Bishop Blair: "Truly Grave Moral Reasons" and "Serious Moral Soul-Searching" Before "Could Be Morally Permissible" to Vote for Pro-Abortion Candidate
From the March issue of the Toledo Diocese's Catholic Chronicle:
'Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship'(emphasis added)
Written by Bishop Leonard P. Blair
Friday, 07 March 2008
[Editor’s Note: What follows is the text of the talk Toledo Bishop Leonard P. Blair gave at the First Thursday Dialogue Feb. 7 at the Toledo Club regarding the U.S. Bishops’ document on faithful citizenship. First Thursday Dialogue programs are organized by the diocesan Secretariat of Pastoral Leadership and feature different speakers and topics each month. The U.S. Bishops’ document, Faithful Citizenship, which was the subject of the talk can be found through the Toledo diocesan Web site, http://www.toledodiocese.org/, or directly from the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship/index.htm.]
... It is important to call attention to the seven key themes that are the bishops’ elaboration of these moral priorities. Without going into the detail that you can read for yourself in Faithful Citizenship, these key themes of Catholic social teaching are meant to provide a moral framework for decisions in public life. The bishops list them as follows: not surprisingly, first and fundamental to everything else is the right to life and the dignity of the human person; then the call that everyone has to family, community and participation; the morality of both rights and responsibilities; an option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity and rights of workers; human, global solidarity; and caring for God’s creation. Each of these themes, in turn, is elaborated with regard to specific issues.
In addition to a well-formed conscience the bishops speak of the virtue of prudence. According to the Catechism, “the virtue of prudence enables us to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.” (No. 1806) We might say that conscience reveals what is right in a concrete situation, and prudence helps us discern how to achieve it. When it comes to how we achieve the good, the official summary of Faithful Citizenship says this: “As Catholics seek to advance the common good, we must carefully discern which public policies are morally sound. A good end does not justify an immoral means. At times Catholics may choose different ways to respond to social problems, but we cannot differ in our obligation to protect human life and dignity and help build through moral means a more just and peaceful world…. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil … may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”
Let me elaborate further on these last two sentences.
With regard to issues, the bishops point out that Catholics who knowingly, willingly and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles are cooperating with evil.
With regard to candidates, the bishops state that a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in a grave evil if he or she voted for a candidate with the intention of supporting that candidate’s position in favor of an intrinsic evil like abortion. However, if in conscience the voter, for truly grave moral reasons — and the bishops emphasize this — for truly grave moral reasons voted for such a candidate while rejecting the candidate’s position on abortion, then it could be morally permissible, provided that such a vote was not “to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” I would envision very serious moral soul-searching on the part of a Catholic who is inclined to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil like abortion...
[Read the whole thing]
Just as I thought. You may recall that a month ago I questioned The Toledo Blade's reporting on Bishop Blair's speech. I believed at the time that the reporter had watered down the Bishop's comments regarding when it might be appropriate to vote for a pro-abortion candidate; but without the full text of the speech in front of me, I couldn't be certain. Now I know that my suspicions were justified.
Read once again the highlighted language in that last excerpted paragraph above, and compare it to how The Blade reported Bishop Blair's remarks the day after he made them last month:
... While it is wrong to "knowingly, willingly, and directly support" policies that undermine fundamental moral principles, including abortion, he said, it might be permissible to vote for a pro-abortion candidate if the ballot was based on other crucial issues and the voter "rejects the candidate's position on abortion." ...(emphasis added)
As I wrote last month:
... "Morally grave reasons" is a long way from the Blade reporter's choice of words: "other crucial issues".Except that Bishop Blair's remarks were EVEN STRONGER than what I had suspected. He notes in no uncertain terms that the Bishops have emphasized the "truly grave moral reasons" aspect of their approach - he goes so far as to repeat the phrase for effect.
Knowing Bishop Blair's record for sound Catholic teaching, I have the feeling that the Blade reporter isn't giving us the whole story. Instead, the Blade reporter gives an accounting of the Bishop's remarks that appears to be a go-ahead to vote for a pro-abortion candidate so long as you "reject the candidate's position on abortion" but support the candidate with regard to "other crucial issues".
About what you'd expect from mainstream media reporting on a subject like this.
Such truly grave moral reasons must also be accompanied by a rejection of the candidate’s position on abortion. Only then "could [it] be morally permissible" to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, provided the vote is not merely to advance narrow partisan preferences.
And then Bishop Blair follows up with this admonition: "I would envision very serious moral soul-searching on the part of a Catholic who is inclined to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil like abortion."
Bishop Blair couldn't be more clear on how high the bar is set in order to justify a vote for a pro-abortion candidate. And I'm not sure how the Blade reporter distilled all that down to "other crucial issues", unless the reporter had some other agenda than reporting the truth.
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Bishop Blair Calls Upon Voters to Examine Consciences
Bishop Blair to Speak on "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship"
Kentucky Bishops: Catholics Cannot Vote for Politicians Who Support Abortion, Except for Morally Grave Reasons
Archbishop Chaput: "Better Citizens, More Faithful Catholics"
National Catholic Register: "Voting in 2008 - New Guidance From Catholic Bishops"
USCCB Makes Available Full Text of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
John Allen Interviews Bishop DiMarzio Regarding Catholic Voting Guides
Archbishop Chaput Not Satisfied With Proposed New USCCB Document on Voting
Catholic Bishops’ Taxing Task: Election-Year Statement
Bishops' Document to Offer New Guidance on Catholics' Political Role
Vox Nova on Voter's Guides
Dueling Catholic Voter Guides
More on Catholic Voter Guides
Columnist: "Christian Right Driving Wedge Into US"
More From Amy Welborn on the "Dueling Catholic Voter Guides"
"Catholics in the Public Square" by Bishop Olmsted
Catholics Find Voting Guides a Test of Allegiance
Toledo Blade: "Catholic Voting Guide Gives Church Perspective"
Weigel: "An Electoral Battle of the Booklets?"
"Not An Approved Catholic Voter Guide"