Editorial by John-Henry Westen
June 12, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - With an election in the United States looming, much is being made of the Catholic vote and what is moral for Catholics as they head to the voting booth. Pope Benedict XVI, just prior to his election to the pontificate, addressed the matter in a doctrinal note to the US Bishops Conference.
Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in his capacity as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, intervened in a debate among the US Bishops on the issue of denying communion to pro-abortion politicians in 2004. Simply put, Cardinal Ratzinger said in his letter, titled "Worthiness to receive Holy Communion", that obstinately pro-abortion Catholic politicians, after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion.
That same document by the man who is now Pope, suggested in a nota bene at the conclusion of the document that Catholic citizens who vote for politicians who support abortion also make themselves unworthy to receive Communion. "A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia," he wrote.
The Cardinal added: "When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."
The key is that in order to vote for a pro-abortion politician and remain in good enough standing with Our Lord to be worthy to receive Him in Holy Communion, one must have "proportionate reasons". But what can be considered proportionate?
Could it be, as is often said, that because one candidate supports abortion and another, while being against abortion, supports a war effort or the death penalty, that that would be a "proportionate reason" to vote for the pro-abortion candidate over the anti-abortion one? Cardinal Ratzinger answers the question in his document.
"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia," explained the document. "For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
One suggestion offered is that a Catholic may vote for a politician who supports abortion in very limited circumstances (for instance in cases of rape), if the only other viable candidate is one who supports abortion in most or all cases.
As Bishop Rene Henry Gracida, of Corpus Christi Texas, explained in September 2004: "Consider the case of a Catholic voter who must choose between three candidates: Kerry, who is completely for abortion on demand, Bush, who is in favor of very limited abortion, i.e., in favor of greatly restricting abortion and Peroutka, a candidate who is completely against abortion but who is universally recognized as being unelectable. The Catholic can vote for Peroutka, but that will probably only help ensure the election of Kerry. Therefore the Catholic voter has a proportionate reason to vote for Bush, since his vote might help to ensure the defeat of Kerry and might result in the saving of some innocent human lives."
Where does that logic come from? Pope John Paul II explained in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), "…when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects."
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has proposed this definition of proportionate. "What is a ‘proportionate’ reason when it comes to the abortion issue?," he wrote in January 2008. "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."
See the full document by Cardinal Ratzinger here: