Um, but you said….

Um, but you said…. November 8, 2012

So  a couple of weeks ago, John Zmirak wrote a column in which he bitterly denounced those  of us who were refusing to vote for Romney as spiritual masturbators.  No.  Really. That was his dominant image in speaking of “spilling one’s vote upon the ground“.  It was a tour de force of angry denunciation of those of us who could not, in conscience, bring ourselves to vote for a GOP candidate who advocated several different grave intrinsic evils, and it deployed character assassination, ad hominem and non sequitur with a kind of artistry that made you sort of admire it the way you admire Triumph of the Will as a cinematic achievement until you remember what it’s saying:

How manly it feels, refusing to “compromise.” How satisfying it is  to flounce away from the playground with your marbles tight in your whitening  hand: “That will show them. I won’t be fooled again by the party that holds out  the carrot of Roe v. Wade to make us jackasses pull the cart. I’ll  write in Ron Paul. Or Pope Pius IX. Or Eamon de Valera. I won’t compromise—I’m  too much of a man for that.”

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.

It was time to grow up. I actually had to choose between the alternative of  doing my (little) best to push back against the gigantic evil that had  overwhelmed my country, or toddling off like Onan to spill my vote upon the  ground.

Those of you who live in one-party states like New York and California are  still free to join my old pal Andrew (and the old me) out on the pavement  outside the Dubliner. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling, there flat on your back,  and self-satisfaction is foaming, free on tap.

The rest of you, who can actually do something to restore our Constitution  and our liberties, I hope you will pretend, for a moment, that 3,300  innocent unborn lives a day might rest on your decision. As they do.

Ya got yer “You are a disgusting narcissist” canard.  Ya got yer “spiritual masturbator” image just to add a dash of gross.  Ya got yer mathematically illiterate claim that a third party vote is so important it will swing the election and so meaningless that it’s pointless to bother casting it.  Ya got  yer “If you don’t vote for this baby killing Republican and instead vote for somebody who opposes killing babies, you are voting for a babykiller!” nonsense.  You’ve got the totally false claim that if you don’t vote Romney, babies will die that otherwise would not have died (and the blind eye to the very real possibility that voting for Romney would mean that Iranian babies would die who would not otherwise die).  But above all, you have this message: GET IN LINE.  IGNORE YOUR PRECIOUS CONSCIENCE, YOU MASTURBATING NARCISSIST, AND SUPPORT THE GOP AT ALL COSTS.  JOHN ZMIRAK IS VERY ANGRY AT YOU FOR NOT DOING THIS.

Okay.  Duly noted.  I thought the argument was rank sophistry then and said as much.  He was welcome to do as he thought best with his ballot.  He was not welcome to charge those who were obeying their conscience in a way different from him with mortal sin (which masturbation is).  His way of voting to limit evil as well as ours has the Church’s approval.

But what to my wondering eyes should appear today but a post from Alternate Universe John Zmirak, who is now telling us “Prolifers Must Stop Being Pawns” and remonstrating with gullible prolifers for selling their birthright for a pot of GOP message, compromising their principles and letting themselves be co-opted, exploited, manipulated and pushed around by the GOP.  The sole thread of continuity between the two pieces is that John Zmirak wants prolifers to know how wrong they are and how right he is, with absolutely no acknowledgement of what he said less than a month ago.

The chutzpah is really quite gobsmacking.  But I’m glad we finally agree.

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  • Dave

    Wait, how do you know which one is the Alternate Universe John Zmirak? Did you ask Walter from Fringe?

    • Dude, everyone knows the one from the alternate universe is the one with the goatee. Duh!

    • Ted Seeber

      Catholic Libertarian Economist who once had a rather heated argument with his priest the day they read the Camel through an Eye of a Needle story.

      • Matt

        Mr. Seeber, please try to make some sense.

        • Ted Seeber

          That’s a description of the Alternate Universe that I’ve seen Dr. John Zmirak live in. He’s basically a Catholic Libertarian Economist who agrees with Thomas E. Woods that Jesus Christ was not a good economist, let alone the modern Popes. Because of that- I see most of his posts through that filter- a filter that sees Greed as not a mortal sin, but in fact a great virtue.

          I can’t live in that world. But it must be nice there.

  • Obpoet

    And by not voting for Romney you got what in return? Ah, that? You don’t even have to vote at all to get that.

    • Mark Shea

      A chance to register to the bean counters in both parties a protest of the their advocacy of grave intrinsic evil. Next question?

      • Andy

        Only if the bean counters lived outside of FOX newland.

  • Obpoet

    The next question is then why vote at all. You don’t need to, your time could be spent better on more productive efforts.

    And then there is this. The mark of success may not be winning, but in losing.

  • Obpoet

    And then there are times when you just have to stick your finger in the dike. It’s not the best solution, it’s just the best solution at the time.

    • Ted Seeber

      In this case, isn’t it a bit like sticking your finger in the dyke while the storm surge is destroying the rest of the levy around you?

  • The Jerk

    Romney didn’t even get the same number of votes as McCain. Turnout of registered voters is lower than in 2008 and 2004. Obama lost total votes from 2008. Maybe the GOP could have won if they got the turnout. Maybe they should nominate a real human if they want people to vote.

  • Dave Pawlak

    I believe the BJZ would be clean shaven, actually.

    • HBanan

      The BJZ has a waxed handlebar mustache, but he calls them moustaches.

  • Obpoet

    Sobering thought, but there may never be any decent people running for office. In fact, there have been precious few in our history thus far. Why would we expect them in the future? Rare exceptions are possible, but I’m not holding my breath. When you are making a quest, you might want Prince Valiant, but sometimes the only person that shows up to help is Boromir. And while you are deciding what action to take, Mordor is on the march. And today, they feel a lot closer.

    • Kate

      Um, not really a good analogy since Boromir tried to steal the ring. And who is Prince Valiant? Or are we crossing Disney and Tolkien here? I think LOTR actually supports Mark’s position of not compromising (the books of course, not the dreadful movies).

      • Andy, Bad Person

        I actually think the comparison to Boromir is quite the apt one. Remember that Boromir is the one who wants to be “realistic,” roll up his sleeves, and get dirty to fight the Ultimate Evil.

        And remember how he turned out: a thief that destroys the goodness of the real mission, a broken man corrupted by his chase for Power. And he dies.

        Yes, the comparison to Boromir is good.

    • Ted Seeber

      It’s the thought that has tempted me with the sin of despair for 3 days now. I think the out is to work hard at catechesis, and pray one of the children you touch will have the gift of a politician’s tongue.

  • Ha! I also did a double-take when I saw his headline — I believe I actually said out loud “wait, what?”. And then I thought “Oh man, Mark Shea’s gonna have fun with this.”

