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Can Catholics Vote for Obama? Of Course!

October 31, 2008

In the waning days of the presidential campaign, there is a concerted effort by a variety of conservative groups to convince Catholics that the Church’s unequivocal pro-life teaching makes it impossible for Catholics to vote in good conscience for any pro-choice candidate, including Barack Obama. Some have even suggested that Catholic pro-choice politicians like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and Catholics who openly support them should be denied communion. If you have not gotten them already, you can expect to get robocalls, emails, or literature to this effect on the windshield of your car when it is parked in your church (most likely without your pastor’s knowledge or permission).

As many Catholics have pointed out, this is a narrow reading of the Church’s teaching on the dignity of life. Yes, the Church teaches unambiguously that abortion is an intrinsic evil that can never be supported. But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s statement Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship makes it quite clear that abortion is part of a broader constellation of inter-related issues that constitute the Church’s teaching on the sanctity and dignity of life:

The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life. The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbors—basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work—is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means. Catholics must seek the best ways to respond to these needs. As Blessed Pope John XXIII taught, “[Each of us] has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and, finally, the necessary social services” (Pacem in Terris, no. 11).”

Faithful Citizenship acknowledges that the Church’s full teaching on life seldom lines up neatly with the platform of a single candidate or party, and that Catholic voters face tough, sometimes even agonizing choices. Given this situation, as a nice story on NPR this morning reported, many pro-life Catholics have determined that the rigid focus on overturning Roe v. Wade is no longer an acceptable basis for the political expression of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity and dignity of all life, and may not even be the most effective way to oppose abortion.

Of course, it is certainly possible and understandable that some Catholics will in conscience continue to interpret the Church’s teaching on life narrowly and use opposition to Roe v. Wade as a litmus test to evaluate candidates. But if you do this, please don’t accuse those who disagree with you of being “cafeteria Catholics,” for you are clearly making your choices as well.

As I have mentioned on this blog previously, I will be voting for Obama because – though not the radical for socialism justice that the McCain/Palin campaign hyperbole suggests and that I would prefer – he is, as many Catholic thinkers like the prominent Catholic legal scholar (and conservative) Douglas Kmiec have pointed out, clearly more in synch with the complete body of Catholic social teaching than McCain.

As to the politics of abortion, I agree with many other Catholics and Christians who believe that it is time to transform this issue by appealing to the unacknowledged common ground that exists between people of good will who disagree on this subject. Following the final presidential debate, Jim Wallis pointed out that the exchange about abortion by Obama and McCain was remarkably free of the pro-life/pro-choice posturing that has made the issue virtually impossible to discuss rationally in American politics. This was indeed a remarkably positive moment in what was mostly a dreadful “debate.” All of us who care about this issue, from either side of the Great Divide, should work together to demand that our political representatives come together on this common ground to build a more just policy that truly reflects our commitment as Americans to both life and freedom.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. ligurio permalink
    October 31, 2008 1:08 am

    I would suggest you go the same website that you cite and watch the one minute video…which weakens what you say….It is nice to see Bishop Lori teach and guide the faithful…what is the good in which try to move our country…what is most “right” is the most fundamental, that all others are built upon? Bishop Lori reminds us of this right and the USCCB does the same as it is posted on their website…as you quote the document itself…we can respect life in anyway…if we are without question as Catholics taking the life of the most innocent away.

  2. Lauren permalink
    October 31, 2008 3:17 pm

    As Catholics, we are obliged to vote for a person of moral character. Obama has shown that he does not have a moral character. You have to vote according to your own conscience, and the Church doesn’t forbid anyone from voting for a certain person. However, it is clear that Obama will not be a moral leader in America. He supports infanticide and unrestricted abortions. Yes, there are a lot of issues besides abortion to take into account when voting. But the US Bishops recently affirmed that pro-life is the most important issue in this election. Therefore I personally think that we have a moral obligation to carefully examine each candidate’s stance on abortion and infanticide before casting our vote.

