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Something Messy in Texas

October 22, 2008

In recent weeks, we are seeing something of a backlash against the USCCB’s Faithful Citizenship document– the most articulate and theologically sophisticated treatise of these issues by the US bishops ever– mainly by the usual suspects, but also by a small but vocal minority of bishops. For one, Deal Hudson dismisses the authority of the document altogether with his quip that “the bishops should be paying more attention to what is being taught by their staff, both at the conference and the chanceries”. But this has it exactly backwards. In the past, the document has largely an administrative affair, produced by the USCCB with minimal oversight from this bishops. This is not the case with the current document. For the first time, the bishops deliberated in open forum, and amendments and alterations could be proposed. After debate, the document was approved by all but four bishops. Pretty unanimous.

The advantages of such a process are obvious. With sufficient ownership over the document, the bishops can speak with one voice and resist sending misleading and contradictory advice to the faithful that would only serve to underline their collective authority. And yet, this seems to be happening. The fact that more than four bishops have issued their own interpretations suggests that some are not fully atuned to the responsibilities of collective ownership. For sure, every bishop has the right to to instruct his own diocese on all matters of faith and morals. But surely, on a key national question as this, they should endeavor to speak with a single credible voice? What I find particularly strange is the tendency for small groups of bishops to issue joint statements– as happened in Kansas and Texas, for example. How can we say that a document endorsed by 250 or so bishops has no weight and one endorsed by only 2 does?

Let’s address some of the issues. Most of the interventions center around a very narrow question: whether there are, in the current circumstances, sufficiently grave moral reason that would justify a vote for a politician who supports the “right” to abortion. Some of these bishops state that, in their considered view, no such reason exists. What we need to understand clearly is that this conclusion is in itself not a principle, but an application of a principle to particular facts and circumstances– in other words, what some call (often dismissively so) a prudential judgment. They are therefore asking the faithful to accept the validity of this prudential judgment. In itself, this is fine. But there are problems in fudging this point, but not making clear enough distinctions before arriving at this conclusion. I’ll get to that.

I’d like to address some other issues too, with what I think is possibly the most problematic of the statements issued, the one by Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas and Bishop Kevin Vann of Forth Worth. I will address three specific problems.

First, the issue of relevant intrinsic evils. These Texas bishops present the teaching that there exist intrinsically evil acts that can never be justified. Appealing directly to Faithful Citizenship, they list the following: “legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and ‘marriages’, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination, or destructive human embryonic stem cell research”. My main problem with this statement is that it misrepresents Faithful Citizenship. Why? Because it appeals to the document, and then presents a different list of relevant intrinsically evil acts. Specifically, it adds same-sex unions and religious liberty, and takes out torture and the direct targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war. This is puzzling. The religious liberty issue is certainly a core concern for Catholics in places like China and Vietnam, but it is hardly a pressing issue in the United States today. Likewise, I find it shocking that they would omit references to two to the most egregious violations of the culture of life at the political level over the past eight years: torture and the conduct of war.

Second, the issue of prudential judgments. The Farell-Vann statement makes a clean distinction between intrinsically evil acts on one hand, and prudential judgments on the other, declaring “issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils”. They argue that there can be a reasonable debate over such topics as immigration reform, health care, the economy, concern for the poor, and the “war on terror”. Let’s go through this. As noted above, a prudential judgment in the application of moral principles to particular circumstances. As creatures of reason and intellect, we know that “not all choices are equally valid” (these are the exact words used in Faithful Citizenship). For example, one could make the argument that tax cuts for the rich help the poor by lifting all boats. This is simply not borne out by the facts. Nor can we say credibly that a move toward individualized health insurance would protect the most vulnerable. There is too much of a tendency among some Catholics to write off “prudential judgments” as “things I can safely ignore”, while in fact, Faithful Citizenship explicitly condemns “the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity”. For “these are not optional concerns which can be dismissed” and Church teaching is not “just another political opinion or policy preference among many others”. The culture of life must be consistent.

Let’s take another highly pertinent example. Simply because war is not intrinsically evil does not mean it is never evil. By failing completely to live up to the just war criteria (last resort being the most blatant example), it is almost impossible to say the Iraq war was just. If not just, then evil. Of course, we can never choose evil, whether that evil is a result of the object of the act (intrinsic), or of the particular facts and circumstances at play (extrinsic). I’m also intrigued by the addition of “war on terror” to the list of topics for which prudence is called for. I find the very use of this term inappropriate to start with. More to the point, the conduct of this policy has employed a number of intrinsically evil acts that can never be justified, such as torture. This is most assuredly not subject to prudential judgment, any more than abortion.

