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'Catholic' John Kerry's 'Seamless Garment'

By Matt Abbott

Back in the 1980's, the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin espoused the 'seamless garment' philosophy, also known as the 'consistent ethic of life.' This philosophy, which basically places the grave evil of abortion on the same level as other societal ills (war, poverty, racism, and even the death penalty), has been controversial from its inception, with many staunch right-to-life advocates asserting that it has done nothing but give pro-abortion "yet 'right' on most or all the other issues" politicians a free pass to call themselves devout Catholics.

And that, to me, is a fair assessment.

Enter the current presidential race. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a "Catholic," opposes the death penalty, but supports abortion. President Bush, a Protestant, supports the death penalty, but opposes abortion, albeit with exceptions. So which of the two is more in line with Catholic teaching?

President Bush is...and here's why.

First, let's take a look at the issue of capital punishment. The teaching of the Catholic Church, taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is as follows:

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

"If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

"Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm —without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself — the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically non-existent'" (no. 2267).

We see from the above passage that the death penalty should be opposed in virtually all circumstances. But it is not condemned categorically; it is not said to be intrinsically evil.

Now take the issue of abortion. To once again quote the Catechism:

"From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a 'criminal' practice (GS 27 § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life" (no. 2322).

From the above passage, we see that induced abortion is intrinsically evil, that is, it can never be deemed morally licit.

Hence, abortion is a "non-negotiable" issue, and that is why it, and not capital punishment, is included in the essentially anti-'seamless garment' Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics, available from Catholic Answers ( Says the very informative guide:

"The Church teaches that, regarding a law permitting abortions, it is 'never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it' (EV 73). Abortion is the intentional and direct killing of an innocent human being, and therefore it is a form of homicide.

"The child is always an innocent party, and no law may permit the taking of his life. Even when a child is conceived through rape or incest, the fault is not the child's, who should not suffer death for others' sins."

John Kerry, however, obviously doesn't support this position. In fact, he's 100% pro-abortion.

Sure, Kerry opposes the death penalty. But because he supports the intrinsic evils of abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and homosexual unions, no faithful Catholic should vote for him. Period.

Now I realize that President Bush is far from perfect. But he is the better of the two. The "lesser evil," if you will. Should a faithful Catholic vote for the "lesser evil"? Is it always wise to do so? That's debatable. Such a vote, though, is in accord with Catholic teaching.

One more thing: I think the emperor would be better off with no clothes than the see-through 'seamless garment.'


Catholic Online  IL, US
Matt Abbott - Author, 661 869-1000



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