  • Tom R

    > ” Ya got yer mathematically illiterate claim that a third party vote is so important it will swing the election and so meaningless that it’s pointless to bother casting it.”

    How is this mathematically illiterate? If, two days ago, a third party had polled the support of an extra 5% of the American electorate (who instead, in this reality, stayed home) that would have been enough to have swung the election to Romney AND it would also have been pointless if those voters’ goal was to actually elect their candidate.
    “Don’t vote for the Libertarian, because their 5% vote share IF CAST FOR A LIBERTARIAN is too small for the Libertarian to win but IF CAST INSTEAD FOR A REPUBLICAN would be enough to help that Republican beat a Democrat” is not mathematically illiterate.
    I am commenting on the mathematical, not the moral, side of Mark’s argument here.

    • Jeremy Dobbs

      So, Tom. What is my motivation to elect a Republican again?

      • Tom R

        To repeat: I am commenting on the mathematical, not the moral, side of Mark’s argument here. I’m not saying “You ought to want to elect a Republican.” What I’m saying is more like “If you want to defeat the Democrat, 5% (or 2% or even 1%) added to the GOP pile of ballots will probably have a greater impact than those same number of votes in a separate, much smaller heap of ballots for the “Throne & Altar Catholicism Original Spirit of the 1776 Founders Party” or whatever. I am answering Mark’s claim that because N percent maybe wasted when given to a third party, therefore N percent will also be wasted if given to a major party.

        • Jmac

          But that’s still mathematically illiterate. You’re assuming that a significant amount of third-party voters are people who would be easily swayed towards the GOP side, thus giving Romney a sizable enough popular vote to win. One of the nice things about third-party voters is that we’re not expected to cleave to one of the two major political brands, and many of us (myself included) find both party’s platforms to be alienating. There’s no way I’d vote for Romney or Obama this election, so you can’t count my vote for either of them. I’d wager a sizable number of third-party voters feel the same way, if they were still able to vote third-party after wading through friends on the partisan side trying desperately to convert us to one of two repugnant candidates.

          In short just because you can say: “Let R = Romney’s vote percentage, O = Obama’s, and N = the aggregate of the third party vote. Observe R + N > O. Therefore vote with a party you don’t agree with.” does not make it a true statement. It’s a syntactically correct statement that’s about as useful as 2 + 2 = 5.

          • Ghosty

            This is the huge assumption that I hear every election cycle, and I’m glad to see someone else pointing out how false it is. This election I was a Ron Paul supporter, and I was constantly barraged by those who said that I should vote for whoever won the Republican nomination instead of writing in Paul as I said I would if he lost the primary.

            What these people didn’t seem to understand, however, is that I’m not a Republican and the reasons I supported Ron Paul specifically were generally those in which he broke with the Republican Party, including the way he approaches fighting Roe v. Wade without needing Supreme Court nominations. I made it clear that I would not and could not vote for Romney, that he stood for almost everything I dislike about Obama (slightly less enthusiastic about abortion doesn’t cut it, in my book), but I still heard how I was somehow stealing votes from Romney by writing in Ron Paul.

            The fact is that my vote was never Romney’s to lose, and the fact that it was a Republican vote was a fluke because Ron Paul clearly breaks with much of the Republican platform. I am an independent voter who happened to support a particular Republican candidate, not a Republican voter who was taking my ball and going home because I was upset that my favorite lost the nomination. Whatever else happened, the Republican Party lost my vote by nominating Romney, a vote that was never a lock for them, and I know that this is the case for many other Ron Paul supporters. Maybe our votes wouldn’t have been enough to push a Republican nominee over the edge and beat Obama, but don’t tell us that we lost the Republicans the election. The Republicans failed to pick us up because they nominated Romney; we were the “independents” they kept talking about needing to win, and they decided to give us the finger instead.

            Peace and God bless!

          • Tom R

            > “But that’s still mathematically illiterate”
            [Sigh] I think you are confusing mathematical illiteracy with political feasibility or desirability.
            I am not saying anything about whether Libertarian/ Constitution Party supporters *will* or *should” swing to the GOP.
            I am making an observation that they are more likely to change the legal outcome of the election if they do (“President Gore” etc). They are more likely to elect a Republican than a Lib/ Con by voting that way. Whether they will, or should, is another question that I have tried to carefully not touch.
            I am not confusing an “is” with an “ought” but others are.

            • Jmac

              But, again, you’re assuming that libertarian/constitution supporters are more closely aligned with the GOP, when that’s simply not true in general. This election drove home the fact that I’m politically homeless, at least as far as the two parties are concerned, and I couldn’t tell you which I’d take over the other. You certainly can’t count my vote as a loss for the GOP in that case, because there’s no circumstances in which I’d swing that way considering what they have become in recent years.

              (To pull out the math again, saying my vote -> GOP + 1 is certainly syntactically correct, but the “+” operation is not defined where my vote is concerned)

              Unless you really are just saying GOP + (3rd party) > Dem. In which case that’s a fun arithmetic fact, but isn’t really relevant.

              • Tom R

                I’m not assuming that. They could be the Strawberry Ice-Cream Party, the Chocolate Ice-Cream Party and Vanilla Ice-Cream Party but the principle would be the same. With first-past-the-post voting, a tranche of voters too small to elect their own preferred candidate can still be large enough to decide which of two major-party candidates gets elected. Mark claimed that if they are too few to do A then they cannot possibly be numerous enough to do B. That part is incorrect. The rest of Mark’s argument stands on its own merits.

              • Ted Seeber

                Given that Obama walked away, in the end, with 50.5% of the popular vote, 61 million out of 120 million voters, no, GOP+3rd Party is not enough to swing an election decisively.

    • Ted Seeber

      In every state where Obama won so far, he’s won by way more than the Libertarian (or any other third party candidate) got. In a good many of them he won by more votes than all the third party candidates put together.

      The one exception is Florida. Where they’re not done counting yet last I heard. But even if Obama loses Florida, he still beat Romney by more than 30 electoral votes.

  • Matt

    shriller and shriller.
    The tone of this has jumped the fargin shark already.

  • HBanan

    The Libertarian Party got 1% of the national vote. Gary Johnson (the candidate) was thrilled, because that is the highest the Libertarians have ever received. Calculations based on a five-fold inflation of Libertarian votes are not persuasive. I also know that some of my friends who voted for GJ voted Obama in the last election. The Libertarian Party is run by its left wing.

    • Tom R

      > “Calculations based on a five-fold inflation of Libertarian votes are not persuasive”

      Very well. 1% would have given the US President Nixon in 1960 or President Gore in 2000. Pick whatever percentage you like, however small. In a “50-50 nation” where political machines try to target voters as precisely as possible, even a small percentage might change the results between the two largest parties. This – to repeat – is not an argument that you therefore must vote for one of the Big Two. Like Mark, you may subscribe to a moral calculus that holds positive action to be culpable in circumstances where abstention, even if it knowingly brings about the same result, is not. I am not debating, here, whether that is the one true moral calculus. I am answering the fallacious argument that if N is so small a number that N votes in a separate pile for a Libertarian or a Constitution Party candidate cannot change the result, therefore N votes added to the GOP or Democrat pile cannot change the result either.

