Voting Propositions

Voting Propositions March 7, 2008

Proposition 1: One should not vote for those who support grave evils.

Proposition 2: One should not vote for those who support intrinsic evils.

Proposition 3: Via prudential judgement, there may be divergent views on whether a given act is a grave evil.

Proposition 4: Two Popes and all the U.S. bishops to varying degrees in their prudential judgement have concluded the Iraq war is unjust.

Therefore, the only people in good conscience who may vote for either of the two candidates with a chance of winning the presidency – discounting embryonic stem cell research – are those whose conscience hasn’t conformed to the beliefs held by the ordinary magisterium.  Discuss.


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  • rgarnett

    I’m not sure about the “therefore”, and I’m also not sure that it is true that two Popes and all the Bishops have “concluded the Iraq war is unjust.” Put that aside, for now, though.

    It seems to me that, at present, the question for candidates and voters with regard to the war in Iraq is not whether “the war is unjust” but what the United States should do in order to end the war in a way that leaves Iraq with a stable government and safe society, and — more particularly — does not leave Iraq vulnerable either to civil war or conversion into a haven for terrorists. I do not pretend for a moment to have a clear answer to this question. It is certainly not the case, though, that one whose conscience has been formed by the magisterium is obligated to believe that the morally required course is for the United States to remove all troops from Iraq as soon as is logistically possible.

    Of the viable candidates, two clearly supported the decision to go to war. (And, both of these two candidates have criticized the way the war was waged and the occupation of Iraq was handled.) The third claims that he did not, but it not clear to me that he would have voted to oppose it, had he been in a position to case a vote. We’ll never know.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    “what the United States should do in order to end the war in a way that leaves Iraq with a stable government and safe society, and — more particularly — does not leave Iraq vulnerable either to civil war or conversion into a haven for terrorists” seems to a reasonable criteria for selecting candidates in the fall. There are those who would argue that that criteria would not be a sufficiently ‘grave reason’ to vote with a candidate who supported an intrinsic evil such as abortion.

  • Blackadder

    Reject proposition 1. Reject proposition 2. Proposition 4 is ambiguous. If it refers merely to the initial invasion, then it is surely correct. If it refers to the current U.S. presence in Iraq (which is what’s needed for the argument to go through) then it is not so clear.

    Proposition 3 is fine, though. 🙂

  • JB

    Good questions MZ, but I think Blackadder brings up some decent points. The Church and bishops have not quite said anything along the lines of proposition 1 or 2. Rather we may not vote for someone because they support those grave or intrinsic evils.

    Nevertheless, I would add that I, if I had to vote right now, my conscience would probably preclude me from voting for any of the main candidates on the basis one propositions one and two.

  • I’m also not sure that it is true that two Popes and all the Bishops have “concluded the Iraq war is unjust.”

    Two popes explicitly said so. While a few individual bishops may disagree (like the former Arch-chaplain of the u.s. military, Ed O’Brien), the u.s. bishops did issue a join statement which represents their conclusion. To question that the popes and the u.s. bishops have made a judgment is absurd.

  • Absurd, and possibly intentionally dishonest.

  • RPFN

    Both popes and most of our bishops have condemned the war as unjust but not as a teaching of the ordinary magisterium. Still I would trust their prudential judgment over that non-Catholic in the White House.

    And of course the big exception is “proportional reasons.”

    Having said that, I personally agree. I’ll probably be voting 3rd party.

  • Daniel H. Conway

    As I have said in another post, Papal Rome-speak on matters such as war, particularly when put through the distortion filter of Navarro-Valls, leaves professional conservatives with the opportunity to display their best sophistry. (“Did he really say that this war was unjust? Actually, what he really said was that the war was just, and that he supported this adventure without question. Besides, abortion is wrong, and supporting a consistent life ethic has nothing to do with the question of war.”- I’m sure at least 6 articles by Weigel were loosely based on this outline.) I respect DarwinCatholic’s honesty that he chose other than what two popes would have chosen.

    Clever words will attempt to hide what the popes will say or have said about a particular war.

    Ratzinger, in clarity, rejected propositions about “pre-emptive war.”

  • rgarnett

    Michael I.: Just so I understand, are you really accusing me of being “intentionally dishonest” — do you really mean to suggest there is even a possibility that I am being “intentionally dishonest” — when I say that “I’m . . . not sure that it is true that two Popes and all the Bishops have “concluded the Iraq war is unjust.” That is, do you really think it is even possible that I am lying when I say I am “not sure” that “all the Bishops” have concluded that “the Iraq war is unjust?”

  • rgarnett

    And — for Michael I. and Dan Conway: Is it “dishonest”, or “sophistry”, to say (as I did) that “[i]t is certainly not the case . . . that one whose conscience has been formed by the magisterium is obligated to believe that the morally required course is for the United States to remove all troops from Iraq as soon as is logistically possible”?

  • rgarnett – If you mean individual bishops, as I said above, then you are likely right. Some bishops, like Ed O’Brien, are in disagreement with the official judgments of the Church on the war. But if you mean that you “are not sure” that official statements have indeed been made by the popes and by the USCCB as a whole, which is what it sounds like you said above, then yes, I would assume you are being dishonest, not by “lying,” but by ignoring the existence of such official statements.

  • Is it “dishonest”, or “sophistry”, to say (as I did) that “[i]t is certainly not the case . . . that one whose conscience has been formed by the magisterium is obligated to believe that the morally required course is for the United States to remove all troops from Iraq as soon as is logistically possible”?

    I certainly think that in making such a statement you are not thinking with the Church. You might be thinking with John McCain, sure. But not with the Church.

