Since I keep getting the same arguments over and over, I’m rounding up my responses into a single super fun pak of replies so I don’t have to keep saying the same things again and again to an assorted and seemingly never-ending onslaught of well-meaning newbies, illiterates, incorrigible unteachables, or Machiavellian slanderers. Here they are, in no particular order. Please click the links under each question for the full reply to your question.
1. Aren’t you really supporting Obama? Admit it!
Although I have no doubt your soul-reading abilities are usually quite acute, in this case I have to point out that you should really read my words to discern my true views on Obama:
In short, I will never vote for a pro-abort candidate like Obama. Never. And that includes pro-abort candidates like Romney.
2. Why do you spend so much time talking to faithful conservative Catholics and critiquing Romney if your true agenda is not to elect Obama?
My audience is largely faithful conservative Catholics. Those to whom much is given, much will be required. People who make no pretense of caring what the Church says (like Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden) are not going to tempt my readers to believe their banana oil. But I hear from conservative Catholics every day, telling me I should ignore my conscience because the Republican party says it’s okay to do that in order to win, or claiming that the ends justify the means, or trying to get me to believe that it’s wrong to point out that Romney advocates grave evil since it damages our shot at winning to do so. It is our friends, not our enemies, who convince us to start using drugs, get drunk, and help them rob houses. The Church has always feared temptation to sin from within more than the threat of persecution from without. Do not fear him who has power to destroy the body, but him who has power to destroy the soul. What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul. It is the Thing that Used to be Conservatism, not Obama, that constitutes the greatest danger to my particular readership as it tempts them to do evil for the oh-so-good ends it promises to (someday) deliver. Obama constitutes a grave danger to the readership of the National Catholic Reporter as he tempts that particular subculture to embrace his favorite sins for a good end.
3. By voting third party, you are making the perfect the enemy of the good. We aren’t electing a saint or a Pope. Even Jesus Christ would not be good enough for you!
Thanks for demonstrating how deeply corrupting our politics is on our thought as Catholics. It’s a new moral theory that opposition to grave moral evil is fussy perfectionism.
4. Who says Romney advocates grave moral evil?
Romney does. It is gravely evil to advocate for the deliberate destruction of innocent human life. And his sole contribution to our national discourse so far has been to get a formerly prolife Veep to move from opposing the destruction of all innocent human life to supporting the deliberate destruction of unpopular forms of innocent human life when they threaten Romney’s shot at power–and to get most prolifers to make excuses for that.
5. You are saying that anybody who votes for Romney is a sinner.
No. I’m not. I get that many people feel bound, in conscience, to vote for Romney to limit evil. If that’s what you are doing in voting for Romney you not only are not sinning, you are attempting virtue, which is all the Church asks.
However, many people can’t just rest with the Romney Sucks Less Than Obama argument. Rather, in attempting to construct an argument for their choice, they often (indeed, typically) tend to batten on all sorts of profoundly unCatholic rationales for doing so: everything from ‘It’s okay to do evil for a good end” (a beloved American heresy called “consequentialism”) to sneering at concern over mortal sin as “perfectionism” to actively denouncing the exercise of conscience to deliberately repeating “useful” lies to pretending that Romney is “prolife”. Not all Romney supporters do these things and (as Dale Price shows) it is possible to simply make the call for Romney as the Sucks Less Than Obama candidate without larding on any bad arguments for doing so. “I’m trying to limit evil by voting Romney” is a perfectly respectable position. It’s just not my position. I’m trying to limit evil by voting for somebody who does not advocate grave intrinsic evil.
6. That’s unrealistic, since your vote won’t change the outcome of the election. A vote for Romney is Realistic because only one of these two can win.
Perhaps you should revisit the concept of Realism. Reality is that neither my vote nor yours will “change the outcome of the election.” The impact of your vote on the outcome of a national presidential election will be like the impact of an air molecule on an oncoming train. Not zero, but utterly negligible. Here in Obama Takes All Washington, a vote for Romney is as wasted as a vote for Chthulu, and without yielding any of the benefits of satisfaction at landing a satirical punch on our stupid political system. (Relax. I’m not voting for Chthulu. We’ll get to that.)
