I like John Zmirak as a general rule

I like John Zmirak as a general rule October 16, 2012

…but this and his comments to Erin, Tom K., and Zippy was not his finest hour.

The simple truth is that the Church calls us to vote to limit evil. It does not demand that we vote for the Lesser of Two Evils candidate. The Church merely says we can vote the lesser of two evils if we can find a proportional reason to do so. It does not command us to do so and leaves it up to our prudence to find other ways to limit evil (such as not voting for candidates who support grave evil at all if our conscience demands it) if that seems best to us. Both prudential judgements are open to us. As I noted yesterday, I can respect those who make the Sucks Less case for Romney as Dale Price does.  What amazes me, though, is the absolute contempt some Romney supporters heap on those who, moved by conscience, make a different prudential judgment.

John accuses those who make a different moral calculus than him of a posturing prissy self-regard, as though wishing to avoid mortal sin is selfish. He accuses them of onanism, as though anything but a vote for Romney *is* a mortal sin. But these claims are quite obviously false. In my own blue state of Washington, a vote for Romney is as wasted a vote as a vote for any third party. So why should I not spend my choice on supporting virtue and not supporting somebody I know to be a cynical duplicitous liar with no interest in the things that matter most?

Similarly, the reality is that, quite obviously, a desire to avoid mortal sin is not selfish but is attempted virtue that should be commended, not sneered at or treated with contempt.

And that brings me back to the point I’ve been banging away at. John is primarily interested in the effect a vote has on the outcome of the election. I think this is like fretting over the effect an air molecule will have on an imminent train wreck. The principal effect letting the GOP manipulate the prolife movement has had is to make prolifers perpetually willing to sacrifice more and more of their principles to the GOP till, with men like Romney and Scott Brown, we are now hailing as prolife heroes men who transparently view us as useful idiots and who, in Brown’s case, actually celebrate Roe and repudiate us even as they take our votes. It has resulted in things like John’s editorial: a sneer directed at Catholics trying to do their conscience. Result: we now have a prolife movement that spends virtually all its energy telling prolifers who are aware of Romney’s cynical duplicity to shut up (on pain of being called “onanists”) rather than spending its energy telling Romney that if he betrays us there will be hell to pay.

I can respect people who feel forced to make the Sucks Less choice for Romney. It would be nice if such people could extend the same respect to those–like the thoughtful, kind, and good Erin Manning–who cannot, in conscience, vote for either major party.

"I'm not going to argue Libertarianism/Free market capitalism with you. Nafta and the opioid crisis ..."

The Bilko Party
"So, there are no examples? None that function well, neutral, or poorly?Then I'm going to ..."

The Bilko Party
"It's early days but people are losing their jobs and being subject to police investigations:https://www.rt.com/uk/48088...https://www.telegraph.co.uk...https://www.dailymail.co.uk...Some ..."

Pseudo-Profundity from Fake Voltaire
"Then maybe pulling a quote-translation from another language isn't the best way to make that ..."

Pseudo-Profundity from Fake Voltaire

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • God bless Andrew, whoever he was!!!

    • Andy, Bad Person

      It sounds like Zmirak’s character Andrew had plenty of problems of his own. What was stunningly dishonest was the way he made “everyone who has a problem with voting for Romney” into Andrew.

      It should be in the Logic 101 textbook for “Strawman Fallacy.”

  • I made a meme just for this:

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Did he just put on a second pair of sunglasses? Excellent.

  • Andy

    The anger that I read from Romney supporters when someone cannot find a reason for voting for Romney is overwhelming. It makes me fear not for the future fo our country – I think we already have a bleak future regardless of who wins, but for the future of the Church. If we cannot look a the statements and beliefs of another with charity, then the church is indeed in trouble. Mr. Zmirak’s reactions seem more about Romney must win because he is republican, then about Romney will be avidly pro-life. Mark you wrote a while ago about the relationship between pro-life folks and the republican party as similar to spousal abuse – I Mr. Zmirak’s response demonstrate that to no end. I guess since whenever I was in trouble my parents called me Andrew I must be Mr. Zmirak’s model.
    To me evil is evil. I find nothing in either candidate or for that matter in their running mates that gives any ray of hope.

  • This is the Most Important Election Ever, just like the last one and all the ones before it. So anyone who doesn’t personally endorse Romney, even though Romney supports policies of murdering the innocent, is a purist ninny. Personally endorsing Romney is juuuuuust like being an obedient Roman citizen in the time of Constantine, so suck it up and vote Romney you ninnies.

    The main function of modern democratic elections is to get people to personally endorse grave wickedness, so that over time, after many cycles of making those personal endorsements, we become invested in that wickedness and defend it as our own.

    • Exactly. What has this unholy alliance with the GOP over the years given us other than an American Catholic faith that doesn’t even think to question some of the most egregious policies of the Republican party?

      • Styeve

        Catholics tend to vote Democrat more than Republica, Tim.. And what are these egregious policies? The Republican platform is to end abortion except for rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. The Democratic is unlimited abortion, funded by the taxpayer. The HHS mandate would never have come to be under a Republican administration. The “Born alive infant protection” ammendment would never have come about under a Democratic one. Dems pushed hard for embryonic stem cell research with zero regard for the moral issues. Republican support for incremental gains on the abortion issue with parental notification, Bush’s action on “The Mexico City Initiative”, efforts to recquire sonograms and counseling and waiting periods all helped to reduce abortion, were championed by Republicans and fought by Democrats. Did you see the Democratic convention? It was a testament to the religion of Abortion. Romney is no more evil than Mark Shea, but Obama is literally an evil man. Just look at what he has done in his political life.

    • Time to start the cause for the canonization of St. Compromise.

      • Andy

        Isn’t St. Compromise the patron saint of the good intentioned people who built the road to hell?

