To Vote or Not to Vote? That is the question


Some comments I made on an article on recently got the attention of the author, Scott Richert.  Scott does a great job with these blogs, so check them out sometime.

The article in question had to do with Where Faith and Politics Intersect.  If you want the details of it, just go read it.  I won’t attempt to summarize it and put words into Scott’s mouth.  But one of the thoughts he brings up is that because neither of the two major political parties are in total alignment with Church teaching, that perhaps Catholics should vote for neither.  I disagreed with that idea because I believe one party is nowhere near as problematic as the other party in terms of the gravity of evil they perpetuate.  And simply not voting for either major candidate largely disengages the Catholic influence.

Anyway, Scott was inspired to write a follow up post on it addressing some of my comments.  I thought I would respond on my blog here.

The original point

One of my main problems with Scott’s approach in the original article is that it seemed to put issues like torture, capital punishment, war, etc. on par with the issue of abortion.  To be fair, I don’t think Scott personally holds this view.  But I didn’t like the way it read to me when I first read it (perhaps I’m just overly sensitive to these things). But we all know that many Catholics like to try and equate these various moral issues in order to justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate since the alternative candidates also support other moral evils.  But that is very unsound reasoning – as many Bishops have also pointed out.

No other issue equates to the evil of abortion in our country.  Give me one other issue in this country that is anywhere near the equivalent of murdering a million innocent babies each year and allowing a million mothers to do this to their own child?  Case closed. This in no way minimizes other grave moral evils, it just puts them into perspective in our current culture.

Capital punishment, war, and perhaps enhanced interrogation techniques (or torture if you like) do not compare.   These are not intrinsic evils as abortion is.  And even if torture is an intrinsic evil (which it certainly would be when defined a certain way) it does not come close to the gravity of abortion in terms of prevalence in our society.  No where close.

I think that suggesting Catholics should vote for neither party in some ways implies that each party is equally problematic or not useful in ending this grave evil that we as human beings have an obligation to end.  This is not true.  Certainly a Catholic has the right to vote for neither.  But I just don’t think it’s a good strategy for addressing the greatest crisis we face.  Catholics have an obligation to limit evil in a real way – not to just find some ideal, perfect candidate and vote for them (or even a “better” third party candidate with little hope of actually doing anything about the real problem).

Note to the complainers and excuse makers

People get so touchy on this issue when somebody talks about who you should vote for.  They complain that “nobody can tell me who to vote for” or that “I have a right to vote my conscience.”  Yes, yes of course.  Get over it.  The truth is that objectively speaking, there are right and wrong choices.  You have an obligation to make the right one.  Sometimes there is only one right solution.  You have the obligation to choose that one.  Nobody’s limiting your freedom or violating your conscience.  Please spare us all the complaints.

Also, in speaking about a political strategy for helping to end abortion, we are in no way  suggesting it is the only way, or even the primary way to do so.  Of course prayer, education, and love are essential parts of the solution.  That does not let us off the hook in our political responsibilities to align our civil law with the moral law.  Think of the education we could do and love we could show if we had just laws?  So please don’t reply about how making abortion illegal won’t help the problem.  That is ridiculous.  First, we still have an obligation to support just laws.  Second, of course making abortion illegal and harder to get in our country will make it less common.   Ultimately, the battle is in the hearts and minds of every person, but at least part of the solution is political.

I’m a practical guy

If we are going to sit it out and wait for the perfect major, viable political candidate who perfectly aligns with Catholic teaching, we may be waiting a very long time.  And in the meantime we do nothing to stop the fact that 4000 more babies will be murdered in our country this very day.

By witholding our vote, of course, as Scott notes, we would have some influence.  Certainly political parties are interested in capturing “available” voters.  I agree.  But if we think sitting it out is going to turn the Democratic party into a party of life when they aren’t actually losing the vote to their opposition, I think we’re fooling ourselves.  If they aren’t swayed by us actually giving our vote to the opposition, then why would they be swayed when we insist on voting for neither? We don’t need to sit it out to let anybody know the Catholic vote is available if they would only act pro-life.  They are already well aware of this.

Perhaps witholding votes would actually help in holding already pro-life leaders accountable.  I agree there.  But essentially you’ve still only limited yourself to two options: your hollow pro-life candidate winning if you do vote or them losing to the pro-abortion candidate if you don’t vote.

This is a passive strategy which involves doing nothing and hoping that others care.  And in the meantime, millions of more innocent babies will be murdered.

Active not passive

I believe we need an active strategy.  We must engage the battle.  And in doing so, we shape the landscape.  We don’t stand by and let others shape it for us.  Which is the point I make in this post here.

We just need strong leadership to do it.  Oh, and we need Catholics who actually at least try to live their faith – which we are short on these days.  (Truly, that is our biggest problem and the hardest to overcome.)

Scott makes a great point, though.  No matter what voting strategy we adopt, we must hold our elected officials accountable.  If we are basing our votes only on hollow political promises that never get fulfilled, then we’re wasting our time.  If we allow one political party to control the pro-life vote, then they know we have nowhere else to run to.  So not only must we vote pro-life, we have to politically punish those politicians who don’t follow through (i.e. send them home).

Holding them accountable

Scott brings up some other good points in terms of the dillema we find ourselves in when a pro-life candidate doesn’t follow through.  The very next election cycle we are usually faced with either re-electing that same candidate or choosing a pro-abortion one.  So we have no practical way of holding that politician accountable.

I agree that’s true if we only engage in politics on election day.  But we’ve got to do more than that.  We have to be working before election day to throw out the bad candidates and get the right ones on the ballot.  Again, this goes back to taking a pro-active roll in politics – not a passive one.  If we sit back and allow everyone but Catholics to choose our choices, then we can’t expect to get the choices we want.  But if we worked continually to throw out the hollow candidates and support the right ones, and we did it as a unified force, we could shape it however we wanted to – on a party level, a State level, and a National level.  We’ve got to stop being victims of our political system.  It’s our system!

