Quote of the Day

A reader writes:

“This conscience voter phenomenon is so bizarre.”

Exhibit A in why I think we need to focus more on the impact voting has on the voter and less on the (virtually non-existent) impact the vote has on the outcome of an election.

That a pro-life Catholic should find the idea of voting out of conscience and not out of political expediency “bizarre” is perhaps the single most eloquent testimony to the corruption our politics has wrought on our moral formation as Catholics. And she is not alone. I am hearing from people who are telling me that consideration of the impact of voting on the voter is a “novelty” (as though Jesus never said “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”) I’m being told it is “Protestant” to consider how voting can form and deform the conscience. I’m being instructed that the common good trumps conscience–as though virtue and the common good are enemies.

Honestly, it is not Obama who is making the case against supporting Romney. It is his Catholic supporters and their amazing tendency to distort elementary Catholic teaching in order to rationalize support for him. The sole case for Romney is this: he sucks less than Obama. That’s it. As soon as Catholics try to move beyond this, they nearly always succeed in making it clear that they have no grasp of Catholic teaching at some very fundamental points and that they are, when push comes to shove, hostile to it and prefer Romney talking points. The Postmodern Left wants to persecute the Church. The Postmodern Right wants to teach it that obeying your conscience is “bizarre”.

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  • Evan

    Absolutely. The other day I was informed that unless I personally voted for Romney, Obama WOULD WIN, and I would be responsible for destroying America, or something like that.

    • Mary Alice

      Funny, I’m being told that in Kansas and by others on Facebook as well. But I agree with Mark.

      • J-Jay

        And I’m being told the same thing in Texas, where Romney is a shoe-in.

        • Evan

          And I live in Connecticut, where Obama has a guaranteed victory.

  • Now, does the quote mean that the idea of voting one’s conscience is bizarre? Or could it mean that the various arguments or statements made on behalf of voting one’s conscience are bizarre? I guess I don’t have much to go on in terms of context. Is that all that was said, and is that what the gentle reader meant, that not voting out of political expediency and instead voting based on conscience is bizarre? Who is the reader, and was there any other statement that would help me understand the meaning? I need more information before I make a judgement call.

  • SecretAgentMan

    I love it when Catholics attach the word “Protestant” to anything they don’t like. It’s so cute. Let me guess — voting your conscience is Protestant because it raises private judgment above its proper place to the detriment of solidarity blah blah bloo . . . Of course, holding your nose and voting for Lizard X is also Protestant because it abandons Church Teaching[TM] for the uholy theo-statism Luther outlines in his letter to the German princes blah blah blee . . . . Not to mention that criticizing the bad Catholic habit of finding “Protestantism” under every bed is the heresy of indifferentism . . . Not to mention that criticising is a lack of Catholic charity to begin with . . . .

    • I think they attach it when they see Catholics saying ‘You’ve heard the Bishops say thus, but *I* say this is what really smart Catholics who really love Jesus know they really mean.’

      • I’ve never seen anyone say that.

        • Ted Seeber

          You haven’t? I had a woman screaming “I make the decisions, the Bishops don’t” at church back in June (I was offering free “Celebrate Religious Liberty” signs, and she was pro-contraceptive and pro-choice).

          • No, I haven’t seen anyone say what Dave G said. The woman you describe didn’t say what Dave G said. He has admitted that his passive aggressive strawman is aimed at my writing in particular. He must be going through menopause.

            • Wow, think the sun shines out of your belly button or something? It wasn’t only aimed at you, though your blog posts were certainly what prompted me to take a second look at what was being said by others. Let’s face it Zippy, tell me the context of the quote above that prompted Mark’s post. Who said it? What did they mean? What were the surrounding statements? What was the conversation? Was it an email to Mark with just those words? Was it part of a larger discourse? I merely asked above if we could have some context before going forth with the commentary. Note how few agreed. That’s usually a sign right there.

              • Mark Shea

                It was a line written in response to something I’d posted on FB about voting your conscience. There’s nothing special about the context that renders it other than what it is: an incredible (and depressing) thing for a prolife Catholic to say. Why not just acknowledge that fact instead of making endless excuses for it? The notion that there is something “bizarre” about voting one’s conscience is as bleak an indictment of where the prolife movement is as anything I’ve read. And it is, as near as I can tell, the response of the majority, not the minority, of prolifers I encounter.

              • I’m still waiting for you to quote someone saying “‘You’ve heard the Bishops say thus, but *I* say this is what really smart Catholics who really love Jesus know they really mean.’”


                • Ted Seeber

                  Ok, word for word maybe not- but that (as she made plain when the next Sunday she tried to apologize and ended up saying something strange about separating the Laws of God from the Laws of Men) was definitely the gist of what she was trying to say- that she was smarter than all the magisterium put together, and that only evil stupid misogynistic men could possibly see anything wrong with the HHS Mandate.

      • Except you, that is, as your constant straw man.

        • Straw man? Really? How interesting that’s your take. See, fundamentalist attitudes are like body odor, you tend to recognize them in others long before you recognize them in yourself. Me? I’m just a little Catholic who realizes that the Bishops have said nothing at all about how one should ultimately vote, they’ve simply said what one should consider in voting. And they’ve even been so good as to mention that as long as you are informed by the teachings of the Church, there are several viable options for how you eventually decide to pull the lever (if at all). Oh sure, we can discuss options and what we’ll do and why we think it’s the best way to go. But we shouldn’t be too quick to assume our approach to the issue is the only way that leadeth unto salvation, especially when the Bishops haven’t said likewise. And that goes for folks saying you can only vote for Romney, or you can only vote for Obama, or you can only vote for anyone else, or you just can’t vote at all.

          • You would do better quoting the people you are talking about when you make these kinds of claims. I got you to admit you were talking about me in the other thread, but your usual schtick is this passive-aggressive weaving of straw men into the air. You should put on some heels or something.

            • Well, I referenced you to begin with, but if you’ve clarified by saying that you clearly understand that some could conclude the importance of voting one way or another and vote accordingly, and that is perfectly acceptable, then I am more than happy to concede the point. By the way, I get the biggest kick out of your little zingers. I always have. Passive aggressive weaving of straw men into the air. That got me.

              • …you clearly understand that some could conclude the importance of voting one way or another and vote accordingly, and that is perfectly acceptable…

                I understand that someone can conclude that, and I also understand that people can be wrong, in lots of ways. Sometimes those ways are culpable and sometimes they are not, but even a non-culpable error in judgment is never equivalent to being objectively correct on a question.

                You constant ad hominem insinuation that I am somehow Protestant in my attitude is your way of basically conceding that you have nothing substantive to say about the actual subject matter of the discussion. It is also the act of a pathetic jackass. I’m a straighforward guy, so I don’t insinuate things about people in the verbal space around what they say. I just say what I mean outright, and I’d say it to your face if you were in front of me: you are a passive-aggressive jackass, and you have no standing to accuse anyone, anywhere of having a “protestant” attitude.

    • No true Catholic says another Catholic’s actions are “Protestant.” He (and all true Catholics use the gender neutral “he”) says the actions “smack of Protestantism.”

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m a bit more careful- I reserve the word Protestant for actually dissenting against Church Teaching.

  • Brother Cadfael

    The idea that anything trumps conscience is bizarre and antithetical to Church teaching. If voters are doing anything other than voting their conscience, they are making a grave error.

    You are also entirely correct to consider the impact of the vote on the voter — I don’t see anything novel about that. If you give the matter any thought, there really is no question that the greatest impact of any individual vote is on the voter and not on the election. Conscience formation is a process, not an arrived-at event.

    The only thing I would take issue with is an implied suggestion by some that a vote for Romney by a faithful pro-life Catholic could only be made for reasons of political expediency rather than out of obedience to a properly-formed conscience.