7. I don’t care. Voting is a precious right which people have died for. My vote may be statistically insignificant but exercising my right to vote is truly a proportionate reason for casting it. My vote stands on its own no matter how statistically insignificant it is.
I agree completely. What matters most in voting is not the impact of your vote on the outcome of the election, but the impact of your vote on the voter–and the accumulated effect of that on the electorate (aka, the common good). That’s why I’m voting for somebody who will not ask me to be an accomplice to grave intrinsic evil and urging others to do likewise. My vote and yours is a precious expression of the only thing we have to give in this election: our choice. I choose not to give my widow’s mite to any candidate who would make me an accomplice to grave intrinsic evil and both major candidates pledge to do exactly that. I refuse. I urge you to do likewise.
8. But voting Third Party is really voting for Obama, except when it’s really voting for Romney. Look at how Perot gave Clinton the election!
Ummmm…. remember just a minute ago when we established that our vote a) will have virtually no impact on the outcome of the election and b) our choice “stands on its own no matter how statistically insignificant it is”? Now you are back to saying our vote is insignificant when we exercise it on behalf of anybody who is not Mitt Romney. Or it’s hugely significant because it’s really voting for somebody we’re not voting for. But it’s not what you just said it is: your own no matter how statistically insignificant. The notion that our choice is actually for the person we’re supporting and not for somebody else at all is something almost no “realist” is willing to consider even though it is the only actual fact about voting for a Third Party candidate. Instead the “realist” keeps appealing to one of the most enduring fantasies in American politics: the complete and utter myth that Perot stole the election from Bush and gave it to Clinton. Here is reality for Realiists: He didn’t.
Meanwhile, here is what all such arguments are *really* trying to say:
9. Romney has a *right* to your vote. You *owe* it to the party and are depriving him of his rights by denying him your vote!
No. I don’t serve the party any more than I serve the state. Romney is applying for a job from me. I don’t owe him a job and frankly, his resume is lousy and his reputation is as bad as Obama’s. I owe them nothing. They serve us, not we them.
9b. Tom Kreitzberg remarks: The version of #9 that I hear most is, “Romney has a *right* to your vote. You *owe* it to the unborn and are depriving them of their rights by denying him your vote!”
To which a sufficient answer is, “No one will live who would otherwise die, and no one will die who would otherwise live, due to my vote for president.”
10. The Church *commands* us to vote for the lesser of two evils. Not to do so is a sin.
No. She does not and no it is not. The Church tells us to try to limit evil as best we can and leaves it up to us as to how best to do that. Some people (see #4) think voting the lesser of two evils is the best way to do that. Some think that there is no proportional good that justifies cooperation with grave moral evil. Both routes are permitted by the Church. Only one route is permitted by Romney partisans who think somebody died and made them God and able to pronounce on the “sin” of not voting for Romney.
11. You are a vain self-regarding narcissist who keeps his skirts all pure and clean while *real* men do the hard and dirty work of winning elections and achieving real change, even if their candidate isn’t a stainless perfect saint.
Guilty as charged. I am a vain self-regarding narcissist. But the question is, does that personal flaw of mine mean that people have to vote for somebody who advocates grave evil? No. It doesn’t. Meanwhile, doncha wonder, just a little bit, if people who perpetually hold themselves up in contrast to all us “scrupulous purists” and commend themselves for their “courage” in “rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty” by “bravely” endorsing people who are committed to grave sin aren’t also, you know, vain self-regarding narcissists? Perhaps it would be better if we left ad hominem fallacies out of it altogether and just stuck to the main thing: Are we morally bound by the Church to vote for lesser of two evils as the sole approach to limiting evil or are there other ways to limit evil? The answer is “No we are not and yes there are.”
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” – John Quincy Adams, Vain Self-Regarding Narcissist
12. If you can’t tell that Obama is evil and Romney is prolife then you are a moral idiot.
Anyone who says that Mitt Romney is pro-life is speaking a material falsehood.
Romney is not pro-life. He is anti-abortion-in-most-cases. To be anti-abortion-in-most-cases is to hold a morally evil position. To be pro-life is to hold a morally good position.
If you can’t tell the difference between good and evil, then you shouldn’t tell Catholics how to vote in the general election.
I’m perfectly aware that Obama is evangelically committed to abortion and crushing religious liberty when it does not conform to his secular vision of pan-pelvic liberation while Romney merely does not care and lies however it suits him to get the votes of prolifers. I am not persuaded that this will practically affect anything in our national political life. Especially since Romney has made very clear that he approves of abortion “for the health of the mother“. What is that code for? Paul Ryan explains:
So when he gets to making SCOTUS appointments, expect this.
Similarly, Romney has just made clear that in a contest between the vote of aging EWTN viewers and other prolife Christians concerned about religious liberty vs. the large and growing demographic of “Sex and the City” female voters in Gen X and Y who expect as a fundamental human right that they get their free contraceptive candy paid for by their employer, Romney will make empty chatter to trick a vote out of trusting Catholics hoping for some relief from Obama’s evil act of tyranny:
…but when the pressure is on he will, in language identical to that of Obama, tell EWTN and related organizations they have no right to stand in the way of Sandra Fluke’s fundamental human right to contraceptive and abortifacient candy and assure Fluke and Co that the Mandate tyranny will continue:
Some people have tried to de-contextualize these remarks to say that Romney is just trying to assure us all that he opposes employers trying to tell their employees they can’t use contraception–as though that is a live issue in the real world that Romney needs to address. No. Romney is not trying to take a brave stand against the rising tide of bosses following their secretaries to the drugstore during the lunch hour and threatening to fire them if they buy birth control with their own money. He is responding in pandering panic to the demographic of “Sex and the City” female voters–the legion of Sandra Flukes out there–whom Obama has just very effectively assured will get free contraceptive candy courtesy of the HHS Mandate. Romney’s remark in context, is this:
“I just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”
This is, I repeat, exactly the same language the Administration uses in telling Catholic employers to knuckle under, deny their consciences, and bend over for the HHS Mandate. Why does Romney do this? Because the audience of EWTN is old and getting smaller, while the audience for HBO, Oprah, and Fifty Shades of Grey is large, young, and growing. So Romney does what he always does: he panders shamelessly about religious liberty to Raymond Arroyo’s audience while pandering shamelessly to Oprah’s audience at the debate. Who will he ultimately side with? Compare the ratings of The World Over with the ratings of Oprah and you will have a hint.
Sure. He *may*, as Dale Price faintly hopes, conclude he has everything to gain and nothing lose by overturning the Mandate. I certainly hope he does. But he did not, at the debate, act that way. He acted like a man terrified by Obama’s advantage with the “Sex and the City” demographic. And why not, since his manifest betrayal of those concerned about religious liberty was met, not with outrage, but with the normal calls for prolifers who can see what he was obviously signaling to be quiet and Stand By Their Man. As long as we are willing to do that, instead of threaten him within an inch of his political life every time he betrays us, he has not a reason in the world to care what we think. But *we* should have a reason in the world to care what we think because such a response to such two-faced behavior once again illustrates that we are not leavening the the politics of our country, it is leavening us.
13. So you *are* saying voting for Romney is evil.
No. I’m saying that refusing to vote for any candidate who advocates grave intrinsic evil is as morally legitimate an option as voting for the Sucks Less candidate in this election. Both are prudential attempts to limit evil and I lean toward thinking that voting for the candidate who rejects all grave intrinsic evil is a better option while recognizing that others may legitimately differ from that view. I further say that attempts by “Sucks Less” advocates to condemn Third Partiers with threats, condemnations, bad logic and abuse only serve to illustrate my main point.
14. And what main point is that?
It is that your vote will not affect the outcome of the election in the slightest, but it will have a great effect on you. I would argue that the reason we are where we are today is that we have conceived of voting almost exclusively in terms of how it influences the struggle for political power and have given almost no thought as to how it changes us. Our politics is geared entirely toward winning elections and actively discourages us from contemplating the words, “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Because of this the prolife movement is suffering from a ton of mission creep and is in grave danger of the salt losing its savor entirely.