        • antigon

          No. As the Prophet Chesterton once observed, good intentions are the one thing hell could *not* be paved with: only a Calvinist could think, he added.

          • antigon

            Sorry: only a Calvinist could think that, said GKC. Whether they could think, as he understood the word, I very much doubt.

      • EMS

        Time to start a viable third party such as the US Christian Democratic Party and make it work. I haven’t voted for a Democrat since the late 70s when they became the party of abortion. At the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for most Republicans . The party that once held people like Jacob Javitz and Nelson Rockefeller has disappeared. And despite the acclaim that today’s Republicans heap on Reagan, I doubt he’d win the nomination in today’s “no tax for any reason” climate. He would tell the unelected Norquist and his no-tax pledge to go jump in the nearest lake.

        • Blog Goliard

          “The party that once held people like Jacob Javitz and Nelson Rockefeller has disappeared.”

          Thank God.

          The fact that both of them were firmly pro-choice is only one of the many, many, many things that was wrong with them and their wing of the party.

          • ivan_the_mad

            It’s too bad the GOP isn’t any more pro-life with them gone.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      One outcome-independent consideration I’ve discussed before is that for most people, voting involves formal cooperation with evil. So even when you, dear reader, are well-formed enough to avoid formal cooperation with grave evil in voting, there is the scandal that most people are not. I’ve also argued that because the effect you have on the outcome is literally negligible, the particular outcome you prefer cannot be invoked as proportionate reason to materially cooperate with grave evil, especially when that grave evil is some form of murdering the innocent.


  • Elaine S.

    I agree that Mr. Zmirak was WAY out of line in his personal criticism of Erin Manning and others who cannot bring themselves to vote for Romney. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that he’s convinced the electoral cards are still stacked in Obama’s favor and that the only way to defeat him — particularly in the “all important swing states” — is to gin up as many Romney votes as possible from the Catholic/pro-life crowd and whip all the dissenters into line.

    However, I am beginning to suspect that Romney will win anyway by a larger margin than current polls/pundits project — it’s going to be 1980 all over again and the look of shock on the lame stream media pundit’s faces when Obama concedes defeat well before midnight on election night will be priceless.

    • Sean O

      Yes. Except for the fact that we will be stuck with Romney.

      What was that whole ” don’t cut off yer nose to spite yer face” business mom used to talk about? Hmmmm. Probably just idle chatter I guess.

  • Raul De La Garza III

    Yes. I read that editorial yesterday. It saddened me. It seemed to me an article written out of desperation. We are better than that, no?

  • Sean O

    For a morally serious person, Romney is a joke of a candidate, a very bad one. And so is Obama.

    The main problem w accepting candidates like Romney is that it furthers a perpetuating cycle. GOP bosses see that they can serve up whatever crap candidates they want & we will, despise some grumbling, put up with it. Dear God, look at the Republican field this cycle. And W. was no prize or maybe a booby prize.

    And being co-opted by the Republican Party undermines the goals & moral standing of the Pro-Life movement.
    How sad. How terrible. How pathetic.

  • “What amazes me, though, is the absolute contempt some Romney supporters heap on those who, moved by conscience, make a different prudential judgment.”

    Actually, what amazes me is the absolute contempt that people who vote in a variety of ways have for others who vote differently. It’s not confined to Romney supporters.

    • But you must agree it’s most appallingly wicked of Romney supporters to condemn others like that. Who else could think himself sufficiently well positioned to be able to call down others for hyperbolic language and immoderate rhetoric? You’d never see me doing that. I’d feel like a real dope to completely miss such irony.

      • Josh

        Okay. I admit I actually did laugh out loud at this one.

      • Actually, it’s appallingly wicked to assume the worst motives in someone who says they are voting their conscience either way when the Bishops have made it clear that it is acceptable to vote either way. I don’t think people should go around saying that if you don’t support one major party or another, you are willing to let the world burn in order to focus on your own salvation. On the other hand, I don’t think people should go around saying – however implicitly – that since both parties (if not the entire democratic process) are nothing more than political excrement scraped from Satan’s rectum, you’ll clearly vote the way people who are really smart and who really love Jesus vote (or not vote at all) by not voting for either major party. Both ways are two different approaches to the same thing. And both tend to be out of line (unless someone is trying to invoke the old inner fundamentalist).

  • The frequent juxtaposition of voting for Romney with murdering the innocent and mortal sin might cause some less-than-careful readers to underestimate the respect people have for them and their position.

    • Is the statement “Romney supports policies of murdering the innocent” factually inaccurate in some way?

    • ivan_the_mad

      Then let all read carefully 🙂

    • Mark Shea

      It is Romney who advocates grave evil. Those who are voting for him in the attempt to limit grave evil are not advocating grave evil but are only acting, says Cdl. Ratzinger, in remote material cooperation with evil. This is a (not “the”) morally legitimate approach.

  • Because, as far as I can tell, there is a roughly 15-20% chance (based on the experience from the last 50 years) that Paul Ryan will end up as President at some point before 2017, and the fact that Ron Paul is not on the ballot, I am inclined to reluctantly pull the lever for Romney.

    Not that it will matter anyway for me, my state is signed, sealed and delivered to Obama.

    One thing I really don’t like, though, is that if Romney wins, we’ll pretty much be guaranteed no good Presidential candidate until 2020. I really don’t know if our nation has that long at this point.

  • MikeTheGeek

    In a fallen world populated by human beings, how can anyone not for the “lesser of two evils?” Jesus isn’t running – any other choice is between greater and lesser evils.

    • It’s probably a matter of how big the difference is. If one candidate has 9 evil stars out of 10, and the other 8 out of 10, it might be worth opting out and trying to raise awareness that we are slowly being boiled in evil and it is time to jump out.

      • yan

        Yes that would make sense. Now please list the 8 of 10 and 9 of ten that are identical to each other in respect to Obama and Romney.

        • It’s not worth discussing here. That’s more or less how some people, after researching the issues, and in good conscience, view it. Mark’s test is that the candidate must not advocate any grave evil. Romney seems to advocate plenty of grave evils, just not as many or as universally as Obama.

          • yan

            Yes, I understand your point I think. But say there are 10 issues, and Obama is bad on 9. Does it matter whether or not you vote if Romney is bad on only 8? How about 7? Six? And so on.

            My point is that if you really make an effort to list the issues where the candidates are different and the same, and then take their tally, then it might make a difference as to how much importance you place on your decision to vote or to refrain from voting. Whereas if you flippantly [as in, ‘romney bad 8/10; obama bad 9/10’] characterize the candidates as being similar without taking into account the number and kinds of their differences, you will be more predisposed to not bother to vote.

            So while it may not be worth it to do that here, it certainly is worth it to make that effort somewhere/sometime, yes?

    • pjm

      Excellent point, Mike. Once again, just like on the illegal alien issue, Dr. Zmirak cleans Shea’s clock.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Once again, you demonstrate that “winning” is more important than holy living.

      • Mark Shea

        Um, if you are talking about that weird piece equating illegal immigration with abortion, I’m not aware that it was written about me, so I was not clear it cleaned my clock.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Because, in this case, there is no “lesser of two evils.” It’s “choose one of two great evils.” There’s nothing lesser about it.

    • Mark Shea

      It’s the “grave intrinsic evil” part I have a problem with. That and Catholics who consistently talk as though wanting to avoid the everlasting fires of hell is prissy self-regarding narcissism, but who never talk as though willingness to cooperate with grave intrinsic evil is brutal self-regarding narcissism.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Yes, but I’d rather choose the least of 5 evils, than the lesser of the 2 greatest…

    • Pathfinder

      I’m of the opinion when the choice comes down to splitting hairs one can reasonably say there is no real choice anymore.
      Obama and Romney are both bad, and in many of the same ways (no matter how much their supporters try and achieve daylight, the close similarities are still there: like a one eyed cat looking into a fish market).
      No thanks.

  • David Agenw

    This thread is hilarious. Zippy, Mark Shea, John — all act the same. They beat up on others for not agreeing with their crappy, bad moral claims (they are false on so many levels), but then when the going gets tough, they beat up on each other as well. Let the baby crying game begin.

    • I declare victory. That is all.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      their crappy, bad moral claims (they are false on so many levels)

      Please enlighten us. It is a spiritual work of mercy to instruct the ignorant.

  • FdS

    In fairness, Zmirak *did* make the distinction between swing states and uncontested ones. If I lived in Florida, I might feel compelled to voted for Mitt. But seeing as O will win my California by 1 million votes, at minimum, I might as well cast my lot with the 3d-party yahoos.

    • rakowskidp

      How does that not constitute situational ethics?

      • FdS

        Sometimes the situation does matter. Pushing the old lady out of the way of the oncoming bus is not the same thing as pushing her in to it. In Florida, there is a — to use the Church’s term — “proportional reason” to vote for Romney, and that is defeating the even worse (if only slightly) Obama. In California, there is no proportional reason. A vote for Romney does no good; it is *only* an endorsement of a candidate who supports intrinsic evils.

        At least that’s how I slice it at the moment. Truth be told I’m pretty uncertain and undecided about all this.

      • yan

        It has nothing to do with the morality of the act per se. Voting is not something commanded by God. It’s always wrong to commit adultery, no matter the situation. It is not always wrong to not vote.

        • Irenist

          “It is not always wrong to not vote.”
          “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.” Catechism, 2240.

          • Mark Shea

            I’m skeptical that “exercising the right to vote” = “having to vote for somebody in every race”. If I were to leave the Presidential race blank but vote for my mayor, I’m exercising the right to vote.

            • Irenist

              That sounds correct to me. Sorry for the dearth of clarity.

  • Bob

    In any given election, if neither major candidate has views that are sufficiently in tune with Catholic teaching to avoid this whole conversation, we Catholics have no one to blame but ourselves. It’s up to us to change the culture so that voters (Catholic and non-Catholic) will turn out in huge numbers to support Catholic teaching in the political sphere. Change the voters, and the pols who depend on their votes will change, too. So stop vilifying each other, and get back to work changing the culture.

    • That may be the key point, and it still works even if you substitute “Christian” for Catholic”.

    • Irenist

      “So stop vilifying each other, and get back to work changing the culture.”
      ^This Is The Credited Response.

  • ” In my own blue state of Washington, a vote for Romney is as wasted a vote as a vote for any third party.”
    In my own red state of West Virginia, a vote for Romney is also as wasted a vote as a vote for any third party. It really makes no difference whatsoever whether Romney wins the state with 70% of the vote or with 70.00001% of the vote. It even makes little enough difference whether he wins West Virginia or not; the election will be decided in places like Florida, Virginia, and Ohio.

  • CW Karla Golay DJM

    Nope ! Won’t do it. I cannot has evolved into I will not.

    I will NOT vote for Romney…not gonna happan folks. Not on his best day.

    And, I will not support Obama, same sex marraige, pro-choice candidates or government, etc.

    I’ll just have to go to a third party and candidate and vote for them….or not at all.

    Simply put, I like Obama but…I do NOT like Romney and I refuse to even consider him.

    What a mess the U.S. is in. Gonna take some prayer, folks.

    • Prayer and fasting. Hard work and suffering, too.