Third, the issue of “grave proportionate reasons”. The Farrel-Vann statement argues that a Catholic may only vote for a person who supports abortion “rights”, if all candidates support these “rights” or if other intrinsically evil act outweighs abortion– and none does, given the number of unborn deaths each year. They appeal again to Faithful Citizenship in this context, which again is a little dubious.

Let me address a few problems with this line of reasoning. First, if it is merely a matters of numbers, then surely the most important issue is not abortion but embryonic stem cell research, which both candidates favor. Second, as noted above, it is not the case that we must restrict out attention only to other intrinsically evil acts; we must consider all evil acts, period. And surely, an unjust war would count. To take this flawed reasoning to its logical conclusion, let us say a US administration launched a nuclear war on Iran, killing millions, but still less the the cumulative number of abortions in the United States. Looking solely at this statement, this seems justifiable since (i) they don’t list the direct targeting of non-combatants as an intrinsically evil act; (ii) they regard matters of war as part of the domain of prudential judgment, not on par with instrinsically evil acts; and (iii) the numbers killed are anyway not high enough. This is surely an extreme example, but I believe it adequately exposes the flaws of this type of reasoning.

And there’s one other thing. As I pointed out recently, a well-formed conscience means taking into account (as Faithful Citizenship notes) a candidate’s ability to influence a given issue. We need to ask some basic questions– on abortion, and on other questions too. How much power will the politician have to affect the act in question?  Would he or she be effective in bringing about the policy? If the policy is enacted, would it be effective in achieving its ends? It is common to simply appeal to the staggering number of abortions and claim that one is therefore compelled to vote for the one who opposes the “right” to abortion. But this is highly fallacious, especially in the US where the “right” hails from the court and the ability of the executive or legislature to influence abortion is highly circumscribed. On the other hand, the proximity of the executive to acts of war and torture are manifest.

This of course allows us to look at “grave proportional reasons” in a rather different light. Let me conclude with an example. George Bush was the avowed pro-life candidate in 2000 and 2004. By the logic of some of these bishops (a small minority, mind you), a Catholic was compelled to either abstain or vote for Bush. And here we are, eight years later: the annual incidence of abortion is still as staggering as ever, a devastating war and occupation as been launched where up to a million could have perished, torture has become an instrument of policy, millions lack adequate health care, and the future of the planet is in peril. Let me end with a question: if these are not sufficiently grave reasons not to choose the person who supports abortion “rights”, then what might those reasons be? What is the tipping point? Is there one?

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49 Comments
  1. October 22, 2008 12:07 pm

    Unlike some, I have no major gripe with the USCCB, let alone the idea of a conference… I’m personally intrigued by the idea of creating multiple patriarchs within the Latin Church.

    But… theologically, they have no more inherent authority than does the local bishop of a particular church. So a reference to “their collective authority” is accurate *only* in the sense of the moral weight of numerous bishops, although history shows us that even local bishops’ councils can espouse heresy (NB: I’m *not* saying that that’s what the USCCB is or has done).

    Just a note for the sake of precision.

  2. blackadderiv permalink
    October 22, 2008 1:21 pm

    Given how many Bishops are now issuing statements which are at odds with Faithful Citizenship, at least under MM’s reading, doesn’t this suggest that MM’s reading of Faithful Citizenship does not actually represent the overwhelming opinion of the U.S. Bishops?

    I have no beef with Faithful Citizenship, but it seems inconsistent to talk about how unanimous support among the Bishops is for the document, and then proceed to talk about all the Bishops who disagree with it.

  3. Josh permalink
    October 22, 2008 1:29 pm

    Chris is correct.

    A USCCB document has no more “authority” than an individual bishop’s statement. Moreover, I would suggest that a bishop knows the politics involved with pulling these USCCB docs together and I would gently suggest to MM that if a bishop publicly questions a USCCB document – or, as blackadderiv says, probably more accurate – the interpretation some give to USCCB documents – he knows whereof he speaks. Perhaps he knows what was said in the discussions of the doc, he knows the politics involved, and he knows the push and pull that went on behind the scenes.

