won’t be nominated. He is, as TAC also notes, “not ready for prime time”. He is but the latest of several straw lances being flung at Romney by a frustrated base that keeps thinking they will get somebody they want yet who keep getting somebody nobody really seems to want (Bush, Dole, Bush, McCain, now the Android). Once Romney is nominated, we will then be instructed, yet again, that if we don’t vote for the guy nobody really wants, we obviously prefer dead babies etc. and so forth. Cuz Romney is just soooooo prolife.

It’s like kabuki. Or Charlie Brown and the football.

Me: I will once again vote for some doomed quixotic candidate who does not commit me to supporting grave intrinsic evil. My vote makes no difference anyway, so I might as well not use it to damn my own soul. I’m not that cheap a date.

That said, let me add one sign of hope that has emerged for me out of Cain’s campaign, though it is no more a reason to vote for him than it is to vote against him: namely, the fact that he is black and nobody cares. When the story about his sexual harrassment charges broke and the fanatically pro-Clinton media picked it up with all the hypocritical breathlessness they could muster, it was easy to assume dirty tricks from the Dems, for the Dems certainly do salivate over such things–selectively. But, mirabile dictu, Cain wound up accusing, not Dems, but that swaggering Evangelical without a conscience, Rick Perry, of leaking the story. Perry, who evidently thought he could get traction with the Base by playing the “Scary Black Guy Who Wants to Rape Your Woman” card, has been cratering for several weeks and recently released an imbecilic vid attempting to paint his inarticulate stupidity as a virtue…

The Economist has an adequate retort for this sort of idiocy:

Not to be overly pedantic, but talking is a kind of doing. Indeed, talking is primarily how one gets things done in politics. How does Mr Perry convey that he is a doer, and not a talker? By talking. What else is there? Interpretative dance? A presidential candidate unable to best a foe in a public exchange, or to communicate his position on a complex issue when the heat is on, is about as useful as a one-legged fullback.

Anyway, a desperate Perry, seeing his brief candle outshone by Cain, evidently decided his “I may not know what I’m talking about, but I’m ready to do whatever it is I may figure out I mean” campaign needed augmenting with more oomph. So he whipped out some good old fashioned Anita Hill stuff to pull down the latest Not-Romney competitor.

The Good News? It totally did not fly with the allegedly racist base, who continued to gush over Cain and who did not immediate go for the hoary narrative of the Scary Black Guy. That this had so little purchase is, I think, a good sign about the electorate in an otherwise bleak election campaign from a fantastically bleak field of “conservative” candidates.

Of course, that’s not to say we should assume there’s no problem either. When you have five harassment accusations – three from women he worked with, one from a GOP pollster, and one from an Iowa radio host, it does look rather like yet another debacle is in the wings for yet another “family values” representative of the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism. Between that and serial husband Newt Gingrich modestly putting himself forward as a Defender of Traditional Marriage (after explaining that his adulteries and betrayals were due to the fact that he just loved America so darn much), the GOP has an embarrassment of riches in the whole Traditional Values department. That’s the great thing about our ruling classes, they never miss an opportunity to contribute to the kaleidoscope of hypocrisy and cynicism that is American national politics.

Put not your trust in princes.

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  • Ellen

    Well, Mark I am going to vote for the Rich Android. No, I don’t care for him. But he’s better than Obama. The very idea of four more years of him in power scares me deeply.

    • Michael in ArchDen

      “Be Not Afraid”

  • Kirt Higdon

    I’ll probably end up writing in Ron Paul, voting third party, or not voting at all in the general election.

  • Ellen,

    The point is to be courageous enough to vote according to principle, and not let yourself be frightened into cooperating with evil, on that basis that “if I don’t support this evil, an even greater one will win.”

    That’s another way of saying “let us do evil that good may come of it.”


    “If God had meant for us to vote, He would have given us candidates.” — Servant of God Dorothy Day

    • SDG

      “The point is to be courageous enough to vote according to principle, and not let yourself be frightened into cooperating with evil, on that basis that ‘if I don’t support this evil, an even greater one will win.'”

      Actually, cooperating with evil — specifically, remote material cooperation — is sometimes warranted and may even be morally necessary. Although I agree materially with Mark on this election, insofar as I won’t be voting for Romney either, I will defend other Catholics’ right to do so with a clear conscience. Voting for Romney over Obama is not a sin, need not cost anyone his soul, and may be a legitimate way to discharge one’s moral duty to vote, even though he supports some intrinsically grave evils.

      In 2008 I spent some time and energy at Jimmy Akin’s blog arguing that a) there is no way a Catholic can vote responsibly for Obama, and b) one CAN vote responsibly for McCain. The reason is that it is always morally legitimate to vote for the candidate you responsibly regard as the least problematic viable candidate. This doesn’t mean one is OBLIGED to do so — there are legitimate reasons for voting quixotic, and I support that too. That’s how I’ll be voting this time myself. But voting for the least problematic viable candidate, even if he supports intrinsic evil, is not itself an evil act.