      • Kristen inDallas

        Arrrghghghhh! I wanted to be done talking about this stupid election!!! But Lo, here you go attacking logic again and I have to stand up for logic any day of the week. In order o make the claim that third party votes would have an effect on the election, you have to make 3 assumptions, all of which bear very little resemblence to reality: 1) that the 3rd party voters account for a significant percentage in swing states where those votes will actually have an impact, 2) That all political thought lies on a perfectly straight spectrum with libertarian on the “far right” and therefore somehow more pledged to republicans than democrats (completely disregarding the anti-war, pro-privacy breed of libertarians), 3) That even if all libertarians could in a state could be motivated to vote republican in such an unlikely fashion as to make it a close race, where it would have otherwise gone to Obama, that there aren’t a significant number of democrat-leaning abstentionists sitting at home, not willing to vote unless “it counts” ie it’s a close race.

        • Tom R

          Please read my clarification above distinguishing “could” from “will” and “should”.
          To repeat: 1% (or some other small percentage) is usually “large enough” to change which major party candidate wins the election even if it is not “large enough” on its own to elect a minor-party candidate.’
          This does not entail any claim that the minor-party supporters *will*, as an empirical matter, switch their voters, or that they *should*, as a normative matter, switch their votes.
          I have no brief for Mr Zmirak or anyone else on the far right wing of Catholicism but I do understand voting systems and I hold him guiltless of the charge of being inconsistent on this particular point,.

      • j. blum

        That one percent only matters if it changes a state’s electoral vote in our deplorable winner-take-all system. This is how narrow margins of popular votes become touted ‘landslides.”. This one percent distributed over anywhere from two to fifty states means nothing. Because, for president, your vote doesn’t count.

  • Elmwood

    We don’t know what Romney would have done as president to limit or reverse the evils of abortion. For anyone to claim that it is sinful to not vote for Romney is implying that we all somehow know the future and that only voting for Romney would have lessened abortions.

    The church and God doesn’t expect everyone to interpret information the same way and act the same. The church and God only expects that we do not sin. Voting for a candidate who doesn’t support intrinsic evils (abortion, gay marriage.. etc.) is not sinning. Voting for someone who does support intrinsic evils may be sinning depending on the circumstances, intent and object.

  • HBanan

    BJZ is the one who encouraged Kanye to grab Taylor Swift’s microphone.

  • M

    Well, halle-freakin-luiah!! I thought I was one of the only people who couldn’t in good conscience vote for Obama or Romney. I do wish that people would actually read and understand the candidates’ stance on the important issues. Obama may be consistently pro-choice but Romney has been all over the map: abortion is okay for rape/incest, approved the drug RU-486, but thinks that abortion is wrong. But not contraceptives?? WTH!

  • James

    I read a number of different blogs. I visit this one from time to time, but I’m always turned off because the author always seems to be angry at somebody.

  • Living in the great blue state of Massachusetts, I had a smacking great time this election season. Warren was the Democratic challenger against Brown for Senate. Whenever I saw a Warren commercial on TV, I couldn’t wait to pull the lever for Brown. Most of the time when I saw a Brown commercial, my heart sank. Extremist on abortion “rights” or moderate on abortion “rights”?

    On the presidential line, there was no pro-life alternative to Romney. The libertarian candidate, Johnson is pro-choice, and well as the green candidate. I was not going to vote Obama.

    There was only one pro-life candidate (outside of Romney) on my ballot who openly declared himself as pro-life (in MA, declaring your position on the life issues is just not done). Of course, he lost.

    At least I had the consolation that the assisted suicide measure was defeated in MA. But I had to force myself to vote this year.

    Being in a blue state, I had the luxury to be disgusted with Mitt Romney this year. I also had the luxury of being disgusted with MA Tea Party activists who would welcome my vote, but would not listen to my concerns as a social conservative. That didn’t console me at all. I’d rather have a candidate whom I could vote for. It doesn’t seem like much of a luxury to me.

  • Not voting is kinda like being the designated driver, watching everyone else get drunk and doing foolish things.
    But don’t you just hate it when they throw up on the back seat?

    • Bad grammar! That should be “watching everyone else get drunk and do foolish things.”

      (Although we designated drivers do foolish things too.)

  • Barbara Nicolosi

    Triumph of the Will, Mark? Really? REALLY? Mr. Zmirak presented a differing opinion from yours in an articulate and compelling way — so he is equal to a propagandist for Hitler? It’s over the top and unworthy of you to compare someone to the barbarous Nazis just because they disagree with you. Nazis threw millions of people in gas chambers. Nazis murdered and tortured and committed unthinkable acts of evil. I think you can’t really have a horror of torture if you can throw around Triumph of the Will like that.

    • Mark Shea

      No, Barbara. He is not a propagandist for Hitler. It was an analogy for a skilled artist who uses his gifts for a distorted end, as Leni Reifenstahl used considerable gifts for a distorted end. Sort of like him using his gifts to compare Third party voters to masturbators is an analogy. But see, the Church teaches that both my way of voting and his is morally acceptable, while masturbation is a grave sin. So John’s (pardon the pun) below the belt analogy was a false one. In contrast, the Church says that calumnny (such as suggesting somebody is as grave a sinner as Onan when they are not) is a sin. So my analogy was sound. John did, in fact, use his gifts for a distorted end: calumny.

      • Ivan K.

        “John’s (pardon the pun) below the belt analogy was a false one. ”

        “Spilling one’s vote to the ground” is not an analogy but a metaphor. If I say that someone has “murdered” the English language, I’m not accusing them of a mortal sin but of bad writing.

    • Ivan K.

      I have to say that this is one of the more shocking posts from Mark Shea, which is saying a lot. He knows full well that his post will sic all of his followers on John Zmirak, and give them the signal that calumny and disparagement will be permitted in the comments.

      I don’t know Mr. Zmirak, except through his writing. What he wrote then was a strongly worded opinion–something that Mr. Shea has been known to post on his own blog from time to time. I read the Q&A titled “Pro-lifers Must Stop Being Pawns.” I see no contradiction between that Q&A and the admonishment to Catholics who “spill their vote to the ground.” (BTW, I did not agree with his conclusion in that column, but I recognized its merits and did not find its strong wording offensive or deserving of character assassination.) I wonder whether Mark Shea or his comment hyenas have read past the title, which is the only part of the Q&A that can be interpreted (incorrectly) as signalling a change of mind.

      • Ivan K.

        I ask sincerely why Mark Shea frivolously squanders his well-earned reputation as a lay theologian and author of very accessible, insightful, and, to many, inspiring books when he writes these immature, anger-driven posts, and permits character assassination and calumny on his site.

        • Mark Shea

          “sincerely”. Ha! Good one!

          • Ivan K.

            Yes, sincerely.

      • Mark Shea

        “Character assassination.” Ha! Good one. Us spiritual masturbators know something about character assassination. Yes, I read past the title. In the first paragraph, he faulted prolifers for doing in 2004 and 2006 what he demanded they do a month ago, wink at the preposterous fibs being told by Romney. It was a a ridiculous volte face and deserved to be called out.

        • Ivan K.

          John Zmirak was using a graphic metaphor to express his general belief that someone voting third party is wasting their vote. People leaving comments on this site, on the other hand, are attacking John personally and making anonymous allegations about his treatment of women. John expressed an argument. People leaving comments here are making allegations about him, with your permission.

          • Ivan K.

            Besides, it’s not as if you haven’t been very critical of Catholics who are willing to hold their nose and vote Republican. I don’t see how John’s criticism of the vote-spillers is any worse than yours of the nose-holders.

            • Mark Shea

              I have disagreed with such Catholics and tried to persuade them of my position. I have also said that it is morally permissible, according to the Church to vote Romney to try to limit evil, but that I disagreed that this would work. I never *ever* said they were sinning if they chose to do so. Anything else, your honor?

              • Ivan K.

                Again, John Zmirak was not literally accusing Catholics who vote third party of masturbating and ejaculating votes. It’s a metaphor expressing the idea that you are wasting your vote out in order to feel good about yourself, which is not a mortal sin. It’s silly to argue that he was accusing you of mortal sin because he used a self-gratification as a metaphor. Your anger seems to be depriving you of basic reasoning skills.

                • Mark Shea

                  No. It’s a metaphor expressing the idea that you are a gravely sinful self-regarding narcissist for not voting as he demands you vote. The problem is, this is false and the Church says it is perfectly legitimate to vote third party if you think that will best limit evil. You really do need to learn to read.

                  • Ivan K.

                    You are supplying “gravely sinful” on your own. Zmirak, on the other hand, is using a metaphor to say that those who vote third part are doing it out of self-gratification, which may be a character flaw but isn’t a mortal sin. I’ve never encountered “voting third party because you want to feel good about yourself” on any list of sins, mortal or venial.

                  • joe

                    Mark, I have never read your books, or even seen any of your articles before. I know how easy it is to become angry and defensive. I don’t use the computer much, and my spiritual director warned me that it is easier to spill hateful rhetoric over the internet in a post than if speaking to someone face to face. I don’t need to read all of your material to know I respect you, whether I agree with you or not. I would like to show my concern, though, of how you ‘speak’ to others in your posts. Blessed are the peacemakers! Turn the other cheek! Your angry replies only feed others anger. Perhaps some people are trying to get a rise out of you. It is important to speak the truth, but remember what the Truth asked of us while doing it. God Bless you

                    • Mark Shea


                      Thanks. You’re a good soul.

                    • It really is entertaining to see Mark Shea consistently characterized as a hateful bigot with droves of mindless followers. If I read only the comboxes on this blog, I would be convinced that he was a spiteful, mean, nasty, hateful human being. The fact that he’s simply blunt and entertaining and Catholic-and-enjoying-it elicits sanctimonious admonitions from those who disagree with him. It really is a fascinating phenomenon to watch. Here, he just points out that Zmirak is inconsistent; and, while Zmirak is the one using the rather awkward metaphor of masturbation, Shea is blamed for pointing out what Zmirak said. Zmirak is the inconsistent one here; Zmirak contradicted himself; Zmirak used an unfortunate metaphor. But Shea gets all the heat. Amazing.

          • Mark Shea

            I deleted the Jerk’s comments. Next red herring?

  • Tom

    I have to agree that Mark is sometimes over the top in his denunciations of those who disagree with him.

    I also read the two articles by Mr Zmirak linked to in Mark”s post, and they weren’t contradictory in my opinion. I think the status of abortion in this country today would be much different if Catholics would have been willing to make this issue their primary political focus, and it has been frustrating to see it side tracked over and over through the years, by the nuclear freeze movement, by the death penalty, by the wars in central America, right down to the issues that displace it today. The argument that these issues were, or are, important too cuts both ways. Opponents of war or advocates for the poor are seldom asked why they don’t abandon their cause in favor of another, as pro lifers are.

    Zmirak’s second article made the argument that with the reelection of Obama, the possibility of effecting change through presidential politics has passed, and that therefore pro lifers should forget national politics and throw their efforts behind a constitutional amendment. The second article doesn’t contradict the first, rather it reinforces the first by saying that pro lifers have squandered any opportunity they once had for change at the voting booth.

    • Mark Shea

      I didn’t ask anybody to abandon the prolife cause. I did ask not to be called a spiritual masturbator for trying to limit evil in a way the Church approves. And yes, the second article completely contradicted the first.

      • Norris

        The problem here Mark is that Zmirak didn’t call you or anyone else a spiritual masturbator. His use of the spilt seed metaphor was in reference to himself.

        It is interesting that you yourself have noted that one could vote for Romney and not sin, even though you could not vote for Romney without sinning. So, you at least acknowledge that one’s opinion of what one thinks of one’s own vote need not apply to others.

        Now, maybe Zmirak personally thinks the metaphor applies to others, perhaps not. In any event, we do not know what he thinks on that point. We do know what he thinks of his own vote.

        So, we have a case in which you explicitly compare him by name to Nazi propagandist but that’s okay, while his referring to his own potential actions as metaphoically equal to maturbation and you wax into high dudgeon about what he’s called you even though he was not talking about you, or anyone else in the use of the phrase in question.

        • Mark Shea

          Right. Zmirak was simply writing a confession and asking for mercy for previous mistakes. He wasn’t, both in the article and in his nasty responses to Red Cardigan, Zippy, and Tom Kreitzberg, obviously directing his commentary at anybody who was voting third party or refusing to vote. He just felt a sudden need to unburden his conscience about past mistakes, not to write a particularly nasty smear of voters who wouldn’t get in line and vote GOP.

          You’d think he would have made that clear when multiple readers in his combox *did* somehow take it that he was writing to punch third party voters below the belt.

          I stand by what I wrote.

          • Norris

            “I stand by what I wrote.”

            I’ve come to expect nothing less.

            • Mark Shea

              This is unjust and you know it. I have changed my mind about things in the past and am open to reasoned argument. However, your tortured excuse-making for Zmirak’s smear is simply rubbish.

