If You Should Disagree With Your Brother, Even 70 Times 70….

There have been a number of denunciations directed at Catholics who endorsed Obama in the Catholic blogosphere lately. Not being a particular fan of President-elect Obama, I empathize with those who are doing the denouncing. However, in many cases I think this has gone too far.

There are (many) legitimate criticisms to be made both of President-elect Obama, and of the arguments that lead many Catholics to vote for him. Some Catholics who supported Obama barely made arguments at all; others made statements that sounded more like a plea for counseling than a political endorsement; still others appeared to be acting in bad faith.

But I think it may be helpful to clarify the scope of the disagreement by quickly reviewing some of the guidance the Church provided this past election:

The Catechism suggests that we have a duty to vote:

2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country: [ed. Emphasis mine]

As has been addressed previously on AC, the U.S. bishops provided a voting guide to assist Catholics in exercising their right to vote. Here is an excerpt:

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. [ed. Emphasis mine]

My reading of the preceding paragraphs suggests the following guidelines:

1) Given a choice between a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil and one who does not, one should vote for the candidate who does not support an intrinsic evil.

2) Once it is established that all of the candidates support an intrinsic evil (e.g. McCain’s support for ESCR and/or abortion in some cases), the voter should be guided by the following considerations:

a) “The candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.”

b) “All issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.”

These guidelines suggest to me that a reasonable case could be made for an Obama vote. For instance, one could have believed that McCain: 1) Supported intrinsic evils (e.g. ESCR, abortion in some cases), and 2) that McCain was insincere/uncommitted to pro-life issues or that he would be unable to influence pro-life issues significantly with a Democratic Congress. Given either of these premises, it seems to me that a Catholic in good faith could believe that Obama was more likely to pursue various “other authentic human goods,” such as health care reform, environmental regulation, a less militaristic approach to foreign policy, expanded safety nets for the poorest, etc.

To say that this position could be held in good faith does not mean that I agree with it. I do not. Among other disagreements, I think it is wrong-headed to view intrinsic evils (e.g. abortion) as a sort of ‘on-off’ switch, rather than a spectrum in which McCain was dramatically better than Senator Obama. And I think there will be significant budgetary constraints on the Obama administration over the next four years, meaning most of the other goals will be unattainable.

Nevertheless, I think stating that this opinion could be held in good faith is important because it clarifies what is at stake: it is a disagreement. It is not a battle of honest, intelligent people versus dishonest (excluding Kmiec) and/or unintelligent people. It is not a battle between good Catholics and bad Catholics. To paraphrase Chesterton, every Catholic is a bad Catholic. These disagreements may be serious, and we may use strong language to articulate them. But we are Catholics first and political participants second; a candid appraisal of our own rhetoric suggests this line sometimes gets blurry. There certainly are culture wars in the U.S., and abortion is the most significant fault line. But Catholics who felt that Obama was the lesser of two evils are not the enemy; they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our disagreements with them should reflect that recognition. It would certainly be nice if the favor was returned more frequently, and there is certainly room for sharply worded disagreement, but writing people out of the debate for the next four years because of their conclusions about Obama is neither the right thing to do nor is it likely to be very productive.

35 Responses to If You Should Disagree With Your Brother, Even 70 Times 70….

  1. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “they are our brothers and sisters in Christ”

    A distinction they share with all of humanity. Unfortunately they supported for election to the highest office in the land a man who clearly does not believe that the unborn share in this relationship to Christ. Defense of the unborn simply was not high on the agenda of Catholics who supported Obama. Surprise! If all Catholics voted in line with the teaching of the Church as to abortion for just one election cycle, legal abortion would be history in this country. That we do not is a damning indictment of how seriously many Catholics in this country take their faith. Catholic votes keep abortion legal in this country and have done so since 1973. The election of Obama was simply the latest in a long line of electing leaders with Catholic votes who have not the slightest concern for the unborn and who wage a never-ending fight against the pro-life movement.

  2. Tito Edwards says:

    First of all, the USCCB carries zero weight because we are led by the Magisterium, Tradition, and Scripture. The USCCB is not a parallel magisterium.

    Secondly, I strongly disagree that a Catholic who voted for Obama is a good Catholic. If you want to play the notorious V.N. game of semantics, then a vote for McCain makes you a bad Catholic and a vote for Obama makes you an even worse Catholic.