  • rgarnett

    Michael,

    This last statement of yours is just silly. The claim that one who thinks with the Church is obligated to support as-soon-as-logistically-possible withdrawal, regardless of the consequences of such a withdrawal, is frivolous, and certainly not Catholic.

  • Withdrawal as soon as logically possible is just war teaching, Rick. Sure, it’s debatable how soon “as soon as possible” would be, but if, for example, one argues for extended occupation of Iraq, then no, this person would not be thinking with the Church.

  • Above, logically should be logistically, of course.

  • rgarnett

    Michael, if by “as soon as possible” one means “as soon as possible consistent with our obligation not to leave Iraq vulnerable to chaos, terrorism, etc.” then, obviously, that’s right. Of course, that’s not what “as soon as logistically possible” means, nor is it what (I gather) Sen. Obama is calling for. No sane person — and, therefore, no Catholic — would think that the appropriate way forward is simply to leave as soon as is “logistically” possible. (You left out “logistically” — which was, of course, a pretty important word in my original comment.) I said, “[t]he claim that one who thinks with the Church is obligated to support as-soon-as-logistically-possible withdrawal, regardless of the consequences of such a withdrawal, is frivolous, and certainly not Catholic.” You, it seems to me, made this silly claim. Do you retract it?

  • Daniel H. Conway

    “[i]t is certainly not the case . . . that one whose conscience has been formed by the magisterium is obligated to believe that the morally required course is for the United States to remove all troops from Iraq as soon as is logistically possible”?”

    This is not sophistry. It is honest to say-“hey, they said starting it was wrong, they are very unclear what to do now, I intend to listen, learn, and pay close scrutiny, but I disagree.”

    This is different than denying that there have been papal statements to the contrary.

    This is also different than saying that clever and highly intelligent people have been using their tremendous God-given talents to re-create the framework for this discourse as opposed to listening and disagreeing-here again I am aiming major critique at the Weigels and Neuhaus’s who have tried to use their intellect to provide the Commander in Chief a “charism” for war not belonging to the prelature.

    Saying “did two popes REALLY say that the war is wrong?” is kind of like the line of propaganda that reads “what is torture, now, REALLY? Aren’t we really talking about a little dunk in the water, like a splash fight?” Is this the line of questioning that leads to holiness?

    I respect “I disagreed with the Pope. I think he is wrong.”

    “No sane person — and, therefore, no Catholic — would think that the appropriate way forward is simply to leave as soon as is “logistically” possible.”

    Truly, Professor, most arguments even on the left, target pragmatic discussions. For folks who have embraced pacifism, such a series of arguments remains unconvincing. With regard first to the pragmatists, we are left with assurances of success, yet again from the same scoundrels who staged “Mission Accomplished.” So, individuals desiring continued pursuit of this war better have some outcome and competence assurance, with better PR and a good face on this war. This is more organizational science type of stuff than real ethical assessments. And GWB ain’t it for any public assurance of competence. All such discussion is based on varying forms of scrying with optimistic or pessimistic crystal balls. In terms of families, easy to access horrible predictions can be made about the likelihood of divorce on the families of the soldiers. As well as mental health disasters, as well as substance abuse. It is easy to predict. And likely to be very accurate. These all argue from the standpoint of pragmatism. But this does not necessarily speak to Christ and the Cross. If one thinks that the same outcome will be present if we stay or not, based on the fact that the military and its leadership all the way to the White House have failed so far to accomplish the objective of a “friendly Iraq,” then leaving now may be no different than leaving in 10 years.

    Pacifists embrace a set of virtues that remain someone different than those that folks vying for various forms of power. The call is to embrace powerlessness for the sake of the Cross and do so recognizing that one stands with the same repertoire of responses as the early martyrs and the Christ in the poor. The poor and powerless are frequently are the greatest victims of war (war is truly the enemy of families), even in this country, war has fiscally impacted the poorest the worst. The embrace of pacifism is thought by some to be a better form of Christianity (think of it kind of like the old Baltimore Catechisms describing vocations: “This is good”-getting married; “This is better”-being a priest). Pacifism is kind of like the same. Despite Neuhaus and attempts to say otherwise, most likely early Christianity was a sophisticated pacifism based on the Sermon on the Mount. As was the intent of the TOF’s.

    Pacifists would say that some things are left in God’s hands. For example, if it became possible and necessary that cures based on the destruction of embryos were available, it is unlikely that it will be morally acceptable to use these embryo-destructive techniques. Kind of like women facing life-endangering pregnancies-it is not morally acceptable to terminate the pregnancy. Pacifists see the outcomes of this war in the same vein. Some things are best left to prayer and fasting and penance.

    Just some two cents.

  • Rick, I have/had no idea what you or Senator Obama mean when you say “logistically possible.” It can mean whatever you want it to mean. My position is that of the Church. I don’t retract a thing.

  • rgarnett

    Daniel — God bless you. I don’t understand (seriously) your point. I do not dispute (how could I?) the claim that the Pope and JPTG did not think the U.S. should have invaded Iraq. I expressed doubts — way back when — with respect to the claim that all the U.S. bishops have concluded the war in Iraq is unjust.

    Michael — my position (I’m not entirely sure what it is, because I’m no longer sure what the question presented is) is that of the Church. If that is your position, then we agree. But, if your view is that the armed forces of the United States should remove themselves from Iraq as soon as the planes can get them out, then you should re-think your view. Certainly, this is not a view that should commend itself to intelligent Catholics. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure I don’t like war any more than you do.

  • I think the bottom line is that faithful Catholics can discuss all of these issues. They can even come to some conclusions as to these issues. But in the end, how a Catholic casts his or her vote is always a matter of prudential judgement.