  • Greg Cook

    Thanks Mark. As a fellow Washingtonian (not completely by choice, but that’s another story) I agree with you about wasting votes. I have defied people to show me any Republican president in the past 30+ years who has done anything to stop abortion, or gay marriage for that matter. (DOMA signed by Clinton, folks.) At least in WA we have other presidential candidates to vote for; not so with Governor: so we are stuck with a D who is pro-abortion, and an R who is…not anti-abortion. How would the Church have me vote there? (The R is just being a realist, and at least he opposes re-defining marriage.) My wife and I are tired of our pastor (an otherwise great priest) urging the congregation to not support…well, you can fill in the blank who we should not support because of, you know, those issues. Like the other guy’s going to do anything about them. And then we have the open scandal of our current governor (a Catholic) supporting marriage re-definition, and the leader of that effort in the state Senate is an openly homosexual (partnered)–perhaps the archbishop needs to re-read the story of St. Ambrose and the emperor.

    • Greg Cook

      PS: the senator is “Catholic,” I forgot to add.

    • Blog Goliard

      Has any President done enough to stop abortion? Of course not.

      But it’s weird that you feel compelled to go on to defy people to show that any President has ever done anything. Each Republican we’ve had in the White House from Reagan onwards has done things. Obvious items include the Mexico City policy; signing off on the Hyde Amendment; and nominating Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.

      Am I proud of the weakly pro-life Republican party? Of course not. Would I crawl over broken glass to vote for a weakly pro-life Republican over a Democrat who took a break from voting “present” to go to the mattresses to protect infanticide? Of course I would.

      • Perhaps a better way of putting it, then, would be this: Have any Republican presidents shown as much concern about abortion as they have about taxes on capital gains?

        For example, you may recall that George W. Bush took a lot of heat for his attempt to reform Social Security. This was important to him, and he spent political capital on it. How much political capital was he willing to spend in opposing abortion? How much heat was he willing to stand?

        It’s not hard to tell the relative worth to any president of human life and $$$.

    • yan

      DOMA was passed by Gingrich Republicans at war with Clinton. You seem to have forgotten the entire context of politics in the ’90’s. Clinton had to sign it because at that time in the country, if he had refused to sign it he would have lost votes from conservative Democrats. I wasn’t even paying that close attention at the time, but I still remember that. Your memory is selective, and I have to ask why, when the result conveniently supports your predisposition to not vote.

      You defy anyone to show you what Republican presidents have done? Are you so ignorant of how the separation of powers works that you think they could have banned abortion by fiat? Don’t you understand that the Supreme Court determines the scope and meaning of our constitutional rights, that they have determined that abortion is a constitutional right, and that the only way to get them to change their opinion about that is to get new members on the court who do not think abortion is a constitutional right?

      Don’t you understand that Ginsburg, Stevens, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor were all appointed by Democratic presidents and all support the right to abortion? Don’t you understand that the only justices which support overturning Roe or limiting it in any way were appointed by Republicans?

      So many people think of Justice Kennedy as not conservative enough, or not liberal enough, depending on your point of view. Who wrote the opinion upholding the constitutionality of the federal partial birth abortion ban? Justice Kennedy. Reagan appointee. Who wrote a blistering dissent? Justice Ginsburg. Clinton appointee.

      If you do not think Presidents make a difference in the abortion war, you are ignorant.

      At the UN, under Bush, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America was our representative. The US opposed most of the rest of the world in its efforts to spread ‘reproductive rights’ and gay rights throughout the world. Now, under Obama, we are supportive of, and leading, those efforts.

      Under Bush, the Mexico City policy was in effect. That was begun by Reagan, continued under Bush I, ended under Clinton, and now killed again under Obama. The policy says that we will not fund any abortions overseas. That is something the executive has power to order one way or another.

      I find your dismissive attitude about the efforts of Republicans to be highly insulting.

      • Greg Cook

        Yan: I’m ignorant, and I have insulted you. Nevertheless, you’ve missed my point. Essentially nothing has changed (or is likely to change) re abortion since Roe. Under Dems or Republicans. I would rather have an administration that is clearly the enemy (I use that word in full knowledge) on social issues but will only slowly bleed the economy rather than someone who purports to be my ally but is actually not AND will destroy the economy except for the rich. The Democrats absolutely are wrong on abortion, gay marriage, etc.; the Republicans don’t care about those issues except to get votes from conservatives/pro-lifers.

        • yan

          If you think that the upholding of legal restrictions on abortion counts as nothing, then you win. If you think that upholding the elimination of the infanticide called partial birth abortion counts as nothing, then you win. These things could not have happened without Republican appointees by Republican presidents.

          Yes, abortion is still legal. But it is not always legal, under every circumstance, in every state. If you think the lives of those babies saved as a result of these restrictions count as nothing, then you win. If you think the ability to restrict abortion or to ban it in later stages counts as nothing, then you win. If you think the chance to overturn Roe by appointing judges of that mindset is nothing, then you win.

          You are factually wrong to state nothing has changed. Some things have changed since Roe. Just ask the left wing blogosphere. They cannot stop complaining about the changes in constitutional law that have occurred since Roe as a result of Republican appointees to the bench. They cannot stop going insane about the possibility of a pro-life President appointing a justice that might overturn Roe.

          You call that nothing. You are simply wrong. If you want to say it may not be nothing, but still, it isn’t enough; then I reply, that is because of the opposition of Democrats, not because of the support of Republicans. The more people that take your attitude of ‘not enough=I will do nothing’, the less likely that things will change. If you care about those issues, then you should vote for pro-life Republicans. [Obviously, not every R is prolife.]

          Mark doesn’t want to vote for Romney, but I don’t think it’s much because of the abortion issue. If his reason is the same as yours, I take issue with his judgment. But I understand that his reasons have to do with the morality of our foreign policy. On that point I think he has a much stronger basis for not casting his vote, although I happen to respectfully disagree with his conclusion to not vote.

          • Greg Cook

            Thank you, Yan for affirming why I so rarely post on blogs–it’s precisely because of hyperventilating self-righteous must-have-the-last-word folks like you. BTW: God bless you.

            • yan

              Great. I’ll calm down now. Take care my friend.

  • Jacob S

    Three thoughts –

    1) I glanced over at John Zmirak’s piece and saw this towards the end:

    ” I felt that way and voted that way in 1996, 2000, and 2004. It helped that I lived in New York State—where any candidate much to the right of Saul Alinsky was already doomed.

    But the first year I lived in a “swing state” (New Hampshire) where my vote might actually make a difference to the outcome—to the question of whether the next Supreme Court justice proposed would be a Scalia or a Sotomayor—my fun was over.”

    So it appears that if you may have misunderstood his position. If your state is solid red or blue, it really doesn’t matter who you vote for and he gets that, so using your vote to make a point is fine. Whether or not it will actually make a point is debatable, but he is not saying (or at least doesn’t seem, to me, to be saying) in this case that voting third party is necessarily bad thing.

    2) You yourself say that the Church says that we can vote for a lesser of two evils. Therefore, refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils cannot be “avoiding mortal sin” because it is not mortal sin to vote for the lesser of two evils.

    3) When we Sucks-Less voters decided to vote for the guy who sucks less, we did so because we thought it was the right thing to do. That necessarily means that we think everyone else (in the same situation as us, and again ignoring the solid red and blue states where it doesn’t matter) is wrong. Ergo, we should try to convince them to not be wrong. It could be that you just don’t like the tone Mr. Zmirak used to try to do so in his piece, but given your own articles dealing with people who fall a little more to the right of yourself, I do not think can object to the tone alone.

    • Jamie R

      As to (2), if you don’t think you have a proportional reason to vote for the lesser evil, it is a grave, possibly mortal, sin to vote for it.

      As to (3), there’s a huge difference between “you’re wrong for these reasons” and “if you don’t vote for Romney, you might as well be committing self-abuse, you’re emotionally immature, and committing the sin of scrupulosity.”

      • Jacob S

        Re 2: Alright, fair enough, however I would submit that it is very clear that there are proportional reasons, and that if this does not appear clear to you it may be worth reviewing how Obama has been expanding abortion, trampling on religious liberty, and refusing to defend marriage. It may also be worth noting that Obama cannot be said to be any better in the war department – he wants to give the military less funding, but at the same time continually uses drones, which most people who think the Republicans are too war-happy think of as a no-no.

        There is room for debate on which candidate would help the poor most or be a better steward of our resources, but those issues pale in comparison to the others – not because they aren’t important, but because it is hard to say that the statement “he may be all for the slaughter of millions of children (and possibly the direct cause of needless civilian deaths overseas), but he wants to help the poor” is an argument in Obama’s favor or really even diminishes the reasons for not wanting him in office all that much.

        Now, if Obama was a pro abortion politician in words who wouldn’t do much about it, then I could see how one might not think that there were proportional reasons (I would disagree, but I could see how it might be a closer argument). But even if Romney is going to sit on his hands and do nothing to stop abortion aside from maybe reverse some of Obama’s expansion (what I expect), that is still billions of times better than the policy of expanding said murder that our president prefers.

        But as it is, we have “is slightly (compared to other politicians who might win) bad in where he stands on the principles of life, but probably won’t do much” vs “is very bad in where he stands on the principles of life and will (continue to) aggressively shove these very bad principles down our throats.”

        Re 3: True. I don’t think that his piece was quiet as bad as that, but it is certainly reasonable to not like its style. My primary point here (aside from mentioning that of course we will argue with those who disagree with us) is that Mark has rather liberally used a similar inflammatory style against those he disagrees with in the past, and while in general I don’t mind if the pot calls the kettle black, I would at least like the pot not to complain about the kettle being black while applying black shoe polish to any parts of itself that may be inadvertently losing their color.

        It is worth noting though that even if you don’t like his style, he (much like Mark does in his similar posts against Catholics who tend to be more likely to support wars than himself) raises a legitimate point that may be worth considering. And if you’ve considered it and it doesn’t apply to you, well and good. But the fact that it’s inflammatory and doesn’t apply to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to anyone.

  • Ted Seeber

    John Zimirak and I had quite the disagreement a while back over the role of atheist economics in the Church. I don’t see why I should take his view of politics as representative of anything other than his own Randroid tendancies.

  • Margaret

    If this claptrap discourages even one Catholic from voting against the Culture of Death then you have done a very very evil thing.

    • Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because the Culture of Death In Cases of Rape, Incest, and the Life of the Mother is clearly not the same thing as the Culture of Death. Tell me another.

      • Jason

        Oh, I think the difference would be about 90% less abortions. I don’t know about you but I count that as a huge step forward. Not the final destination I admit, but in a war where both sides are so utterly at odds with another any victory, no matter how small, will give our cause. Think about what might happen if abortion was outlawed in all besides those cases and it held. People might begin thinking of the child as more than a blob of flesh, and as an acutal human being of infinite value. When they begin seeing that the causes of rape and incest might seem less important in the light of the child innocence, and perhaps with greater respect for the child’s life there might be movement to whittle down on the final exception.

        In a battle as fierce as this, I think it’s wise to consider smaller goals, because those will lay the foundation for the final victory.

        • Ted Seeber

          And if you believe even that’s going to take place, I think you missed the point Romney made just last week that there was no current anti-abortion legislation he was willing to make policy. None at all.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Remind me, which culture of death do you not want me voting for? I get confused.

  • BruceB

    If the Church’s liberties are taken away it is unlikely we will ever stop abortion or the destruction of the family by the sexual agendaists of one stripe or another. We will be defending ourselves in human rights tribunals which will be like Canada’s HRTs on steroids. The key to at least forstalling that trend is to capture both houses of Congress and the White House. We may not win the fight against abortion any time soon, even in such a case, but we will certainly lose the fight for our liberty without doing that – and with it probably most of the Catholic non-profits in the country.

