Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry have misused the letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to the U.S. Bishops Conference - in which he affirms clearly that a persistently pro-abortion politician should be denied Communion – to argue that Catholics may vote for pro-abortion politicians.
According to an article published today by the Culture of Life Foundation, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit and a prominent moral theologian have stated that the document’s “precise language is being distorted.”
The source of the controversy, says the article, is the note at the very end of the document in which Cardinal Ratzinger states that any vote for a pro-abortion politician is cooperation in evil, and therefore anyone who has thus voted may only receive communion if they have done so for “proportionate reasons.”
According to Father Stephen Torraco, chairman of the theology department at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusettes the interpretation of the phrase “proportionate reasons” to mean that one can vote for a candidate based on any “serious issue that the voter cares about” such as the war in Iraq or the death penalty, regardless of whether or not they are pro-abortion, is mistaken.
Father Torraco explains that in order for a vote for a pro-abortion candidate to be based on “proportionate reasons,” it must be done so in order to prevent an intrinsic moral evil of the scale of abortion. Therefore issues such as war or the death penalty do not qualify as “proportionate reasons” because they are not intriniscally immoral according to Catholic teaching.
The article quoted Father Robert J. McClory, the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit, who wrote that the issue was "much more nuanced than was reported” and that Ratzinger’s letter “did not clear the way to vote for pro-abortion candidates.”
"The distribution of this text has led to much debate over what might be 'proportionate reasons' in the context of the moral evil of abortion, including how this might apply when all the candidates for a given office support abortion to varying degrees. Suffice it to say that 'proportionate reasons' go far beyond simply 'agreeing with the candidate's other stands,'" said the chancellor.
According to Culture of Life Foundation, prominent bishops are planning to address the issue in the coming days.