              • Norris

                Well, I didn’t bother with the comments section over there, so I missed where Zmirak used the masturbation meme within the comments as you have intimated that he has done.

                But I make no excuse for the man. I know next to nothing about him beyond the fact that his writing style bears an uncanny resemblance to that of yours, just not quite as much so. So you can understand how I find it remarkably ironic to see you bust out with all the righteous indignation for someone of your own ilk.

                So, no, I made no excuse for him. Rather I made a point of fact about what he had written, and further noted that that fact was at odds with your hysterical complaint.

                I don’t know about rubbish, but I know the risible when I see it. And the notion that you are open to reasoned argument is a knee-slapper.

                Take for example your definition of conservatism you offered in response to me question. I suppose we could have a rational discussion about your definition if I were to accept the seemingly infinitely many inflammatory premises layered into all the witty pejorative descriptions. (It really is a talent of yours, for what it’s worth.)

                That’s not a discussion. That’s a verbal assault. As I mentioned, it’s not an indictment, it is a conviction. The judge has ruled.

                Yet, to think such a methodology even remotely approaches a discussion is, again, laughable. Do you ever read Chesterton? You always seem to remind me of his work. It’s as if he had you in mind when he wrote:

                The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. Or, to speak more strictly, the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable; this may be observed specially in the two or three commonest kinds of madness. If a man says (for instance) that men have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except by saying that all the men deny that they are conspirators; which is exactly what conspirators would do. His explanation covers the facts as much as yours. Or if a man says that he is the rightful King of England, it is no complete answer to say that the existing authorities call him mad; for if he were King of England that might be the wisest thing for the existing authorities to do. Or if a man says that he is Jesus Christ, it is no answer to tell him that the world denies his divinity; for the world denied Christ’s.

                Nevertheless he is wrong. But if we attempt to trace his error in exact terms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed. Perhaps the nearest we can get to expressing it is to say this: that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large. A bullet is quite as round as the world, but it is not the world. There is such a thing as a narrow universality; there is such a thing as a small and cramped eternity; you may see it in many modern religions. Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable MARK of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction.


                You are such a small circle.

                • Norris

                  “This is unjust and you know it. ”

                  Oh, and coming from you, that’s pretty damn funny too.

                  Are you really so irony-impaired?

                  • Mark Shea

                    Norris: I don’t know why you are so angry at me, but there seems to be no point in continuing this. Give my best to Barb. If I’ve hurt either of you, I apologize. I don’t understand what I’ve done to hurt you and I’m really stymied by your hostility.

    • “Opponents of war or advocates for the poor are seldom asked why they don’t abandon their cause in favor of another, as pro lifers are.”

      My own observations are that opponents of war and advocates for the poor are constantly told that abortion is a more important issue, and that actions on war and poverty should be deferred until abortion is outlawed.

  • Elmwood

    It is puzzling that John Zmirak, an ostensibly good catholic, would divide up our shrinking church by comparing catholics who couldn’t vote for Romney in good conscience to a drunk buffoon or someone engaging in a gravely evil act. It is typical to draw indignation and ad hominem attacks from GOP catholics when they are told that you are not voting for either Obama or Romney. The catholic church in this country has been divided by the political interests of Republicans and Democrats. Each side is herded together by fear and hatred of the other side. This is why the GOP has been particularly stupid this election, they realize that using rational arguments isn’t as effective as playing on people’s emotions. Hence the mindless cheer-leading atmosphere of GOP conventions and debates.

    Romney supporters should defend themselves for voting for a candidate who supports abortion and gay adoption, not those who voted for a third party candidates who don’t support intrinsically evil policies. John Zmirak has it completely backwards. But even then, they deserve our respect for seeking out the common good and not comparisons to violent drunkards or self-pleasuring fiends.

    • I am a fan of both John Zmirak and Mark Shea. Both tend to engage in hyperbole, of which this is an example. I seriously doubt Zmirak thinks that not voting for Romney is equivalent morally or otherwise to masturbation or drunkenness. He was just employing a clever, perhaps overly clever turn of phrase to title his piece.

      • Mark Shea

        If by “clever” you mean “calumnious” then yes. For masturbation is a grave sin while voting for somebody who does not advocate grave intrinsic evil is not a sin at all.

        • Ivan K.

          So, if I accuse someone of “murdering” the English language, I am guilty of calumny?

          • Mark Shea

            No. Because bad grammar is not a sin. However, if you suggest that somebody who votes third party is committing a grave sin and then use an image of grave sin to try to establish this lie as a fact, you are guilty of calumny, as well as of a false analogy. Because, in fact, voting third party was not a sin but was one of the ways the Church said you could legitimately attempt to limit evil.

            • Ivan K.

              You’re killing me, Mark.

              Just to clarify: I’m not literally accusing you of committing murder. Just as John Zmirak wasn’t literally accusing people of masturbating and ejaculating voting ballots.

              • Mark Shea

                Ivan: Please learn to read. Just as I was not calling Zmirak a Nazi propagandist, so I get that he was not literally accusing people of masturbating and I get that you are not literally calling somebody murderer. I actually graduated from sixth grade. But what Zmirak *was* literally doing was saying that it was a sin to refuse to vote for Mitt Romney. That is false. You should stop defending that falsehood. And you should also learn whaat “sincerely” means, as well as learn to read.

                • Ivan K.

                  You justified your claim that he accused you of mortal sin by pointing to the title: “He Spilled His Vote, etc.” I was addressing that bit of reasoning. Where in the article does he accuse those who vote third party of committing mortal sin?

                  • Mark Shea

                    With the suggestion that failing to vote for Romney is assisting in baby killing? The whole piece was a particularly graphic and brutal assertion of the tired and false “A vote for a third party is *really* a vote for Obama” wheeze. No. It’s not. It’s a vote for the person you voted for.

  • Obpoet

    I’ve asked this before, perhaps I have missed the anwer: How do people visualize an end to abortion on demand in this country?

    Yes, Boromir was flawed. That’s the point. Even Frodo’s flaw was revealed at the end, under the weight of carrying the ring for so long. We are all flawed.

    • I doubt that there can be an end to on demand abortion in the US as a whole. The most probable solution to limiting on demand abortion is to turn abortion laws back to the states (ala capital punishment). To this end I would suggest that abortion should be discussed as being limited to those instances where it is medically necessary. The discussions of rape that pro-life advocates find themselves in should be answered simply with, “If the victim’s physician believes that an abortion is in their medical best interest then it would be legal, otherwise it would be illegal.”

      That said, the other solution is to change the culture from one that defaults to death as a solution (abortion, capital punishment, and increasingly assisted suicide) but I am at a loss as to how to accomplish this without a widespread movement of the population from secularism to Roman Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity.

