Tuesday, February 28, 2006

For the record: Archbishop Chaput on Catholic pols and voters

The place to start would be, does our voting for someone make us responsible for what that person does as a legislator or as a judge? And the answer is yes, because we are in some ways materially -- we use the word 'materially' -- cooperating in that person's activity because we've given [him or her] the platform to be elected. Now, if the person does something wrong, are we responsible for that? Well, if we didn't know they were going to something wrong, our participation is remote, but if we knew they were going to do something wrong and we approved of it, our responsibility would be really be close, even if we knew they were going to do something wrong and we voted for them for another reason, we would still be responsible in some ways. The standing is that if you know someone is going to do evil and you participate in that in some way, you are responsible. So it's not 'if you vote this way, should you go to confession?' The question is, 'if you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil?' Now, if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes. There's a more sophisticated thing here: it's not so crude. The reason I want to stress that is because it is not like bishops are issuing edicts about who should vote for whom. It's issuing statements about how a Catholic forms her conscience, or his conscience and remote material cooperation or proximate material cooperation is cooperation, and it's important for Catholics to know that, to be sophisticated in their judgments.

It's about the appropriateness of involvement, on part of individual Catholics and on part of the Church community. And the importance of forming one's conscience intelligently and in an involved fashion on the major moral issues of the day. Now, you know, it is true that the Church sees abortion as the foundational issue of our time. It is. There is no way around it. There is nothing more foundational than the right to life.

You know some moral issues, all moral issues are moral issues, and it's good to be on the right side of them all the time, but some are dependent on the basic principles of human life. The dignity of human life. You never violate it. Whether it's the creation of embryos for embryonic stem cell research or abortion, are violations of the dignity of human beings, from our perspective. And you can never justify it. You can sometimes justify going to war. You may think that the Iraq war is horrible, but there may be sometimes when you can justify [going to war]. It doesn't have the same moral weight. And, it's not calculating 40 million abortions against 40,000 deaths in Iraq. That's not how you do the calculus. The calculus is on the intrinsic act itself. You know, and abortion is never, ever, ever right. And so to elect someone who has no respect for unborn human life or has a--what kind of respect?--a kind of respect that is wobbly; it doesn't make any sense. Why would you trust someone with your life, if that person is willing to let unborn babies die?

I think Catholics have to grapple with the fact that their moral positions impact their relationship with the Church. And they haven't often thought of that, you know? 'I know abortion is wrong, but if I vote for abortion, that doesn't have any impact on me. Well the Church says, 'Like heck it doesn't. It means you're not a Catholic and you shouldn't receive communion, if you are in favor of abortion.' They don't think they connect. And, now that some people have been making a very clear connection between the position and one's relationship to the Church, people have gotten angry, they've gotten nervous, they've gotten mad, they've threatened to take their money away, they've threatened to join other churches.

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