  • yan

    I don’t have a problem in voting for the lesser of 2 evils when it comes to Obama and Romney. And I think on the whole Romney is going to make a fine President. Also, to characterize the Republican relationship with the pro-life movement in particular–and by extension, social conservatives in general–as being one of almost pure political opportunism, is cynical and substantially false. Republicans have fought mightily to populate the bench with less liberal justices. They have worked very hard to retain the definition of marriage.

    We live in a democracy and the electorate is very divided. To complain, whether you are a liberal or a conservative, that your side, when it gets power, doesn’t successfully implement every policy that you favor, is just being a cry-baby. and is moreover often a veiled excuse for not paying sufficient attention to what efforts are actually being made. No one ever promised that democracy would be easy. Our system was designed to produce gridlock when strongly opposed parties disagree. If you don’t like it, do better to convince your fellows of your views, or, you can move to Russia if you prefer that style of government.

    The winning executive appoints the heads of executive agencies–for example the EPA–and departments and members of independent agencies–for example, the FCC which regulates broadcast media–which in turn carry out policies which can move the country in one way or another Left or Right, towards Christian values or other values. To characterize a vote for the President to be ‘just a vote for one person I like more or less’ I think unduly minimizes the realities which the President affects. But that is of course a prudential judgment about which people may legitimately disagree.

    In the mayoral election in my city, there are now only 2 candidates for mayor, both of which I dislike so much, that I just may exercise the refuse-to-vote option. That would be a first for me. But when it comes to President, the stakes are just too great to sit it out, in my opinion. When one considers the enormous scope of power of the executive even from a common sense perspective, I don’t see how you can justify sitting it out. In my opinion the differences in the candidates are amply sufficient under these circumstances to make a decision and cast my ballot, and I will do so for Romney. I hope, Mark, that you will reconsider your choice.

  • Don


    Paul Ryan mentioned one example of Mitt Romney’s personal charity during the debate. I’ve heard of many other examples in the last month or so–examples which Romney, in humility, refuses to talk about. Your demonizing of Romney is uncharitable, and your opinion that not voting isn’t, in effectt, a vote for Obama, is pure fantasy.



  • Deacon Tom Lang

    Romney on abortion: “The actions I’ll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget. And also I’ve indicated I’ll reverse the Mexico City position of the president. I will reinstate the Mexico City policy,” which does not allow American tax dollars to fund abortions overseas.”
    Obama is not shy about stating that he is strongly pro-choice, and that he strongly supports Planned Parenthood. He overturned the Mexico City Policy, thus permitting American tax dollars to fund overseas abortion.

    Mark – Accepting what they say as the best evidence we presently have to go on as to what they will do as President, can we agree that there is a likelihood that many more human beings will be aborted under an Obama Administration than under a Romney Administration?

    (If you disagree, then you can ignore the rest of my post.)

    If you agree, what explanation will you give someday to the many more human beings who were aborted IN PART because you failed to take the best action available to you to increase the possibility that the stronger abortion-minded person was not elected as President?

    I hope you understand that I am not judging your eternal salvation here at all! Like so many of us, we are all struggling with the best moral decision to make in this election. (I certainly am not excited about voting for a candidate who supports abortion to any extent whatsoever.) I am truly trying my best to analyze your position, that many Catholics are reading about and discussing, which I understand to be that you are not going to vote for the candidate who has the best chance of ensuring that the stronger abortion-minded candidate will not be our next President.

    • Kirt Higdon

      As to whether or not it is likely that more abortions will take place under a Romney or an Obama regime, that is not easy to determine; there are too many factors involved. Under Clinton, abortions declined in every year save one. This was clearly not due to the great political victories of the pro-life movement as there were none. Hard to say what happened after Bush succeeded Clinton since one of Bush’s first moves was to make the reporting of abortions on an annual basis to the CDC voluntary rather than mandatory. Since then some states have stopped reporting altogether and others report some years and not others. There is some evidence that in individual states, abortions went up in the first two years of the Obama regime but have since gone down, indicating an influence of the economic recession and the beginning of somewhat of a recovery. But it’s impossible to say for sure since there is no consistent gathering of data.

      It should not be thought that the Mexico City position of the US president is very significant since Father Euteneur of HLI has pointed out that whatever abortion funding is withdrawn by the US is picked up by the EU and when the US resumes its funding the EU cuts back accordingly. So the abortionists get their money in any event and the individual amount charged to any given American or European taxpayer is minuscle.

      Finally, who can possibly accept what they say, especially in the course of a campaign, as the best evidence of what politicians will do if elected? Lying is their native language. The best evidence of what they will do in the future is what they have done in the past.

      • yan

        If you ask me to help you rob a bank, and I know that if I don’t help you, then someone else will help you rob the bank, should I then just go ahead and help you rob the bank anyway?

        If the Mexico City policy is in effect, then the American people will at least not be guilty of aiding those abortions in which they otherwise would be materially complicit. So the Mexico City policy is significant to our moral culpability as a nation.

        It is also relevant to the extent that any stance taken against abortion has a pedagogical effect upon the rest of the world. Furthermore, a stance taken by the most powerful nation in the world against abortion has a greater pedagogical effect than that taken by a less powerful nation. That also means that as a more powerful nation we have a greater responsibility for our actions than a less powerful nation. And that means that a failure in this respect results in a harsher judgment by God.

        Your application of Fr. E’s observation seems to assume that moral choices of nations will not affect the moral choices of other nations. There are pro-life people in other countries where the culture of death is strong; they also need moral support and our choices can help give that support, or not. When people stand up for what is right, others take heart, and also take action.