    • Kristen inDallas

      To be honest, it has nothing to do with politics. Aragorn didn’t become king until AFTER a lot of flawed but basically good people (all the hobbits, all the ents, all the dwarves, the elves that remained a majority of humans as well as some dead folk) decided they were willing to fight for life/freedom over death/subjugation. It happened AFTER some ultimately very insignificant folks were willing to carry a very heavy burden for a very long time.
      It sounds like you’re trying to argue that even though flawed, Boromir would be a better option that Saruman, well sure. But I think you miss the larger point of the analogy – neither Boromir nor Saruman could save middle earth on their own, they both would have played right into evil’s hands if they had tried. The ONLY thing that makes boromir a more righteous character is the fact that eventually he put his ambition aside and chose to just make a boromir-sized dent, saving the few innocent lives he could rather than trying to save all of them.

  • Clare Krishan

    here’s what the good Fr. Torraco (RIP) had to say a decade ago:
    __9. What if one leading candidate is anti-abortion except in the cases of rape or incest, another leading candidate is completely pro-abortion, and a trailing candidate, not likely to win, is completely anti-abortion. Would I be obliged to vote for the candidate not likely to win? ” In such a case, the Catholic voter may clearly choose to vote for the candidate not likely to win.”
    See here

  • Clare Krishan

    How do people visualize an end to abortion on demand in this country?
    well CST demands solidarity with the “uns” there’s always subsidiarity?
    Parse out the political arena until you find the majority vote to secure solidarity with the “uns”
    (to use Cardinal Dolan’s pithy formulation, I’d even include the numerous unborn of the non-unmarried mothers, Downs Syndrome babies for instance, or girl babies lost to gender selection)
    To do what we must to promote such powers under subsidiarity a state could cecede from the Union — at the exense of solidarity with babies in other states of course. An extreme POV? Consider your religious freedoms then. While the popular vote was roughly even-stevens, the electoral college segregates us into coastal urban blue states and inland rural red states. Cuius regio, eius religio? The “uns” have the rights that the God-king President grants them? What about our right to perform our charitable duty?
    Illegal if your’re the Nevadan parent-guardians of a disabled Ecuadorean adoptive daughter with the developmental age of 6:
    Benedict’s speech to his homeland parliament on the wisdom of Solomon applies, no?
    „Nimm das Recht weg – was ist dann ein Staat noch anderes als eine große Räuberbande (take the Law away – what else is the State but a great band of robbers)?”, as Saint Augustine once said. We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty spectre. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right – a highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss.”
    ie the law understood as a coherent “given”, justice under natural law, NOT the incoherent positive law of ‘American freedoms’ fancy. Our Bishops have a huge job ahead of them to get up to speed in this department IMHO – as a catechist preparing youth in public schools for the sacrament of Confimation, here’s an image of what I feel I am faced with – how to arm the wee ones to resist the messages they are saturated with in their secular curriculum totally divorced from the religious curriculum:
    (for readers of Magnificat he’s the painter of the artwork featured in the October issue on guardian angels)

    At minimum our Bishops could be fighting to have the right to teach CCD during the scheduled school day (on-site or off-site would depend on the political will of the diocesan faithful, rather like state nursing homes or the armed forces that have faith-based pastoral directors on staff) so that our kids can learn the habit of defending the faith coherently with other topics taught, rather than as a superstitous icing on the cake of life. If not, how long before service chaplains are banished to the private realm (cuis regio euis religio) also?

  • The Jerk

    BJZ gets invited to be on Fox News all the time, but declines because he thinks it’s a little trashy.

    • Mark Shea

      Um, alright already. I get it. You don’t like JZ. You can stop now.

  • Kristen inDallas

    It’s funny how you never hear non-voters tearing shreds into 3rd party voters for ruining our otherwise *totally plausible and mathematically rational* chances at pulling off an election boycott. Even though that IS how a lot of 3rd party voters would otherwise vote. I mean, a vote for Johnson wasn’t *really* a vote for Johnson, it’s *actually* just a protest vote against a 2-party system and therefore should really be counted as a non-vote, right… I mean, as long as we’re making up immaginary motivations for a whole block of people we don’t know. 😉

  • Clare Krishan

    FYI – the painting entitled “the wrong track” is allegorical rather than religious in nature.
    here’s some clues to the meaning of the image:
    * that’s Dante sitting stage right astride the three entrance steps to Purgatory’s first terrace (ie the steps the angel is leading the child up are the wrong steps )^
    * the direct ascent into the picture along the most efficient fore-shortened perspective (straight up mimicing the erroneous builders at Babel)^^
    * the shadow down in front of Dante’s feet is of an owl the a symbol of justice (in classical pagan times, one of the cardinal virtues, Justice with a capital J)
    * cast by light transmitted through the tree from the upper left – a symbol of Divine Illumination (and Christ’s sacrifice on the wood of the Cross as its transcendent absolute expression)^^^
    * a dozen doors indicate 12 theses on offer to the soul (perhaps progressively calling into question each of the twelve articles of faith beginning with the concluding one: the souls’ lofty privilege of everlasting life?)^^^^
    ^ ‘progressive’ steps of logical positivism, see ArchBishop Chaput ‘Life in the Kingdon of Whatever’ )
    ^^ dearth of humility of those of us who would ignore the possibility of or worse, foreably eradicate any unforeseen consequences to, the inevitable stumbles (see last Sunday’s mass Collect) we fallen humans make on our crooked-timber trajectory through life
    ^^^ an escatology of “seek ye first the Kingdom of God” ie look for the shadows that indicate where the light is coming from (see CDF’s declaration Dominus Iesus)
    ^^^^ and in denying that sacred truth, ushering in the culture of death?

  • Obpoet

    The abortion issue sounds a lot like Will’s comments about the weather: Everybody’s talking about it, but no one is doing anything about it.

  • Clare Krishan

    oops, sorry let’s give the artist the benefit of the doubt, I was wrong to imply absence of free will with “the angel is leading the child ” the soul has the right to be held responsible for his own choices, the angel’s vocation is to guard and guide, she’s sticking to the child’s side reminding him of the Four Last Things (the skeletal remains etched in the stone of the arched gateway behind Dante)

  • Clare Krishan

    denying that first term of the creed would be what Ann Coulter would have us do:
    “No law is ever going to require a woman to bear the child of her rapist”
    I think she means ‘no NORTH AMERICAN law’ since there are places on earth where the law requires the death of the mother as well (territories under Salafist interpretations of Islam’s Sharia, for instance). and laws in most SOUTH American Nations still protect life at all stages.
    But — and this is what’s more important — such laws don’t save life at all stages: the UN rates abortions in Latin America at 37 per 1,000 women, close to New York’s levels of 688 abortions for every 1,000 live births, which is what 46.5 per 1,000 women looks like when you stop using ‘generic women’ as your reference point but the actual babies conceived by sexually-active men and women.

