The Corner

What Did the Bishops Say?

A good factchecking e-mail:

the New York Times in its front page story today, “Abortion Issue Again Dividing Catholic Voters,” misrepresents the thrust of the U.S. Bishops document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The story says: “And last fall, the bishops revised their official statement on voting priorities to explicitly allow Catholics to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights if they do so for other reasons. And it also allowed for differences of opinion about how to apply church principles. The statement appeared to leave room for Democrats to argue that social programs were an effective way to reduce abortion rates, an idea the party recently incorporated into its platform.”

This is actually practically the opposite of what the bishops said. Yes, they do leave some very slight wiggle room for voting for a pro-abortion candidate, but the bar is set very high (i.e. “truly grave moral reasons”), not simply “other reasons,” as the story asserts. The bishops define abortion and euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research as evils that “must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.”

When it comes to voting, the bishops say, “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for a 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. (emphasis mine.)

For good measure, the bishops give this warning to Catholics and candidates: “It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual’s salvation. Similarly, the kinds of laws and policies supported by public officials affect their spiritual well being.”

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