15. But you are talking about wasting your vote!
No. I am saying that however you spend your vote, it is mathematically illiterate to say that a vote spent in a national election makes anything more than a negligible difference to the outcome of the election. Whether I vote for Romney, Obama or Humpty Fratz my vote will have virtually no effect on the outcome of the election. You might as well say an air molecule will stop an oncoming train. Here in Obama Take All Washington, a vote for Romney is as wasted as a vote for Chthulu, and it’s not even fun!
16. Then why vote?
Why pray? God needs your help, opinion, and input even less than Romney does. We vote for the same reason we pray: because our choices matter for a lot of other things than their practical impact on power politics. We vote to serve the common good as best you can. Voting, like work and prayer, does not dignify us. It is dignified by the fact that we do it since we are creatures in the image and likeness of God.
17. Okay. I get that a single vote affects precious little. But since the vote, if not done DUE to the candidate’s support for something intrinsically evil, is NOT formal cooperation but material cooperation, why is it something that could imperil one’s spiritual state?”
A good question. Remote material cooperation doesn’t necessarily imperil one’s spiritual state. However, in my experience, any attempt to move beyond (in, for instance, this election) “Romney sucks slightly less so I will roll the dice and hope he does a slightly less crappy job” typically has involved Catholics embracing all sorts of dangerous nonsense to argue for Their Man. So I am told such falsehoods as “He doesn’t advocate grave intrinsic evil” when he manifestly does. Or I’m told that rejection of mortal sin is “perfectionism” and is even positively sinful. Just this morning a reader was telling me I *must* embrace consequentialism (ie. the notion that good ends justify evil means) in order to WIN. And that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the corrupting effects conservative political discourse is having on Catholics.
18. Apparently you are too holy to accept that Romney has had a conversion. I hope nobody treats you like that, since you are a convert as well.
Scripture says to bring forth the fruits of repentance. It also says to be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. Romney’s fruits have been lies that he governed Massachusetts as a prolifer, despite the obvious fact that he did not. Denial of the past is not “conversion”. This principle also applies to Veeps. A voter tasked with making a prudential judgment is responsible to be aware when faced with evidence that a “convert” is lying about his conversion. Particularly when the “convert” makes abundantly clear that he has absolutely no interest in doing anything serious about abortion.
18.1 But Romney *could* have a conversion! Why do you doubt the power of God?
Note how selective your faith is. Your argument could just as easily be applied to Obama. God *might* work a miracle of conversion in his soul too. But as a general rule, we don’t vote for people with track records of supporting grave evil on the theory that, at some future point, God may work a miracle. We vote for them on the basis of common sense and prudence. Common sense and prudence tell us that Obama is wedded to the sacrament of abortion and that Romney will not lift a finger to change the current regime beyond a couple of token gestures designed to shut prolifers up and buy their spaniel-like support for whatever it is he is really interested in doing, up to and including maintaining the HHS Mandate (think about 2016! We can’t let somebody even worse get elected!), as well as resuming torture, launching a war with Iran, and continuing Obama’s policies of secret, unilateral murder of four year girls in Pakistan.
19. We have to support Romney now. But, once elected, we will hold his feet to the fire. So please stop critizing him and get behind him! He has promised to reinstate Mexico City and defund Planned Parenthood!
If we wink at his manifold betrayals now while he is most vulnerable to pressure, what possible reason is there to suppose we will stand up to him when he has our vote and can safely ignore us? Mexico City and (maybe) defunding PP will be about it. With the silence of prolifers bought by these token gestures, he will then set about commanding our support for what actually interests him, as previous Republicans have done. And we will give it, up to and including zealous support for torture if that’s what the Administration demands. We did it for Bush, we’ll do it again. And this is bearing in mind, of course, that Obama likewise promised to “immediately” sign FOCA (remember the panic on the Right over that?) but still hasn’t gotten to it (thanks be to God). Moral: Pols promise red meat to their base in order to gin up the vote and then, having secured that vote, go do what they actually care about. If you think Romney cares about abortion, I have a bridge to sell you.
19b. A reader notes the weakness in trying to simultaneously pretend Romney is prolife while also regurgitating “we’ll hold his feet to the fire” rhetoric:
If — as so many “conservative” (and, influential I might add) — folks keep *insisting* that Romney Is Pro Life, then why hold anything to the fire, feet or otherwise?
