Doug Kmiec – A Response to Deacon Keith Fournier
“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 his review of my new book entitled "Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barrack Obama" (Overlook Press), Deacon Keith Fournier writes with the courage of his convictions that I have asked the wrong question, suggesting that the appropriate inquiry is whether Senator Obama ought to or should receive Catholic support? I have concluded that Senator Obama is indeed worthy of the support of conscientious Catholics. The Deacon dissents. Many of his points are unassailable and once again readers of this site are in his debt for the clarity of his thought. Nevertheless, in positing that the book asks the wrong question, the Deacon obscures the correct answer: namely, after proper discernment and with the right intent, Catholics are free to vote for Obama in good conscience.
I offer these few comments in response to his. In what follows I quote the major argument passages from his essay and beneath in bold explain why at critical points the Deacon’s approach leaves much of our faith needlessly out of reach and applied only hypothetically.So let us begin with the heart of the matter: The Deacon argues: “It is immoral to vote in a manner which fails to protect innocent human persons from being unjustly killed.”
No,it is immoral to vote with that intent. This point is reaffirmed in the American Bishops’ splendid “Call to Faithful Citizenship,” where it is written: “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.”
The Deacon continues: “Doug and his candidate are right to emphasize that we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper, but wrong to then exclude an entire class of brothers and sisters, the unborn, from the protections of the positive law.”
Yes, I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper, I am not, however as a private citizen, their legislator. In voting for a candidate who represents views affecting the totality of the social gospel, I cannot be assumed to materially participate or cooperate in any particular mistaken decision of that candidate – again, absent my intent to share in that mistaken view.
The Deacon then notes that I rely upon the recent letters of Archbishop Charles Chaput and Francis Cardinal George for guidance, and asserts in a rare moment of uncharacteristic intemperance that this reliance is “sophistry.”
Not so, I have relied upon these fine teachers of the faith in order to undertake the proper inquiry into whether there is proportionate reason allowing the choice of a candidate who has an alternative way of promoting human life other than a thus far futile, and in any event, insufficient effort to criminalize some, but not all, abortion practice.
Continuing, the Deacon observes: “Doug maintains that Senator McCain’s position in favor of the overturning of Roe v Wade is simply a ‘Federalist position’ and not a truly Pro-life stance. The Deacon concedes that McCain’s pro-federalism position is less absolute than the Deacon’s own based upon Catholic teaching, but he writes in apology for the weakness of the McCain position: “I know that the reversal of Roe opens up the field to securing protection of the children and will at least slow the shedding of innocent blood while we work on outlawing the act. I think (Doug) does as well but has backed himself into a corner.”
No, the corner we inhabit together as Catholics is one we were consigned to occupy by the Supreme Court’s mistaken jurisprudence and the larger culture’s hardness of heart. Part of the exercise of conscience we are called upon to make in terms of proportionality analysis as we vote necessarily includes an evaluation of which path is more likely to free us from that corner. In other words, we are asked as part of our proportionality inquiry to evaluate the likelihood of positive result in favor of life. Given the length of time Mr. McCain has exercised the levers of legislative power, is it not the least bit disturbing that during that entire almost 30 year period Senator McCain did not offer and actively champion a Human Life Amendment? Indeed, to the ...
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