    All in all, it’s a lot of chickens coming home to roost. Horrendous catechesis, silence in the face of “Catholic” pols who publicly blow off Church teaching and the deadening impact of the USCCB on all of this.

  4. October 22, 2008 1:29 pm

    BA, I understand your point, but the majority of bishops have NOT issued a statement “clarifying” FC. And, a couple who have issued statements have basically restated FC. My own Archbishop Hughes would into this category.

  5. JohnH permalink
    October 22, 2008 1:29 pm

    Blackadder–see this:

    http://www.usccb.org/prolife/Rigali-Murphy-Joint-Statement.pdf

    Looks like the Bishops are trying to clarify what some are muddying in their interpretations of Faithful Citizenship.

  6. Jeremy permalink
    October 22, 2008 1:55 pm

    There is no real conflict between FC and the statements by the individual bishops.

  7. David Nickol permalink
    October 22, 2008 2:07 pm

    There is no real conflict between FC and the statements by the individual bishops.

    Jeremy,

    You might want to tell that to Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

    Martino, who arrived while the panelists were stating their viewpoints, took issue with the USCCB statement, which was handed out to everyone at the meeting, and also that his letter was not mentioned once at the forum.

    “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese,” said Martino. “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me.” “The only relevant document … is my letter,” he said.

    “There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”

    http://www.wayneindependent.com/news/x270972980/Bishop-stresses-abortion-view-at-political-forum

  8. Jeremy permalink
    October 22, 2008 2:18 pm

    I am aware of Bishop Martino’s statements. Adding a little charity because he was obviously quite frustrated, how is the letter he issued in conflict with FC?

  9. Nick permalink
    October 22, 2008 2:19 pm

    The USCCB has long passed its sell-by date. The ranks of the old, liberal bishops get thinner by the day (Deo gratias). Their “Faithful Citizen” document is disgraceful–in every sense of the word; it’s a mater piece of circumlocution and is indecipherable to the average American (just as it was so designed). Abortion is murder, and any Catholic voting for an avowed pro-abortion candidate has innocent blood on his hands–“Faithful Citizen” or no “Faithful Citizen

  10. McCain Landslide permalink
    October 22, 2008 2:52 pm

    The ranks of the old, liberal bishops get thinner by the day

    Another piece of wishful thinking similar to Karl Rove’s 2004 “permanent Republican majority”. Laughable.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Republicans came into power as Social Conservatives and they are now leaving as Conservative Socialists. – David Gergen, 10/2008

  11. Zak permalink
    October 22, 2008 2:56 pm

    MM,
    I largely agree with your understanding of Faithful Citizenship and the consideration of proportionate reasons. But don’t you think it’s somewhat illegitimate to argue that the president can do nothing about abortion but that he can ensure universal health care, end global warming (stop the oceans from rising?), and bring about a complete end to the deaths in Iraq? These other problems are subject to political constraints (and in Iraq, to the whims and interests of other forces – it’s not like withdrawing American forces, which Obama doesn’t even want to do completely, will suddenly stop al qaeda in Iraq from attacking Christians near Mosul, or prevent intracommunal violence in Shia areas). Clinton couldn’t get universal health care. Meanwhile, Obama clearly does represent a major setback on abortion, through reversing the Mexico City policy and other pro-life executive orders, through the possibility of FOCA being passed and undoing the Hyde Amendment and other current limitations on abortion, and through potentially cementing the pro-choice position the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future.

    So if we are to address proportionate issues, it is not nearly so clear to me that Obama wins out.

    Another issue, mentioned by Communion and Liberation recently and by the Pope to European leaders in 2006 or 2007 is the right of parents to select their children’s schools. Do you support vouchers?

  12. blackadderiv permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:04 pm

    The Republicans came into power as Social Conservatives and they are now leaving as Conservative Socialists. – David Gergen, 10/2008

    The quote is actually from Brad DeLong.

  13. October 22, 2008 3:07 pm

    Zak: perfectly legitimate points, and this is where the debate should lie. But it doesn’t.

    Do I support vouchers? I do personally, but I don’t Catholics are obliged to.

  14. S.B. permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:14 pm

    (and in Iraq, to the whims and interests of other forces – it’s not like withdrawing American forces, which Obama doesn’t even want to do completely, will suddenly stop al qaeda in Iraq from attacking Christians near Mosul, or prevent intracommunal violence in Shia areas).