Excellent question. Here’s some more reality for those who imagine silence now will buy anything but more contempt for prolifers from Romney, courtesy of Kyle Cupp:
There’s enough difference between Romney and Obama on abortion policy that pro-life voters, particularly those for whom outlawing abortion is their single, decisive issue, will be lining up for the Republican candidate in a few weeks. This ad
may irk these voters, but it probably won’t lose Romney many votes from among them. Nonetheless, it is kind of a raised middle finger flaunted in their general direction.
Prominent religious leaders, including some Roman Catholic bishops, had given Romney moral support by declaring loudly and publicly that a Catholic could not in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports abortion, considered the “gravest of intrinsic evils.” Romney is now on record approving of the messages that 1) innocent human life is not in fact inviolable because abortion should in some cases be an option and 2) the national debt is of graver importance than abortion. With this ad, Romney has upended the pillars some big name religious pro-life leaders had erected for him. This won’t matter electorally, but it nicely captures the contempt the Romney campaign has for his ardent pro-life supporters.
20. If you don’t plan to vote for Romney, then who will you vote for?
Someone who doesn’t ask ask me to be an accomplice to any grave intrinsic evil. Maybe Virgil Goode. Maybe somebody else like Joe Schriner.
21. But Goode has some problematic policies.
Of course. They all do. But as I am constantly reminded, we mustn’t make the perfect the enemy of the Goode. (Thanks! I’m here all week! Try the veal) UPDATE: Upon further research, it appears Goode is yet another member of the Rubber Hose Right who supports the use of torture. So he’s off my list. Alas, the pun on his name was too perfect and is a shame to lose.
22. Isn’t there any hope in our political process?
That’s like asking if there is any creativity in a pen. Hope, in human affairs, lies not in the machines we build (and a political process is a machine) but in the uses we put that machine to. We have, in the American system, a remarkably clever, adaptable, and multi-faceted machine that has survived an awful lot already and may survive a lot more if we treat her right. But the real place hope is won or lost is not in our politics but in our hearts. That’s why I write, since our hearts come from God, not from politics.
23. Why do you talk about politics on your blog? Why don’t you stick to religion?
John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” My interest, as a Catholic writer on the intersection of Catholic faith with culture, is to see that our faith leavens our culture rather than vice versa and my grave concern with our political process has been how little of the former is happening and how much of the latter. Mysteriously to me, many readers seem to be under the impression that our political judgements bear no relation to all the other moral judgments our faith compels us to consider. I am mystified by their confusion and think my political judgements are rather obvious corollaries to and expressions of my faith in Jesus and his Holy Church. I do not, as should be clear from what I have said above, regard my prudential judgments as the only way to do such moral calculus. But I do think it obvious that my moral calculus is inseparable from my faith. So I’m always puzzled when people tell me to “lay off the political stuff” and “get back to stuff related to Catholic teaching”. Everything in heaven and earth is related to Catholic teaching. That’s what Catholic means.
24. What is the single most arresting thing you have read this year concerning the intersection of Catholic faith and our political culture?
“Voting is a specific, personal, concrete act of endorsement of a particular candidate. When we look at the history of Christendom, there does happen to be a particular kind of act that is very analogous to voting, inasmuch as it involves a personal quasi-sacramental act of personal endorsement. But I don’t think the example of offering a pinch of incense provides much of a boost to the “you MUST vote for my candidate even though he supports murdering the innocent” shibboleth; because what is notable about such personal endorsements is when Christians refuse to make them. St. Polycarp’s choice isn’t notable because he offered a pinch of incense to the lesser pagan gods to limit the evil of the greater pagan gods. So if we are all called to become saints, as the Church teaches that we are, we can add “teach us not to do the saintly thing” to the list of lessons that regular ritualized personal endorsement of evil candidates teaches.” – Zippy Catholic
25. Isn’t there anything you enjoy about the elections?
Sure! Political Humor!
26. Tom Kreitzberg remarks:
My personal favorite is,“What if everyone voted the way you do?”
Um… then the candidates for whom I cast my votes would all win, right? And I’m supposed to think that’s a *bad* thing?