      My analysis

      • dcs

        Given the principle that one may vote for the least problematic viable candidate, then if one believed, for example, that the probability of nuclear war under a McCain administration was greater than that under an Obama administration, and that very little would be done about abortion under a McCain administration, it would have been legitimate to vote for Obama over McCain.

        • Peggy R


          All the signs were there that abortion would be MORE problematic under O than the status quo. Most laws that would restrict abortion are possible at the state level. The federal govt can only appoint judges and restrict federal funding. Now, however, we do need a presidential candidate who will undo the evil stuff O is doing.

          While McVain did appear militarily aggressive, I don’t know that one can say voting for him is a vote for nuclear war. That’s a stretch. And what are the odds that McVain would have ordered the assassination of citizens, as O did?

        • SDG

          dcs: Your arguments addressed at considerable length at my blog post series.

    • Dan

      Actually, that was Jay Leno. Good quote, but not Dorothy Day’s style.

  • Zach Foreman

    The real question is who will you vote for in the primary, when your vote could make a difference and your blogging about your vote could definitely make a difference. And if voting for a third-party candidate allows, as a foreseeable consequence, the election of an evil that could have been avoided had you acted otherwise, then you would be morally culpable for your action (or inaction if you didn’t vote at all). If your vote were merely one in millions, this would be remote cooperation with evil, but evil nonetheless. You could say that one vote doesn’t matter at all, but if you multiply something that doesn’t matter at all by 100,000 then it should still not matter at all. But 100,000 votes do matter. Therefore, the premise that one vote doesn’t matter isn’t precisely correct. Your vote *hardly* matters at all or matters only a little, little bit. Still, as St. Therese and Mother Theresa say, we should do small acts with great love and in some way there are no small acts. One blog post doesn’t matter, one smile, one conversation doesn’t matter but if you add it all up, it is a lifetime, which matters to eternity.

    • Personally, I don’t buy your “voting against a candidate is cooperation with the evil he advocates” argument.

      I do buy the bishops’ “voting for a candidate is cooperation with the evil he advocates” argument.

      I do agree that how we vote matters. But it matters because of how it changes us, not of how it changes the outcome of the election.

      • Personally, I don’t buy your “voting against a candidate is cooperation with the evil he advocates” argument.

        Correct! It should be noted that our democratic system doesn’t allow us to vote against anyone at all. There is no such thing as a -1 vote. You can only vote for someone, and that’s what counts.

        Now, say I am a pro-abortion person, but I (for some reason) want to follow the Church’s somewhat lukewarm insistence that I not vote for pro-abortion candidates. Is it possible that I vote third party so as to not give my vote to a viable pro-life candidate? Sure, I guess it’s possible (in the fantasy world where a viable pro-life candidate is on the ballot), and that would indeed be sinful.

        On the other hand, voting third party because you honestly believe that both major candidates require you to cooperate in evil is a good reason to go third party. It’s all about the intention of your actions, as some obscure guy named Thomas was always pointing out.

        • A -1 vote. What freaking brilliant idea.

      • James

        The Bishop’s statement on voting is more nuanced than “voting for a candidate is cooperation with the evil he advocates” argument.

        34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is
        so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the
        proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate
        who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, 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.
        35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable
        position may 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.
        36. 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.
        37. In making these decisions, it is
        essential for Catholics to be guided
        by a well-formed conscience that
        recognizes that all issues do not
        carry the same moral weight and
        that the moral obligation to oppose
        intrinsically evil acts has a special
        claim on our consciences and our
        actions. These decisions should
        take into account a candidate’s
        commitments, character, integrity,
        and ability to influence a given issue.

        • Actually, I don’t find it that nuanced at all. Especially 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.

          I’d say voting for this guy advocating x fundamental moral evil, so candidate advocating y fundamental moral evil is exactly what Mark has been talking about.

          • I think the point is that there are two things the Bishops say you can’t do:

            1. You can’t vote for Candidate A because you support abortion and Candidate A is for abortion.

            2. You can’t vote for Candidate A who supports torture, abortion, killing old people, whatever, with the excuse being ‘because I always vote this way or that for party line’, or whatever.

            Anything else is up to the individual working it out, and if you vote for Obama because you really think that will decrease the abortion rate and help the poor and bring peace, even though he is pro-choice, then that’s up to you and God. The Bishops aren’t making a judgement call on that one.

            • James

              Yes. Let’s also add what positions are being taken on marriage. I suspect this election will have significant consequences on where that is going. And it is a grave moral matter.

              • Of course. I just threw a few out there.

    • Dan C

      A vote isn’t just about us, it is also about its communal implications. Actions have personal and communal effects.

      It is morally acceptable to choose not to vote, for proper reasons. One can take on such a position for varied excellent, virtuous reasons.

  • On Torture, I have heard it said many times on various forums that to some of the extremists it is a blessing, as to confess without it is to them shameful, but to confess under torture is somehow to allow them to keep their dignity.

    • Which would have even the slightest ring of truth to it if the victims of torture confessed accurate and true information. Instead, we see that other moral interrogation methods are much more effective, even among terrorists.

    • Beadgirl

      Some cultures have also held that it is honorable to commit suicide under certain circumstances. The fact that some people derive a kind of honor or dignity from an immoral action does not make that action moral.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes, the revolting perversion of the Faith which holds that Torture taketh away sins and confers justifying grace was, I think, the absolute nadir of morally perverse Catholic arguments put forward by Marc Theissen, as he made the rounds trying to justify the crimes of his boss Dick Cheney. Attempting to paint waterboarding as something akin to the sacrament of baptism is an astoundingly blasphemous piece of moral perversion.

  • Thomas R

    “keeps winding up with candidates that, oddly, nobody but the fabulously wealthy seem to want or like”

    I kind of followed 2008’s elections and the wealthy, on the GOP side, mostly wanted Giuliani or Romney. McCain was more of a second-choice because Giuliani was unacceptable to all social-conservatives and Romney was was uninspiring and Mormon.

    In democracy/Republican governments you often end up with a compromise that doesn’t excite many people, but hopefully appalls the fewest. So I don’t think one has to see in it as a bleak a terms as you’re getting. I think there’s still a chance Romney will lose, but for right now he’s in McCain’s position of being a compromise.

    Anyway I can understand the idea that American political parties are so tainted that the only vote you can do on a federal level is a protest vote. And maybe I even feel like that level of detachment from the world is in some ways admirable. I did the quixotic thing in 2004 after all.

    That said I guess I’m still enough part of “the world” though that I’m not yet willing to see federal politics as being forever something to ignore or protest against. Which going by what you’re indicating it would be “forever.” I think it’s unlikely there will ever be a “Consistent Life Ethic” candidate for President, not even getting into the other things you’d desire. The American people wouldn’t even want a CLE candidate. Sometimes you live in the nation you have rather than the one you might wished existed. Sometimes the compromises to do that are too much, but I’m hoping there’s a candidate who is tolerable. In the sense of “tolerating this level of evil to avoid a greater evil” and I think tolerance is permitted for a Catholic.

  • Jeremy

    You’re letting your ideology cloud your analysis. Your definition of torture is too broad, both by objective standards and the historical standards of human practice. I have been deployed 5 times and I’m currently in Afghanistan. My primary job on my previous 4 deployments was conducting interrogations. I’ve been through Army SERE-C training and have been waterboarded. The treatment I received in training was worse than what I did to those I interrogated and I don’t consider what I underwent to be torture.

    I generally like your blog, but I’d rather you comment on things you actually know something about. Interrogations and handling of detainees is not a pretty business. But those of us who do it in the defense of our country and Western (and Christian Catholic) ideals do so with greater restraint and professionalism and under greater oversight and scrutiny than anyone in human history. There is such a thing as Just War, and in interrogations will be a part of any such war.

    Furthermore, who would you suggest voting for if not one of the GOP candidates? A (pro-abortion, pro-gay “marriage”, etc.) Democrat? Be reasonable.

    • SDG

      Jeremy, have you ever been waterboarded as an enemy prisoner? Because people better qualified than me and even better qualified than you to address the subject say it’s a very, very different thing.

    • SDG

      P.S. Jeremy, the questions in your final paragraph suggest that you commented without reading very carefully the post you were criticizing.

      • My primary job on my previous 4 deployments was conducting interrogations. I’ve been through Army SERE-C training and have been waterboarded. The treatment I received in training was worse than what I did to those I interrogated and I don’t consider what I underwent to be torture.

        Whoa wait a minute. You skipped over a whole chunk of information. Namely, did you waterboard them? Anything else as part of these”interrogations”?

        While we wait for these important details, let me point out that “We waterboard in SERE.” is failed argument #3. That it falls under just war doctrine is failed argument #13, and that “our waterboarding is nicer than theirs” is failed argument #19. Here’s the catalog for reference: http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2010/02/catalog-of-failed-arguments.html

        • Tom

          no orthodox Catholic is suggesting or adopting a consequentialist rationale for enhanced interrogation, that is, that despite the inherent evil of the act, the good end makes the act morally acceptable. Rather, the point they make is simple: the Church has not clearly ruled out those practices bunched under the term “enhanced interrogation” as an intrinsic evil. The task before us then, is the tough work of moral theology, which is to delineate exactly when and under what circumstances could enhanced methods of interrogation be morally permissible. This analysis of circumstances, proportionality of means, and intent, is the bread and butter of Catholic moral theology, and is used to evaluate use of force in just war and self-defense, what economic practices are moral, and a vast array of moral questions where an act can be moral or not, depending on the intent of the actor, the circumstances, and whether the means are proportional to the ends.

