May 22, 2008

2008, Abortion, and the Catholic Voter

There's a great piece today on First Things's blog On The Square by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver about "Catholics for Obama" and the abortion issue:
In the years after the Carter loss, I began to notice that very few of the people, including Catholics, who claimed to be “personally opposed” to abortion really did anything about it. Nor did they intend to. For most, their personal opposition was little more than pious hand-wringing and a convenient excuse—exactly as it is today. In fact, I can’t name any pro-choice Catholic politician who has been active, in a sustained public way, in trying to discourage abortion and to protect unborn human life—not one. Some talk about it, and some may mean well, but there’s very little action. In the United States in 2008, abortion is an acceptable form of homicide. And it will remain that way until Catholics force their political parties and elected officials to act differently.

Why do I mention this now? Earlier this spring, a group called “Roman Catholics for Obama ’08” quoted my own published words in the following way:

So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can’t, and I won’t. But I do know some serious Catholics— people whom I admire—who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don’t keep quiet about it; they don’t give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite—not because of—their pro-choice views.
What’s interesting about this quotation—which is accurate but incomplete—is the wording that was left out. The very next sentences in the article of mine they selected, which Roman Catholics for Obama neglected to quote, run as follows:

But [Catholics who support pro-choice candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life—which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.
(Read the whole things here.)

It occurs to me that this reasoning, which I find incredibly compelling, is one I'm not sure I can answer to either. I've never voted in a presidential election, and I haven't planned on voting this time around. I could not vote for Kerry and would not vote for Bush, and find myself in a mirrored situation in 2008, regardless of who wins the democratic nomination.

This political inactivity is not the result of apathy, as it is for so many of my generation; it is because I've cared too much. I couldn't find myself condoning either the aggressive pro-abortion stance of people like Kerry (and Clinton and Obama), nor could I bring myself to support the war-mongering and questionable justness of the War in Iraq.

But can such actions answer to Chaput's standard? Is there an answer to his standard? I don't know. I'm afraid not.

(Another intriguing side to this quesiton was featured recently on the newly relaunched Check out "None of the Above; The Only Vote Worth Casting", and the response "God, Governemnt, and Freedom")

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:43 PM

    Just wanted to let folks know that we added the four sentences to which Bill is referring, plus the following text, to the front page at

    *Archbishop Chaput's full letter has always been linked from this page, but the quotation above was expanded by four sentences in response to concerns he expressed in his May 19 Denver Catholic Register column. We've urged since we launched the site that voting Catholics read all of the material posted or linked here, and we continue to do so.

    We also link to the May 19 column.