        • Kirt Higdon

          The Mexico City policy has flipped back and forth 4 times so far and were a President Romney to change course again, that would be five. So far the abortionists are still getting their money and no pedigogical effect has been observed. Sure, I’d rather not have my own money used for this although we are probably talking about pennies from the individual taxpayer. But to base my vote on this and this alone would be quite foolish when Obama is spending hundreds of billions on killing foreigners and Romney is arguing for spending even more for that purpose. Why vote for either of them when I can vote for someone who is opposed to both funding foreign abortions and killing foreigners with drones or crippling sanctions?

          • yan

            If you were basing your vote on the Mexico City policy alone, I might, but probably would not, agree. But there are additional pro life reasons to vote for Romney. And other reasons not having to do with the pro life cause.

        • Kirt Higdon

          The Mexico City policy has flipped back and forth 4 times so far and were Romney to change course again, that would be five. So far the abortionists are still getting their money and no pedigogical effect has been observed. Sure, I’d rather not have my own money used for this although we are probably talking about pennies from the individual taxpayer. But to base my vote on this and this alone would be quite foolish when Obama is spending hundreds of billions on killing foreigners and Romney is arguing for spending even more for that purpose. Why vote for either of them when I can vote for someone who is opposed to both funding foreign abortions and killing foreigners with drones or crippling sanctions.

    • Ted Seeber

      “Accepting what they say as the best evidence we presently have to go on as to what they will do as President”

      I’m not sure I disagree with you on abortion, but I STRONGLY disagree with you on this statement. As President Obama has proved in spades, what they have to say during the campaign bears no relation whatsoever to what they will do as President.

  • tz

    So you don’t expect electing a Mormon who was entirely comfortable with being a pro-abort while governing MA to be any different than Mr. Skull-and-Bones (Freemason) that managed to avoid doing anything about the life issues when he had a GOP House and Senate?

    Before 9/11/01, Madeline Albright said of the sanctions which killed 500,000 Iraqi children “Worth It”. All to many cafeteria Catholics of the Right side would respond “That was a good start but we need to exterminate the rest, now in Iran”. Even if Gasoline goes to $25/gal. Romney’s your man to do it.

    • yan

      1] I don’t think it is likely that Romney would maneuver us into war with Iran. The prospect of war is way too unpopular right now for him to be able to do that. But I would agree that with Romney there is a better chance of war than with Obama, since Romney is a close friend to the Israeli right wing, and people should consider that when they case their vote.

      2] If you think Bush did nothing about abortion and life issues, you were not paying attention. He was the most pro-life President since the Roe decision.

      I admit it burns me up when people claim that Bush did nothing about abortion. It is just such an unfair statement and so casually made. Bush was the most hated President in my lifetime I think, and the source of the hate, in my opinion, was his application of Christian principles to the area of family and sex wherever and whenever he could manage to do that. I find the ingratitude from Christians toward Bush to be just staggering. People seem to have no memory of the things that Bush actually did and attempted to do during his presidency in these areas. How they can forget, I just don’t know, since the Left screamed about it without ceasing throughout his entire presidency. I must say it just increases my admiration and love for the man to see the lies and utter callousness he still has to endure even from those whose values he shared and attempted to put into law and policy.

      President Bush, may you live forever.

    • Pathfinder

      So which is it? The sanctions that killed the poor, Iraqi children, or our evil war machine?
      One could say that by invading Iraq we managed to get rid of the sanctions (which many countries were perfectly happy to keep in place while making backdoor oil deals with Saddam, who was also perfectly happy with the situation — in which case those dead Iraqi kids are as much on their hands as ours) — which may have led to the saving of lives. The same might be argued with Iran — which is presently teetering on the brink — I’m sure it will be an excuse used if action is decided in the future.
      However, as I’ve said before Iraq and Iran are altogether different things — and Romney is no George Bush (either one); that isn’t a compliment.

  • glenna

    In “08 you said you were voting 3rd party. I told you at that time you were, in effect, voting for O. Ditto 2012.

    • Mark Shea

      And you are wrong both times. You’re consistent. I’ll give you that.

  • Doubledad

    It would be very hard in our pluralistic society to found a party that mirrored Catholic moral teaching completely. We as Catholics can’t even agree among ourselves. What we can do is work within the system to make change and promote the word of God as much as possible in the public square. I admire anyone that attempts to conform their will to God’s will, but I don’t see how abstaining or promoting others to obstain on moral grounds isn’t abdicating responsibility at least to some degree.
    There has to be some way a concerned citizen can weigh in. If not, it seems to me a candidate that would promote a massive push for abortion, gay marriage, and restrict religious freedom has a better chance to get elected. Let’s face it, orthodox, observant religious people are the ones that care the most about those issues and if we lay off the election in droves, it seems more likely to me that Obama will get re-elected. Frankly, his outright attack on/perversion of faith scares the heck out of me.

  • TeaPot562

    If the overriding issue for a voter is reducing the number of abortions worldwide, consider: The last three presidents have acted by Executive Order – Clinton, to reverse the “Mexico City Policy” under which the US was paying government funds to organizations providing abortions overseas; George S. Bush, to reinstate the “Mexico City Policy”; and Pres. Obama to reverse the Mexico City policy, restoring the payment of Govt. funds to aborting organizations. This action can be taken by a president without having to cobble together a majority of the House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof majority of the Senate.
    Election of Romney would allow the Mexico City policy to be reinstated, saving babies’ lives overseas. No such action may be anticipated from reelecting Pres. Obama. Let us not sacrifice the possible on the altar of the ideal.

    • Kirt Higdon

      As I’ve posted above, there is no evidence that any babies lives are saved and the abortionists are not even out any money since the European Union picks up any funding dropped by the US and if the US resumes funding, the EU cuts back accordingly.

  • Larry B

    Lesser of two evils huh? I think of voting for Obama or Romney this way. In fact I think of most things this way. If the world had a balance scale attached to it, would my vote for Romney tilt it more towards good or more towards toward evil. Every action we do we should be trying to tilt the scale towards good. Collectively if everyone would imagine the world we would live in.