    Catholics who voted for Obama should and will be held accountable for the deaths of millions of unborn children. Their participation in any political debate has been marginalized at best, but most likely should be discounted because of their horrible and depraved decision.

    What we know is is that Obama is the most pro-abortion candidate ever voted into office. To “assume” of imaginary budgetry constraints, or any assumption for that matter, can mitigate someones vote for Obama is incorrect.

    I do agree we should show prudence and charity to those that have voted for Obama, even when they don’t reciprocate, but they should still be held accountable for their depraved decision in the ’08 elections.

  3. But Catholics who felt that Obama was the lesser of two evils are not the enemy; they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our disagreements with them should reflect that recognition. …but writing people out of the debate for the next four years because of their conclusions about Obama is neither the right thing to do nor is it likely to be very productive.

    This is where you lost me, John. Up to that point, it was a great post.

    First, these people certainly acted in bad faith, as is readily evidenced by their refusal to consider or answer opposing viewpoints, their refusal to be taught by the bishops, and the exceptionally poor arguments they put forward. The rationalization was simply, “neither candidate is perfect on the life issues, so life is no longer an issue.” That’s not arguing in good faith, and it calls into doubt their commitment to Catholic teaching on the life issues.

    And it’s the pro-Obama folks who’ve been working to read conservatives out of the debate. Which is odd, as we’re pretty well marginalized for at least the next year. I have been calling on them to join the debate; I’ve said that it’s only the pro-Obama Catholics who have any chance of persuading their fellow Democrats to abandon their embrace of the culture of death, and bring an ethic of life to their administration of the country. But none of the pro-Obama bloggers at Vox Nova have made such an effort, neither have the higher-profile pro-Obama Catholics, like Kmiec, Cafardi and others.

    After so much effort to convince their fellow Catholics to vote for Obama, why no effort to convince their fellow Democrats to vote Catholic — that is, pro-life? And this failure, too, calls into question their commitment to Catholic teaching on the life issues.

    Also, their open contempt for those who actually make the pro-life arguments calls into question their commitment to Catholic teaching on the life issues.

    This is a scandal, and it should be called that, and those who are perpetrating the scandal should be called out on it.

    I don’t say this because I’m a better Catholic than they are. I make no claims for any superiority about my faith, or my practice of religion. But on this issue, I think there are more cardinals, archbishops and bishops, and even a pope, who agree with me. My own archbishop, Cardinal George (also USCCB president), wrote that one cannot work for the common good while supporting the legal status quo on abortion. But that’s just exactly what these people have done. And they have a responsibility — which they have utterly neglected — to try to mitigate what they have achieved.

  4. blackadderiv says:

    I did not vote for Mr. Obama, and would agree that many of the reasons offered by others as justification for doing so were greatly lacking. That said, the way some of the folks who ended up voting for Obama have been treated by some of their fellow Catholics has, in my opinion, been quite disgraceful. Telling someone who voted for Obama that they have blood on their hands, or speculating as to how many abortions they have had is just not a good way to win people over to your point of view. It’s not really very Christian, either.

    I realize that such bad behavior is confined to the minority, but to the person on the receiving end of this sort of treatment, even a few instances tend to leave a deep impression.

  5. Mark DeFrancisis says:

    As usual, Tito ‘argues’ by fiat.


  6. Mark,

    I don’t completely agree with Tito on this question, but he’s laid out his reasons for thinking as he does. If you have a comment on it, comment, but don’t snipe.

  7. Mark DeFrancisis says:


    Your defense of his antics speaks volumes. And your calling them reasons is incredibe.

  8. I think overall I agree with you, John Henry, though I probably would have emphasized things differently. A couple things:

    Though voting is an important political and moral act, and I am generally grateful that we live in a country where we are given a choice (though a limitted one) in who shall rule us, I think that often we emphasize it’s importance too much. Our individual votes count for fairly little. And while I appreciate (and to a great extent agree with) Donald’s point that if all Catholics took abortion seriously as an issue, we wouldn’t have legal abortion — the fact of the matter is that of the 25% of the US population who identify as Catholic, less than half even go to mass. Of the maybe 10% of the population who are even remotely serious Catholics, more than half voted against Obama anyway. If every single serious Catholic had voted for Obama, he just would have won by less, but he still would have won.

