Newark archbishop gives guidelines to Catholic voters

No Catholic may legitimately support abortion or embryonic stem-cell research. That was the conclusive message of a letter to the faithful, issued by Archbishop John J. Meyers of Newark Sept. 17.

Acknowledging that many Catholics may be wondering whether they can, in conscience, vote for candidates who support abortion or embryonic stem-cell research – which necessarily destroys the embryo – the archbishop explained the circumstances in which a Catholic could do so.

He also clarified a statement, issued by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called "On Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion.”

The Vatican statement created some confusion among Catholic voters because of a short note at the end that says Catholics could, in good conscience, vote for candidates who supported abortion or embryonic stem-cell medical research "in the presence of proportionate reasons."

The archbishop clarified the meaning of the often-misunderstood term, “proportionate reasons.” Since the Church teaches that the direct killing of human life at any stage of development is wrong, a Catholic could only vote for a politician who supports these two life-ending procedures if all candidates are in favor of these two procedures on an equal scale, the archbishop explained.

A Catholic can also vote for a pro-abortion politician if the candidate with the superior position on these issues “is a supporter of objective evils of a gravity and magnitude” beyond the harm caused by these two procedures. 

“Certainly policies on welfare, national security, the war in Iraq, Social Security or taxes, taken singly or in any combination, do not provide a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate,” said the archbishop.

Abortion and embryonic stem-cell research “are intrinsic and grave evils; no Catholic may legitimately support them,” he said. “In the context of contemporary American social life, abortion and embryo-destructive research are disproportionate evils. They are the gravest human rights abuses of our domestic politics and what slavery was to the time of Lincoln.

“Catholics are called by the Gospel of Life to protect the victims of these human rights abuses,” he concluded.

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