    Isn’t this a good point? Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m under the impression that most of the deaths in Iraq currently (and for a long time) have been due not to Americans dropping bombs, but to Iraqis killing each other. Granted, maybe if we could go back in time to 2002/03 and cancel the Iraq War, none of that would be happening now, because Saddam would still be alive and keeping everybody in line.

    But now, in 2008-09, what do you think Obama is going to do w/r/t Iraq that is 1) different from McCain, and that is 2) going to stop Iraqis from killing each other (which is apparently the source of the excess deaths that you denounce)? What if Obama withdraws from Iraq sooner than McCain, and then more Iraqis start killing each other? By your own logic, wouldn’t that then make Obama responsible for all the excess deaths in Iraq?

  15. ctd permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:14 pm

    I agree with Jeremy. I have read all these statements, including Martino’s, and I don’t see how they conflict with FC.

    Another problem with MM’s reading of FC and the individual bishops’ statements is that MM interprets FC and the statements as if they are primarily or only about the presidential election. MM is judging the statements according to federal, especially presidential, politics. FC’s guidance is much broader than that.

    Also, I hate to bring this up since in my mind the invasion of Iraq was clearly unjust, but MM again fails to recognize that whether the conditions for a just war exist is a matter of prudential judgment. There is room for error in analyzing the conditions. There is no room for such error in the types of intrinsic evils the bishops are mentioning because there cannot exist any circumstance under which the act would be acceptable. Comparing unjust wars to intrinsic evils does not work because they are not comparable.

    This is not to say that a person’s support for an unjust war is not relevant. It certainly is, but it is so because it goes to a person’s judgment (ability to correctly analyze the issues) or character (he or she does not care whether the war is just.) With regards to evils, one cannot lump intrinsic evils with extrinsic evils.

  16. David Nickol permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:16 pm

    I am aware of Bishop Martino’s statements. Adding a little charity because he was obviously quite frustrated, how is the letter he issued in conflict with FC?

    Jeremy,

    I wouldn’t want to do all the work of analyzing the two and seeing if they could be reconciled or not. It seems to me it was open to Bishop Martino to make the point strongly that his letter was to be considered in addition to FC or even to be considered more authoritative for his diocese than FC instead of saying no USCCB document was relevant in his diocese and that the USCCB does not speak for him. The logical conclusion is that he disagrees with the USCCB and FC.

    My first reaction when I saw the story about Bishop Martino was to wonder why he was banishing FC from his diocese, since in the discussions I have seen, the people who maintain you may not vote for Obama cite FC as clear proof. And of course, the people who maintain you may vote for Obama also cite FC as clear proof.

  17. ctd permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:17 pm

    “Do I support vouchers? I do personally, but I don’t [think] Catholics are obliged to.

    One could quibble about vouchers vs. tax credits or what, but Catholics are obligated to support financial assistance for school choice. See Catechism No. 2229.

  18. blackadderiv permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:29 pm

    One could quibble about vouchers vs. tax credits or what, but Catholics are obligated to support financial assistance for school choice. See Catechism No. 2229.

    The Catechism section in question doesn’t say anything about financial assistance for school choice.

    I support school vouchers, but I fear that many on the right risk treating the prudential judgments of Church officials as if they were Holy Writ, much as those on the left are often inclined to do with respect to other statements by Church officials made in support of left-leaning programs.

  19. October 22, 2008 3:29 pm

    Their “Faithful Citizen” document is disgraceful–in every sense of the word; it’s a mater piece of circumlocution and is indecipherable to the average American (just as it was so designed).

    Then you would also have to conclude that the minority bishops’ “interpretations” of Faithful Citizenship are also “disgraceful.” You can’t have it both ways.

  20. David Nickol permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:30 pm

    This is not to say that a person’s support for an unjust war is not relevant. It certainly is, but it is so because it goes to a person’s judgment (ability to correctly analyze the issues) or character (he or she does not care whether the war is just.) With regards to evils, one cannot lump intrinsic evils with extrinsic evils.

    ctd,

    Isn’t this what’s known as moral relativism? The implication is that only intrinsic evils are real evils, and that other evils are only evil insofar as as any given person judges them to be. Consequently, there can’t really be an unjust war, except perhaps if there is unanimous agreement, because the justness of a war will always be a matter of “prudential judgment.”