    Similarly, I’m not sure that I think that the difference in absolute numbers of abortions would be very great between the options of Obama and McCain. I think it pretty disgraceful to vote for a candidate such as Obama who supports abortion so enthusiastically, but I don’t think it’s numerically accurate to say that their votes for Obama cost huge numbers of lives. Though I would hope they would take pause to consider that they’ve cast a vote (in some cases enthusiastically) for someone who doesn’t care a whit about those lives. (That some of the same people got themselves all worked up about Bush being apparently indifferent to appeals from convicted murders makes it all the odder.)

    So while I think that a vote for Obama was a bad choice, and a fairly obviously bad choice if one thought about it rationally and with full information, I don’t think that it was, on the scale of great life mistakes, all that large. I would certainly say that we are morally culpable for our votes, but I don’t think that votes are themselves among the more monumental moral decisions we make — though for those who spend large amounts of times advocating for their choice of vote (Kmiec seems the standout example here) some people seem to have managed to overthrow both mind and morals in the process of tyring to justify a vote which would have seemed unacceptable to their selves of just a few years earlier. Still even in such a case, I think it was the need to constantly justify the planned vote which was so morally corrosive, not the vote itself.

    And don’t get me wrong, some of the constant Obama apologists are fairly disingenuous writers — or at least deeply unpleasant personalities — it’s just not their votes per se that I find offense, but rather their apologetics for people and positions I find unacceptable.

    Finally, if people find themselves unpersuaded by all the above let me make this very pragmatic point: Votes are cast. Obama is elected. In some ways (dreary ways, but real none the less) I myself find it a bit liberating, in that I have hopes that the pro-life movement and the conservative movement will both return to health and dynamism much more quickly while out of power (hopefully by the 2010 midterms) than they would have with a squeaker of a McCain victory.

    One of our biggest dangers now in trying to convey to our fellow Catholics and the world what we believe is good and right in regards to politics is bitterness. Even if it’s accurate to say that any Catholic who voted for Obama is a pretty pathetic excuse for one (and I don’t necessarily say that, because I think the human conscience has a pretty massive capacity for honest self delusion — and some of these folks were sorely tempted because they believe, wrongly in my opinion, that progressive policies would do miracles for our country) repeating that contention overmuch will not achieve much besides making those people hate us a great deal. (And frankly, I’m already a little concerned at how readily a few writers draw away from other Catholics and Catholic movements in order to cling to their Obama votes which they’re being given so much grief over.)

    I think we’d be better served by erasing from our minds who voted for whom and going at the issues hammer and tongs as the happy warriors we ought to be. It may not convince those who’ve now staked their political and intellectual identities on supporting Obama, but it does allow us to present a positive and persuasive message to all those in the online world ready to listen.

    And if history is any gauge, I would imagine that in four to eight years there will be plenty of disillusioned Obama supporters to win over, just as now some of those trumpeting their Obama support were pretty sanguine about Bush seven years ago.

    If we choose instead to try to put too much energy into making people rue their Obama votes — I fear we shall only make both them and us bitter.

  9. Mark,

    If you want volumes, read my above comment.

    As I said, I don’t agree with Tito’s take, and if you read my comment you’ll see how and why. But if you want to rebutt someone, as seems to be your desire, try using more than 20 words.

  10. Mark DeFrancisis says:


    I have been trying to extricate an argument in Tito’s words. Here’s the best I could do:

    THe USCCB is not the Magisterium

    Catholics who voted for Obama are not good Catholics

    Therefore,THey should be discounted in all they say.

    We should also hold them accountable.

  11. Mark DeFrancisis says:

    Has the Vatican explicitly condemned ‘Faithful Citizenship.” Mentioned it much in a critical fashion during the past year? If so, I missed it.

    While Tito is right in saying that the USCCB is not the Magisterium, it seems that the onus is on him to show how terribly it contradicts magisterial statements/teaching.

  12. Mark DeFrancisis says:

    You would also think that Tito would be happy that those who supported Obama are trying to challenge him on life issues.

    It seems as though Tito believes that politicians only listen to those who are not their supportesr, or, at least, that you cannot criticize anyone for whom you have voted.

    Actually, I am not quite sure what his thinking is, as it does not seem to make much sense either way.

    I do not want to be presumptuous, but something of the above may be why he and his ilk think that they have to be, for example, such supporters fof President Bush’s disaster-laden foreign policy these past years, including his waging a war that the Vatican clearly said was unjust at its inception.