  • Obpoet

    Actually abortion law is in the hands of the states. It is just that their flexibility has been severely limited by the SCOTUS. So that plan will not work. Other visualizations?

    • Ghosty

      You strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction for ruling on abortion matters. All it would take is a simple majority in the House and Senate, and the Republicans have had this at the times jurisdiction stripping has been put forward as a bill, yet they never acted on it.

      The notion that we must get seats on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade (the argument typically advanced by the Republican Party and most pro-lifers) is either a smokescreen or represents a poor understanding of how Supreme Court jurisdiction works.

      Peace and God bless!

      • Do you have any links as to how Supreme Court jurisdiction works? I’ve never heard this argument advanced before.

        • Ghosty

          The best article for easy understanding is actually the Wikipedia article on “Jurisdiction Stripping”.

          The Article of the Constitution specifically is this:

          Basically, the Supreme Court serves as an appellate Court only over issues that Congress permits. It is passively assumed to have appellate jurisdiction over most matters unless Congress explicitly says it doesn’t, and Congress can go back and forth over time, granting and taking away appellate jurisdiction. Roe v. Wade was an appeal from Texas courts, IIRC, and tomorrow Congress could theoretically say that the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction over abortion lawsuits originating from State courts. With that vote Roe v. Wade would cease to have force and States could make their own laws again without concern of the Supreme Court overturning them in appeal.

          This isn’t a novel power, and the article in Wikipedia gives several examples of how it’s been used before. In fact, in one case Congress stripped the Supreme Court of jurisdiction as it was deciding on a case, and the Supreme Court fully recognized the power of the legislature to do so. Why the pro-life movement hasn’t supported this method enthusiastically is utterly beyond me, but there have been legislators that have tried to push it forward, including Ron Paul, and they’ve received no support from the “pro-life” Republican Party.

          Peace and God bless!

  • Michael F.

    While I don’t agree with Zmirak’s extreme rhetoric, I don’t see that he’s contradicted himself. Maybe I’m missing it? It’s one thing to validly recognize that at a particular point in time that you have two less than ideal viable options from which to choose (one of which is better than the other), quite another to say that one should continue to work toward ensuring that that we’re presented again with two less than ideal viable options in the future.

    That’s basically been my aim for some time. Face the reality of the moment (election), but work toward better viable options next time.

    You write, “I will not support any candidate who asks me to support grave and intrinsic evil.”

    I’m curious if you follow this same strict rule when voting with your dollars in the economy. Do you investigate what companies are using your money to support abortion? Same sex marriage?

    • Mark Shea

      What he did was fault Catholics for doing in 2004 and 2006 (and 2007, when he commissioned Scott Richert to write a “stop being a pawn” piece) exactly what he was demanding they do a month ago, wink at Romney’s obvious duplicity for the sake of the Team. Now he is back to saying “don’t be a pawn”. He even repudiated what he’d said in those years on the comboxes on the “seed” piece. So yes, it was a total whiplash job and flatly contradictory of what he said a month ago.

      • Michael F.

        Not trying to drag this out or be argumentative, I just still don’t quite follow it, Mark.

        I see the first part of what you pointed out to me, but Zmirak openly admitted that much. He criticized his own prior view. True? He did also point out that there was a difference back at that time because he wasn’t in a battleground state. His view changed as he grew a bit older and moved to a battleground state. I would also suspect that he logically concluded that the evil Obama poses is more serious than the one posed by either Gore or Kerry. Again, maybe I’m missing it, but I don’t see anything particularly hypocritical about that.

        I also still don’t quite follow the second part or your criticism. Unless I just missed it, Zmirak didn’t say that he wouldn’t vote for a Republican next time if the same situation arose (again – I’m focusing on the distinction between what to do when an election is actually at hand and the interim in between elections). He didn’t tell others not to vote for a Republican if the same situation arose. Had he done so, then I agree it would have been a contradiction. 

        Maybe I’m wrong, but I honestly understood him to be arguing that if we could manage to get a personhood amendment passed, then we would no longer need to vote for the viable candidate who will do less harm on life issues; we would be more in the position of power to influence the Republican Party. But again, I didn’t see that the strategy his enunciated directs anyone to refuse to vote for the “sucks less” candidate (as you put it) in the mean time when each election is at hand. 

        That being said, I do think Dr. Zmirak was unnecessarily harsh and absolutist in his tone. His inflammatory rhetoric seems out of place to me in light of his evolving views. But I think that’s a common issue in the blogosphere. And, in fairness, I suspect some would argue that this more bombastic approach is intended to provoke reaction and thought. I’ve seen a few other well-known bloggers with sincere intentions use that same approach at times and to some positive effect. So I don’t want to judge too harshly.

    • Ted Seeber

      “I’m curious if you follow this same strict rule when voting with your dollars in the economy. Do you investigate what companies are using your money to support abortion? Same sex marriage?”

      Yes, and that’s a huge part of what I will be going to confession to discuss with my priest on Saturday.

      I’m to the point that I can’t keep up my house because the local big box retailers that have put small hardware stores out of business in my area- all support intrinsic evil.

      • Clare Krishan

        Hurra! “strict rule when voting with your dollars “ my point on subsidiarity indeed – I’m POA for a poverty-stricken elderly friend and the nursing home has instructed me her Rx coverage ceases soon (lost Medicaid-eligible provider in helathcare reshuffle) so I am tasked with choosing her a new provider from a dozen LIS eligible Part D plans. How do I know which one is Catholic-friendly? We have voter-lists for our political choices, but where’s the voter lists for our social-service choices? (NOTE: I do not use ‘free market’ choices because they aren’t really : the choice is mandated by law (ie not free) and any choice I make is going to cost me in subsidies to the PSM (pharma service managers) companies — and financiers for the pharm companies . Subsidies paid not in taxes now but in loss of future purchasing power in the form of deficit spending on the part of our Federal agencies.

        This is crazy, people. If we’re asking our grandchildren to pay for our grandparents meds, now who is to pay for ours when the time comes? Descendents as yet unborn? Don’t count on them – contraceptively-speaking they may never llive to inherit the legacy we’ve so avariciously endowed them!

        • Ted Seeber

          Or exist in the first place, I think you mean.