  • Matt

    You need to consider the moral consequences of your inaction, too. The point here is not so much to elect Romney, but to stop Barack Obama from forcing us to violate our Church’s teachings, among other things. If there wasn’t such a clear threat to our freedoms I would not be so concerned. However, I would not go so far as to say not voting, or voting for a third party candidate is a “mortal sin” — that would be ridiculous.

  • taad

    There will be no “do over” after this election. If the democrats win, we will not have a real election again. They are communist, and will consolidate power. Freedom will be over. Our Lady of Fatima predicted this. The entire world would be taken over by communist, even the US.

    • Mark Shea


      Yes. The Communist Muslim will outlaw God and institute shariah–at the same time! Thanks for that sober contribution to our national discourse.

    • Ted Seeber

      The problem with this prediction from Our Lady of Fatima seems to be that most people who quote it, seem to think the prophecy hasn’t been fulfilled yet. When, actually and sadly, the Communists have taken over the World Financial System and the Stock Market, they don’t need to use the power of government when they can deny you a job.

  • P. Brandon McCaffery, Jr.

    There is also another option that Mr. Shea for whatever reason ignores. It overlaps a bit, I suppose, with the “Sucks Less” option provided in this article. Let us call it “the Greater Good”–and yes, there is SOME good in the policies both of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Any judgment that indicates otherwise is rather facile. Catholics especially who fail to regard the economic good to be had are overlooking a significant aspect of this election. I do not begrudge those who for matters of conscience are obliged to cast no vote. I cannot help but think that their reason for doing so does more (unintentional) harm than good. Nevertheless, I will not (and nor should anyone, I think) accept this dictum “choose the lesser of evils” as though all that both candidates have to offer us is evil. The choice is a discriminate one to be sure; but there is good to be had for the discerning voter. This is not to say there is no evil in the policies of either candidate; or to say that there is more good in their policies than evil. I am only saying, and which I think is quite obvious, that there IS good, and we voters are given the supposed privilege to vote in this country while keeping both the good and the bad in mind. Let us not over-simplify matters and make ourselves look more out of touch than our critics–rather, the Church’s critics–think we are.

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m glad you see good in their policies, can you show me some? Because right now, I am opposed to both because I see no good. I can’t see the hand of God working in the rhetoric of either man.

  • P. B. McCaffery, Jr.

    I suppose what I mean to say is that I see “good intentions” in both candidates, as I also see some of their policies working TOWARD the good. The claim that I am specifically contradicting is this: “That there is NO good to be seen in either candidate”; and my whole point is that I find this claim shallow, facile, or just simplistic. But yes, let’s briefly look at a few matters in support of my argument.

    The fact that Mr. Obama is concerned about agencies like WIC is “good.” It is good because the President genuinely desires to support an agency that assists many, many single young mothers (particularly) who are struggling to feed themselves and their children. I don’t, of course, agree the method he employs in order to fund this agency; but I agree with him that the State (or some BODY) ought to support the agency, because of how desperately needed it has proven itself to be. Gov. Romney might have (good?) reason to dispute such Federal aid; and I think (quite frankly) he is correct to dispute such funding;–because we are essentially spending what we don’t have–but my point is, the President’s concern about single young mothers IS (very) noble. He means to work TOWARD the good, as he has (in this situation) the good in mind. Is this completely untouched by the “hand of God?” I mean, really, how can it be? Is the world so utterly devoid of God? I am, furthermore, at one with President Obama in his effort to find purer energy sources. This is a matter that deserves more of our attention, as we human beings ought to be, in various ways, futuristic–as the principles of solidarity demand. (In this instance, I would like to hear more from Gov. Romney about his plans for purer energy sources in relation to his insistence that North America needs to become more self-reliant with regard to energy.) Now, as regards Romney: I do believe the Governor “intends”–whether or not his “Five Step Plan” is entirely feasible–to BOOST the economy, put more people to work, so that less persons are without home or shelter, etc. The President also desires this; only, I happen to be more in agreement with Mr. Romney’s economics. (N.B: I read yesterday a very important article by Mr. Weigel on the moral imperative of securing a stable economy. It deserves all of our attention. I think Catholics who ignore the economic issue are being too short-sighted.) Another example: I am obviously glad Mr. Romney intends to defend the sanctity of marriage–i.e. between a man and a woman. I also believe that Mr. Romney is less pro-choice, or more pro-life, than Mr. Obama. It is very regrettable and discouraging that the Governor is not entirely consistent with himself in his “pro-life” views; but his views, as somebody noted above, are definitely a step in the right direction. How can they not be? Many of the things Romney intends to “conserve,” in fact, are worthy of conservation. E.g. a stricter adherence to the US Constitution.

    Obviously I am not saying both candidates have flawless views. I am not even saying I like the sort of “government” our United States trumpet. And lastly, I don’t say that their policies are more good than evil. I realize both candidates are co-operating, certainly in part, with evil. But I think some of this has to do with profound ignorance–which is not an excuse, but a “reason” FOR their veiws. My argument is that both candidates “desire” the good, in various ways. I will not accept the view that various Catholics are expatiating, i.e. that EVERY policy these presidential candidates espouse are EVIL;–nor will I not acknowledge the good, just because of this evil. The opinion you provided was that you are “opposed to both [candidates] because [you] see no good.” My point is I find this opinion shallow and not nearly circumspect enough. We all rightly notice great evil in the world, we are horrified by that Zeitgeist (with his thousand or so lies) haunting every home and classroom. But such an extreme opinion disregards the good that is being done, and the good that can be done. Am I being optimistic? I don’t know. Perhaps. I’m just trying to understand each candidate in relation to all (or as many) of the issues at hand.