So I am in no way endorsing a particular party.  I think we must vote on the candidate – not the party.  And there would be plenty more room for third party candidates if people voted on candidates instead of parties.  But as it is, it is very difficult to “make it” as a politician if you don’t belong to one of the two major parties (something else Catholics could change if we so desired and did it together).  Even still, within each of the two parties, we have a diversity of candidates.  There are pro-life Democrats and there are pro-abortion Republicans.  We just need to actively support the right candidates and then, of course, hold them accountable.

More commentary on commentary on commentary

Scott comments on one of my comments:

[Matt says] If all Catholics voted for the candidate (not the party) that supported the unborn for ONE election cycle, no major party would ever put a pro-choice candidate up for election ever again. Because it would be impossible for them to win. . . . Then we move on to the next gravest issue.

Maybe, but I doubt it. Why? Because many voters (myself included) voted that way consistently for years. And what did it get us?

Not a whole heck of a lot.

I said if “all” Catholics voted that way…not just you, me and some others.  If all Catholics voted that way surely the political landscape would be ours for the shaping.  But that’s the rub.

Of course that’s a difficult thing to do. But it is possible (at least largely so).  First, however, we have to get Catholics actually living their faith again.  Once we get most Catholics actually going to weekly mass again, then maybe we’ll have a shot at coming together on an issue like this.  It takes more leadership all around.

The easy way out

Honestly, I think “not voting for either party” is taking the easy way out for a Catholic.  It’s easier because we’re not left defending bad politicians that we supported on either side.  It’s easier socially.  It’s easier when evangelizing to those of opposing political parties.  I agree with all of that.  It would be easier.  But I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.

We need to support candidates where they are right and oppose the same candidate where they are wrong, regardless of political party.

We are not called to find a perfectly ideal candidate that exactly aligns with Catholic teaching so that we can sleep better at night or not appear partisan.  We are called to limit evil and fight for good.

The heart of the matter

Regardless of all of this discussion, we have a crisis on our hands.  A real crisis, not just political hyperbole.  The numbers are so big and the reality so horrific that I think we’re all numb to it now.  We can’t even comprehend it any more.  Almost 4000 babies will be murdred today in our country from abortion.  4000 innocent human beings.  It’s an emergency of the greatest proportions in the history of mankind!

Worrying about torture, war, death penalty, etc. when 4000 innocent babies will be murdered today and everyday in this country is like worrying about a bruised rib while somebody is dying from a heart attack.  It’s a complex world without a nice, neat solution.  We may unintentionally and secondarily end up supporting some things that are not gocd in order to limit the greater evil.  We may even have to crack a few ribs in order to get the heart beating.  But let’s get the heart beating again.  If we can do good elsewhere in the meantime – Great!  That’s very important.  But let’s not lose perspective.

37 comments Add comment

Mike May 11, 2009 at 11:16 am

If we withhold our vote we are saying “You choose for me” which is unacceptable. We have a moral obligation to vote.

Artie May 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm

There are great resources for Catholic voting guides.

For your conscience to work properly, it must be properly informed—that is, you must inform yourself about what is right and what is wrong. Only then will your conscience be a trusted guide.

Unfortunately, today many Catholics have not formed their consciences adequately regarding key moral issues. The result is that their consciences do not “sound off” at appropriate times, including on Election Day.

A well-formed conscience will never contradict Catholic moral teaching. For that reason, if you are unsure where your conscience is leading you when at the ballot box, place your trust in the unwavering moral teachings of the Church. (The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent source of authentic moral teaching.)

pinko May 12, 2009 at 9:30 am

You guys keep thinking of this as a war and not a debate about the best way to get to the same goal. The issue has become so politicized that the pro-life movement has been entirely convinced that Democrats really just love abortions. That’s so ignorant. And it’s depressing to watch smart Catholics ignore “torture, war, death penalty, etc.” just to vote for a party who actually hasn’t really done much good for their side. After Roe V. Wade, abortions increased every year, through Nixon, Ford, Carter. When Reagan was president – for eight years, mind you, they stay at a pretty level rate (1.3 mil/yr). Bush Sr. has four more and does nothing. Then Clinton takes over, and in his 8 years the number drops by half a million, to around 800,000/yr. Throughout Bush Jr.’s 8 years it dropped very slightly.

Now you can blame that trend on whatever you want to justify it in your head if you think that makes your decision easier, but if you really think worrying about all other world issues pales in comparison to abortion, then it’s very hard for me to see why you’d not at least listen to the guys who actually did something instead of just screaming heretic.

Matthew Warner May 12, 2009 at 9:53 am

Pinko –

1) I never once say to ignore issues like “torture, death penalty, and war”. They are important. But we have to keep things in perspective.

2) I called nobody a heretic. This post was not even about pointing fingers unless we’re pointing them at ourselves.

3) Those stats are extremely misleading and a huge over-simplification of the problem. Obviously the economy effects a lot of that. The introduction of chemical abortions, and a number of other factors distort your stats. That’s not a “justification in my head” – that’s just being honest and responsible in how we’re using statistics. Besides, Clinton, despite him not knowing what an embryo is, was very pro-life compared to our current president.

That being said, what is Clinton saying exactly that we should be listening to and learning about?

Either way, this post was not just about presidents. And if anything it was against parties.

And in the end, the kind of “learning” i think you are proposing is a rationalization of convincing yourself that since you think a party that you happen to align with is better on the economy, that then it is morally acceptable to support somebody that is at the same time proactively supporting and encouraging a “right” to murder an innocent human being. The truth is that this is not a morally acceptable justification. The Church has been very, very clear on this.

