The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has released its statement on “faithful citizenship” telling Catholic Americans that they may be endangering their eternal souls if they vote for a candidate who supports the “evils” of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, artificial contraception and racism.
According to the statement, “a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil.” Who would argue with this? I won’t vote for a candidate who favors intrinsic evil. But I might draw up a different list of evils. How about the evils of torture, corporate greed, environmental rape, war, and seeking to undermine the Constitution and override legitimate laws passed by Congress? If I had to rank my evils, I would place violation of the Constitution above using a condom. But then I’m not a Catholic bishop.
As the bishops hammered out their statement, Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, ND proposed an amendment warning Catholics of the danger of voting for evil. “Choosing intrinsic evil,” he said, “will have an impact on their salvation.” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, NY argued against Aquila worrying that the bishops should not link politics to salvation. This is nonsense: the statement itself does this implicitly.
For all their concern with pointing Catholics to the right political position, the bishops seem to offer Catholics a way out. The statement says a Catholic may not vote for a politician who supports intrinsic evil if, by so voting, “the voter’s intent is to support that position.” This is a huge loophole: as a good Catholic I can vote for a candidate who supports intrinsic evil as long as I am thinking of other policies the candidate supports that are not intrinsically evil. With a loophole this big I can’t see the point in issuing the statement is in the first place.
But what really bothers me is the Bishop’s definition of intrinsic evil. Being against abortion means you are in favor of mothers dying in childbirth. Being against euthanasia means you are in favor of bringing horribly diseased babies into the world to live out lives of brutal agony. Being against embryonic stem cell research means you are in favor of the suffering of all those who may be helped by such research. Being against artificial contraception means you are in favor of the spread of disease, AIDS, and the crushing burden of poverty that over population brings.
I realize I am overstating my case, but the lack of nuance in Catholic thinking regarding evil demands a stark response.