(Of course, more often it’s, “What if enough people voted the way you do that the eviler candidate” — oh, who am I kidding — “that the Democrat wins?” Which is still a funny question, because a) to a first approximation, nobody’s going to vote the way I do (half the time *I* don’t vote the way I do); b) if “make sure the Democrat doesn’t win” were my guiding principle, I’d already be planning to vote — I’d already be campaigning — for the Republican.)
27. You have an obligation to support the best viable candidate!
Here in Washington, that means I have an obligation to support Obama, who is the only viable candidate. This is the apotheosis of what is wrong with the prolife movement abandoning principle and focusing solely on how one’s vote can assist in WINNING! Instead we must be focusing on how one’s vote affects one’s soul. I will not vote for somebody merely because they are “viable” for the same reason I will not concede a man is right in an argument merely because he can beat me up.
28. In a national presidential election, you have to think pragmatically.
Actually, being pragmatic is the one thing you cannot do in a national election. Not “must not”. Cannot. It is literally impossible to cast a pragmatic vote in a presidential election, just as it is impossible to “pragmatically” base your family income on buying lottery tickets.
29. All this is nonsense. If you really wanted to remove yourself from a corrupt, implicitly evil system, you would withold your taxes. It’s much easier and cushier to withold your vote and say, “what a good boy am I!”
I suppose. But since I do not wish to remove myself from my country but reform it, your argument makes no sense.
30. Yes! Finally somebody who I saying what I’m thinking! What Mark Shea is trying to do with these discussions is enormous to for the future of this country. We got to put our hearts together and work to change this government system!
Actually, what I’m trying to do here, as with my vote, is of almost no consequence to the future of this country. But that’s no reason not to do it. God calls us to be faithful, not gigantically influential or successful. Enough puny people, choosing to take their puny widow’s mite and put it in the Temple of God’s treasury and not Caesar’s will not make a mighty army of Judeans capable of overthrowing the power of Rome. But it can, over time, help make an army of saints capable of overthrowing the kingdoms of this world. Don’t think big. Think small, like Chesterton. Small is where it’s at.
31. We have an absolute moral obligation to vote!
Two things. First, as a reader points out, we
have an obligation to be a responsible citizen informed by your faith. But you aren’t required to vote, as the USCCB reminds us:
“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”
So it is an urban legend that there is some sort of absolute moral requirement to vote bound upon us by the Church. If you choice is Hitler vs. Stalin you can abstain rather than lend legitimacy to either creep by casting a vote for him. Abstaining might even be the morally best alternative.
That said, in this election I’m not abstaining. Why? Because there are candidates who do not advocate grave intrinsic evil and I want to be able to say to my children, “You don’t have to choose between Hudge and Gudge. You can throw sand in the smooth running of the world’s machine. You can vote your conscience even if you are the only one. And the good news is, you will usually find you are not the only one.”
32. This whole ridiculous line of argument is an utter novelty in the history of the Church. What matters in voting is the common good, not your vain and prissy concerns about how voting impacts the voter’s conscience.
Ahem: “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
The common good and the practice of virtue are not, in the Catholic tradition, opposites at war (and still less an occasion for submerging conscience to the needs of the Party) but a natural unity. And the Church is, in fact, clear that conscience has primacy in moral dilemmas about ordering the common good:
“26. Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race….At the same time, however, there is a growing awareness of the exalted dignity proper to the human person, since he stands above all things, and his rights and duties are universal and inviolable….Hence, the social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person if the disposition of affairs is to be subordinate to the personal realm and not contrariwise.”
The Party was made for man, not man for the Party.
33. John Zmirak says, “The prudence of voting for this deeply imperfect person INSTEAD OF A PERSECUTOR is obvious.”
Actually, my moral calculus is based in part on the ideas of a man for whose work I continue to have a high regard: Dr. John Zmirak. I thought he called it very accurately when he wrote of the deep corruption our fealty to the GOP has wrought on conservative Catholics when he said of Catholics who bent over to make excuses for the GOP:
“This faithful, angry “remnant” would soon find itself in hock to Republicans disdainful of other Catholic principles – such as just war theory. When the hype machine that lied America into the Iraq war started churning, it was all too easy for most of us who’d found our aid and comfort from secular nationalists and fideistic Protestants to convince ourselves to support the war – if only out of political expedience. “What harm could it do? WMDs or no WMDs, even if ‘preventive war’ violates some non-infallible encyclical, we’ll give them their war in return for the next three Supreme Court justices,” I remember people saying – under their breath.”