    Furthermore, you seem to be implying that intrinsic evils are worse than non-intrinsic evils, and yet a white lie (“No, honey, that dress does not make you look fat”) is an intrinsic evil, and flying a jumbo jet while so intoxicated that you crash and kill all 250 people on board is not an intrinsic evil. See M. Cathleen Kaveny’s article Intrinsic Evil and Political Responsibility in the current issue of America.

    http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=11166

  21. October 22, 2008 3:32 pm

    From the USCCB’s clarification (issued yesterday) of its document Faithful Citizenship:

    Recently, some have [said] we should accept Roe as a permanent fixture of constitutional law, stop trying to restore recognition for the unborn child’s human rights, and confine our public advocacy to efforts to “reduce abortions” through improved economic and social support for women and families.

    Reversing [Roe] is not a mere political tactic, but a moral imperative for Catholics and others who respect human life.

    Bans on public funding, laws requiring informed consent for women and parental involvement for minors, and other modest and widely supported laws have saved millions of lives. Laws made possible by reversing Roe would save many more. On the other hand, this progress could be lost through a key pro-abortion proposal, the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which supporters say would knock down hundreds of current pro-life laws and forbid any public program to “discriminate” against abortion in providing services to women.

    Claiming that Obama’s regime would reduce the number of abortions is laughable when you recall that he said FOCA would be the first piece of legislation he’d sign into law as president.

  22. ctd permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:38 pm

    The Catechism section in question doesn’t say anything about financial assistance for school choice.

    Actually, it does and it is not a statement of prudential judgment. It a statement of teaching about two fundamental rights and obligations — the right of parents to choose the appropriate schools for their children and the right of children to education, along with the corresponding obligation of the state to ensure that education.

    The statement is: “As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.
    Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.” (Par. 2229) The concrete conditions could be vouchers, tax credits, or other systems, but anytime a parent cannot freely exercise their right to choose because of financial conditions basic human rights are denied.

  23. October 22, 2008 3:40 pm

    Christine – One can advocate BOTH a reversal of Roe v. Wade and support for women and families and still conclude that voting for Obama is the best choice. The bishops, rightly, condemn the FOCA and affirm that Roe be reversed. But again, no where do they coerce the consciences of Catholics such that voting for Obama is out of the question.

  24. Jeremy permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:53 pm

    David Nickol,
    Read up on the circumstances when the Bishop made his remarks. They weren’t some prepared speech or policy ‘banning’ FC. He was truthfully re-iterating that the USCCB document does not trump his pastoral letter published at the beginning of the week. That is not to say that the two are in conflict, just that some were using FC to justify positions the Bishops letter clearer stated were in conflict with the faith.

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=14123

  25. ctd permalink
    October 22, 2008 3:53 pm

    David:

    I guess I should have said that with regards to law and policies – and by extension voting on candidates with regards to those policies – it is not helpful to compare intrinsic evils to extrinsic evils. I was not commenting on the gravity of the evils themselves. There is no room in the law for the intrinsic evils because there are no circumstances under which they can be justified. Other acts can be – though not necessarily should be – allowed law because because the act is not always wrong. When it comes to a candidate’s position on acts, I believe the bishops are saying that if it is an intrinsically wrong act, it does not matter what reasons the candidate gives. If it is an act that can be extrinsically evil, you need to judge the candidate on whether they are capable of exercising proper prudence and judgment with regards to that act.

    In other words, the criteria for judging the candidates positions differs depending on whether we are talking about an intrinsic evil or a potential evil.

  26. blackadderiv permalink
    October 22, 2008 4:05 pm

    Ctd,

    The Catechism says that “As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.” “Ensuring the concrete conditions” might involve financial assistance, or it might not. The statement is also explicitly limited to what is possible, a matter about which reasonable minds may (and do) often differ.

    Frankly, it’s at least arguable that government financial assistance for education would end up harming the right of parents to educate their children, as with government money comes government regulation, which would tie the hands of the private schools and make them essentially like their government counterparts. I know good and faithful Catholics and Christians who are opposed to school vouchers for precisely this reason. I ultimately reach a different conclusion than they do, but to say that they have rejected the teachings of the Church is just ridiculous.

  27. David Nickol permalink
    October 22, 2008 4:07 pm

    Claiming that Obama’s regime would reduce the number of abortions is laughable when you recall that he said FOCA would be the first piece of legislation he’d sign into law as president.

