The Non-Negotiables

The Non-Negotiables October 30, 2012

Every election, it is customary–and quite right–for Catholic voter’s guide to confront us with the “non-negotiables“: abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, human cloning, gay “marriage”. (I would add in vitro fertilization and torture, but let’s leave that aside for now.)

I’m totally down with this list and think it a tonic reminder of some of the basics we stand for as Catholics.

The problem is that, in practice, what the vast majority of prolife Christian actually mean by “the five non-negotiables” is “the five highly negotiables–if the candidate is a Republican and especially if he is Mitt Romney”. We are, after all, talking about the man whose sole achievement in the matter of the sanctity of human life is to get a formerly prolife running mate to capitulate to and actively support the proposition that innocent human life can be killed when it is unpopular enough to threaten Mitt Romney’s shot at power. Romney seems to oppose euthanasia at present, but given his rock solid commitment to flip-flopping, who knows what he will think should the aging demographic bulge of Baby Boomers get too expensive for our health care system? We’ll find out, I guess. ESCR? Well, we know he has no problem with In Vitro Fertilization so again, who knows? Same with cloning. And gay “marriage”? The man has been highly negotiable. Sure he *says* stuff that sounds soothing. But what possible reason is there to trust him?

My point is this: If the five non-negotiables are this negotiable, something is wrong. My idea is that the five non-negotiables really are non-negotiable and that our selective negotiability has, over the past 30 years, cost the prolife movement a whole lot more than it has gained it anything. I think we should return to refusal to negotiate on non-negotiables–and re-evaluate our voting based, not on the negligible impact our vote has on election outcomes, but on the massive impact compromising on non-negotiables has had on the prolife movement.

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  • CathDisciple

    Very good points indeed as I agree that when Christians are too willing to negotiate the non-negotiable and do not remain firmly committed to certain principles, it does more harm than when secular society is making the counter-argument. For example, we hold that “gay marriage” is a non-negotiable. I like to think of marriage itself as a non-negotiable. “Gay marriage” is a non-sequitur. There is no such thing. If we as Catholics believe that marriage is an entering into a covenant relationship that is effected by God alone, then so-called gay marriage becomes an impossibility (i.e., God does not join two men or two women together). No offense to our separated brethren (Protestants), but I firmly believe the one group most responsible for the destruction of the sanctity of marriage are the very Christians who openly hold the position that divorce, while regrettable, is acceptable. And not to let Catholics off the hook, if we all followed the Church’s teaching on contraception, the whole “gay marriage” argument would fall flat on its face. Instead we are communicating that marriage can involve intentionally removing the procreative aspect and still be marriage. How many Christians have actually “gay-ified” their marriage where they essentially send the message that marriage simply exists between two people who love each other, that the sexual act is purely recreational and that marriage can be dissolved whenever the two people decide that it will no longer work? This is not Sacramental Marriage, this is civil secular marriage and with that we have opened the door to the question from the gay community, “why can’t we be allowed to do that too?”

  • Am I mistaken in thinking that Catholic Answers’ 2004 “A Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics” was the popularizer, if not the originator, of the use of “non-negotiable issues” in this context? As I wrote when the guide came out, “after repeatedly saying you should not vote for candidates who are wrong on any of the non-negotiable issues, the guide says you may vote for a candidate who is wrong on the non-negotiable issues. This seems to lack a certain intellectual rigor.”

    • revelation315

      It actually says: “36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.”
      So the questions is does someone take the “extraordinary” step of not voting, (I personally think that voting for a third candidate that is only on the ballot in a few states is tantamount to not voting) or to decide which candidate will less likely advance the evil? In the state of Michigan where I live the vote may come down to a few hundred people.
      So sure if I don’t vote it may be 299 instead of 300, however if I do my duty to help evangelize others of the truth and convince 20 people not to vote who then each convince another 20, then that may change the election in my state. I believe that we have the duty to the common good of society, and not just of our own good. The Church does allow that I may morally vote for the candidate who would less likely promote the intrinsic evil, in doing so it could help the common good in that federal moneys will not be used for abortions, federal money will not be allowed for embryoinc stem cell research (this is the issue Mitt was dealing with in MA when he had his conversion), he is against cloning, and at least is not trying to force gay marriage on the country. Policy wise he is very similar to Ron Paul on these issues, he wants the states to decided, just like Ron Paul. Therefore he will limit the evils, unlike the other viable option who will promote and has shown to promote the evils.
      I am not decieved by Mitt Romney, he is not a pro-life champion. However, I do not feel that I am at the point where there is an “extraordinary” reason to not vote. There are things we can do that will limit the evil done and promoted by our government, and I have a duty for the common good to do what I can to assist in limiting that.

