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18 Comments
  1. October 12, 2011 6:11 pm

    The Irish bishops issued that document only four days before the election, meaning it had minimal (if any) electoral impact. They should have released it early on in the election.

    • October 13, 2011 9:03 am

      But remember, election campaigns in Ireland last only about 2-3 weeks (from when election is called to voting). It is the US that is abnormal in that regard.

  2. October 12, 2011 6:34 pm

    I agree that the theology of the document is valid, and what it said was right in so far as it went, however, I also think you are right in saying it doesn’t really address prudential reasoning properly and so many go idealist with it because of this imbalance.

  3. October 13, 2011 12:07 am

    MM, a five star post…very thought provoking. I did read the revised USCCB document (and the Irish Bishops document too). I wanted to assess ‘Faithful Citizenship’ based upon your commentary.

    First of all, is the Irish document designed to serve the same purpose as FC? If so, that wasn’t clear to me. I read it as a moral response weighted specifically towards the impact of the financial crisis…the other ProLife concerns were brought in on a minor note. Their critique of the bonus culture was direct; and their highlight of the ‘principle of gift’ in a social culture was right on.

    Regarding FC: Sadly, this document is too often read and invoked for partisan purposes; namely to ‘search’ for elements that justify a particular stance. Should someone actually pray with the document they would find it very useful.

    The dilemna is not so much in the document as in the real life freakish choices we have in the political sphere. Using the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ story as a metaphor; we actually have the the baby being split in order to satisfy the political protagonists. We’ve done exactly what the document warns against, namely descending into ideological camps which are rigid and intorerant. Catholics have created a Frankenstein version of CST.

    • October 13, 2011 12:13 am

      What I meant to say was that American Catholics are dueling with two Frankenstein versions of CST.

      • Kurt permalink
        October 13, 2011 10:54 am

        Yes. Maybe what we need to do is get off the idea that our faith leads us (collectively) to vote for a certain candidate. What would really be best for the Catholic faith is to have Catholics active in various campaigns, political parties and social movements witness Catholic social principles. Witness for life at Democratic Party meetings and witness for economic justice, worker rights and world peace at GOP con-fabs.

  4. Mark Gordon permalink
    October 13, 2011 8:23 am

    MM, I couldn’t agree with your assessment of Faithful Citizenship more. And yes, there really is a need right now for a robust, full-orbed teaching on economic justice. To one degree or another, and with only a very few exceptions, the entire world is now enmeshed in one global capitalist system that lurches from crisis to crisis. It seems to me that the universal Church has a duty to address the moral implications of that system and its relationship to human persons.

  5. October 13, 2011 10:38 am

    Do you have a link to the Irish doc? Obliged.

  6. Paul DuBois permalink
    October 13, 2011 11:22 am

    The real problem I have with Faithful Citizenship is that it leaves me no one to vote for. We can choose between a pro-life party that talks good but has done nothing to actually reduce the number of abortions in the country and a party that talks social justice, but continues two wars with the torture and poverty they create. The Affordable Care Act is a great example. It produced no real advancement to improve quality of care, but could have included the most restrictive abortion limits since Row v Wade. It did not advance a truly socially just way of distributing care because the Democrats could not get it pass their party and did not include the most stringent restrictions on abortion because not a single Republican would vote for them.
    We not only do not have choices that are acceptable to the whole of Catholic teaching, we do not have choices that even try to fully implement any part of Catholic teaching.

  7. The Pachyderminator permalink
    October 13, 2011 2:59 pm

    Are war and the death penalty “as good as” intrinsically evil? It seems to me the bishops may have had a reason for not saying that, one good reason being that it’s not true.

    • October 13, 2011 11:59 pm

      An ‘intrinsically evil’ act doesn’t imply that it is a greater evil than other acts. It simply means that are no circumstances when it could not be considered evil in itself. War may at some point be considered ‘just’ and therefore not intrinsically evil. But it doesn’t follow that all wars are just and this should be obvious. If a nation had serious fears that its ‘prolife’ candidate might propel them into an unjust war, or begin war preemptively to secure ‘its interests’, or even for nefarious purposes…can Catholic voters resist to the point of voting for an opposing candidate who is not prolife?