Matthew Warner May 12, 2009 at 9:57 am

4) What is ignorant is saying that both sides have the same goal. The pro-life side wants to respect the dignity of every human life to the point that we don’t ever think it is OK to kill another human person because of the “choice” of somebody that doesn’t want them. Our goal is to end all abortion because it is neither good for the mother, society, the family, and of course not the person in the womb whose life is ended as a result of it.

Obama and many other “pro-choicers” have clearly stated that their goal is to make abortion safe (safe? can we really “safely” kill another person?). They also want to make it freely available to anybody who wants one. They say they want to make it rare (but I’m not sure how making it easier to have one, paying for them, and legitimizing the murder of a baby is going to make it more rare). These goals are NOT the same. Not at all.

Abp Burke had a very good speech last week on just this stuff: I recommend reading it to anyone interested in this topic, especially if you’re catholic.

Artie May 12, 2009 at 11:13 am

Matt thanks for providing the link to the keynote address by Archbishop Burke. I read the address and it reminds me that holiness and obedience will never lead us in the wrong direction.

At every Mass, we should offer special prayers for our nation and her leaders, in order that the culture of death may be overcome and a civilization of love may be steadfastly advanced. All Catholics throughout the nation should take part in Eucharistic adoration and in the praying of the Rosary for the restoration of the respect for human life and for the safeguarding of the integrity of the family. In our prayers, we should seek, above all, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception. Mary Immaculate is the patroness of our nation. In a most wonderful way, she appeared, on our continent, in what is present-day Mexico City, in 1531, as the Immaculate Mother of God, in order to manifest the all-merciful love of God toward His children of America. Through her example and intercession, the Native Americans and Europeans, who were on the brink of a most deadly conflict, were brought together to form one people under her maternal care, and the widespread practice of human sacrifice among the native people was brought to an end.

We must pray for those in our country that continue to cooperate with this silent holocaust.

pinko May 12, 2009 at 3:33 pm

But I’m just asking you to think: say tomorrow Roe V Wade is overturned, what happens then? That 800,000 legal abortions goes to zero but have you seriously solved any problem? Do you really think that a woman who has decided to terminate her pregnancy all the sudden is going to say “Oh, if it’s illegal I guess I’ll just raise the baby.” Do you think the actual number of abortions will drastically decrease because it’s harder to figure out how to get one? I think you’re underestimating how incredibly tough this decision is for these women. The reason the new catholic vote spot you posted is so effective is that it says “adoption is a better choice” rather than “we think you’re a murderer.” And certainly a stronger message than “protest the guy who’s planning to honor the guy whose proposed policies conflict with our ideals.”

And yes, the economy affects the numbers. That’s my whole point. All the hemming and hawing hasn’t done much good in the last 30 years, but the thing that has proven to be effective is decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies. I know the Catholic Church has trouble even getting around to that, so I’m not asking anyone to concede or anything. I’m just saying: decrease poverty and increase education and you’ll start to beat this problem. Passing a bill through Congress is like the proverbial bruised rib on a heart attack patient, and honestly there’s strong reason to believe it’d do more harm than good.

Matthew Warner May 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Pinko – I never once suggested it wasn’t a very complicated issue. And OF COURSE, as I’ve said before, ultimately the problem will be solved by changing the hearts and minds of people. This post was about the political dimension of that – of which there is an important one. And we have a moral obligation to have just laws in our country…or at the very least for them to not allow, pay for, encourage, etc the killing of innocent human beings. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.

The problem is the point you’re making (that making it illegal is not going to magically solve everything) is being abused as a reason to not work to make it illegal – which is misguided. We have to solve the source problem of unwanted pregnancies (which is not at all the topic of this post) and ALSO have laws that are just and reflect the moral law.

I’m not saying making it illegal will magically change the minds of a lot of these women (who are victims as well). But our civil laws must set the example in order to effectively educate anyone. We can’t educate these confused women that there is a real live human being inside of them if at the same time our law says, “oh, but if you want to kill it…no problem.”

To speak about EDUCATION without including just laws and a moral example from the ones doing the educating is to blow hot air. And that’s about all we’ve gotten.

Matthew Warner May 12, 2009 at 4:11 pm

What if somebody was making the same argument to you about slavery? And I was honestly sitting here telling you that we don’t need to make slavery illegal – in fact, there is reason to believe it would do more harm than good. I mean, i just really think you’re underestimating how difficult it is for these rural farmers to provide for their family and run a farm without slaves.

What we really need to do in order to end slavery is to just improve the economy to the point that we don’t need slaves. We just need to educate people about it. Don’t go around offending these slave owners by telling them it’s immoral. Do you really think that’s going to fix it? No, we just need more education and to improve farming technology so that we don’t need slaves anymore.

I bet you would think I sounded pretty silly.

And deep down you would know I was just making excuses for not condemning something I knew was wrong and refusing to adjust our civil laws to reflect the moral law.

We need to do all of these right things and stop making excuses.

Artie May 12, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Thank you Pinko and Matthew for the discussion. This discussion like many others I have seen or contributed to in the past proves over and over again that intellect without a properly informed conscience can often times be dangerous.

This may be going off the subject here a little bit, but I promise I have a point….

My nephew is about to be confirmed this summer and he has a fairly good understanding of the world and different world views. We talked about the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord).

He said something profound yet so obvious…. “Numerous people focus on knowledge ‘the accumulation of facts’ yet do not apply it with the other 6 gifts.”

I have noticed a trend with those that consider themselves to be on the left of the political spectrum as being the most educated and knowledgeable and that the people on the right are not progressive thinkers, thus not educated.

I have also noticed a trend with those that consider themselves to be on the right of the political spectrum as being self righteous and that the people on the left are immoral beings.