    I have been voting for the better part of three decades, and I have yet to see a perfect candidate on any ballot. I always have to choose the one that sucks less — it’s what we have to do. I can do that without being delusional about what the inevitably-flawed victor will deliver after election day. We all know that our job does not end at the voting booth — whoever wins, we are called to encourage whatever is good in them, and to resist whatever is evil. Will the unborn suddenly be safe if Romney is elected? No, but I believe they will be safer than if Obama is elected. Will the Church suddenly stop being persecuted if Obama is defeated? Not entirely, but I firmly believe it will be persecuted less under a Romney administration than the alternative. Will we suddenly fall in line with Church teaching on matters of war and peace, torture, etc if Romney is elected? Sadly, no. While I don’t think either candidate is necessarily frothing at the mouth to waterboard the next terrorist, I don’t think most Americans (this audience excepted) have a good grasp of right and wrong on these issues and why it matters. Will the government and the American people suddenly embrace all aspects of Catholic social teaching under a Romeny administration? Of course not. Do the poor have a better lot if Romney is elected? I believe so, if only because the Church and other religious institutions are the best protectors of the poor, and they can best do their job if they are allowed to thrive. Am I troubled by the prospect that the divide between rich and poor will grow wider under a Romney administration? Yes, many thousand years of human history tell us that Ayn Rand is wrong and that the wealthy will not take care of the poor if left to their own devices. She is right, however, that collectivism will not take care of the poor either. Unfortunately, I don’t think either of the candidates (and certainly neither of the parties) cares much about the poor; their solicitude for the middle class strikes me as little more than pandering for votes.

    If elected, I hope that Romney surrounds himself with better advisers than either of the last presidents did. And I’ll end by putting my head on a chopping block and saying that I think he made a good start with Ryan, who though also flawed is better than many of the alternatives.

  • Ted Seeber

    From here on out, my response to such people is “You’re too late, I already voted. “

  • Ted Seeber

    Also, I think Planned Parenthood is getting desperate. One of their workers phoned my house yesterday, asked to talk to my 9 year old son, and I turned on the speakerphone. They were asking him to vote for our local democrat state representative. I had no idea he was in such trouble- or that the immigrant challenger proposed by the Republicans was going to defund Planned Parenthood, and be such a threat as to cause them to ask people to commit voter fraud.

    • Ted Seeber

      Still trying to decide whether this is just stupidity on Planned Parenthood’s part, or something I should be talking to my Attorney General about.

  • Jared B.

    Here’s my way of phrasing the Sucks Less Argument.

    The only two realistic outcomes of the presidential election are that Obama wins or Romney wins. I’m a prayin’ sorta guy, so as with many other things going on in my life and in the world, I pray for a particular outcome: that Obama goes away. In praying for Obama to lose, obviously I am *implicitly* praying that Romney will win, though I certainly don’t put it that way because I don’t want to vote for / cheer for / support Romney. But in praying for an effect I must logically desire that there be a cause for that effect. So OK, fine, I don’t like Romney but I’ve been essentially praying for him to win ever since he cinched the nomination.

    Now in every other area of life, I would never pray for something but at the same time refuse to take any positive action toward making that something happen. That would be inconsistent, morally, theologically, psychologically. Who in their right mind would intentionally refuse to make their actions and their prayers match? So for the sake of my own consistency & integrity, I think I gotta vote for Romney because not doing so would be, in my mind, a refusal to personally contribute to allowing a prayer to be answered (even if my personal contribution is next to—but not precisely—null). This is also in keeping with Shea’s Law of Moral Voting: consider first how your vote affects you and your soul. Me personally, I get a little cognitive dissonance when I consider voting 3rd party because it will not materially contribute to Obama’s downfall as much as “the viable candidate”, so I do what I can can to dispel that.

    Could someone with a little different theological perspective shoot my logic & its conclusion full of holes? Definitely. So I’m still in the camp with Mark Shea, Simcha Fischer et al. that it’s not a sin to vote for Romney and it’s not a sin to not vote for Romney.

  • c matt

    This conscience voter phenomenon is so bizarre

    And all this time I thought the conscious voter phenomenon was bizarre.

  • I find the conscience voter phenomenon bizarre myself. If God has wanted us to vote, He’d have given us candidates. Or as my Daddy used to say, “Don’t vote, you just encourage them!”