  13. Tito Edwards says:

    Brendan/Darwin, John Henry, Black Adder,

    Excellent points on how we should prudentially move forward from this election. Painting those that voted for Obama as participants in the culture of death doesn’t help the cause as much. And I’m referring to myself.

    Being on the front lines, ie, praying at abortion clinics, marching in prayer vigils, passing out literature, etc, etc, one tends to get emotinally involved. Hence I get a bit perturbed when I read outrageous and disingenuous arguments from some in the v.N. about how voting for Obama is a vote for pro-life.

    Black Adder,

    Thanks for being civil. I agree, if one is on the receiving end of a comment such as mine, I can only imagine how they must feel. I disagree that this behavior could be unChristian. My reasons are that I find it difficult to fathom how one who is properly catechized and very knowledgeable about their Catholic faith can turnaround and cast a vote for Obama and then ask others to work with them in reducing abortions. When, in this instance, McCain would not be signing FOCA, promising Planned Parenthood unmitigated abortions for everyone, and many other executive, legislative, and judicial acts that will *increase* the number of abortions.

    With that said, being a Christian isn’t easy, but how you framed your argument does help me consider the human aspect of it all and I’ll pray more for improved prudential judgement.

    John Henry,

    I forgot to say this in my original comment, you wrote a very good and thought out post. Keep up the great work!

    Mark DeFrancisis,

    I got a chuckle reading your “pobrecito” comment while viewing that awesome and cute pic of your pet sausage dog.

    Oh, and don’t presume. I make the same mistake of presumptiousness and you shouldn’t either.

  14. Mark DeFrancisis says:


    Do you realize yet that the drafter of the VN letter, Henry, did NOT vote for Obama?

    And please understand, pobrecito is in my book a term of endearment.

  15. Tito Edwards says:


    Yes. Though I didn’t point him out in any of these comments in this column.

    As far as pobrecito, I didn’t take it as anything but funny (in a good way). I know you mean well and our emotions can get the best of us at times. I know you mean no harm.

    And when I refer to your pic, I really do like that pic. You have an awesome looking dog.

  16. Mark DeFrancisis says:


    The rhyme is too irresistible.

  17. Tito Edwards says:


    I too laugh at myself.

    One of my friends favorites are “Tito Bandito”. But basically they all like calling me “Tito”, even though I don’t look like a “Tito”. I’ve given up introducing myself to my given Christian name. Though I don’t mind being called either.

    And yes, if you were to know me in person, you would be laughing at me as well, I’m a big goofball.

  18. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “If every single serious Catholic had voted for Obama, he just would have won by less, but he still would have won.”

    True Darwin. Most people who claim to be Catholic in this country are Catholic only in an ancestral or tribal sense at best. As I said, a damning indictment. However, the people this post is directed toward do claim to be serious Catholics. I actually have far more sympathy for a Catholic who hasn’t been to mass for decades and voted for Obama, they could at least claim to be doing so out of rank ignorance and indifference, than I do someone who celebrates his or her Catholicism and still votes for a candidate who views abortion as a sacred right.

  19. Donald R. McClarey says:

    My comments in this thread should not be taken as indicating any reluctance on my part to work with anyone who voted for Obama who now wishes to enter the lists in opposition to his pro-abortion policies. In my pro-life work I join forces all the time with women who have had abortions and men and women who have been pro-abort in the past. I always welcome converts. However, I do believe that it is beyond absurd for people who claim to be pro-life to vote for a pro-abort when there is a pro-life candidate to vote for, and that for Catholics to do so is a scandal.

  20. John Henry says:

    Donald, I agree that there was little-to-no case to be made that Obama was better for pro-lifers, and the best predictive indicator for how I will vote in any given national election is a candidate’s position on abortion. However, as I discussed above I am not persuaded that it would be unreasonable (as opposed to incorrect) for a Catholic to believe that there would be little change in the abortion rate under either McCain or Obama, and that Obama was significantly better on the other issues.

    As to whether these people are pro-life it depends on your perspective. I am pro-health care reform, and I think Obama was a much better candidate than McCain on that score; but I am not a single-issue health care reform voter, and so I did not vote for President-elect Obama. If your definition of a pro-lifer is someone who is a single-issue voter, then yes, these people were not pro-lifers. But I am pro- a lot of things; voting is a choice that weights those things.

