Archbishop Chaput on “Proportionate Reasons”

In a previous post, I explored the issue of what would constitute a “proportionate reason” to support the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama, who as of last night claims to have enough delegates to prevail at the Democratic Convention this summer.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. of Denver recently addressed a similar issue in his archdiocesan paper. He noted that a group calling themselves “Roman Catholics for Obama ’08″ quoted him as follows:

“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.”

Archbishop Chaput notes that this quote is accurate but incomplete. The very next sentences in the article, which Roman Catholics for Obama neglected to quote, provide 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.”

One can readily see why Roman Catholics for Obama selected the material they did, and also why they omitted the part that followed, which explained “proportionate reason” from the standpoint of eternity. I think Archbishop Chaput’s explanation cuts to the heart of things and allows us to assess the matter without an overly mathematical (and typically partisan) assessment of the various priorities and issues that tend to obfuscate the moral issues surrounding the exercise of one’s right and privilege to vote. For this welcome infusion of clarity, we should all be grateful to the courageous Archbishop of Denver.

For the complete text of Archbishop Chaput’s article, click here.

Previous related articles appearing on this blog:

The Barack-ing Point?

A Catholic League of Their Own?

Proud of Our Archbishop

Hillary-ous Discussion

And You Call Yourself a Catholic

An Irresponsible Endorsement

17 responses

  1. Would that Mr. O’Brien were the one writing the “proportionate reasons” voting guides coming out of our chancery offices. The folks writing the current tripe need desperately to find other employment…

  2. Thanks, Tom, but, when your comment was posted, the Devil somehow managed to delete the response to which you reacted!

  3. Oops! Sorry, Stephen. I think between making edits on your multiple comments (I think one of them you sent twice), this one was inadvertently deleted. You’re welcome to resubmit it if you like.

  4. Thanks for this post, Leon. I genuinely appreciate the archbishop’s words. His challenge to those seeking an “alibi” is directly on target, in my experience. Sadly, I have found that there are more than a few who are not seeking alibis in order to soothe their consciences, but to sew confusion in the minds of others who may honestly be seeking to do the right thing.

    There are too many who flout Church teaching on the “life” issues, but who also understand that their extreme views and defiant posture do not sell very well to the majority. And so, such people (and organizations) seek language and approaches that appear to take the Church’s teaching very seriously.

    This more moderated approach helps them to win over a variety of other people: from the innocently confused (or ignorant) who do not intend to defy the Church to the not-so-innocent whose consciences are glad to encounter such a new and “useful” alibi.

  5. I’ve reconstructed the post that was accidentally deleted.

    No Catholic–not even a well-intentioned archbishop–should ever repeat the evil propagandistic slogan “pro-choice.” It comes straight from the Father of Lies in hell. In section 58 of *Evangelium vitae*, Pope John Paul II teaches us that abortion is “murder.” Committing murder is not a choice–it’s a crime and a mortal sin. If we were discussing American history, we’d never call the pro-slavery position “pro-choice.”

    As for the “proportionate reason” that might justify a vote for a pro-abortion candidate, I’d like to propose the following for discussion. The reason would have to be on the level of the urgent need to prevent the election of a presidential candidate who has promised to launch an immediate nuclear attack on the entire population of another country, whereas his or her only electable opponent, who is pro-abortion, has firmly promised not to launch an attack which, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, would be mass murder (CCC 2314).

    Please note, too, that a candidate who merely *says* that he or she is pro-life, while having no intention of taking *action* to recriminalize abortion, is pro-abortion in a *de facto* sense.

    If Catholics insist on continuing to vote for pro-abortion candidates under any circumstances less urgent than the above scenario, the long-range consequence will be that we’ll further entrench legalized murder in the fabric of our daily life.

    I’d appreciate comments from other Catholics on my prudential judgment concerning the concept of “proportionate reason.” This judgment leads me to the conclusion that U.S. Catholics should abandon the fraudulent “two-party” system (actually, a secularist and plutocratic one-party system) and establish a Catholic labor or social democratic party.

    This new party should be uncompromisingly pro-life, pro-family, pro-worker, and anti-war, and should uphold the Church’s teaching on the social reign of Christ the King (CCC 2105). No matter how electorally ineffective such a party would be (at least initially), it would at least allow us to bear witness to the truth of the Faith in the political arena, and to avoid giving a disastrous and scandalous counter witness by voting for pro-murder candidates.

  6. This is also troubling:

    “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.”

    “Which we most certainly will” is presumptuous on the Lord’s mercy for us. Second, abortion does not remove original sin. Aborted babies go to purgatory, where they will be happy, but they will not obtain the beatific vision. And yes, I know about the study group that expressed hope for their salvation, but it was not infallible, and disagrees so much with Church teaching that it never will be pronounced as such.

  7. Commenting on the refusal of the British House of Commons to reduce the time limit for the aborting of unborn children, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has just issued a statement that is astounding for what it does *not* say. Here’s one of its sentences:

    “Abortion is not only a personal choice.”

    Here’s a link for the entire statement:

    http://www.rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/default.asp?library_ref=1&content_ref=1898

    Abortion is not *only* a personal choice? Would any one of us ever say: “The decision to lynch African Americans was not only a personal choice”?

    Please contrast the cardinal’s statement with the way in which Pope Pius XI spoke of legalized abortion in section 67 of his 1930 encyclical *Casti connubii*:

    “Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother’s womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cries from earth to Heaven.”

  8. Mr. DePrisco, did you mean to say that aborted infants go to limbo (not purgatory)? If you did, I agree with you, and I believe that defending the theological hypothesis and deduction known as limbo is extremely important.

    The worst horror of abortion–a point that Catholics should stress–is that this form of homicide deprives unborn children of the supernatural happiness of the beatific vision.

  9. James,

    I believe you’ve misunderstood Archbishop Chaput. When he wrote “which we most certainly will”, I took him to refer to our imminent meeting with Christ. We most certainly will meet Him face to face in the next life (and so we had best consider that when we make our “choices’). Unless I am misunderstanding you, you seem to have taken His Excellency to mean that we “most certainly will” be able to explain ourselves to Christ with a clean heart if we support abortion….and this is the presumption on His mercy, as you put it.

    It seems clear to me that the archbishop is implying that almost no such reasons exist (except something catastrophic along the lines mentioned by Stephen O’Brien).

  10. I have a comment on Mr. O’Briens post:

    As for the “proportionate reason” that might justify a vote for a pro-abortion candidate, I’d like to propose the following for discussion. The reason would have to be on the level of the urgent need to prevent the election of a presidential candidate who has promised to launch an immediate nuclear attack on the entire population of another country, whereas his or her only electable opponent, who is pro-abortion, has firmly promised not to launch an attack which, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, would be mass murder.

    I cannot assume that this is a proportionate reason when it in fact has not occurred? I know abortion is occurring daily in outrageous numbers, but how can something that is an assumption be a proportionate reason?

  11. Reuben,

    No candidate for Presidency has promised or even remotely supports the launch of an immediate nuclear attack on the entire population of another country, nor does the sitting President support this. There currently exists no proportionate reason to vote for an abortionist for any political office. I am sure that that was the intent of your message.

    By the way, in your example, if Communist Chine had launched a nuclear attack against the United States, then the United States has the right to retaliate. Deterrence is based on the certain knowledge of retaliation. However, all this concern over nuclear weapons can be made a moot point if you dismantle our nuclear weapons and recycle the highly enriched uranium and the weapons-grade plutonium in nuclear reactors to produce cheap and pollution free electricity for the “common good”. Nothing fuels a highly technological civilization and the proper distribution of wealth like access to low cost, pollution free energy. Third world countries can be made a thing of the past by turning our swords into plowshares. :-D

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