And I think the nomination of Mitt Romney and his repellently cynical treatment of conservative Christians as useful tools (all while signaling his intention to leave the abortion regime intact, his intention to leave the HHS Mandate intact, and his intention to launch more unjust wars and reinstitute torture) is just a continuation, deepening and apotheosis of what John was talking about there.
John is very concerned about Obama as a persecutor of the Church and an enemy of God. So am I. However, historically speaking, the great danger the Church has always feared more than persecution from without is corruption by sin from within. “Do not fear him who can destroy the body,” says Jesus, “fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” Arguing that Romney sucks less than Obama is sound. Bolstering that argument with sneering claims that fear of mortal sin is “perfectionism” or that people who have troubled consciences are stupid and should ignore them is not sound. It is a laboratory demonstration of what John Zmirak was warning about when he complained about conservative Catholics suppressing their tradition in order to meet the needs of the GOP.
34. Yes, yes. You can vote for whoever you want; you live in Washington. But you still have the moral obligation to tell *other* people to vote for Romney because you are such a hugely influential public figure.
While it is always gratifying to vain self-regarding narcissists like me to hear people imagine the enormous power I allegedly have to sway the election, I have to say that I think such assessments are massively overblown. I think I have heard from a handful of people who have, as a result of what I have written, decided to think differently about the act of voting and actually change their vote to somebody they actually want instead of to the guy their party commands them to support. Some of them have been Romney supporters. A few have been Obama people. (So much for “If you vote Third Party you are *really* voting for Obama.”) All I really did for them was put into words thoughts they have already been thinking. I suppose some of those people may be in battleground states, but I still think the math is massively against saying that my impact has been anything other than negligible on the outcome of the election. However, if my impact on a single person is to get them to think about the impact of voting on the voter, then that’s a win as far as I am concerned. The argument “Okay. Go ahead and express your conscience in a vote, but for heaven’s sake don’t express it in words because you might persuade others to vote their conscience” seems to me to be fundamentally tone deaf to the entire point I’m trying to make.
35. I’m not voting for Romney. I’m voting for Ryan. He’s a deeply Catholic man. So I will support Romney even though he advocates grave intrinsic evil because I hope that, in the end, Ryan will be President and he will finally give us the prolife victory in his court appointments.
Several things in reply. The notion “I will cooperate with whatever evils Romney intends to do now so that I can achieve some good end later” has given us, not a staunchly prolife Catholic Veep candidate, but a formerly prolife Veep candidate who has abandon his commitment to the propoosition that it is always wrong to deliberately destroy innocent human life. So he is not a deeply Catholic man. He is a shallowly and conveniently Catholic man whose principal political formation comes, by his own admission, from Ayn Rand, not the Magisterium. Is he a “real Catholic”? Such questions are a foolish waste of time. If he claims the name of Catholic that’s good enough for me. If the Church welcomes him, so do I. But that does not mean I have to pretend he is actually putting faith before political allegiance. He’s not. He has made clear in debates with Biden that he bows to his bosses will and supports the destruction of innocent human life inconvenient to his shot at power. If he does this when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? When, when he runs in 2020, should Ryan not take exactly the same positions he is taking now and pursue (as he is now) the marginalization and exploitation of prolifers while (as he is now) focusing on the economic matters that so clearly occupy his attention? Ryan is on the ticket in order to create the illusion that Romney cares about prolifers and social conservatives–all while persuading prolifers and conservatives to celebrate the destruction of some innocent life as an “improvement” that justifies ignoring the fact that Romney is exploiting them and manipulating them to support him in what he really cares about. Romney’s *sole* contribution to our national conversation on abortion has been to convert a prolife politician into an advocate of killing a certain class of unpopular innocents. He has had *no* effect on changing Romney.