  21. As to whether these people are pro-life it depends on your perspective.

    My perspective is that if life issues are not a priority for you, then you’re not pro-life.

    I oppose the death penalty. That is, I believe that it is Constitutional, but that legislatures should abolish it. But if I were on a jury, I might vote to apply the death penalty, given our current laws.

    But I don’t often tell people I’m anti-death-penalty, because it’s not important enough to influence my vote, except among candidates who are the same on other issues I hold to be more urgent. I claim no moral “credit” for this stance, and I wouldn’t expect people who consider the abolition of the death penalty to be important to count me as one of them.

  22. Pro-lifers aiming for a pro-life national consensus need to ask themselves whether that consensus can be achieved without a reform of the most pro-abortion rights party.

    Can’t that reform only be advanced by weasely pro-life Democrats co-operating with pro-choice Democrats?

    No pro-life Democrat can advance unless he scratches other Dems’ backs and helps them get elected.

    Granted, there are significant ethical dangers in this co-operation. But doesn’t the most principled opposition to pro-choice politicians result in a Catch-22 of political deadlock?

  23. M.Z. Forrest says:

    Just get a few things straight, I, Kmiec, Cafardi, or anyone else haven’t thrown socons under the bus. Socons threw us out once we stopped following along with a host of issues other than abortion. Complaints about the war, etc., were met with “but what about abortion?” When discussing the election I didn’t bother justifying Obama’s superiority on other issues, because the one-issue abortion voters didn’t care about them. The purpose of persuasive writing is to persuade, and I had better things to do than try to persuade people that ultimately thought the economy and foreign policy were unimportant compared to the evil of abortion. Sure, other issues might be nice to chat about and even have firmly held opinions, but no matter what Republicans did on other issues and no matter how little they offered toward the end of abortion, it didn’t matter.

    As far as disengenuous charges go, I and others have our grievances as well. If you told me T-Bone steak was the most important thing to you in the world, and all I ever saw you eat were burnt sirloins, I would question your commitment to T-Bone steak. Folks keep saying that these burnt sirloins will eventually become T-Bones, but I’m not seeing it. And I don’t think I’m going to see a T-Bone until I stop accepting burnt sirloins. Many choose not to believe that I and others oppose abortion. At this point, I’m pretty much done trying to persuade folks otherwise. If you want to eat burnt sirloins and call them T-Bones, that’s your choice. I’ll enjoy my rubber chicken dinner with potatoes and corn. When a real T-Bone goes on the menu, I’ll eat it.

  24. Katerine says:

    What about love thy enemy as thyself?

    What about take the stake out of your own eye before condeming the toothpick in your brother’s eye?

    paraphrased of course.

  25. John Henry says:

    Katerine – Could you clarify who that statement was directed towards?

    M.Z. – Thanks for responding – I have lots of thoughts, but not much time to respond. A quick question, though. Could you explain how this argument from Kmiec is pro-life? My problem with Kmiec is that he held himself out as a pro-lifer, only to pull off the mask and reveal he was a pro-choicer. I think he was a fraud (as, apparently, does Douthat whom you are fond of quoting). Anyway, here’s Kmiec:

    Sometimes the law must simply leave space for the exercise of individual judgment, because our religious or scientific differences of opinion are for the moment too profound to be bridged collectively. When these differences are great and persistent, as they unfortunately have been on abortion, the common political ideal may consist only of that space. This does not, of course, leave the right to life undecided or unprotected. Nor for that matter does the reservation of space for individual determination usurp for Caesar the things that are God’s, or vice versa. Rather, it allows this sensitive moral decision to depend on religious freedom and the voice of God as articulated in each individual’s voluntary embrace of one of many faiths.


    Is that pro-life?

  26. M.Z. Forrest says:

    Given that the paragraph was predicated on legal abolition not being possible at the present time, yes. It’s not how I would have phrased things. You (and others) may not be aware that I was quite critical of his intial commentary.

  27. John Henry says:

    “When a real T-Bone goes on the menu, I’ll eat it.”

    Well we both can hope that happens at some point in the near future. I was not and am not a fan of Mr. McCain. Maybe Jindal will be more substantive, but even if he is, it may be wise for him to wait for 2016. You are far too generous to Kmiec; the man is a poseur, or as other Catholic legal academics have described him, ‘contemptible’.

  28. Can’t that reform only be advanced by weasely pro-life Democrats co-operating with pro-choice Democrats?

    No pro-life Democrat can advance unless he scratches other Dems’ backs and helps them get elected.

    Yes, indeed. My complaint is that there seems to be no such visible efforts by “pro-life” Democrats.

    Henry Karlson’s petition (of which I was one of the original signers) is not an effort by an Obama supporter to reform the Democrats’ embrace of abortion.

  29. […] U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Many American Catholic contributors have expressed their opinions of Mr. Kmiec during the recent election. To be clear, the problem with Kmiec was not that he supported Obama, it […]

  30. katherine says:

    If all Catholics voted in line with the teaching of the Church as to abortion for just one election cycle, legal abortion would be history in this country.

    If all Catholics voted in line with the teachings of the Church on ALL issues for just one election cycle, we would have a more just society, and respect for peace and life.

  31. katherine says:

    Thank you, Tito. No one would be happier than I if Catholics monolithically decided to support a full platform of Catholic social teachings, from abortion, capital punishment, peace, labor, social justice and family policy, and then recruited a slate of candidates pledged to such a platform.

    Lacking that event, I actually support something I rarely read on the blogs — pluralism. I think we are best served having Catholics in every party and every camp.

  32. Eric Brown says:

    John, I’m glad you wrote this. I am 100% in agreement. Thank you Katherine for your spot on comments. I’ve mused over this post for a few days and I’d like to make several points and I hope they are not taken in the wrong way — I mean them in all good charity.

    It’s self-evident that all of these issues are critical and what’s at stake here is human life. It is understandable to be emotionally involved, but this in itself does not justify a lot of our behavior. This is especially true of me personally prior to election. If I could have go back, there are many things I’ve said that I would take back.

    Now I’m very disheartened by many people’s opinions on this. It’s a human reality and in some respect, I’ll just have to deal with it. The heart of my frustration is really rooted in the fact (as is the heart of everyone’s frustration) is that I see this from a different perspective.

    Granted, I voted for John McCain, other Catholics for reasons I’m sure many (not all) thought about as long and as hard as I did made a different judgment. Now in regard to this, there is always this profound temptation to attack other people’s orthodoxy. Sure, I’d be quick to agree with someone that “person A” has misunderstood, or at least misapplied the Church’s teaching, but that does not mean the person isn’t orthodox and doesn’t fully believe in the “fullness of truth” that the Church embraces. In many ways, discussion of such people has been less than charitable. I cannot conceive of the Lord talking about people or to people in the way I’ve seen (or even done myself). So, let’s be honest with ourselves, before we toot ourselves as the “good” Catholics and as scholars on social justice aware of what it really is that we need to do, let’s not forget the basics and foundation of our faith: charity. It doesn’t take faith to realize that you will not convert someone or win them over demonizing them (or their political party) and telling them in an uncharitably way that the death and suffering of thousands of innocent children is their fault. I’m not saying they didn’t materially cooperate in evil, I’m saying we ought to be careful about what we say it, how we say it, and why we’re saying it.

    I don’t think we can just sit and judge someone’s orthodoxy by a single action. Sure, we can judge an act to be not in accord with the moral law, but to say that “no good Catholic” does this or that is really, in my view, divisive rhetoric. I know what you’re saying, but I find that such talk is not constructive toward any good, it only reaffirms the “us” versus “them” mentality. We can judge the objective good or evil of an actions, but we do not know people’s hearts nor do we know their subjective culpability. This is not to say we should just tolerate evil because people have good intentions, but let’s not start the game of saying who is a “good Catholic” and who’s not based on political decisions.

    It occurs to me that my wording can make my point seem a bit dubious, e.g. a pro-choice Catholic can be a “good Catholic.” That’s not what I’m arguing. I’m talking more along the lines of agreeing on fundamental principles but prudentially applying them differently; now in one respect, one can say this or that is a miscalculation and a bad application of those principles, but to judge the interior of the person based solely on an isolated action, out of the context of their whole lived Catholic life in my view is quite an injustice.

