Monday, January 03, 2005

Post-Dispatch columnist Bill Mclellan tries to dig out when called on a cheap shot he took at Archibishop Burke when he wrote he was "big for George W. Bush."

Was he big for Bush? Yes. You might remember he made national news when he said he wouldn't give Communion to Kerry. Then the archbishop published his 25-page pastoral letter - "On Our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good" - which sure seemed in line with the Bush campaign. Gay marriage, you might remember, was more intrinsically evil than war or the death penalty. And hey, all that is fine with me. I never criticize religious leaders for taking political stands, but things are what they are. Maybe Allman wants to pretend that the archbishop was neutral in the last election, but the rest of us don't have to pretend that.

First, wasn't John Kerry also opposed to same sex marriage? So this position wasn't exaclty a sop to Bush.

Second, I'm sure Burke would also refuse communion to Bush.

Third, and most inerestingly, "more intrinsically evil" is nonsense. Something is either intrinsically evil or it's not. It's like saying someone is "more dead" or "more pregnant" than someone else. Abp. Burke's points was that same sex marriage is always wrong; war and the death penalty not so. This simply Catholic teaching. Here's the relevant passage:

30. Some Catholics have suggested that a candidate’s position on the death
penalty and war are as important as his or her position on procured abortion and same-sex “marriage.” This, however, is not true. Procured abortion and homosexual
acts are intrinsically evil, and, as such, can never be justified in any circumstance.
Although war and capital punishment can rarely be justified, they are not intrinsically evil; neither practice includes the direct intention of killing innocent human beings. In some circumstances, self-defense and defense of the nation are not only rights, but responsibilities. Neither individuals nor governments can be denied the right of lawful defense in appropriate circumstances (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 2265 and 2309). While we must all work to eradicate the circumstances which could justify either practice, we must stop the killing of innocent unborn children and the practice of euthanasia, and safeguard marriage and the family now. One cannot justify a vote for a candidate who promotes intrinsically evil acts which erode the very foundation of the common good, such as abortion and same-sex “marriage,” by appealing to that same candidate’s opposition to war or capital punishment.

The arguable point, which McClellan conflated, is whether non-intrinsic evils like war and capital punishment can justify a vote for candidate who favors intrinsic evil. As Disputations pointed out at the time, a negative answer to that question leads to some conclusions that seem absurd.

McClellan is wrong; Burke wasn't "big for Bush" (thought I'd be willing to bet my paycheck he voted for Bush), but I think Burke made it easy for those inclined to think he was to continue in that belief. I myself thought a lot of the "Catholic Voters Guides" read like they started with the conclusion and worked backwards.

Perhaps now that the election's over, and the Democrats are hopefully softening their stance on abortion, we can have a more fruitful conversation about what Catholics should consider while voting. During the election, it was easy to just say that someone saying something different was either just a shill for the candidate or attempting to rationalize a vote for evil.

I think the bishops can be a great help in this. I would like to see Archbishop Burke expand on when if, ever non-intrinsic evils can be given more weight than intrinsic evils. And we can together move closer to the Truth.

Then, at teh next election, Catholics will be able to consult their well-formed conscinces is determining whom to vote for, rather than relying on "guides."

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