    Christine,

    Not to minimize FOCA or Obama’s strong pro-choice position, but FOCA has not been passed either in the House or the Senate. Obama can’t sign it as his first act of president, nor, aside from the speech to Planned Parenthood, has he indicated at any point during the campaign that it was a top priority.

    As I have said elsewhere, who knows whether it will be on the legislative agenda, who knows how it might be altered in committee or amended, who knows if it will pass both houses, who knows how differences between the house and the senate might be reconciled, and who knows if it will survive challenges in the courts, which there would surely be if it passes in anything like its present form.

    I am not arguing that it’s irrelevant. I am just pointing out that it is far from inevitable.

  28. blackadderiv permalink
    October 22, 2008 4:14 pm

    Not to minimize FOCA or Obama’s strong pro-choice position, but FOCA has not been passed either in the House or the Senate.

    Passing the bill now would be pointless, as it would be vetoed by President Bush. Would a Democratic Congress pass the measure if Obama were President? No one can predict the future, but it should be noted that the last time the Democrats controlled the Congress and the Presidency, they did try to pass a bill quite like FOCA. At the time a combination of conservative Democrats and Republicans were able to stop the measure. Whether they would be able to do so in a Congress with large Democratic majorities in both houses is not so clear.

  29. nathan permalink
    October 22, 2008 4:33 pm

    David Nikol –

    See Obama’s Statement on 35th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Decision (posted on his own website) regarding FOCA release January 22, 2008:

    “”When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled, I was the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.”

    http://www.barackobama.com/2008/01/22/obama_statement_on_35th_annive.php

  30. ctd permalink
    October 22, 2008 4:34 pm

    blackadderiv:

    If they oppose vouchers for themselves, that is fine. If, however, they oppose vouchers and any funding for all children in non-government education, it seems to me that they are rejecting the Church’s teachings. If the concrete conditions for exercising the right do not exist – which could include financing – then the state has an obligation to provide it.

    It is really no different than health care. People have a right to refuse government subsidized health care, but Catholic teaching clearly states that the state must ensure that everyone has access to basic health care, even if that means government financing.

    The difference between school choice and health care is that from the perspective of the Church the right to education is inseparable from the right of parents to choose the educational setting. Thus, the state’s duties with regards to education includes the obligation to fund choice.

    This is not to say that every Catholic has an obligation to support every school choice plan out there. Education, like health care and other “goods” can be achieved in a variety of ways. There are good proposals and bad proposals and everything in between. Whether the proposal is good is a matter of prudential judgment. I think Catholic teaching is clear, however, that opposition to school choice, like opposition to health care as a right, religious liberty, peace, the right to work, and other fundamental rights, is contrary to Catholic teaching.

    Which brings me around to topic of this post. Support for an intrinsic evil is never acceptable. Opposition to particular means of achieving goods might be acceptable. Opposition to all means of achieving goods is not acceptable, but it is not acceptable because it goes to the person’s judgment and character.

  31. blackadderiv permalink
    October 22, 2008 5:47 pm

    Ctd,

    At the risk of repeating myself, let me repeat myself. The Catechism section you cite is explicitly conditional (“as far as possible”). It does not mention government funding of schools, and such funding arguably would be harmful to the right in question. That you think school vouchers are the best way of “ensuring the concrete conditions” for parents to exercise their rights regarding children’s education does not mean that anyone who takes a different view is rejecting Church teaching.

  32. Toby Esterhase permalink
    October 22, 2008 6:51 pm

    I suspect that opposition to the “Faithful Citizenship” document is largely racist.

  33. October 22, 2008 6:55 pm

    I think Toby is joking… I hope Toby is joking?

  34. ctd permalink
    October 22, 2008 8:42 pm

    I did not say that I think that school vouchers are the best way of ensuring the concrete conditions for parents to exercise their rights regarding their children’s education or that anyone who takes a different view is rejecting Church teaching.

    What I said, which is consistent with Church teaching in the Catechism, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and elsewhere is that blanket opposition to government assistance to parents so that they can exercise that right is contrary to Church teaching. Prudence may lead someone to believe that a particular proposal is a bad idea. But opposing all support as a matter of principle is just as wrong, from the perspective of Catholic teaching, as opposing any government involvement in the economy, opposing the right of the state to ensure a minimum wage, opposing any limitations on the use of property, or opposing the right of local communities to direct their own affairs when possible.

    Paragraph 2229 is certainly not the sole statement on the matter. It just happens to be the most direct and cited statement. A Google search on the topic will reveal that it is often cited by the Bishops in support for school choice. In those cases, it is not cited as a matter of prudential judgment. Rather, the bishops understand it as a doctrinal expression of the rights of the human person and the obligations of the state.

    Concerning the “as far as possible” condition, it refers to the fact that any right is conditional. In the context of the Church’s teaching on education, it means that the exercise of the right cannot be detrimental to the child or other basic rights.

    We’ve gotten off-topic, so maybe we should discuss this further another time.

  35. October 22, 2008 11:43 pm

    Michael wrote: One can advocate BOTH a reversal of Roe v. Wade and support for women and families and still conclude that voting for Obama is the best choice.

    Ok. And how’s that? In the face of his promise to sign FOCA into law (which will have a high likelihood of passage in a Democrat-controlled House and Senate)? When Illinois senators were fighting to protect aborted babies born alive, Obama effectively blocked that bill. As Nathan pointed out, when S. Dakota passed a law banning abortions, Obama raised money to help repeal that law. So far, the evidence shows that Obama has done much to further abortion, and nothing to decrease its occurrence.

  36. Antonio Manetti permalink
    October 23, 2008 1:59 am

    Hi Folks:

    FYI: Here is the complete text of the Illinois law Barack Obama opposed while in the Illinois senate.

    Please note that the statute defines as a “person” under the law, a fetus “in any stage of development” that has a beating heart. Typically, a discernable heart beat occurs in the fifth week of pregnancy.

    Sec. 1.36. Born-alive infant.
    8 (a) In determining the meaning of any statute or of any
    9 rule, regulation, or interpretation of the various
    10 administrative agencies of this State, the words “person”,
    11 “human being”, “child”, and “individual” include every infant
    12 member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any
    13 stage of development.
    14 (b) As used in this Section, the term “born alive”, with
    15 respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the
    16 complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that
    17 member, at any stage of development, who after that expulsion
    18 or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of
    19 the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary
    20 muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been
    21 cut and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction
    22 occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean
    23 section, or induced abortion.
    24 (c) A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be
    25 fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate
    26 protection under the law.

  37. October 23, 2008 3:51 am

    The USCCB is not a Magesterial body, and Catholic teaching is not decided by majority vote. The fact that we need a “faithful citizenship” document points to the lack of effective catechesis in the Catholic Church in the U.S.

  38. David Nickol permalink
    October 23, 2008 7:52 am

    24 (c) A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be
    25 fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate
    26 protection under the law.

    Antonio,

    Three questions . . .

    First, aside from allegations by two nurses against Christ Hospital, which prompted an investigation that could not corroborate the allegations, what evidence was there that born-alive infants in Illinois were being mistreated?

    Second, since this law in itself says nothing about how born-alive infants should be treated, what other laws did it bring into play that would be relevant?

    Third, a version of the bill was passed in Illinois in 2005, after Obama was no longer in the Illinois Legislature. What did it change, and how?

  39. Rita Ferrone permalink
    October 23, 2008 10:04 am

    I am quite interested in the omission of torture and the targeting of civilian populations in war. Has either Farrell or Vann given any rationale for these omissions? (I am not asking for theories, just what they themselves have said.) Are they getting ready to approve a pre-emptive strive on Iran? Do they think it’s sound Catholic policy to look the other way at Abu Graib? Maybe they do.

  40. Jeremy permalink
    October 23, 2008 10:22 am

    Rita – do you expect the bishops to expound upon every issue that is not being brought up – Show me some prominent Catholics who openly say that you should *ignore* pro-torture views or “put aside” unjust war teachings of the church, and then you will see some bishops speak on it.

  41. October 23, 2008 10:28 am

    The USCCB is not a Magesterial body…

    Yes it is. It is part of the authentic magisterium but it has limited teaching authority:

    “22. In dealing with new questions and in acting so that the message of Christ enlightens and guides people’s consciences in resolving new problems arising from changes in society, the Bishops assembled in the Episcopal Conference and jointly exercizing their teaching office are well aware of the limits of their pronouncements. While being official and authentic and in communion with the Apostolic See, these pronouncements do not have the characteristics of a universal magisterium. For this reason the Bishops are to be careful to avoid interfering with the doctrinal work of the Bishops of other territories, bearing in mind the wider, even world-wide, resonance which the means of social communication give to the events of a particular region.