Both of these are stereotypes, but they are stereotypes that are in the public forum.

It is difficult for a person like me to be totally on the left or the right, but I can assure you ethically and morally I could not vote for politicians who support abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay “marriage”, euthanasia, and cloning.

pinko May 12, 2009 at 10:15 pm

“And deep down you would know I was just making excuses for not condemning something I knew was wrong and refusing to adjust our civil laws to reflect the moral law.”
See, that’s where we just aren’t gonna see eye to eye. You think I’m somehow burying my morality deep down inside just because I’m charmed by a Democrat. I know exactly why I think abortion needs to be kept legal and I’d be willing to tell a priest exactly why, that even though I agree with the church’s respect of life, I disagree with their approach. I would never argue for slavery, so yes I think that sounds silly. If we’re being silly, then why don’t we also make war illegal? You want to tell these women, who are suffering already, a lot of them having no control over their situation, most of them having not a fraction of your privilege, that they are as bad as slave owners, that they are murderers. And at the same time you want to convince them to listen to your life view?

So no excuses. If my wife, or your wife is pregnant and the doctor says “it’s very likely you will die if this child comes to term,” we can a) say “sorry, this is hard, but I’ll raise the kid as well as I can.” or b) “I can’t go without you, you have to terminate.” or c) “It’s your decision to make.” You are not only saying a always, but you’re also saying that the government should step in and say a for you. I can’t do that. I’ll never make that decision for someone else. If that means I gotta go to confession, so be it.

Mike May 13, 2009 at 7:02 am

pinko, you are sadly misinformed if you think 1,000,000 women a year are told by their Dr. that they will die if the child comes to term. By your words you show that you *have* buried your morality not because you are “charmed by a Democrat” but because you are “lied to by the abortion industry”. In post after post I’m hearing the exact arguments I can read in an PP website on how to argue against “the anti-abortionists”.

You say the Church is accusing innocent women of murder. Nobody is accusing innocent women of murder. I’m happy to help the woman who is so victimized, confused, misinformed that she is making a terrible decision to end a life. I *do* accuse an educated, informed abortionist who is under no compulsion or stress other than the desire to make money of murder.

You also say it’s wrong but we have to keep it legal, for those women who will *die* if they bring a baby to term. Do you honestly think 1,000,000 women each year would *die* from pregnancy if they didn’t get abortions? Did you know that the death rate of pregnant women due to abortion is similar (or higher, depending on the sources you use) to the death rate from pregnancy? It doesn’t save lives, it ends them.

Did you know that the deaths from illegal abortions in the early 1970s is approximately the same as the deaths from legal abortions after Roe v. Wade? It doesn’t save lives, it ends them.

Claims that we somehow need abortion to save lives are propaganda, put forth by the abortion industry.

Matthew Warner May 13, 2009 at 7:18 am

Oh come on, Pinko. I hope you don’t honestly think I’m out at abortion clinics telling women they are murderers and as bad as slave owners. And I’m not saying I’m perfect at always delivering the message that babies are people too. But at least I try. I think those babies deserve to be called and treated like what they are – human beings. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask of our government.

I don’t think you’re consciously burying your morality. I think you’ve got a double standard. If you think the slavery issue was very different than the abortion issue or any other issue where an entire class of people were oppressed, slaughtered or ignored – then I think you need to step back and take a bigger look at history. It’s very much the same. The only difference here is that the victim can’t speak for themselves yet and the crime is that they are being quietly killed in the name of privacy.

And your comparison to war doesn’t make sense. War is often illegal. There is such a thing as a just war, however. There is no such thing as a just abortion. We can never intentionally kill another innocent human being. Period.

So you are saying that because there is a small chance that your wife may be hurt or die from a pregnancy that it gives you the right to kill a baby? Is that honestly the argument you are making?

It’s not about “making a decision for someone else”! It’s about not allowing someone else to kill an innocent person. Can you not see the difference between the two?

Matthew Warner May 13, 2009 at 7:30 am

Also, I would invite you to read up a bit more on moral principles applied to some of these situations. As Catholics, if we’ve come to a conclusion that is contrary to a fundamental, essential dogmatic teaching of the Church, then we have to question OUR conclusion. And in doing so, try to open our mind and heart as to where we may have gone wrong. And in the process actually dig deeper into why the Church teaches what it teaches. I promise you will find some brilliant, well thought-out, deeply satisfying answers if you do this.

Confession is not to be abused as a way to maintain a personal conflict with Church teaching. It’s a way to resolve that in a real, lasting way.

I know you have good intentions. But if you can’t get past the whole “you can’t tell another person what to do with their body” then you haven’t gotten to the essence of the entire argument yet. And that’s that nobody has the right to intentionally end the life of another innocent human being.

Yes, there are hard circumstances sometimes (although if you actually look into it, they are far more rare than you’ve probably been told. And some don’t actually constitute an “abortion”…like an ectopic pregnancy). But no mere chance that one person can die from an experience ever justifies the intentional killing of another innocent person involved. There is no moral justification for that. none.

Artie May 13, 2009 at 8:25 am

Pinko what is abortion to you in your world view? You said you would tell a priest exactly why abortion needs to be kept legal, but you never went into your reasoning. Unless your reasoning is just that if abortion was illegal then we really haven’t solved the problem of changing hearts and people would do it anyways. You stated,

******”Do you really think that a woman who has decided to terminate her pregnancy all the sudden is going to say “Oh, if it’s illegal I guess I’ll just raise the baby.” Do you think the actual number of abortions will drastically decrease because it’s harder to figure out how to get one?”*******

Robbing banks are illegal, but that does not stop people from doing so.

