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Limiting the harm using proportionate reasons

By Barbara Kralis
©Barbara Kralis 2004

In Romans 3:8, we read that 2,000 years ago the Apostle St. Paul is falsely accused of teaching that ‘evil can be done to bring about a good end.’  St Paul did not even defend himself for the reason that the accusation was so grossly misrepresented.[1]

We witness today the same accusations St. Paul endured, this time aimed at a Catholic Cardinal and a Catholic Bishop.  Noteworthy, the accusations come from a diverse group of people nationwide who know not what they say. ‘Damnant quod non intellegunt.’[2]

The accusing group consists of secular and Catholic media, faithful Catholics and dissenting Catholics.  This group accuses Ratzinger and Burke of watering down the Church’s infallible teachings on abortion in order to get a pro-abortion candidate elected in the United States.

The high ranking Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith, and the staunchly loyal Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis have stated that Catholics may vote for pro-abortion politicians for ‘proportionate reasons.’  Several other Bishops have also stated this teaching, but since the accusations are against Ratzinger and Burke, we will regard only these two at this time.

Cardinal Ratzinger made this statement in his Nota Bene in June 2004:

“When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” -Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Many confused persons wrongly accused Burke of flip-flopping on abortion.  Archbishop Burke has recently stated he will soon issue clear Church teachings on this matter in the form of a ‘Pastoral Letter’ to his flock in St. Louis Archdiocese.  Catholics everywhere will appreciate, as always, his magisterial teaching.

In the meantime, while we await the Archbishop’s further clarification, we ask the question - are these two hierarchs really teaching against the Church’s doctrine regarding abortion?  Furthermore, why is there confusion regarding this traditional Church teaching of ‘proportionate reason?

The understanding of this teaching is not necessarily confusing but is certainly confused by many.  Some perhaps confuse it purposely, with expectation of a great pro-abortion political victory this November.

What is most perplexing is that both faithful and not-so-faithful Catholics hold to the confusion, but in different ways. 

Faithful Catholics, not purposely, confuse the teaching ‘proportionate reason’ as being against the teachings supporting ‘Life.’  On the opposite side of the aisle, unfaithful Catholics bamboozle this teaching as carte blanche to do evil for an evil gain. 

The teaching of ‘proportionate reason’ is not about Republicans vs. Democrats, it is about life vs. abortion; it is about evil vs. good.  It is about ‘limiting the harm.’

The confusion originates from several misunderstandings: 1) those who think President Bush is 100% pro life; 2) those who don’t know what ‘proportionate reason’ means; 3) lack of knowledge of prior Church documents and how they have used the traditional teaching of ‘proportionate reason.’

Without recommending one candidate or one party over another, let us look at the first misunderstanding.

Firstly, President George W. Bush is not 100% pro life.  This is where the greatest confusion comes from.  This reality surprises many people who support President Bush and appreciate his pro-life efforts and legislation. 

In fact, many people, when asked if they believe our President to be pro life or pro abortion, answer they believe him to be 100% pro life.  The reality is that he is pro life only some of the time, not most of the time. 

President Bush still supports procured abortion in cases of rape or incest.  In fact, his position is the same position as the National Right to Life Committee, who is also not pro life and whose history is detailed in an earlier article.  This position to support some abortions is an abomination against God. 

One cannot be almost pro life while allowing a little murder each day.  Allowing abortion for a few reasons, ...

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