      • ‘It actually says: “36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma.”‘

        No, that’s from the USCCB’s Faithful Citizenship.

        My point is that the very source that gave us the term “non-negoitable issues” presents these issues as negotiable.

        • revelation315

          Sorry misread your statement.

        • The non-negotiables are negotiable for the good team, but not for the bad team.

  • Ted Seeber

    The something that is wrong is a widespread lack of the virtue of integrity in America. That the Church should be affected by this should be no surprise at all.

  • Mercury

    This is what I do not understand. On the one hand, we hear we can licitly vote for a candidate who will be less likely to advance such evils, an may even cause them to recede in some areas, especially if the alternative is absolute increase in sacramental abortion, a mad dash to have gay marriage become the law of the land, and a forceful campaign of actively pushing the church out of public life.

    Then in the other hand, we are told we are sinning unless te candidate we are voting for matches the magisterium on every single issue. And we are told this is so even if the imperfect candidate would in no way result in a net increase of the evils on question, and who may be able to decrease abortions. The reality that Romney’s platform, which would be an advancement of abortion if we were living in 1950, is in fact a position that would drastically limit abortions (if he actually holds to his promises), given that we live in the most pro-abortion society that bad ever existed. Nope, doesn’t matter – the candidate must be perfect – never mind the fact that the uncompromising Catholic position has NO CHANCE of ever gaining widespread support without a massive conversion. So we are told a desire to incrementally limit abortionby voting for candidates who are viable an who CAN pull things back a bit is illicit.

    So, we are told its a mortal sin to vote for Romney (not by Mark but by other commenters who imply it), and yet the bishops are saying we are obliged to vote under pain of sin in this election. And voting third party IS not voting, and you will not convince me otherwise – it is throwing away a vote in protest.

    I think that if I want to watch Obama lose on Tuesday, that will entail hoping Romney wins. And I think in such a case it would be dishonest of me not to vote for him, or to vote for another candidate like Hoefling who also no doubt does not pass the purity test.

    So, I guess my only possibility is to vote for the Prohibition party – they want to institute King James Bible theocracy, but they probably don’t support instructive evils – just maximum death penalty.

    • Mark Shea

      Then in the other hand, we are told we are sinning unless te candidate we are voting for matches the magisterium on every single issue.

      I don’t see anybody at all saying that. Certainly, I am not. Not even close.

      • Mercury

        No, Mark – you are unbelievably fair, despite what your critics say. It’s blindingly obvious, but some people like to be offended by you. Not me.

  • This list of so-called “non-negotiables has always bothered me. Not because I believe they should be negotiable, but because it’s such a highly partisan and selective list. After all, all 5 certainly are intrinsic evils, but Veritatis Splendor adds just a few more to the list: “homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons”

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds even more: masturbation (2352), rape (2356), homosexual acts (2357), the use of contraceptives (2370), lying and calumny (1753), and any political form of secular messianism (676)

    Perhaps we should remember what Faithful Citizenship says: “Although it [the Faithful Citizenship document] has at times been misused to present an incomplete or distorted view of the demands of faith in politics, this statement remains a faithful and challenging call to discipleship in the world of politics. It does not offer a voters guide, scorecard of issues, or direction on how to vote…It does not offer a quantitative listing of issues for equal consideration, but outlines and makes important distinctions among moral issues acknowledging that some involve the clear obligation to oppose intrinsic evils which can never be justified and that others require action to pursue justice and promote the common good. In short, it calls Catholics to form their consciences in the light of their Catholic faith and to bring our moral principles to the debate and decisions about candidates and issues.”

    We need to do more than just compare the candidates against an incomplete list (that I suspect has its roots in a political agenda through selective conscience forming). We need to form our consciences fully, honestly, and under the guidance of the Church. Then, we can vote without putting our soul in danger.