Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

9/5/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It is in the area of intrinsic evils where the comparison of Ryan and Biden as a 'tale of two Catholics', falls apart.

Given Joe Biden's support for what his Church has identified as intrinsic evils - and thereby persistently against the common good - and given Paul Ryan's position consistent with the indisputable and unchangeable teachings of his Church on these issues, it seems that what is involved is not a "Tale of Two Catholics" but rather a tale of one Catholic and one . . . well, whatever we call him, it is something considerably less than Catholic. An intrinsic evil is always against the common good, regardless of the circumstances.  No Catholic politician can advance an intrinsic evil.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/5/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Paul Ryan, Joe Biden, abortion, homosexual, marriage, gay, right to life, pro-choice, intrinsic evil, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - This election season we are presented with some fundamental contrasts on a whole series of levels, politics, economy, health care, and so forth.  But perhaps no contrast is more interesting than the contrast between two supposedly Catholic vice presidential candidates, the Republican Representative Paul Ryan and the current Vice President, the Democrat Joe Biden. 

Numerous articles have been written on the face-off between these two under the title, "A Tale of Two Catholics," for example, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the Underground, and CBN News.

Now political differences are political differences, and they ordinarily do not touch on fundamental matters of faith and morals.  This is because politics, which has classically been defined as the art of the possible, is, in the main, involved in prudential decisions. 

There simply is no "one right answer," much less "one right Catholic answer," when it comes to issues relating to elements of social welfare, the budget, health care and assuring access to it, and similar matters that relate to the common good.  People can have all sorts of opinions--all of them very probably valid--regarding the proper application of Catholic Social Doctrine's main principles such as solidarity, subsidiarity, the preferential option for the poor, and so forth.

Ordinarily, therefore, it is in bad faith to demonize your political opponent by suggesting he is being untrue to Catholic social or doctrinal principles merely because he has a political opinion different than yours.  Where prudential decisions are involved, I would go so far as to say that it is always in bad faith to suggest your opponent is untrue or unfaithful at the level of doctrine.  Here, the saying often erroneously attributed to St. Augustine, but actually stemming from the 16th century Archbishop of Split, Marco Antonio de Dominis, applies: "In necessary things unity; in doubtful things liberty; in all things charity."

In matters of prudence, we truly can have a tale of two Catholics.

But the general rule does not always apply, and we might say it is subject to an exception when there is an intrinsic evil involved.  No Catholic politician can advance an intrinsic evil, for the simple reason that no person can, in the exercise of prudence, advance an intrinsic evil as something that is in the common good. 

An intrinsic evil is always against the common good, regardless of the circumstances.  At best, they ought to be worked against.  At worst, one may have to tolerate an intrinsic evil because to extirpate it would cost more good than good gained through its suppression, or cause more evil than the evil reduced by its suppression. 

For this reason, St. Thomas Aquinas famously stated that prostitution--an intrinsic evil if there ever was one--may have to be tolerated, since "in human government," there may be instances where "those who are in authority rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain evils be incurred: thus Augustine says: 'If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.'"

Whether an intrinsic evil ought, in a given civil society, be suppressed or tolerated is generally a prudential decision which would depend upon the evil involved, the virtue of the population, its legal traditions, its homogeneity, and other pertinent circumstances. 

Some intrinsic evils, however, cannot be tolerated without an abrogation of the government's legitimacy.  A government that tolerates rape, incest, torture, murder, or genocide, for example--and one must here include abortion--for example, has serious questions as to its continued legitimacy. Failure to support the natural institution of marriage is another such abrogation which puts into question a government's legitimacy.

But toleration of an intrinsic evil in those circumstances where it may be warranted is something altogether different than promotion or support of an intrinsic evil.

And it is in the area of intrinsic evils where the comparison of Ryan and Biden as a "tale of two Catholics," falls apart. 

This is because there are some areas where Biden promotes (and does not merely advocate toleration of) things the Church considers to be intrinsic evils, something no Catholic can in any circumstances do.  And he tolerates things no government ought ever to tolerate without the loss of legitimacy.  Ryan, on the other hand, has never, so far as I know, advanced or promoted something the Church considers an intrinsic evil.

There are two such areas that might be pointed out: abortion and homosexual "marriage."

First, indisputably and without doubt, the Church teaches that abortion is an intrinsic evil.  The Church also teaches that homosexual sexual acts, which are legitimized in homosexual "marriage," are indisputably and without doubt intrinsic evils.  Therefore, Catholic lawmakers are morally compelled to express opposition to any laws that legitimate abortion and homosexual "marriage," and publicly to vote against laws that would promote in any way abortion or homosexual "marriage." 

What are Biden's views regarding these two intrinsic evils? 

