Some weeks back I wrote a piece critiquing Mark Shea‘s position regarding voting for McCain. Mark says that voting for McCain is a grave matter and potentially sinful based upon the other criteria for sin. This has resulted in Mark, and I assume a number of others, to go third party or sit on their couches come election day.
Now I took some heat over my post because of the irresistible lure, for me anyway, toward hyperbole and rock throwing. I deserved the heat and unfortunately it obscured some of the more relevant points I was trying to make. So I am going to try make some of these points again, but this time without the screaming and running naked through your living room.
To assist me in this noble endeavor, I am going to enlist some allies who make these points without the histrionics.
First, let me urge you to go read CMR fave Erin Manning in her sober critique of the Shea position. I am going to quote from her, but I urge you to read the entire thing.
So let me try to accurately state Mark’s position so that we can look at it more deeply. Essentially, a Catholic should not vote, under most or any circumstances, for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil. The list of intrinsic evil supported by Obama is long and obvious. Not a lot of argument from serious people here. However, Mark contends that even though you may believe McCain generally opposes abortion and is more likely to promote judges whose philosophy increases the likelihood of ending abortion on demand by judicial fiat, his (vocal) support for the intrinsic evil of embryonic stem cell research puts him off limits.
Let me stipulate here that McCains support for ESCR troubles me deeply and it is certainly not to be discounted. However the question is whether a Catholic can vote for McCain as the lesser of two evils. Both candidates support ESCR, so we will end up with a pro-ESCR president either way. Can a Catholic support McCain, lamenting his support for ESCR, in order to limit the millions of abortions that occur in this country every year. Moreover, if a Catholic believes that the next four years may shape the Supreme court for decades potentially leading to many more deaths, they cannot vote for McCain or risk sin. Let me stipulate that Mark does not contend that it is automatically sinful (sin has a number of criteria that must be met) but he does contend that is potentially sinful and a direct cooperation with intrinsic evil.
I hope that did Mark’s position justice. Of course, I think Mark is wrong. So does Erin Manning (Red Cardigan).
With all due respect, I think Mark isn’t really correct, here, on two counts: one, in that he seems to believe that people who decide to vote for McCain are cheerleaders for ESCR or plan to stand back (like that abused wife) and let McCain have his way with embryos without doing the utmost to stop him; and two, that the failure of Republicans to end abortion during their time of political dominance proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that they’re all–or mostly, or at least their leaders–evil unborn-hating tricksters who have no intention of ever ending the murder of the unborn on the grounds that if they did we pro-life voters would immediately breathe a sigh of relief and then start voting for Democrats in droves because we really do think they’re the morally superior party, all except for that abortion thing.
Our votes are important–but they are just votes. We can’t bring about the Kingdom of Heaven by voting for it; we must never vote against it, though, by voting for actual evil. When faced with two candidates, one of whom will certainly increase evil, and the other of whom may well limit it despite his own weaknesses in that area, we may, indeed, choose to vote to limit evil. It is not an act of stupidity, blind partisanship, or “abused wife syndrome” to conclude this; it is very much in line with the teaching of the Church.
I actually go a bit further than Erin. While I don’t think that it is sinful not to vote for McCain if you are pro-life for the reasons stated above, it is daft.
In my previous post I also tried to explore some of the potential reasons why a pro-life catholic might be tempted to adopt Shea’s position. Again, let me stipulate that I do not know Mark’s reason for his position or anyone else’s for that matter and that I assume that Mark is very sincere in his reticence. But I did wonder if this position is made more attractive to some by virtue of the rest of their politics.
Archbishop Chaput had something to say the other day that I think conveys some of what I am getting at. Archbishop Chaput, is of course referring to Catholic Obama supporters and not the fence sitters, but I think it may still apply. This quote I found over at Sheila Liaugminas’ wonderful blog. She quotes the Archbishop:
The truth is that for some Catholics, the abortion issue has never been a comfortable cause. It’s embarrassing. It’s not the kind of social justice they like to talk about. It interferes with their natural political alliances. And because the homicides involved in abortion are ‘’little murders’’ – the kind of private, legally protected murders that kill conveniently unseen lives – it’s easy to look the other way.
Now of course, the people involved in our discussion take abortion seriously and could not support Obama because of it. But I have wondered if Mark’s position might be more attractive to some Catholics because of what Archbishop Chaput calls “their natural political alliances?”
Is this position more attractive to those who cannot support Obama because of his position on life issues but would like to support him if this issue was not in play? I cannot answer this for anyone of course, I do not know anyone’s mind or heart. But I do wonder. Do you?
There, I got through this unfortunately long post without hyperbolically accusing anyone of being knee deep in baby’s blood, well except Obama. He might even drink it. Oh darn, I almost made it…