That is a terrific pastoral letter, John. In it, Bishop Loverde states clearly that “the protection of human life” is the foundation of all principles by which we should judge those who run for elected office, since without it, other principles important to the Church — the promotion of family, the pursuit of social justice, and the practice of global solidarity — “would be rendered meaningless. If we do not uphold and protect human life in its beginning at conception, there would be no life to uphold and protect thereafter.” Bishop Loverde then takes on the argument that a Catholic can, in good conscience and in fidelity with the Church, vote for a candidate who does not promote life for the unborn, so long as “that candidate has a better position on other issues of importance to Catholic and indeed to our nation (e.g., national security, taxation job growth, economic policy, etc.).” First, he states, lest there be any doubt, that a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate “precisely because of his or her pro-abortion stance,” for such a vote is an instance of formal cooperation in grave evil. But he also challenges the notion that one can overlook a pro-abortion stance to vote for a candidate who is more pro-social justice or anti-war: “In order for [such] material cooperation [with evil] to be morally permissible, . . . there must be a proportionate reason for such cooperation.” A proportionate reason “does not mean that each issue carries the same moral weight; intrinsically evil acts such as abortion or research on stem cells taken from human embroyos cannot be placed on the same level as debates over war or capital punishment . . . . It is simply not possible to serve and promote the common good for our nation by voting for a candidate who, once in office, will do nothing to limit or restrict the deliberate destruction of innocent human life.”
I say, “Good for the Bishop!” Whether all Catholics will like this sort of statement (and I can think of one Presidential candidate who might not), the Church has a fundamental obligation to remind its members what is right and what is wrong in these difficult times. For those who argue that George Bush’s fighting a war is wrong, that is pragmatic issue in the eyes of the Church that has more than one side to it — for instance, fighting a war to protect the Nation’s security against a real threat of terror is on a different plane than the basic issue of whether to protect the unborn, where Church teaching admits of no grey area. Quite simply, John Kerry can’t look the other direction — indeed, vote the other direction — on core issues of respect for life and still walk in lockstep with the Church.
I don’t doubt that Loverde will get much grief for his position — as will the good priest who based his sermon on the letter at this morning’s mass. Indeed, my daughter’s godfather, a bright, young priest from the swing state of Ohio, was excoriated in a letter to his Bishop by a pro-Kerry couple who took issue with a similar message delivered from the pulpit at a recent mass. His Bishop’s response to that letter was fair, but firm. There is no cafeteria for Catholics on the issue of abortion. Like it or not, you have to be reminded of that every now and then.
I’m happy to see some of the Church leadership taking a leadership role on this issue. Separation of church from state does not mean separation of state from church. If people of faith (not simply Catholics, but all people of faith) were to let their faith guide their civic duty, this election would be a landslide.