By Leon Suprenant | February 29, 2008
The other day Tim Staples emailed me an article regarding Barack Obama’s address this past summer to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. In his speech, Senator Obama attacked the Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal partial-birth abortion law, as well as the nomination of Supreme Court justices who favor overturning Roe v. Wade. In the speech the senator said, “There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice. On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield.”
With apologies to Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee, let’s get real for a minute and admit that we are looking at an Obama vs. McCain election. I’m sure the “Catholic vote” will be addressed in all its at-times frustrating complexity over the coming months. But right now, I want to throw out a question to all Catholics of goodwill (and it’s nice to see that Senator Obama considers “many” of us to be of goodwill).
During the last presidential cycle, Pope Benedict XVI, while still serving as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a memorandum to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-Archbishop of Washington. The memorandum contained this statement:
“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. 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.”
To call Senator Obama’s position on abortion “permissive” is certainly an understatement. He is entrenched on the “other side” of the issue, as his address to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund shows. Clearly a Catholic may not vote for him because of his position on abortion, but may do so for other reasons if they are “proportionate.”
The concept of “proportionate reasons” has been discussed ever since Senator Kerry’s unsuccessful bid for the White House. But now it’s time to set aside all the hypotheticals and apply the principle to an Obama vs. McCain campaign.
Let me be clear as to my own approach. I am not looking at this from the perspective of Democrat vs. Republican. Further, I disagree with Senator McCain on some fairly significant issues. But my question is: Are there any “proportionate reasons” that could possibly justify a Catholic supporting Senator Obama in the general election? I don’t think there are.
Recently I read a disgusting article by liberal Catholic Joe Feuerherd in the Washington Post, chiding the Church for allegedly saying that he (and other Maryland voters) would go to hell for voting for Obama. Feuerherd has long been a dissident voice in the Catholic press, and in the political arena he is perhaps best remembered for his vicious hit piece on Deal Hudson for the National Catholic Reporter. His Washington Post piece was satisfactorily addressed by Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at National Review Online.
There are going to be commentators like Feuerherd who are not going to take seriously the need for “proportionate reasons” to support a candidate of Senator Obama’s stripe. And, in fairness, there are some people on the other extreme (albeit not as many) who are more “Republican” than they are Catholic.
My desire is that all Catholics, whatever our political inclinations might be, think with the Church as we exercise the awesome privilege and responsibility to elect the next Commander-in-Chief. So, to all you Catholics of goodwill out there, please tell me how one could in conscience support Barack Obama, or why you think Catholics cannot morally support Obama.
Stay tuned for more commentary on the upcoming 2008 election from a Catholic perspective.