      • Deacon Chip permalink
        November 1, 2011 8:26 pm

        And this is where it gets so difficult to agree with many bloggers. I agree with The Pachyderminator in that war and the death penalty are, neither one of them, intrinsically evil. The Church teaches that those in civil authority over the decision to go to war or impose the death penalty, and thus are in possession of the facts necessary to make a prudential judgment about the justice of either war or a specific death penalty, are the morally culpable ones in a decision. IT is always deplorable that either war or the death penalty would be judged necessary. But unless I am the National Command Authority, or the judge in a criminal case, I am not in possession of all the facts that go into deciding to impose either.

        And yet, may speak of both war and capital punishment as if both were strictly forbidden by Catholic social teaching. Neither is. And no candidate would be faithful to Catholic teaching were s/he to absolutely rule out ever going to war (in the case of a President or Congresscritter) or imposeing the death penalty (in the case of a judge or Governor of a State.

        We are right to prefer a world in which neither exists. But both the death penalty and war are justifiable in some circumstances in Catholic moral teaching.

  8. Anne permalink
    October 13, 2011 9:55 pm

    If abortion (say it) is the deciding factor, we either can’t vote at all or we have to vote for
    candidates who advocate policies that not only stand in opposition to the Church on war, torture and capital punishment, but also harm the poor, the old, the ill, the alien and all those other groups we as Christians are supposed to befriend. That can’t be right.

  9. October 13, 2011 11:02 pm

    The Appalachian bishops’ pastoral letters cut through the crap and tell it like it is.It’s time to revisit them.

  10. Brian Killian permalink
    October 14, 2011 5:42 pm

    Kathleen Caveny wrote an excellent article in 2008 about the misuse of moral concepts like ‘intrinsic evils’ and how ‘intrinsic’ is not a concept about the gravity of a moral evil etc. This misuse of moral terms will come back in 2012. One of the misuses is dismissing non-intrinsic evils as unimportant, simply because they are prudential. They don’t even play a role in conservative voting guides. But this is backwards.

    Voting is a prudential act and therefore prudential moral issues like war and capital punishment are totally relevant and ‘at play’. Furthermore, unjust wars are intrinsically evil. State execution when it is not necessary is intrinsically evil. Disproportionate violence in warfare is intrinsically evil. If the voter determines that a war is unjust, or that capital punishment is unjust, these evils are just as much at play as other intrinsic evils in the voter’s moral calculus. But in the rhetoric of Conservative Catholics, prudential judgement just means it’s unimportant and can never compare with intrinsic evils.

    Henry is right about the idealism of the Conservative CAtholics and their voting philosophy. Voting for them is easy. All you have to do is check off if some candidate is anti-abortion or not. Or you just have to count how many intrinsic evils he holds and then make a simple quantitative comparison with another candidate to see who’s better. These comparisons all take place in some platonic heaven far above earthly reality with its complicated consequences and messy gray areas and uncertainty. Of course, this runs afoul of FC ‘s declaration that politics is the ‘art of the possible’, and that the relevancy of a candidate’s belief states is relative to what is possible.

    Ultimately, the conservative CAtholic’s voting philosophy will always be screwed up because they don’t hold a Catholic view of what it means to be pro-life. It isn’t a consistent ethic of life. And because it’s not, voting is an absurdly simple black and white activity for them.

  11. October 15, 2011 7:42 am

    The problem I have with voter guides in general is that they focus on issues apart from the the people who 1) may or may not be able to do anything about them and 2) may have lousy ideas for addressing said issues.

  12. Brian Killian permalink
    October 15, 2011 9:55 am

    That should be Cathleen Kaveny. And the article, which I think will be as relevant in 2012 as it was in 2008, is here. “Intrinsic Evil and Political Responsibility”

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

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