Sunday, October 03, 2004

From the Post Dispatch: When does a vote become a sin ?

Tim Townsend of the Post Disgrace has written an article in which he seems to assume the role of a Catholic moral theologian, not overtly, but in a manner indicative of those who, for many decades, have attempted to undermine the teachings of the Church by causing doubt, confusion and obfuscation.
The belief among some Catholics that a candidate's position on the death penalty and war are as important as his or her position on abortion or same-sex marriage "is not true," writes Burke.
The belief of these "Catholics" is demonstrative of their failure to learn what the Church teaches or of their denial of that teaching.
Burke's words seem to be at odds, however, with a 2002 Vatican document that addresses the issue of voting. "The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church's social doctrine does not exhaust one's responsibility towards the common good. . . ," reads the Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life.
One wonders from whom Mr. Townsend received this excerpt...Unfortunately, the quote is being taken out of context, and this is a disservice to the reader. The previous sentence of the paragraph from which the above quote was taken states:
"In this context,it must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."
We can plainly see that Cardinal Ratzinger, in obedience to the teaching of the Church and the Holy Father, states that one cannot isolate a particular element to the detriment of the whole - especially when one chooses to ignore that element which is fundamental and of primary importance - that element regarding the dignity and sanctity of life, the issue of opposing all laws that attack human life, particularly the life of the innocent.

But Mr. Townsend is not finished yet. By some stroke of luck, it seems, Archbishop Burke wrote something which conformed to Cardinal Ratzinger's thoughts:
Oddly, Burke's position does agree with part of Ratzinger's personal opinion, laid out in a memo to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington in June.
This is nothing more than an attack to cast doubts on the validity and authority of the Pastoral Letter and on the Archbishop.

It is also a veiled attack suggesting that Cardinal Ratzinger's June "private memo" was nothing more than personal opinion despite the fact that what was stated concerned principles of basic Catholic moral doctrine.

Be that as it may, Mr. Townsend, our new self appointed moral theologian, continues:
The fact remains, however, according to Burke's letter, that as long as the many specific conditions are met, and the voter has weighed the proportionate reasons, a Catholic can vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights.

Voters' proportionate reasons often turn out to be social issues important to traditional Catholic moral teaching — issues such as capital punishment, war, the environment and poverty. In his letter, Burke says these proportionate reasons are not as important as his priority reasons.
Contrary to what Mr. Townsend says, Archbishop Burke did not use the term "proportionate reason" anywhere in his Pastoral Letter. This may have been a deliberate act by Archbishop Burke to avoid having those, such as Mr. Townsend, from distorting the clear principles that he enumerated in his Letter. Further, the Archbishop is quite clear that other issues do not rise to the level of those matters which are intrinsically evil. Therefore, they cannot be used in an appeal to "proportionate reasons" to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, except in a very limited case - which does not exist in our current politcal situation.

And again, the attack on the Archbishop by the use of the words >"his priority reasons" is disgraceful. It is also a distortion of truth and an injustice to the readers of the Post, Catholics in the Archdiocese and the Archbishop.

Archbishop Burke has given us the teaching of the Church, not "his priority reasons".
St. Louis Catholics should not be surprised by their new archbishop's focus on life issues.
Perhaps, some are surprised that Archbishop Burke demonstrates a fidelity to the teachings of Church and to the Holy Father and that he wishes to impart the fullness of the Faith to the faithful? Many of us, however, are thankful and we give thanks to God daily that he is our Archbishop, teacher, and shepherd.

Many of us are grateful that we have a shepherd who is not afraid to give us the truth and guide us to a better understanding of that truth. Thankfully also, we do not have to rely on the Post-Dispatch for the truth. And Mr. Townsend should keep his day job - a moral theologian he's not.

The article is here.

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