Using your logic, should we have a law that allows people to rob banks legally?

pinko May 13, 2009 at 9:38 am

One at a time, then?
Mike: No, I don’t think that. Nor am I sadly misinformed about such. I will not tell someone in that situation, whether it’s 1 person a year or 10,000,000 a year, that I am making the decision for them.

Matt 1: No, I don’t think that. And I’m not trying to change your mind, either. I’m trying to say that I think the most effective way for you to get your message out is to indeed change the hearts and minds instead of saying “I don’t think women are comparable to slave owners but look at how similar the situation is.”

Matt 2: I actually knew the second I posted that you were gonna lecture me on confession. :) I wrote that because it sounded cooler than the alternative. Apologies if it muddied my point. I used an extreme example, as we’re both aware, but there are hundreds of other situations where I, personally, deeply, thoughtfully and any other way you wanna say it, don’t feel it is right for the state to tell a woman she has to carry to term. If the Church wants to tell that woman no, then I’m fine with that, but then you also have situations like this:,2933,505183,00.html
And no, I’m not fine with that. Even if it’s 1 in a million. And it’s not because I just haven’t thought about it all that much.

Artie: No, I don’t think that. That’s not really my logic at all. I think I’ve summed it up, though, but if you have any more questions, I’ll be happy to answer.

Matthew Warner May 13, 2009 at 10:04 am

Pinko – if you believe a mother should be able to have an abortion if she chooses then you are saying precisely that you think it is justified to kill another innocent human being simply because somebody else chooses. Am I missing something here? You can’t have it both ways.

Understand also that we are not talking at all about personal culpability of the woman. Obviously that 9 yr old who was raped was a victim all the way around – along with her baby. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that an innocent baby was intentionally killed in the ordeal. That’s an objective fact of the matter that deserves to be recognized. I’m not sure how that makes your point?

Artie May 13, 2009 at 11:25 am

Sorry Pinko if you felt bombarded by all 3 of us. I think we all would like to have a well thought out response verses a quick rapid fire debate.

I must admit I would prefer you to sum up what you believe about abortion and how it can possibly be morally ok in certain circumstances to murder innocent life in the womb.

It appears you want it both ways like Matthew has indicated. I would like further explanation on your world view on the issue, because it does not make any logical or moral sense to me.

As Matt has stated, “If you believe a mother should be able to have an abortion if she chooses then you are saying precisely that you think it is justified to kill another innocent human being simply because somebody else chooses.”

I am all about choices, but we the choice at hand is abortion which is ending a human life inside the womb.

Ending an innocent human life should NEVER be an option, but if I am hearing you correctly it is perfectly legitimate to do so under certain circumstances?

Phil May 13, 2009 at 11:39 am

Very intersting debate going on here – enjoyed reading it very much.

It seems to me that the Church has decided that choices on captial punishment, torture, war, etc. are subjective while choices on abortion are objective.

Why can’t we use intellegence, rationale, historical reference, etc. and thus subjectivity on the issue of abortion when we use it on other permissible murders?

Now I understand the stance that abortion is an intrisic evil so that may make it different. But is ANY murder not an intrisic evil also? And if so, how can the death penaly be acceptable in certain situations and abortion not? Keep in mind that ‘intrinsic’ would thus disqualify using the words “guilty” or “innocent”.

So, my question to all is, why can’t we make abortion illegal but subjective? Why can’t there be some sort of expedited judicial system that decides on abortion cases in a subjective way? This would prevent forcing a 9 year old CHILD who was raped from having to unfairly bare children. It would also prevent an irresponsible, abortion abusing woman as well!

Perhaps given the timeframes that abortions must be done in this option would be unrealistic, especially given the nature of how non-commonsensical, backwards, AND screwy our legal system is right now.

The whole point I am trying to make is that I just can’t fully comprehend how one issue (abortion) within the framework of MURDER is zero tolerance and objective while other murders are not viewed in the same light.

Matthew Warner May 13, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Phil – i understand how you would be thinking these things. And perhaps that’s partly my fault for not articulating the differences as well as I should have.

The act of abortion, by its very definition of being the direct, intentional killing of innocent life, is evil and non-justifiable regardless of the circumstances (rape, convenience, health, or whatever). What you are suggesting is that if a girl is raped then that gives her the right to end the life of an innocent human baby, correct?

Those other issues are fundamentally different. And not just because the Church “decided” so, but because they are less definitive by their nature.

It’s not definitive enough to just say that “war” is objectively wrong. However, an “UN-JUST war” is always and objectively wrong, just as direct abortion is.

But some wars are necessary and just.

It’s not definitive enough for me to say “killing” is always unjustified. Certainly if somebody (or a country) is intentionally trying to kill me, I have a right to stop them. If they have to die for me to stop them (principle of double effect) I am still justified in doing so (just war, self-defense, etc) – and it’s NOT murder.

But (direct) abortion is not simply “killing.” It’s more definitive. It is the direct and intentional killing of an innocent human being. And that is always wrong no matter the circumstances.

This article talks about this subject a bit if you’re interested:

Artie May 13, 2009 at 1:56 pm

To all in this discussion,

I just read some great news on the OSV (Our Sunday Visitor)

There is a new law that is being proposed that would help women in crisis pregnancies. This was an idea proposed by democrats for life!


The bill, first introduced by Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) to the House of Representatives in 2006, grew out of the Democrats for Life of America’s “95-10 Initiative,” a plan to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. by 95 percent over the course of 10 years. The goal, according to Democrats for Life executive director Kristen Day, was to tackle the abortion issue by building a bridge between politicians on both sides of the debate.

This is to let women know that abortion is not their only option, which more time than not women feel this is their only option via pressure by others that may or may not be close to them in their life (parents, boyfriend, physician, etc).

I don’t know if I can statistically back this up, but it has been stated abortions are not always the choice of the women, often times it is forced upon them by pressure of family, friends, and/or husbands/boyfriends/etc.

pinko May 13, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Sorry I’m slow to respond. This might be a long one.

Okay, just to be completely clear here: I personally do not want anyone to abort their child. I could never recommend it to anyone (completely honestly, though, I think maybe I could have for that nine year old. Call me evil.) Despite that, I do not feel it is my place or three dudes on the internet’s place or the government’s place to make that decision for women who have no choice but to grow a seed inside them for nine months. I know you all think that’s a fallacy or whatever. That doesn’t bother me. I know how I feel.

I’m gonna explain what I mean even though this will probably just tick all of you off. You all believe that the second a sperm hits an egg, God puts a soul into that egg. That’s why conception is the moment of life. Now Catholics also think every sperm is sacred – which makes masturbation, birth control, gay sex, etc. a sin. I have never in my life agreed with that, despite going to church every week for 18 years of my life. And, not to be presumptuous, I don’t even know you guys, but come on. Have you never ‘wasted’ a sperm in your life? Rhetorical, please don’t answer.

So let’s assume we can all secretly agree there’s not ten million sacred souls that die every time. If you want to argue me on that point I’ll just concede and be done with it. We’ve decided that the soul is the moment of conception. Or God told us that, if you prefer. (next post)

pinko May 13, 2009 at 11:01 pm

(So at this point I’m gonna say let’s not worry about semantics for this one, but rather content, because it’s gonna be a long one.)

So all of this is to say – and this is the part that will make you write me off, I’m sure – that your definition of life is an entirely religious one. You can also argue that it’s not religious, etc, etc, but I don’t really buy it. At this point the fetus has less function than a cow, which you would kill without a thought. I know that sounds coldly scientific (which is why I’m guessing you’re pissed right now) but I’m not trying to be incendiary, I’m just explaining this all. Why a cow? Because other massive religious groups believe that cows are sacred, a concept which you all think (again presumptuous) is rather ridiculous. If not ridiculous, you certainly never intend to honor their beliefs. Yet your belief that a mass of cells growing inside a woman is sacred and therefore you have the right to force the woman to birth it – even if she was nine years old and raped – is paramount not just for you, but for everyone on the planet. You also believe that an omniscient God saw a man rape his stepdaughter and His plan is to grow two babies inside her and whatever the outcome, whether she dies and they die, or she has them but is not in any way prepared for them and they suffer and die soon after, or they, yes, miraculously, all three live happily ever after – that was God’s plan, too.

pinko May 13, 2009 at 11:05 pm

And every one of the million miscarriages per year was part of God’s plan. And justified wars are part of God’s plan, and justified torture, and justified so on to infinity. And that’s faith. I get it. That’s a beautiful thing. But I also see why a whole lot of people don’t buy it. Furthermore I get why a whole lot of people don’t get why, if ALL of that was actually part of God’s plan, and now after the hardest decision making they’ve ever gone through in their entire lives, they’re still coming up with abortion is the best option – why that’s not part of God’s plan, too?

I’m not asking you to tell me why that’s not part of God’s plan. I’m also not asking you to tell me what Fr. Yadda, who vowed chastity 40 years ago, has to say to the girl in poverty and AIDS stricken Africa about her body. I’m not asking why you think Pearl Harbor was or was not evil and why Hiroshima was or was not and why those things are subjective.

Here’s what I’m saying: I don’t want these babies to die either. But when you say you know which politicians are doing more of God’s work than others, when you say I look silly because justifying abortion is like justifying slavery, when you say abortion industry propaganda has warped my mind, when you say I’m blowing hot air for disagreeing with you, when you say a million women are murderers and a million miscarriages is a fact of life, when you say anyone who doesn’t want to make abortion illegal doesn’t respect life, that’s when I stop listening.

pinko May 13, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Because you’re living in a reality that’s different from the one I live in. And I’m a guy who was raised in a long line of very strong Catholics, and I’ve never felt a need to reject the church in any way, despite my disagreements with some of its teachings. I still consider myself a Catholic (even though it often seems like some of you would prefer I not), and I’ll still defend the church from anyone who says something like “why aren’t they doing more about the pedophile problem?” even when I don’t really have an answer that I whole-heartedly believe.

And so if you guys can’t sell me on this? You’ve lost your battle. I know you don’t think you have, so keep chugging if you want. Cite faith if that helps. But here, from a guy that wants abortions to stop just as much as you do but is on the other side of the issue, is what would make me listen: adopt a baby. Encourage adoption every place you can, just like that voteforlife ad. Stop throwing stones at women who have decided they need to abort. Instead of excommunicating them, invite them to celebrate with you. Admit that even though you are faithful, there are millions of people on the planet who are faithful to a different set of ideas, and millions who, with very justifiable reason, see no reason to be faithful to a God who doesn’t always seem to do a great job. Understand, on a deep level, that even though you Know the Truth, no one really knows anything at all.

pinko May 13, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Take all of this or none of it, like I said, I understand why you guys are so passionate about this issue. But the line on agreeing with you hasn’t changed much in 30 years. If you want it to, you gotta convince me first, and then maybe I’ll be able to convince all the people that you’ve written off as murderers that there’s a better way.

I think I’m done on this topic for now, if you’ll excuse me. I completely respect all that you guys are saying and I sincerely hope no one has felt otherwise. I’ll still read anything you all have to say, but I’m afraid I’ll just be repeating myself from here on out unless someone has a specific question.

Besides, tonight I have to prepare my response to why I disagree so strongly about why bishops wear funny hats. :)


Artie May 14, 2009 at 8:49 am


Thank you for sharing your world view with all of us. You mentioned various aspects that have drawn you to conclusions that shape your view of believing that abortion is fine in some circumstances.

