Friday, March 07, 2008

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'

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,, or directly from the U.S. Bishops’ Conference,]

... 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]
(emphasis added)

My Comments:
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".

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.
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.

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?"

What's Missing?

"Not An Approved Catholic Voter Guide"

Labels: , , , , ,


At 3/07/2008 12:30 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Smith said...

He said exactly what most of the bishops are saying. Why don't you stop and consider the possibility that the comments about "truly grave moral reason" just might indicate that some of them believe that reason to be present. Instead, you do your best to ignore a dozen flagrant ways the Republican party has parted company with the teachings of the Church.
I'll be supporting a Democratic candidate, this year, after precisely that "soul searching", as are a lot of faithful Catholics. You'd be better off pointing out to your own "narrow party interest" just where they're wrong, rather than taking it upon yourself to lecture everyone about your own partisan distortion of the bishop's words.

At 3/07/2008 12:41 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...


I'm not sure why the hostile tone. I have been quite upfront in recognizing that it is possible for one to conclude that "truly grave moral reasons" exist to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. I might disagree with that assessment, and I might believe that one shouldn't do so. But I don't discount one's own prudential judgment in making that determination.

As for my own "narrow party interest", I'm not sure what that means, considering I'm not a member of any party (although I will admit to being conservative in my political leanings, though I have drifted from the GOP definition of "conservative" over the years). And I have stated on numerous occasions that I'm not even sure I will be supporting the GOP nominee this year. I didn't vote for him in the primary this week.

Also, what words of Bishop Blair have I distorted? And I haven't lectured anyone in this post except for the Blade reporter who actually DID distort the Bishop's remarks.

Finally, I ask you to take a look at my post defending Martin Sheen from earlier this week and then make up your mind as to whether I am engaging in partisan distortion.

At 3/10/2008 11:38 PM, Blogger Michael J. Iafrate said...

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...

Of course, the bishops also list other intrinsic evils besides abortion... It sounds to me like the "soul searching" he envisions applies to casting votes for candidates who support torture, racism, the killing of non-combatants in war... etc, etc.

At 3/10/2008 11:49 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I agree.

At 3/11/2008 12:35 PM, Blogger Michael J. Iafrate said...

If we agree on that, then what I find misleading on the bishop's part is that from what I can see, he only uses abortion as an example. And you do as well in the title of your post. In fact, one must do some serious soul searching and could only vote for a candidate who supports torture only for grave moral reasons, which makes problematic the decision many Catholics made to vote for George W. Bush.

At 3/11/2008 12:59 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I'm just quoting Bishop Blair who, in turn, is quoting from the USCCB's Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

The USCCB probably uses abortion as the example because it is the most obvious one and the one that has been at the forefront of American politics for 35 years. It is also an issue upon which the USCCB has been steadfast for so many years.

Bishop Blair is one of the finest examples of a teaching Bishop in the U.S., and I do not believe he would write or say anything regarding the Church's teaching on any subject that could be considered misleading.

You might disagree with his and the USCCB's emphasis on abortion, and/or believe they should have expanded the list of subjects to use as examples, and perhaps that's a fair criticism. But I don't believe there is anything misleading in either Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship or in Bishop Blair's speech.

At 3/11/2008 2:00 PM, Blogger Michael J. Iafrate said...

Let me also clarify that I am not saying the bishop is necessarily being intentionally misleading... Just that I think people can be misled by the terms he uses, as an excuse to emphasize abortion to the exclusion of other life issues in a way that the USCCB document would oppose. I guess what I'm saying is that the bishop's way of putting it could easily be misused.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

hit counter for blogger