Giuliani's Catholic Problem Won't Go Away

Monday, 19 Nov 2007 04:47 PM

By George J. Marlin

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A 2008 voters guide created by Catholic bishops no doubt has Giuliani supporters scrambling for loopholes that can be used to convince Catholics that it’s OK to vote for Rudy Giuliani despite his pro-abortion stand.

At the conclusion of their national conference held in Baltimore, the American Catholic Bishops announced they adopted “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a statement of principles to guide Catholic voters in the 2008 presidential election.

The Bishop’s guide affirms the Vatican’s “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles,” written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2004.

All Moral Issues Not Created Equal

In that statement, Ratzinger pulled the rug out from under the proponents of the “seamless garment” argument by making it perfectly clear that not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.

“There may be,” he declared, “a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not, however, with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” When it comes to abortion, death penalty, or the war in Iraq, only abortion is intrinsically wrong because it destroys innocent human life.

On the death penalty and the war, Ratzinger confirmed that the Church does not hold a univocal view.

While it is true that Pope John Paul II and the U.S. bishops oppose the death penalty, they have never decried the Church’s stand on capital punishment. In fact, in a 1980 pastoral letter, the American Bishops insisted that “the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of a serious crime.”

Catholics are free to oppose using the death penalty in particular situations, but Catholics are not free to condemn it in the name of the Church as always morally wrong.

Likewise, while the Vatican opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Catholics were free to use prudential judgment in determining if it was just. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stressed that “reasonable people can disagree about the necessity of using force” to overthrow Saddam.

In 2004, Catholic Kerry supporters jumped on Ratzinger’s last paragraph to rationalize their support for the pro-abortion presidential candidate: “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.”

The Rev. Andrew Greeley led the way, declaring that Catholics could, in good conscience, vote for Kerry because the right-wing Ratzinger said so.

In his nationally syndicated column, Greeley quoted that final paragraph and concluded: “It is as close to an official statement on the subject as one is likely to get. It says that Catholics are not obliged to vote on one issue, no matter how important the issue might be. They may vote for Kerry ‘for other reasons’ so long as they are not supporting him merely for his pro-choice stance. This ought to settle the matter.”

Quoting only one paragraph of the statement and not properly explaining the phrase “proportionate reasoning” allowed Greeley to mislead his readers.

Dr. Robert Royal, president of the Washington-based Faith and Reason Institute, had this reaction to Greeley’s pronouncement:

Some liberal American Catholics, like Fr. Andrew Greeley, chose deliberately to misunderstand then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s directive about voting for pro-abortion Catholics only for “proportionate reasons.” Democrats and their hangers-on tried to spin this as meaning if they were good for “the poor,” meaning they passed out other people’s money, they had equal moral footing. In fact, as anyone who follows these issues in the Church knows, proportionate reasons means serious offenses against life such as a massacre or genocide, and even then abortion is killing 1.2 million Americans alone a year, so it would have to be a rather large massacre or genocide intended by some pro-life Republicans that would explode their moral superiority on abortion per se.

Some Flexibility

Similarly, in 2008, expect Giuliani partisans to zero in on this sentence in the Bishop’s statement to rationalize a vote for Rudy: “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.”

A Nov. 15 New York Times article laid the groundwork for exploitation with this headline: “Catholic Bishops Offer Voting Guide, Allowing Some Flexibility on Issue of Abortion.” The article quoted liberal theologian Thomas J. Reese, who when asked, “Can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who is pro-choice?” said “What [the Bishops] are saying is, ‘Yes.’”

If Giuliani is the Republican presidential nominee, to carry the closely contested swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Wisconsin, he will have to receive the support of a key voting bloc — practicing Catholics.

To achieve this end, Giuliani’s handlers will make sure that Rudy, whose third marriage is outside the church, avoids alienating Catholics by not receiving Holy Communion at Mass. And since his extreme pro-abortion paper trail cannot be eradicated, his supporters might use the Bishop’s statement as the basis for portraying Giuliani as the lesser of two evils.

They could argue the Brooklyn-born Italian is really “one of them” because, proportionally, Giuliani is much more in tune with the basic values cherished by Catholics than his Democratic opponent.

Anyone who suggests that Catholics should give Rudy a pass based on “proportional reasoning” is wrong.

Because the sole intention of abortion is to take innocent human life, it is by its nature intrinsically evil and can never be on the same moral plane as the issues of poverty or healthcare or the war on terrorism.

Even the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, the leading proponent of the “seamless garment” argument, agreed that all issues do not have the same moral weight. In his sermon on Respect Life Sunday 1989, Cardinal Bernadin made this very clear:

Not all values, however, are of equal weight. Some are more fundamental than others. On this Respect Life Sunday, I wish to emphasize that no earthly value is more fundamental than human life itself. Human life is the condition for enjoying freedom and all other values. Consequently, if one must choose between protecting or serving lesser human values that depend upon life for their existence and life itself, human life must take precedence. Today the recognition of human life as a fundamental value is threatened. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of elective abortion. At present in our country this procedure takes the lives of over 4,000 unborn children every day and over 1.5 million each year.

To Giuliani supporters, a word to the wise: Don’t try to use the Bishop’s statement to rationalize a vote for Giuliani in 2008. Don’t insult conscientious Catholics who know it is a grave public scandal for presidential contender Rudy Giuliani, a baptized Catholic, to condone the taking of innocent human life.

George J. Marlin is the author of "The American Catholic Vote: 200 Years of Political Impact."

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