I will simply say I disagree with you on these various aspects that lead you to believe abortion is perfectly ok in some circumstances. I would love to respond to each issue that you bring up and discuss it further…

1. The 9 year old girl
2. What gestation really is and what it really is not from a pure science perspective
3. Theology of the body
4. The struggle of purity amongst men and even women 5. Life described from a theological and science perspective
6. What a fetus is from a pure science perspective.
7. Assumptions/Stereotypes you make about those who differ with you.
8. God and Free will
9. What God’s plan really is.
10. Women’s body (TOB)
11. Facts you don’t hear about the AIDS epidemic in Africa in regards toe the Church.
12. Facts you don’t hear about in regards to abuse scandals in the Church.
13. Politicians and stances on life issues.
14. Catholic vs. cafeteria Catholic
15. What excommunication really is and how one actually excommunicates themselves not the Church.

Remember as Catholics we are called to a higher standard and that is of holiness and obedience to God.

I have close friends that hold the same position as you do. I thank you for sharing what shapes your world view with us. It helps us understand how you have come to this conclusion.

Phil May 14, 2009 at 9:38 am

Great post pinko.

Matthew Warner May 14, 2009 at 9:51 am

Pinko – thanks for all the info. It really does help to know precisely where you’re coming from. And as Artie iterated above, there are a lot of questions you raise that deserve (and have) satisfying answers in the Church. This is not the place to do very much of it because it covers a huge spectrum of issues that don’t pertain to this blog post AT ALL.

I don’t mean this pejoratively at all, but on just about every point you make it is evident that you haven’t actually heard real Church teaching on these things. I don’t blame you fully because in many instances leaders in the Church have failed to articulate and educate on these issues and have allowed a culture often hostile to the Church to define the discussion.

To deny fundamental teachings of the Church IS to reject the Church. They are one in the same. And excommunication, as Artie noted, is not something the Church does to someone, it’s something they do to themselves. And when we put ourselves at odds with the Church, reject its teachings, and promote or intentionally do things contradictory to communion with that Church, we have already put ourselves outside of it. Anyway, that’s just one example. Please check out the catechism – it’s a great place to start on a lot of these issues.

Matthew Warner May 14, 2009 at 9:59 am

All that aside, all you needed to say was that you don’t believe a fetus/embryo is a human being. If you don’t believe that, then of course people like us pro-lifers would seem crazy. But there is no need to argue all of these other points we’ve spent days debating.

If it’s not a human being, why would you care about reducing abortion? If it’s not a human person, then an abortion is as trivial as getting your appendix taken out.

On the other hand if a fetus/embryo IS a human being, then the entire “choice” argument is moot. Nobody has the right to kill an innocent human being. They have no more of a right to kill that human being in the womb than they do to choose to kill you or me.

The only other possible alternative is if you believe a fetus/emrbyo is human, but it is somehow “less human” than us and therefore has less rights. And you have no grounds for making such a claim…no right to either. And your reference to worth or “humanness” being a matter of function (an embryo vs. a cow). If our human value is based on our level of function, then there are a lot of us who are in trouble. And it’s very obvious you have no right to say that one more-functional person has more value than some less-functional person. That’s a moral slippery slope that won’t hold you very long.

Humans have “inherent” rights and value because we are human. Not because we have a certain level of function greater than a cow or anything else. Even our constitution recognizes this natural right.

Matthew Warner May 14, 2009 at 10:06 am

And your statement that the reason the Church believes human life begins at conception is strictly a “religious” one reveals that you have not actually heard the Church’s position on it and why.

The Church believes life begins at conception almost entirely based on science. And one can come to that conclusion solely with science. No religion necessary.

From a scientific point of view there is no question that human life begins at conception. Ask just about ANY embryologist or scientist that knows anything about how humans are made. That’s the truth.

The Church has always valued human life. Science informed us of when precisely that human life begins.

(FYI – your reasons for the Church being against masterbation/etc. are all way off too. Read JPII’s theology of the body if you want to learn the real reasons.)

pinko May 14, 2009 at 11:23 am

Well, I said I was done, but I guess I’m not. I have trouble shutting up, so anyone feel free to tell me when it’s time for me to move on. I’m not trying to be the obnoxious guest at the party, but I do really like hearing why and how you guys completely disagree with me.

To Artie and Matt, I think you’re just missing my whole point. Everything I say, you just respond a) here’s what the church thinks and b) you just obviously haven’t invested time in finding out what the church thinks.

And my whole point is: a whole lot of people on this earth really have no reason to care about that. You do, and that’s wonderful. And if you also believe that that means you’re required to call certain women murderers or whatever, then so be it, I understand that. I’d cite John 8 but I’m sure some Pope has a good explanation of why I’m misunderstanding what’s going on there. So all I’ll say is: there are so many people that have such a vastly different life situations that you can’t even begin to comprehend. So if you want those people to change their minds to how your mind is, you gotta stop starting with “JPII gave a speech in the early 80’s that told me exactly how to think about this.” And when I or anyone else says “I don’t really care,” you say well, then, you reject the church. Sorry, that’s the rules.

What good have you done.

Artie May 14, 2009 at 11:46 am

You may feel that we have missed your point, but the point you are making is quite obvious you do not believe everything that the Church teaches, thus you rip out certain pages of the catechism, bible, and/or encyclicals that you do not agree with and still consider yourself Catholic. There are many people out there knowingly or unknowingly understand the true dynamics of the Church and disagree.

Protestants would consider a person like me to be a VATICAN ROBOT. Which I think is an awesome accusation!

Everybody thinks for themselves, the question is what guides the thought process?

Trust me there are still teachings of the Church I struggle with, but I understand there are much more intelligent and holier people than me that have lived our faith.

I am also quite aware of how numerous people inside and outside of the Catholic Church differ with Church teaching and ignore the truth…. or perhaps they truly don’t understand the Church’s teaching.