Well, we might just let him speak:

Biden on abortion: "My position is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don't think I have a right to impose my view on the rest of society.  I've thought a lot about it, and my position probably doesn't please anyone.  I think the government should stay out completely.  I will not vote to overturn the Court's decision [in Roe v. Wade].  I will not vote to curtain a woman's right to choose an abortion." 

(N.B. Of course, if a woman has a "right," then the state must enforce that right, so for him to stay that the "government should stay out completely" is a falsehood or at least absolutely inconsistent with his prior statements.)

Biden on same-sex "marriage":  "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.  And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction--beyond that."

Now compare Ryan:

Ryan on abortion: "I cannot believe any official or citizen can still defend the notion that an unborn human being has no rights that an older person is bound to respect."  "How long can we sustain our commitment to freedom if we continue to deny the very foundation of freedom--life--for the most vulnerable human beings?"

Ryan on same-sex "marriage":  "I believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and I have heard from many of the people I represent who are concerned about activist judges abusing their power and rewriting our society's definition of marriage."

Given Joe Biden's support for what his Church has identified as intrinsic evils persistently against the common good, and given Paul Ryan's position consistent with the indisputable and unchangeable teachings of his Church on these issues, it seems that what is involved is not a "Tale of Two Catholics," but rather a tale of one Catholic and one . . . well, something considerably less than Catholic.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks out on Obama's gay pride light show and the legalization of gay marriage Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In celebration of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, President Obama lit up the White House with rainbow colors, which garnered a response from Republican, former Arkansas governor and now presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was noted as saying that ... continue reading


Supreme Court 'unwrote laws of nature' GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declares Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Saying that the Supreme Court tried to "unwrite the laws of nature and the laws of nature's God" when it legalized gay marriage across the nation last week, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee also pointed out the fact that President Barack Obama himself ... continue reading


'They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won't stand behind people that tell it like it is': Donald Trump fired from NBC for controversial immigrant statements Watch

Image of Donald Trump retired from The Apprentice after announcing his presidential bid.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

NBC has made the decision to cut ties with Donald Trump, over his political view and controversial statements regarding immigration made during his presidential announcement. Donald Trump and NBC have had a relationship, including Trump's produced Miss USA and Miss ... continue reading


When is the best time to take out Social Security? Watch

Image of 100-year-old woman.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Financial advisers usually advice their clients to take Social Security benefits at the age of 70 for maximum growth. However, it is found that most people don't take that advice, as they are likely to withdraw what they have saved up as soon as they hit retirement. A ... continue reading


IT'S NOT OVER: Freedom of Religion may trump same-sex marriage victories Watch

Image of

By Matt Hadro and Adelaide Mena, CNA/ETWN News

Friday's Supreme Court ruling against the traditional understanding of marriage may pose huge obstacles to the free exercise of religion and conscience across the U.S., the nation's bishops have said in response to the decision. Washington D.C.(CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading


Decisions on same-sex marriage, power-plant emissions now in the hands of Supreme Court Watch

Image of Six major cases, all of them affecting the American Way of Life are in front of the Supreme Court.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Six major cases, all of them affecting the American Way of Life are in front of the Supreme Court. Decisions regarding same-sex marriages, power plant emissions and execution methods will all be rendered by either Friday or early next week. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett's family has strong communist roots, files prove Watch

Image of Valerie Jarrett's father, pathologist and geneticist Dr. James Bowman, has been found to have had extensive ties to Communist associations and individuals.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Does the apple truly fall far from the tree? Recently uncovered files show that Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama and trusted confidant has family ties with those with communist leanings. These uncovered files prove that Jarrett's ... continue reading


Donald Trump surges in popularity polls in New Hampshire Watch

Image of Dismissed by political professionals, who view him as little more than a

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Dismissed by political professionals, who view him as little more than a "novelty candidate," there's no denying Donald Trump's surge in popularity in opinion polls in New Hampshire. The billionaire developer and reality TV show star comes in at second among ... continue reading


Terrorists who pose as journalists will no longer have protection from the U.S. new Pentagon manual states Watch

Image of The new manual from the pentagon is designed to reflect the fact that many fighters do not wear military uniforms or pretend to be trusted civilians to hit targets.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Pentagon has released new instructions on dealing with terrorists, or more specifically, terrorists who pose as journalists or journalists who work with terrorist groups. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The "Department of Defense Law of War Manual" is a ... continue reading


Offensive or not? University of California issues bizarre speech police to tell you what not to say Watch

Image of The University of California administration issues handout that recommend students refrain from using some words.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

University of California is providing suggestions on what to say and what not to say within the campus grounds. However, the words and statements they deem as offensive, sexist and racist are not simply explicit words with direct negative connotations. According to ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:19-22
19 So you are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 117:1, 2
1 Alleluia! Praise Yahweh, all nations, extol him, ... Read More

Gospel, John 20:24-29
24 Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 3rd, 2015 Image

St. Thomas
July 3: St. Thomas was a Jew, called to be one of the twelve Apostles. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter