Tom Kreitzberg writes…

Tom Kreitzberg writes… August 28, 2012

I think you’re right that any pro-life political advocacy group that says “shut up until after the election” isn’t likely to have a loud voice after the election.

For that matter, it may be time for me to start putting “pro-life” in quotation marks when I use it in the context of political advocacy. “Pro-life” is a morally good position. “Opposed to most abortions” is a morally evil position. If we can’t tell the difference, *that’s* when we should shut up until after the election.

People are puzzled by the difference I see between a non-Catholic pol who ignorantly supports a rape and incest exception and a Ryan abandoning Catholic principle and moving toward supporting a rape and incest exception because his boss demands it.

The difference seems to me to be obvious. The non-Catholic pol who supports the exception doesn’t know any better. He is like the honest pagan who holds the cardinal virtues but still thinks suicide okay. Dante puts no pagan suicides in hell and no Christian suicides in limbo. Why? Those to whom much is given, much is required. The non-Catholic who ignorantly advocates an exception for rape can be taught. The Catholic who abandons the principle that innocent human life may never be deliberately destroyed is rejecting what he has been taught. He is not “improving on Obama”. He is teaching Catholics to betray a fundamental Catholic belief for the sake of power.

And, unlike the voter who can appeal to the principle of remote material cooperation for the sake of some proportional good–a lawmaker who declares that he will support destruction of human life when politically expedient has no such excuse. He is saying he will use the power we give him to support abortion in some cases, not that he will use his power to oppose abortion in all cases. His cooperation with evil, unlike ours, is not remote. It is direct and the stated policy of his administration with his name, as well as his boss’, on the press release.

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  • If this is the case, then it seems no Catholic politician could accept nomination for VP alongside any candidate who was not a faithful Catholic.

    • No, it means no Catholic politician should support abortion in any cases.

      • Kristen inDallas

        Exactly… who says they have to agree on every issue. Pres can sign a bill against council from the VP. Remember when the VP used to be the guy who came in 2nd place?

      • Then that’s good, because it seems that Ryan has not said he does, he merely defers to Romney as the head of the ticket. Or at least that’s the last I heard.

        • Mark Shea

          Ah! He’s “personally opposed”. Got it.

          • Yeah. That seems to be what he’s said. If that isn’t good enough, then no Catholic could be VP for a non-faithful Catholic president. Fair enough I guess, unless there is some other option I’m missing.

            • Jared

              No, he could continue speaking out against abortion in all cases. Witnessing the faith and fighting for human rights are both hard to do.

              • I’m not sure he hasn’t. It is only the first weeks or so since he was nominated. I’m prepared to give him a chance. All he’s said is that he is deferring to Romney’s position since Romney is the head of the ticket.

          • Personally opposed politicians generally sign off on pro-abortion legislation in deference to their pro-abortion constituents. Would Ryan cast a tie breaking vote for abortion on instruction from Romney? If temporarily in the Presidency, would Ryan sign pro-abortion legislation? If the answer to both is no, Ryan’s being a faithful Catholic. Has anybody bothered asking Ryan what he’d do in these situations?

  • This is certainly a difficult moral problem for legislators, but it can be morally permissible to support incremental measures as damage control, and as a path to the ultimate goal of eliminating all abortions. For example, the Hyde Amendment denies public funding for abortion, but tolerates an exception for the “hard cases” (rape, incest and life of the mother), without which the Amendment would not pass in the current political/cultural climate.

    Pope John Paul addressed the question of imperfect legislation in Evangelium Vitae 73: “It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects. “

  • I think you are being a bit unfair to Mr. Ryan here. As far as I can tell, he has not changed his position on abortion at all. What he has done is acknowledged that his position will not be the position of the Romney administration.

    As far as the position of allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest, life of the mother, it is wrong, but 80%+ of Americans support these exceptions. We have work to do in spreading the truth. Most politicians (being the nihilistic opportunists that they mostly are) will not be willing to take a position which 80%+ of Americans disagree with.

    • In technical terms, such positions are outside the Overton window:

      The business of a pro-life Catholic political operative is to expand the window so that it includes the Church’s position. If legislation is passed in dark of night before that preliminary work is done, the accomplishment will not last and we will end up worse off than before.

  • Ed and Dave, you’re both right. This seems to be what Ryan is saying. Banning all abortion except in cases or rape or incest is still evil – but it is a big step toward the good, and politics is ultimately about what can be achieved rather than what should be achieved. The JPII quote is on point.

    I am more disturbed by Catholic support for Romney, rather than for Ryan. Romney was vehemently and emphatically “100%” pro-abortion while governor of Massachusetts. He’s view on abortion has “evolved” – which means “flip-flopped” whenever the political winds changed. Romney shows no sign of being the least bit trustworthy about anything he says. He won’t even commit to repealing the HHS madate – either because he won’t or because he’s afraid to say plainly either way. This man is despicable.

    I can see Catholics voting for him for proportional reasons – Obama supports sticking a scissors in a baby’s head after birth; Romney only before birth – but I can not understand the hype and the enthusiasm some in the Church are trying to gin up over this rather menacing figure.

    • With the latest from the RNC about the dirty tricks and full takeover Romney is trying to do of the GOP, it is even less reason to trust (or vote for) Romney.

      Please check Michelle Malkin’s site (among other places) for the details.

  • Steve T.

    I merely raise the caveat that of many of today’s Catholics have been so poorly catechised they are as ignorant as the honest pagan. Those to whom much is given, much is required; those to whom not much has been given, much is excused.

    • Kristen inDallas

      I call BS on this. It would be nice to believe, yeah? …that I’m off the hook for all those great, easily available, free, web-published Catholic doctrines which I’ve heard people mention in passing but haven’t bothered to read for myself because they weren’t crammed down my throat when I was twelve and because I’m “too busy” now, especially since I get the impression they’ll probably inform me of something I don’t really want to be informed about because then I’d have to change and that would be hard and besides, law and order is on…

      • I call BS to calling BS. Some of us were Catholics long before the existence of the Web, and I personally know many current Catholics who do not use the Web specifically for self-catechesis. Rather, they trust the old fashioned method of going to Mass and participating in parish life; the same method that left me woefully ignorant for decades. I personally, as a kind of uber nerd, became much more informed about the Faith after all the Catholic Web resources came online. But the proposition that the great mass of Catholics out there are web surfing nerds – of Catholic resources in particular – like yourself, requires more than just assertion.

        • Kristen inDallas

          I’m not saying we all ought to be web-surfing Catholics. I am saying that we have (and have had for a few generations now) resources available to us as Catholics that Catholics at any other point in history were not so blessed with. My parish, and most other parishes I’ve ever walked into in the US have a little library where resources can be checked out, or a little stand with pamphlets on church teaching for various topics, or heck if someone has a question there’s always the option of just going to ask someone knowledgeable. In addition to the wealth of online resources, we’ve also got Catholic Q&A programs on the radio and (for anyone who’s ever donated $20 to any random Catholic Charity) I find myself on a mailling list which now ensures I get at least one peice of mail per day pointing me to some Catholic resource or another.
          Now whether or not Catholics actually USE these resources is not a claim I’m about to make. But that wasn’t my point. My point is ignorance is forgivable if it is an ignorance we are unaware of. But for most of us, if we have donned the label Catholic, and we’re not living under a rock, for us to remain ignorant is a choice. Either a willful one or a lazy one but we have chosen not to enlighten ourselves on topics that we really do know we don’t know enough about.
          When people complain about “ineffective Catechesis” as the sole reason that we aren’t more knowledgeable Catholics I really want to scream sometimes. It’s like when my former HS students would come in and say it wasn’t their fault their homework wasn’t done because their parents didn’t remind them to do it. Seriously?!?!?!? We’re adults people, I wish we’d take a little more personal responsibility than that. We really do have it SO easy.

          • That might all be true, but it doesn’t make Steve T’s point BS. His point isn’t BS. In my limited experience ignorance of the faith is rampant among Catholics, and it is a kind of blissful pagan-type ignorance because (for example) they’ve never actually heard a homily against birth control, just to take one example.

            Yes, there are lots of resources out there. But the place where you might expect to learn the Faith – in the pews and in the parishes – have not, in fact, in many places, actually been teaching it, at least not the more challenging parts of it. So you both make good observations, but calling Steve T’s carefully worded caveat “BS” is just wrong. He isn’t wrong.

      • Ted Seeber

        Not everybody is rich enough to have access to the web.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Our biggest mistake when evaluating the “to whom much is given, much is required” platitude is in grossly misunderestimating HOW MUCH we HAVE been given.

  • Mark S (not for Shea)

    It doesn’t surprise me when I see politicians selling their values for a vote and chance at power.

    What does sadden and enrage me is when I see Catholics doing it in order to justify a vote. It’s even infected Catholic radio. I’m really tired of hearing of the “morally preferable” candidate. That’s just another way of saying he doesn’t stink as much as the other guy. What happened to the days when those speaking for the Church held our leaders to a higher standard?

    Politicians selling out is par for the course.

    When Catholics begin to sell out because they care more for the politicians than the Church, can it really be all that long before the barbarians come over the hills?

    • Perhaps they’ve simply concluded that is the proper course to take following prayerful reflection on Church teaching in light of the choices at hand.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        It still saddens me. John the Baptist spoke truth to power. He didn’t go round teaching, “Well … Herod is bad, but he isn’t as bad as Caesar. We should therefore support the lesser of two evils.”

        Had he done so, it might have saved his head. But I don’t know that Jesus would have called him the greatest of prophets.