          I suspect (for reasons beyond the scope of this posting) that with respect to enhanced interrogation or torture, the conclusion is these methods are moral “only rarely, when other methods have not worked, when an imminent and reasonably discernible threat to life is present, and using methods narrowly tailored to achieve the information sought.”

          Not as emotionally satisfactory as Mark’s “everything not akin to a garden tea party is torture” broad brush, but alas… we’re called to figure these things out “in the tangle of our minds” and not just shut down our intellects, Calvinistically, by issuing moral diktats.

          • This is of course the appeal to finer detail. Even if the Church were to rule that waterboarding specifically was torture, that wouldn’t end the argument, because there is waterboarding and then there is waterboarding. It isn’t about issuing moral diktats: it’s about the plain fact that you don’t get to administer cruelty to prisoners because you think or even know they have something you want.

          • Mark Shea

            You know too much about what I have written about torture to mistakenly assert that I think “everything not akin to a garden tea party is torture”. I have, in fact, tended to focus overwhelmingly on obvious things like terror drowning, beatings, suffocation, and freezing (the latter three resulting in the deaths of multiple prisoners). Since you know this and still insist on ignoring it, I conclude you are a filthy liar and conclude I don’t need you in my comboxes. Goodbye, filthy liar.

            • Sean C

              Professionalism, please.

              • Mark is a writer, and writers as a group have a certain professional pride in telling the straightforward truth.

    • Thomas R

      As I understand it Mark Shea is relatively clear that, on a national level at least, he feels both parties are sufficiently linked to grave moral evil that one can not vote for either Presidential candidate. Not Obama or whoever the Republicans get. (Probably Romney, but maybe not.) And most of the major Third Parties are also either Pro-Choice or Pro-Torture.

      I don’t really agree with you on “enhanced interrogation” though. I might be a bit less moral on the matter though. I’m concerned how it affects the people doing it. I worry maybe it encourages laziness of method or does psychological harm to the perpetrator.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Waterboarding was considered torture and Japanese soldiers were executed for carrying it out on American soldiers. But its OK if a white guy does it to brown people.

  • Tim powers

    Jeremy….thank you for your service to our country. Your comments are right on the mark.

  • Tim

    And here I thought the pizza tycoon and former head of the National Restaurant Association would win universal support from the “Stout” demographic.

  • And this is exactly why I have long been indifferent to these bozos.

    I was subjected to years of this nonsense via “Capital Gang” joining us for dinner every night when I was in high school.

    I don’t think Ron Paul has a chance, but that’s who I’d vote for. Forget the rest of this motley crew.

  • Mary Alice

    Ron Paul is the only candidate for whom I could vote and not have to go to Confession immediately afterwards.

  • Ellen

    I am not going to dance on the head of a pin when it comes to arguments about candidates. I will do my best to see that Obama is not re-elected. Period. If that means voting for a less-than-stellar candidate from the Stupid Party (which seems to encompass all of them), then I will.

    • JuliB

      The person who wins could be appointing new SC judges. I for one will vote for the non-Obama, hands down.

      • Mark Shea

        And get a Blackmun, Souter, O’Connor, or Kennedy (or maybe even Harriet Miers or John “Roe is settled law” Roberts). Because the the GOP (and especially Romney, who will be the nominee) is so very prolife.

        As long as we keep settling, they will keep playing us.

  • Sean O

    The presidential choices are bleak. One hopeful note is that Perry is done. The country will be spared that thick headed, arrogant wonder. The bad news is look who’s left

    Herman Cain is out of his depth with all the problems Mark delineates. Romney is a competent administrator with no soul, no core values. Obama has a host of morally wrong positions and has been generally ineffective everywhere else. Slim Pickens indeed

    We should have nominated a sensible an measured man as the Republican representative back in 08 when we had the chance. Sen.Chuck Hagel of Nebraska was the man we missed. We had our chance. Hagel was an articulate, handsome, knowledgable and radiated decency. He was pro life and a decorated war hero with grave misgivings about our 2 wars and favored unwinding them and extracting ourselves from them. Chuck Hagel would have beaten Obama. He would have provided a solid and stable choice whereas John McCain was erratic, grasping and say anything to win. To much circus with Sarah Palin as well. We had our chance with Hagel. Too bad he didn’t run this cycle.

