The U.S. bishops’ “Faithful Citizenship” document on Catholics’ voting responsibilities should be revised to remove “loopholes” that allow Catholics to vote for pro-abortion politicians, two political commentators have said.
“Why should a Catholic voter feel the weighty obligation to oppose ‘intrinsically evil acts’ when the bishops themselves provide three different loopholes to put that concern aside?” asked Catholic Advocate president Deal Hudson and Catholic Advocate vice president Matt Smith in a July 14 statement.
Without changes, they warned, the document will provide Catholic voters “another carte blanche to cast their vote for any pro-abortion candidate they want.”
The two writers focused on sections 34 to 37 from the 2008 version of “Faithful Citizenship,” which is revised every four years.
One passage said a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s “unacceptable position” may decide to vote for that candidate for “other morally grave reasons.” This voting is permissible only for “truly grave moral reasons” and not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences.
This passage was “confusing” in light of a previous statement that a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position “in favor of an intrinsic evil” if he or she intends to support that position. The document then says that a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference to “other important moral issues” concerning human life and dignity.
Hudson and Smith said this passage means a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion candidate as long as he or she did not intend to support his pro-abortion position.
“The practical consequence of this statement is clear: Catholics can vote for any pro-abortion politician they want -- all they have to do is have the right intention,” they contended.
The two also said the document allows a Catholic voter to vote for pro-abortion politicians so long as they do not advance that “morally flawed position” but would “pursue other authentic goods.”
No substantial edits are planned for the 2008 version of Faithful Citizenship, which Hudson and Smith said is a problem that needs to be remedied. The document can be clarified by the U.S. bishops at their November 2011 meeting in Baltimore.
The passages capable of “overbroad implementation” were used by groups like Catholics United and Catholic Democrats, who “cherry-picked” the passage about voting for a candidate “for other morally grave reasons.
Hudson was an advisor to the George W. Bush presidential campaign on Catholic outreach, while Smith also served on the Bush campaign and in the Bush administration. Their Catholic Advocate organization encourages Catholic participation in politics to support policies that are “consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Individual bishops have said that voting for a pro-abortion candidate is never justified when the opponent is pro-life, the two noted.
Texas Bishops Kevin Vann of Fort Worth and Kevin Farrell of Dallas have said that there are no truly grave moral reasons that “could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.”