    I suggest watching these videos if one has any doubt as to Obama’s stance on abortion and infanticide, issues Catholics are not permitted to compromise:

    More good information:

    If being pro-abortion and pro-infanticide is not enough to convince you that Obama’s character is not fit for leading our country, consider the fact that he lies. Recent coverage by the National Right to Life proves that that is a fact.

    Can we really talk ourselves into believing that a liar who is in favor of unrestricted abortions and infanticide has the moral character necessary to lead our country? We ave a moral obligation as Catholics not to vote for him.

    Lauren Wilson
    age 21

  3. Mike permalink
    October 31, 2008 10:48 pm

    If such a grave ill as killing an innocent to solve social problems becomes acceptable in society, than all other life issues are built on a foundation of sand. Obama is not just pro-choice, he is the MOST pro-abortion candidate to ever seek the office, of president and yes, supports even infanticide. The church rejects Eugenics in all of its forms, including the passive version pushed by Obama and Planned Parenthood. In the early 90’s planned parenthood expressly stated that their target market was people of color, abortion statistics support that African American children are overwhelmingly overrepresented in their numbers of deaths due to abortion compared to their percentage of the overall population, and planned parenthood clinics are immediately accessible to most African American communities. Ironically, the first black president wishes to perpetuate this social atrocity. Abortion is still the most important issue and always will be. Legalized killing and murder against any innocent human being, in any state of life (child, infant, fetus, middle-aged, elderly, etc.) is always wrong and suggesting any issue carries equal weight is ridiculous.

    Also, suggesting that Abortion is the only reason Obama should not be voted for on Catholic principles is not true. The Church supports the principle of subsidiarity, which states that larger, broader organizations should support and encourage the activities of smaller, more intimate human relationships, culminating in the human family. Obama is against the Church’s teachings on the family in most if not all facets. Obama’s policies aim to disintegrate the working fabric of the local modes of community building at the state and community level, large Democratic Party constituencies and candidates push a Democratic Party atheist platform that breaks down our freedom of religion rights, or backwardly interprets them as if the state needs to be protected from our practice of religion rather than our religious right to practice freely without interference from the state.

    Obama’s policies also remove the choice of an individual in giving to “social justice” as the author claims. I’d first like to say that the state is among the worst administers of social justice, and their “give-aways” work very poorly at solving social ills primarily because they are done so without love. But also, it should be noted that voting for the government to take away someone else’s money to pay for service’s for the poor is hardly a virtuous act. Willingly giving to a charity out of your own pocket, or tirelessly volunteering in service of the poor is. It is much harder to actually take care of those in need than to vote for others to do so haphazardly with someone else’s money.

    Last but not least, the type of power Obama seeks to put in the hands of the federal government and the presidency can not only be used for good, but for great evil which we must all be wary. The money collected from our Catholic pockets for these alleged “Social Justice” programs also get redistributed into the pockets of abortion providers like “Planned Parenthood”. This makes us culpable for the crimes against moral natural law committed by our government. It always makes me laugh when an Obama supporter whines about abuses of power by Bush when they are directly responsible for putting that kind of power in his hands when they know full well the other party could come to power just four short years later. One should put the power in a leadership role not that you would want your party to hold, but the power your willing to let the other party hold while in power.

  4. Mark permalink
    November 1, 2008 11:20 am

    Can Catholics vote for Senator Obama? Of course.

    Can a Catholic do so in good conscience in accordance with the Church’s teaching? Certainly not, and your obfuscation to the contrary runs the risk of creating scandal among the faithful.

  5. Johanna permalink
    November 2, 2008 3:35 pm

    I could rant and list endless sources of how and why you are wrong in your approach but it would be pointless. Bloggers such as you most likely are not interested in re-examining your stance. Just realize, countless babies are aborted DAILY, your commitment to supporting Obama would only mulitply the number of deaths from abortion.
    You will be held accountable for your own actions on judgment day and personally I bet it is EXTREMELY rare for there to exist a faithful Catholic who receives the sacraments regularly – that is, including regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (generally once a month) and the Holy Eucharist – and agree with you. You might try reading John Henry Newman and what he has to say on a well formed conscience.

    p.s. How often does Biden go to mass?


  1. Things I Wish I’d Blogged in 08: Abortion « A Little Bit of Change

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