    Thank the republican power brokers and pundits for shooting Hagel down as “soft on the war”.

  • Jim L.

    We need the none above box on our ballots and make them go back and start over until they get the message that we won’t stand and accept their pre-packaged candidates anymore.

  • William

    Ron Paul’s views are closest to my Catholic views. He’s got my vote (again).

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    It’s funny. I have expressed the exact same sentiment as Ellen, but for me it was Kerry, and then Giuliani. ” I’ll crawl across broken glass to keep a proabort Catholic out of the white house “,I believe I said.

    But Bush-lite? That’s worth it to stop? I just don’t get that.

  • Tom

    Watch out, Jeremy, your introduction of facts and logic will subject you shortly to a virulent attack as “rubber-hose” God-defying rightist.

    And don’t be surprised by Mark sounding off on topics he has next to no actual knowledge about… enhanced interrogation is only one of many.

    As for politics, well, we’ve been here before too–the Blessed Virgin could run for office and Mark would start grousing about how her robes are too darned blue. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and not voting (or voting for a guy who cannot win) is not only better, but more noble and moral than voting for the best possible, electable choice.

    • SDG

      Tom: Funnily enough, it seems to me that Mark generally deals with his critics far more gently and charitably than they with him, your comments being a prime example.

      While I don’t entirely agree with Mark’s stance on voting myself, your would-be critique is far too glib. You don’t really mean “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” you mean “The perfect is the enemy of the lesser of two evils.” “The lesser of two evils” is not the same as a good. That is Mark’s whole point.

      Mark has a perfectly serviceable definition of a “good” but not perfect candidate: One who does not advocate grave intrinsic evil. Mark doesn’t objects to trivialities, as your “Virgin Mary / blue robes” suggest. He objects to advocacy of grave intrinsic evil. Your argument suggests that you regard advocacy of grave intrinsic evil as a mere pecadillo. I don’t think any Catholic can take that view, even if he believes (as I do) that it can be morally legitimate in some circumstances to vote for a candidate who advocates grave intrinsic evil.

      Mark has actually voted and will continue to vote for real (though quixotic) candidates who are not perfect. So carry on beating your straw man if you like while congratulating yourself on not being a “virulent attacker” like Mark.

      • Thomas R

        Although he’s being too harsh I don’t think writing in “Joe Schriner” or “Ron Paul” or whatever is anything other than a protest vote.

        If one truly believes the candidates are so evil you can’t vote for any of them than I don’t think you should. The thing with Mark Shea is I’m not sure he’s ever indicated support for a Presidential candidate of any political party (not even the Constitution Party, unless I’m mistaken) and considering his principles I’m not sure he could. And that is going to look a bit unreasonable even if it doesn’t really feel unreasonable. I mean “Consistent Life Ethic and programs to encourage upward mobility in the poor” is close to where I’d be at, but realistically I don’t think any candidate has or will agree to even that. And from what I gather Mark wants more than even that basic.

        • SDG

          Thomas: Mark’s standard is “No advocacy for intrinsically grave evil.” What is hard to understand about that?

          • Thomas R

            I’m just unused to “voting for a legitimate candidate for President is advocating evil so it is to be avoided” and was slightly surprised by it when I first came to his blog (in 2008 I think) and was more sympathetic to him.

            I do “understand it”, intellectually, but I just think it would be difficult to live like that. Or at least to live like that and not feel a bit detached.

  • Peggy R

    I have also thought, not just about voting for the “right” or “best” person that I can support as a Catholic, but I find myself considering to vote for what would be the best outcome for the country, given the options available. So, I do consider the consequence of my vote, ie, if I were to vote 3rd party. No, that doesn’t mean voting “for” the most undesirable, but the consequence of that 3rd party vote might be a most dangerous outcome for the country (or state, etc). So, I think “What is the consequence for my country/state of my vote?”

    I think we have an opportunity in primaries to vote closest to our ideal. Then we go from there in the generals.

    I do have to say, however, that I think primary elections should not be public or state-run. The parties should run them privately on their own terms with voting by their own members. That would reduce their power with the public and might help 3rd parties get off the ground. I have more thoughts about how to do this, but that’s beyond this post.

  • Rich

    I certainly do not wish to argue that waterboarding is not torture. I believe it is, just like the stocks, pillory, and whipping post of colonial days. But where does Holy Church say that torture is intrinsically evil? The catechism speaks of “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred”. It does not talk about torture to extract information. The ticking time bomb scenario is left out and this implies that the Church’s jury is still out on that question, according to Rev. Brian W. Harrison (O.S., M.A., S.T.D), whose article on this I highly recommend:

    His look at the biblical and historical background is quite interesting. I think we can see that torture for punishment is no longer appropriate in our society, since we have prisons. However, for nomadic peoples, like the Jews crossing the desert, I can see how torture (e.g. lashes) would be appropriate since prison was not possible.
    Also, Fr. Harrison’s distinctions between the purposes of torture is very helpful. As one who has been through RCIA like myself, I’m sure you recall the importance of intention when examining whether an action is a sin.

  • Mark S (not for Shea)

    I’ve been saying for 2 years that Obama is going to have a VERY tough re-election campagin … unless the Republicans nominate a complete yabbo. And whaddaya know? Here come the yabbos.

    Cain won’t get the nomination. He doesn’t have the experience or the support of the party leaders. The latest controversy won’t help.

    Perry won’t get the nomination. The man makes George W. Bush look canny and introspective.

    Paul won’t get the nomination because the GOP leaders would never stand for it.

    Romney will get the nomination.

    Which means come Election Day, I’ll be voting Third Party again.

    • Spastic Hedgehog

      “I’ve been saying for 2 years that Obama is going to have a VERY tough re-election campagin … unless the Republicans nominate a complete yabbo. And whaddaya know? Here come the yabbos.”


      In a time where the sitting president is unpopular, even within his own base, where are the real statesmen?

      I will say (torture quandries aside for the moment) I like Cain if only because he gave a concrete solution to the federal budget problems that wasn’t a vague “cut taxes/raise revenue” that leaves the details to be hashed out later. Details matter. While it may not be a perfectly workable solution but at least it was a starting point for discussion.

      • Varenius

        Ron Paul gives concrete details as well, albeit more extreme ones than Cain’s.

  • Rich

    I think rejecting Santorum is unfortunate. What are people’s reasons for doing so?

    • Peggy R


      I have struggled with my unwillingness to support Santorum. He is quite correct and passionate on all the issues. He’s very smart. He’s an ideal conservative candidate in many regards–except torture.

      I find him to be an unlikable person. He looks perpetually uptight. He gets exasperated easily. Things that are obvious to him as a serious moral Catholic are not to others. And the liberal media obsess with gay marriage issues. That’s all they want to talk to him about. Matthews was very weird w/Santorum after one debate.

      Also, he’s disliked for his support of Arlen Spector, and he lost his last election by almost 20 points. Granted, Casey, the Dem, claimed to be pro-life and probably got votes that way. He really needs to win a statewide office, probably be a governor, to gain executive experience and some maturity, which he lacks.

      • Spastic Hedgehog

        I think this is spot on. And it articulates something I’ve never been able to, namely that Santorum has an easy time doing what he believes but a more difficult time translating why he does what he believes to the general public.

        • Spastic Hedgehog

          That’s some tortured grammar. I blame the DayQuil.

  • See the above comment by James. The important thing is that people vote according to their informed conscience. If you just can’t bring yourself to vote for anyone, and feel you must take the extraordinary step of not voting at all, then that’s between you and God. If you feel you must vote for one candidate, and are not doing it to promote evil, but doing it because you feel it would prevent the most evil, then that’s between you and God. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

  • ds

    What’s Alan Keyes up to these days?

    • Working on his “crack-pusher” beard, no doubt.

  • FWIW, and BTW and all that. Cain says Perry’s camp did this. I’m no fan of Perry, and ever since my wife said he looks like an actor hired to play the part of Perry, I’ve had problems taking him seriously, but I’m not sure if it’s been established, beyond Cain’s statement, that this had to do with Perry. Even if it did, there is no reason to assume it had racial undertones. In fact, the only reason I thought of his race was because the first stories I heard in the news immediately linked this to Clarence Thomas, as if that was the last case of sexual problems they could think of. I thought then, wonder why they went there. What are the common characteristics between Cain and Thomas? Then I thought about the racial undertones. But there’s no reason to believe that racism was behind this obviously political attack, given what little actual evidence we have to go with, unless I assume racism is there in the first place. And I would need some evidence to support that.

  • William

    I would never vote for Santorum because of his support of pro-abort Arlen Spector over a pro-life candidate. His Middle East foreign policy that he has expressed on EWTN indicates to me that his “Catholicism” is more of the dispensationslist brand. No thanks!

    • Mark S (not for Shea)

      What William said.

      Santorum has always struck me as a Republican who happens to be Catholic, not a Catholic who happens to be a Republican. When the Faith gets in the way of his Party, his loyalty is to Party.

  • David

    Considering this absolutely insipid slate of candidates, I can’t help but think that the powers that be in the GOP are trying to hand the election to Obama. Why they would do that I haven’t figured out, but it could mean that things are going to be getting much worse no matter who is in office and they don’t want the blame…

  • GC161

    Cain’s views on abortion seem rooted in fear. He starts off wonderfully by saying that abortion is bad. But when pressed (by people like John Stossel) on whether or not he supports a woman’s right to choose after a rape… Well, he waffles a bit and says the government shouldn’t get involved. Hmmm. If he had courage, he would say something like, “Even under such horrid circumstances, abortion is still murder. You shouldn’t compound one evil by committing another.” But precious few politicians have that kind of courage. I guess they fear a backlash from rape victims and their families/friends. So they get wishy washy.

    As for Cain’s ineptitude on foreign affairs, this is no surprise. He joined the race with hopes that it would be all about the economy… Hoping to ride his businessman credentials into the White House… Hoping nobody would really question him on all that other stuff. Of course, this naivety only assures me that he’s not ready to be president. (Though part of me is glad he’s so popular, if for no other reason than to at least challenge the often-heard cry of “The Tea Party is racist.” Not that their support for Cain will completely silence such criticism.)

  • SKay

    It seems that using the power of the US government to slowley tear the Catholic Church apart in America in order to please his base is not going to hurt Obama’s chances of winning the upcoming election-with Catholics. No wonder he is smiling.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      What you mean is, you are disappointed to find that Catholics aren’t so terrified of Obama as to embrace whatever evils the RNC decides to just roll out.

      We’re always here to let you down!

    • You should take note that the reason that things like abortion and homosexual normalization are so entrenched in the Democratic party is that they are willing to let their candidates lose rather than let them deviate from the platform. To wit: everyone knows you are voting for a consequentialist when you vote Dems; and they deliver what they promise: see no evil. The GOP on the other hand is a band of consequentialists running around in deontological drag, hence these tortured rationalizations for continuing to vote for them.

  • Jack

    There is a British comedy called “Yes Minister” which to my mind explains why a true aristocracy is the best way of ruling a country.

  • Elaine S.

    “Considering this absolutely insipid slate of candidates, I can’t help but think that the powers that be in the GOP are trying to hand the election to Obama.”

    Maybe because they know the economy and foreign/military issues are only going to get worse in the next 4 years no matter what anyone does, and they’d rather have Obama and the Democrats take the blame for it (never mind the continuing damage done to the country in the meantime)? Some of the GOP potential candidates who are sitting it out this time (Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal) might have a better shot in 2016.

  • Scott

    Mr. Shea.
    Would you also condemn killing in war, as you condemn waterboarding? I think you would. That’s because you are a lazy thinker with a good soul who wants to do right. The fact is that waterboarding is not torture, legally so. The fact is that killing in war is sanctioned by the Church, always has been, when such a war is just, as our wars against Islamo-terrorists are.

    • SDG

      Scott: Do you make ill-considered pronouncements about what you think other people believe because you don’t know any better, or because you don’t care about truth?

  • The fact is that waterboarding is not torture, legally so.

    So if abortion is legal, that makes it not the immoral killing of an innocent human being? The fact is that it is forbidden to deliberately deprive prisoners of the necessities of life: food, water, warmth, etc. It is quite a sad state of affairs that we have to explicitly state that air to breathe is a necessity under this category. Mark is totally on board with the Church’s teaching that there is such a thing as just war, but even in a just war, “The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. ‘The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.'” That a country has just cause to go to war, doesn’t mean they have a license to do anything they want.

  • Andy

    when such a war is just, as our wars against Islamo-terrorists are.

    It is impossible to wage a war against an ideology – that is what terrorism is. To have a just war there has to be an identifiable enemy and the response has to be commensurate with the attack that caused the just war. ALthough what the terrorists was despicable and evil – the destruction of two countries, the deprivation of dignity of man (another Catholic principle) through the use of torture is wrong.

    • Mark S (not for Shea)

      You’re correct on all counts except one: Terrorism is not an ideology. Terrorism is a tactic. There are lots of ideologies who use terrorism.

  • Tominellay

    I think Ron Paul’s positions are consonant with the Church’s teachings, and I think he’d make a fine president. Why not make a morally sound choice and support Paul in your state’s primary, and THEN decide if he can or can’t win?

    • William

      Tominellay, agreed, but I will vote for him regardless of whether I think he can win or not. I refuse to waste my vote on a lesser candidate who “can win”.

    • Thomas R

      I don’t see why Ron Paul would be much more consistent with Church teaching than others. Libertarian economics is almost explicitly criticized by Church teaching. Paul’s non-interventionism I think could easily mean cutting off our duties to the poorest both nationally and internationally.

      • James

        Right. Every candidate could ultimately be interpreted in failing Catholic Social Teaching. I suspect every person writing here would be also. It is complex material which even experts in it disagree on its interpretation.

        But don’t let that stop the thinking that the only good candidates are the ones blogging.