  • Stephen J. Herreid

    Dr. Zmirak isn’t reversing himself or being inconsistent. Admitting that Romney was a flawed candidate, he counseled supporting him as a lesser evil, and exposed the illogic of those who falsely asserted that it might be sinful to support Romney for that reason. He calculated, rightly, that the defeat of Romney would make the Supreme Court impossible to reform—while a Romney victory might make it possible (if uncertain). He urged prolifers to rally behind the least bad option, and resist a far greater evil, in the hope of leaving open this avenue of attack on abortion. Now that it has closed, he is honestly stating why Romney lost, and calculating the (now much steeper) odds of changing our abortion laws by a much more arduous method. Dr. Zmirak is not trying to blame Romney’s loss on “purists” like Richert and Shea—whose influence as writers is, thankfully, negligible. Instead, Zmirak is forthrightly repeating criticisms of Romney like those he published at Crisis magazine when he was the editor, and criticisms of Republican foreign policy such as he has been writing, consistently, for years. The fact remains that Obama’s victory is a disaster for the Church, while a Romney victory would have been a mild reprieve. Catholic institutions will now be closed by this intolerant administration, and Obama appointees will legislate from the bench in a manner much more hostile to the Church. Those who counseled futile, symbolic votes instead of effective votes against Obama have nothing to be proud of.

    • Mark Shea

      Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

  • The synthesis of the two articles seems to be along the lines of, “It’s okay to be a pawn when your side wins.”

    Since, according to John Zmirak — by the way, what’s with this “Dr. Zmirak” business? He’s writing blog posts, not prescriptions — “[t]here is no longer any prospect of promoting life issues through the Court — and hence, through presidential politics,” there’s no point in being a pawn for unprincipled, pro-business drones who say they in some manner oppose legal abortion.

    And then there were four non-negotiables.

    Jason Jones seems to think the possibility of defending traditional marriage remains, so it would seem to be okay to be pawns in the hands of unprincipled, pro-business drones who say they in some manner defend traditional marriage.

    • Ted Seeber

      He holds a doctorate in economics. The title is appropriate. Even if you think that the whole field is just one big excuse for bad behavior.

  • Obpoet

    No. In fact the SCOTUS has the final say. So Congress cannot simply act. The court rules. Any other thoughts?

    • Ghosty

      I think you meant this as a response to my previous. Congress decides what the SCOTUS is allowed to rule on; see my earlier post for the details, or you can read Article 3, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution.

      You can also look up Jurisdiction Stripping on Google for tons of information about this apparently little-known fact of U.S. Constitutional Law. SCOTUS is completely subject to Congress outside of some very narrow and rare circumstances.

      Peace and God bless!

  • Elmwood

    Mark, I am thankfull that you are a lone beacon of common sence in this sea of GOP stupidity. I’ve looked hard at what the bishops have said concerning voting (Archbishop Lori and Cardinal Burke). They say to vote for those candidates who don’t support intrinsic evils. They say when there are only candidates who support intrinsic evils, you may vote for them given proportionate reasons. Again, you do not sin by voting for a pro-life third party. You *may* sin when you vote for a lesser of two evils like Romney if there is not proportionate reason. In this case, Obama is certainly a proportionate reason.

    In fact, Archbishop Chaput has recently said that the time may be comming or has already occured where we can’t in good conscience vote for either GOP or democrat. I think our friend Zmirak needs to read this:

    “Serious Catholics” who believe in the Church’s teaching on social and life issues “can’t settle comfortably in either political party,”

    • Mark Shea

      I’m not a lone beacon of anything. There are some very smart people out there–way smarter than me–who are rethinking the Catholic relationship to conservatism and a lot of very encouraging ferment going on. I’m just one person making what noise I can to say, “Time to rethink.”

  • Obpoet

    But the SCOTUS has already ruled on abortion. So your arguement is moot, and I suspect incorrect to start with, but moot nonetheless. Can anyone else see an end to it? Everyone seems to talk about ending abortion, but no one seems to have the faintest clue how to stop it. Maybe visualizing the end is a good place to start.

    Yes, Boromir was imperfect. Aren’t we all?

  • j

    if you can tell us all this, can you just tell us who you voted for, or if you did not vote at all? Is it possible for you to write a clear short note about who you voted for and why? If you have done this already, can you please provide the link here? thanks

    • Mark Shea

      It’s not a secret. I voted for Ron Paul. Doesn’t advocate grave intrinsic evil policies, but prominent enough that a vote for him has a shot at registering on the richter scale for the party bean counters.

  • Michael F.

    @ Mark: Just to be clear, I make the following comment because I think this is an important discussion and I take it very seriously (voting as a Catholic). I’ve changed my views in the past and I could change them again, if convinced.

    But one disagreement I currently have with your voting philosophy is that I don’t think it’s quite as you’ve characterized it. You’ve said that your philosophy is to not vote for any candidate who supports grave evil (“things that will send you to hell”) – no compromise on grave, intrinsic evil, period. You’ve contrasted your philosophy with the “best viable candidate” philosophy, which does require making compromises on grave evil. According to the dichotomy you’ve set up, your philosophy doesn’t involve moral compromise on grave intrinsic evils and the “best viable candidate” philosophy does require moral compromise; therefore, (according to you) your philosophy is safe for one’s mind and soul and the “best viable candidate” philosophy is not.

    But, as I’ve pointed to you previously, your voting philosophy does atually involve moral compromise on grave moral evil (“things that will send you to hell”). You had forgotten about legal no fault divorce, legal contraception, legal fornication/cohabitation, and legal sodomy (among others). All of these were illegal at one time and have since become legal. There’s no presidential candidate I know of over the past 20 years who has taken a public stance against any of these grave evils, let alone all of them.

    Your reply to me when I first pointed this out to you was that you hadn’t considered it previously. Then you created a new distinction: those grave evils that are currently being debated vs. those that are not currently being debated. Your voting philosophy focuses solely on the former and not the latter.

    While I don’t think this is a bad subsequent distinction to add, it doesn’t change the fact that your philosophy does still require moral compromise on grave moral issues (“things that will send you to hell”). You’ve just taken some of them off the table for consideration (those that not currently being debated). So, it seems to me that your philosophy is still a “best viable candidate” philosophy on grave moral issues, it’s just that you’ll compromise somewhat less. It’s not really a matter of no compromise vs. compromise as you’ve characterized it.

    Of course, none of this changes the fact that I think you’re doing a great service to the Catholic community by pushing people on these issues and making sure that they face and brace themselves against the dangers involved in any moral compromise and by reminding us that there should be limits to compromise.

    I would also like to know if you advocate following your strict rule (of not voting for candidates who support grave, intrinsic evil) when voting with one’s dollars in the economy. That’s an equally direct form of supporting grave evil as well. Do you advocate and practice refusing to buy anything from companies that are using your money to support abortion? Same sex marriage? Contraception?


  • Jon W

    Ugh. I know John Zmirak a little. I live in NH, and I have met and talked with him and even argued a bit. He really, really seems to like pushing people’s buttons and saying rhetorically shocking things he doesn’t really mean. It would probably be best for everyone if we would just start ignoring him for a bit.

    Mark, don’t take his rhetoric seriously unless it’s personally aimed at you by name. It’s not worth it. In our current theme of offensive metaphors: the pig and the mud and all that.