Which it sounds like to me you embrace relativism as your truth? Let your truth be your truth and my truth be my truth? Only you would know the answer to those questions.

As far as us trying to change peoples minds, only God can do that. As Christians when we are called to speak the truth, we do so with love. One without the other is like a clanging cymbal.

Which calls into question, what does it mean to be a Catholic Christian?

Do we go by our own moral compass? If so how do we determine right from wrong?

pinko May 14, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Well, first of all, I’m not looking for validation for any of my beliefs, as I’m quite comfortable with them, and I don’t ever feel like I’m missing something. I was raised Catholic and got my moral compass from everything that I learned and still find that I nearly always agree with what my priests are saying. Just because I don’t agree with a page here or there, I feel no need to rip the pages out. I can, personally, privately, disagree and carry on. If you don’t want me in your church unless I completely comply that’s fine, but the Church I grew up in taught me that we’re all headed to the same place and we’ll all do a better job together. So I’m sticking with that.

As for the change people’s minds part, that’s honestly the part I’m just not buying from you guys. First of all you say God can change their minds, and yet a million a year don’t get changed and public opinion has barely budged in 40 years, so then you feel it is your duty to – despite one of the most oft repeated teachings of Christ – call them murderers, and say things like we didn’t excommunicate you, you excommunicated yourself. And you’d like this to be considered “speaking the truth with love.”

I’m saying, I think you SHOULD speak the truth with love. I personally, privately, disagree with how you and/or the Church have chosen to do so. You don’t want to hear it, okay. Pray that God changes the minds for you.

Matthew Warner May 14, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Alrighty – let me try to recap here:

I write a post directed at a Catholic audience on a voting strategy to try and actually end abortion (an intrinsic evil that intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being). Agree…disagree, fine. Now I’m being accused of thinking that telling people they are excommunicated and that they are murderers is an effective method of changing someone’s mind. Yikes.

Here’s the problem with this discussion. If I try to call abortion what it is (intentionally killing an innocent person), somehow that gets equated to me thinking that the best way to convince women not to kill their babies is to call them murderers. Oh, and I’m told that by recognizing this by merely stating what the definition of abortion is that I am doing so “despite one of the most oft repeated teachings of Christ.”

If I suggest that we should have moral laws that don’t involve legitimizing the killing of innocent human babies, I am criticized for not understanding how tough this is for these women.

If I point out the fact that if you support a “right” to abortion you are supporting a “right” to kill an innocent human being, I am told that well “I personally do not want anyone to abort their child” and that “I don’t want these babies to die either.”

Then when I suggest we should have just laws to protect these “babies” and “children” from being killed, I’m told that I have no right to do so or that I’m not being loving and am calling people murderers. Then I’m reminded by the same people that we’re really only talking about a cluster of cells that is no more functional than a cow.

When I point out the fact that the Church believes that human life begins at conception for scientific and logical reasons, I’m questioned about how if it can be that a million miscarriages are a part of God’s plan then why can’t abortion be? (as if intentionally ending somebody’s life is morally the same as somebody naturally dying)

When someone claims (incorrectly) what the Church teaches on something and then I point out that that is actually incorrect, I’m then accused of missing their whole point.

When someone tries to say that they can be Catholic (which means believing in what the Church claims to be, it’s authority, and believing in the essential dogma of the Church) and then also claim that they can privately or otherwise disagree with those same teachings, and I point out the inconsistency of that, I’m then told that I need to read John 8 (a piece of scripture given to us by that very Church).

In the end, it is finally revealed that they weren’t trying to change anyone’s mind or have their own beliefs validated. But instead was just trying to let me know that if I really want to convince mothers not to abort their babies I shouldn’t call them murderers (like I ever suggested this). Oh, and that I shouldn’t tell them they are excommunicating themselves (as if I had ever once suggested this).

Let’s move on to the discussion about the funny Bishop’s hats. By the end of it maybe I can figure out why my “bring back the mullet” campaign hasn’t had much success. :-)

Artie May 14, 2009 at 9:24 pm

It is obvious that you are a cafeteria Catholic, and as a cafeteria Catholic you can, personally, privately, disagree and carry on. Cafeteria Catholic’s are ruled by pride and they believe they don’t have to follow anybody’s rules… not even the Church’s.

Sorry if you feel I’m not speaking with truth and love by being poignant.

What you are conveying is no different from what Martin Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason, my conscious is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant because acting against ones conscious is neither safe nor sound, here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, Amen.” (“I”, “me”, “my” – all individualistic!)

It’s only logical. If there is no authoritative teaching office, if Christ did not give the Holy Spirit to his Church – then what is left to say what Luther said? What is left to say that each Christian has the absolute right to decide for him or herself without being bound by any Church, or Council, or Pope.

In fact, Luther said: “Each Christian should be his own Pope and own Council”

You are essentially saying that the councils, the creeds, the church, have a genuine spiritual authority – just not an infallible, binding authority – and it is always subject to your personal interpretation and conscious.”

pinko May 14, 2009 at 10:31 pm

I’m really sorry, guys, I think I overstepped my bounds. I didn’t intend to offend or even criticize you for anything at all. I was trying to explain why I thought there may be a way to approach this problem that produces better results, but I’ve obviously been inarticulate in doing so. Please don’t think I’m judging either of you at all. I genuinely like working through this stuff with thoughtful people, even those who 100% disagree with me, and sometimes I forget tone doesn’t really translate via the internet. If I’ve implied that my thoughts are stemming from pride, I’ve done a horrible job of explaining myself. Again, sorry.

All that said, oh man I’m gonna nail you both on the bishop hat thread! Okay not really. I’ll leave abortion behind on this site, though, and hope to discuss other topics with you? If you’ll have a Cafeteria Catholic?

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