      • William

        Thomas, you might want to read Paul’s “Liberty Defined” to see that RP’s positions are, for the most part, consistent with Church teaching. As for his non-interventionism, he is very much in favor of the haves helping the have nots. He believes that individuals and relief organizations can do a much more efficient job of it than the US government without all the political strings attached which more often than not backfire on us.

      • Tominellay

        I think that we have duties to the poor among us, but our federal government does not; our government has a contract with us that it seems to overreach. The result has been economic chaos and nonstop war. Paul is running for the Republican Party’s nomination, not the Libertarian Party’s; his positions are informed by his knowledge and respect for the Constitution and Austrian economics. He’s proposing to end the wars and give us sound money, which no other candidates are proposing.

      • Jason Ebin

        Thomas R: Please read Thomas E Woods book The Church and Markets to get educated on why you are wrong in stating that Libertarian Economics are explicitly criticized by Church teaching.

    • Because many of Paul’s positions are not consonant with the church’s teachings.

      You can argue that in our society, in this particular situation, with this economy, and this governmental structure, private charities are the best way to promote the general welfare of the poor and disadvantaged, and be in consonance with the church’s teachings.

      But what you cannot argue is that it is absolutely immoral and unjust for any government that represents the whole of society and thus bears the sword to attempt these ends. And that is a position that Paul seems to take.

      That is a heretical position and pretty much any Church Father or medieval theologian, on hearing Paul and his ilk argue so absolutely thus, would furrow the brow and frown upon him.

      • Jason Ebin

        Jon W: You really should investigate further by reading Liberty Defined and other writings by Dr. Paul before writing uneducated statements about what Paul “seems to take.”

  • enness

    I could not bring myself to vote for McCain last time. Look what I got to show for it. I still can’t stand McCain, but what has happened since then has been sufficiently horrifying as to give me pause.
    One factor I will be considering is what area of policy the candidate has the potential to make the biggest impact on. I would probably find it acceptable, if not ideal, to vote for someone I thought would significantly improve one important area while at least not making the status quo in another important area any worse — a net gain, if you will.

  • Art

    So who is it that you are voting for Mark? It is easy to suggest that people are damning their souls by voting for the said candidates above, but every time I read your posts, you never indicate the individual you will be supporting. I hate to break it to you, but as much as you or I would like the pope or an extremely devout Catholic to run for president they simply are not….

    • Mark Shea

      As I have repeatedly said, I make no judgments about how others vote. I make a judgment about how I vote. If you somehow derive from my repeated statements that I do not judge how others vote that you are damning your soul, I can only assume it is your own conscience talking since I have made it clear I say nothing about others. Deal with that as you think best.

      The reason I don’t give any indication of who I will vote for is simple: I don’t know who will be on the ballot in a year. Do you?

      • Art

        You stated, “My vote makes no difference anyway, so I might as well not use it to damn my own soul. I’m not that cheap a date.”

        That statement could imply that a person who voted for somebody that is not 100% Catholic on the said issues is damning their soul. That is why I used the word “suggest” in my statement above. If you are not suggesting that, than I obviously misunderstood your intent.

        I really like your posts and your blogs, but I disagree with you in your approach to politics from how a Catholic should vote. You and I both know there is no 100% Catholic politician that is going to be running for president and as Catholics are options are pretty limited.

        I am glad you shed light on these potential candidates to inform us who have busy lives.

        BTW I like the voter guide that EWTN has published and Catholic Answers has published.

        Also I am eagerly waiting to see who you will vote for once the “ballot” comes out.

        • Observer

          Someone who is 100% P-Life and isn’t Catholic does not mean they have to be 100% Catholic on all issues. The Church is speaking upon the universal sense of morality not given to one particular belief. The dignity of a human being is not necessarily limited to someone who is Catholic, also. To support life at all stages and ensure the protection thereof isn’t hard to do or even hard for anyone to pretty much find out. What is hard appears and quite illustrated in the situation and condition where a man following all the commandments was told to sell his property and give to the poor. He couldn’t do it. Under the same token, politicians find it hard to do disfavor to their financial supporters by being P-Life at all stages. The voters guide can never lead nor encourage anyone to break the universal sense of morality under any condition. It’s not as though book was entitled: “Copout and Scapegoat Voters Guide for Catholics”

          • Art

            You stated, “Someone who is 100% P-Life and isn’t Catholic does not mean they have to be 100% Catholic on all issues.”

            Right, that is why I said, “…there is no 100% Catholic politician that is going to be running for president and as Catholics are options are pretty limited.”

            You stated, “The voters guide can never lead nor encourage anyone to break the universal sense of morality under any condition. It’s not as though book was entitled: “Copout and Scapegoat Voters Guide for Catholics””

            Do not disagree. The voters guide is a great tool to use to weed out to get to the next best option. We should do our best to judge which candidate would do the least moral harm.