    Taking into account that the authentic magisterium of the Bishops, namely what they teach insofar as they are invested with the authority of Christ, must always be in communion with the Head of the College and its members,(83) when the doctrinal declarations of Episcopal Conferences are approved unanimously, they may certainly be issued in the name of the Conferences themselves, and the faithful are obliged to adhere with a sense of religious respect to that authentic magisterium of their own Bishops.”

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_22071998_apostolos-suos_en.html

  42. Antonio Manetti permalink
    October 23, 2008 10:57 am

    Hi David:

    …what other other laws did this [proposed legislation] being into play?

    Short answer: All of them (although I’m not a lawyer).

    I believe the pretext for this law was extending the scope of a 1975 law protecting infants carried to term. Since this new legislation would have defined the pre-viable fetus as a person, of course, the law’s scope would have been widespread (and probably unforseeable).

    I didn’t look into the issue of alleged mistreatment you mentioned. However, regarding the proposed law we’re discussing, I did read Obama’s statement in the stenographic record of the debate (you can find it on the web). He made two points:

    a) The proposed legislation would not pass muster with the federal courts (apparently similar legislation had already been declared invalid by the Seventh Circuit).

    b) A proposal for narrowly-focussed legislation supported by a pro-choice group (Planned Parenthood I believe) had been rejected in committee.

    Maybe it would have been better for the law’s supporters to settle for half a loaf — ie. a law that would provide the needed protection (assuming such legislation was truly necessary) AND pass muster with the Federal courts.

    I don’t know the answers to your other questions.

  43. Rita Ferrone permalink
    October 23, 2008 11:06 am

    Jeremy,

    The bishops themselves brought up these issues in the document Faithful Citizenship. These two bishops then decided to omit them. It is legitimate to inquire into their reasons.

  44. October 23, 2008 12:55 pm

    Rita,
    Presumably the bishops omitted these points since they are not up for debate, it should not be inferred that our bishops are for torture. The bishops are responding to misrepresentations of Catholic teaching by so-called Catholic theologians and Catholic politicians. As Jeremy indicated, had the same false teachings been stated by prominent Catholic theologians and politicians, then you could expect a broader statement. Micro parsing statements is why we are in these tedious debates when the teaching from the Church is VERY clear but uncomfortable for many reasons, whether the convenience of abortion, the partisanship, or the disagreement with stated positions from alternate candidates/parties.

  45. October 23, 2008 2:18 pm

    “The bishops are responding to misrepresentations of Catholic teaching by so-called Catholic theologians and Catholic politicians.”

    The bishops are also responding to misrepresentations of Catholic teaching by so-called Catholic apologists who set themselves up as a parallel magisterium in this area– I’m thinking specifically of the Catholic Answers voter guides.

  46. October 23, 2008 5:28 pm

    Interesting article in The Tablet. Apparently the number of bishops taking the “abortion is the number one issue” stance amounts to about 1/4 of them, or about 50 out of 197 active bishops. Compare to 4 who voted against Faithful Citizenship. So it’s obvious some of them are approaching the text in different ways.

    http://www.thetablet.co.uk/article/12189

  47. Kurt permalink
    October 25, 2008 1:20 pm

    In theory, it seems like a worthy idea for two Ordinaries in the same media market (Dallas and Ft. Worth) to make joint statements on issues of public concern. That having been said, the particular statement they made is political hackery. Both of them deserve contempt from the lay faithful and the withholding of material support.

    To even my Catholic intellectual friends who support Obama, you have failed the community of the faithful on this issue. While the Texas bishops hide their hackery with overtones of pious reflection, many of the Catholic defenders of Senator Obama do the same while reaching the opposite conclusion or an open conclusion.

    Some one should remind the Texas bishops that they and their flock’s freaken little votes for President don’t matter a rat’s hinny. Neither candidate is even campaigning there. A vote in Texas for abortion doesn’t advance abortion an iota nor does a Texas vote for McCain save a life. And the same should be told to others wringing their hands about how Catholics can vote.

    However, Catholic Democrats and Republicans do have the opportunity to use the election campaign to be a witness for Catholic values in either party, to connect and organize like-minded people and maybe make long term changes in the culture and direction of both parties.

    The two bishops, however, are simply a mitered Roves.

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