    Quite a lot can be learned from listening to someone you disagree with. I’ve noticed that many pro-life Americans who voted for the Democrats believe that other critical issues of importance to them is not a priority for the Republican Party. In my experience, I’ve seen people then rebuke them saying no other issue has the priority of abortion. But that’s a part of the problem! Instead of rebuking them (and I’m not saying you shouldn’t make that clarification that abortion is not just one issue), how often do you stop to see their point even if you don’t agree with them? Need I tell you about the medical problems that my grandmother faces that places a financial burden on my immediate family and given the fact that there is no person in my family I’m closer to, there was a profound temptation for me to vote for the Democrats in this election on the basis of health care? Not just for my grandmother, but for thousands of people with the same problem. We might disagree on that, but talk about reform hasn’t been a GOP issue — 12 years they had every opportunity, none taken. Why is there this mentality or perception that the GOP is not the party of African Americans and Hispanics? Given the fact that this past year they had the whitest, richest delegates in history and that the party doesn’t look or seem inclusive. There is hardly talk about poverty, health care, and other issues that directly impact people. How long have these issues seemed like they were on the backburner? Since when was there a GOP candidate advocating health care reform to deal with the 47 million uninsured before the Democrats made it an issue? I’ve seen many people emphasizing the primacy of abortion dismiss these other issues as if they are items in a cafeteria just as they denounce other “cafeteria” Catholics for overlooking the unborn — are you more justified?

    I’m taken back by the statement that pro-life Democrats don’t do anything about abortion, nevermind the fact that countless pieces of legislation couldn’t have passed at the federal and state level without our votes; the same is true of the election of candidates–I’m sure pro-life Democrats have tipped some few elections in favor of Republican candidates. I thought we were all on the same team. Nevermind the uphill battle many pro-life Democrats face in primaries or just to stay in office with the party loading cash into the campaign of pro-choice Democrats. Do you try to help pro-life Democrats get elected with your money? Do you encourage pro-life Democrats to support those candidates so they don’t lose their seat to a pro-choice Democrat? Do you really think we’re going to end abortion with only one party? I can’t speak on behalf of all pro-life Democrats, but the same argument can be made about the urgency of the issue of abortion to the GOP at large. There is so much talk about the Supreme Court when after Roe v. Wade, seven of the current nine were appointed by Republicans and yet only four of them are pro-life. If abortion were the repugnant, horrid evil that the GOP really made it out to be, there would be a lot more effort to bring about its demise — and I’m not saying the Democrats don’t fight them tooth and nail, but one can hardly deny other aspects of their agenda have been carried out with such swiftness and fervor you begin to wonder…

    One last point. If we’re going to get upset by the “absurdity” of, say, the gay rights’ movement, instead of being reactive, be proactive. So when no one is praying for homosexuals at Mass, why not ask someone if it can be included for just one Sunday? Inquire as to why there is communal support for homosexuals in less than half the dioceses in the country. If we want them to oblige to the natural law, are we willing to reach out to them? The same people screaming and yelling about the family are saying one thing and doing another. If you think liberals are just nuts on environmental issues, how about more proactive engagement rather than disagreeing without offering a solution. When Catholics as a majority don’t vote in accord with Church teaching or cause public scandal by dissenting, volunteer your time and teach a CCE class — plant seeds and the Lord your God will have a rich harvest. The sexual revolution and other “progressive” movements didn’t come up out of thin air. We (all of us) speak like Catholics and live like Pharisees. The harvest is rich and the laborers are few. Work for the Lord in His vineyard. If we spent as much effort doing as we do complaining and attacking one another, the world would be a much better place.

    I really don’t wish to sound partisan, but in many ways, it seems to me that Catholic Democrats have concerns that really are dismissed as trivial and “non-issues” because abortion is fundamental (not that I’m disagreeing with that). I’m of the view that a “partisan-looking” attack on the Democrats not only allows the Republicans to get too comfortable and often enough get by, I think to the spectator it makes Catholics look biased. I’m surely not denying major problems in regard to the Democrats, but the way the GOP gets glossed over really disconcerns me and I sometimes wonder if other Catholics aren’t conservative first. That’s my view and you’re free to disagree with me.

  33. Tito Edwards says:

    Eric and Katherine,

    We won’t let Obama Catholics off the hook for voting incorrectly, but I agree we have many more issues that we can cooperate on with them. It’s a difficult balance to keep, but your comments should be considered when engaging with them in working together for the common good.

  34. Katherine says:


    Thank you. I hope we have many opportunities to work together. And while maybe the favor is not returned, you are forgiven for voting for McCain! 🙂


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