November 15, 2008

Holy Communion And The Vote

The South Carolina pastor who gave this post-election exhortation has made plenty of noise, and his diocese has rightly rebuked him publicly. But what makes things difficult is that Fr. Newman's claim is actually correct:

Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.

But the assumption behind the statement is faulty. There was no "plausible pro-life alternative." Yes, there was an anti-abortion candidate, but just being anti-abortion doesn't make you pro-life. Being pro-life means holding up the life as the original value against everything that threatens it in the culture of death: abortion, capital punishment, pre-emptive war, structures of poverty, and disregard for the health of the creation. My implication, of course, is that neither of the two major candidates for president in this recent election lived up to these values enough to earn the label "pro-life." In fact, the only candidate I know of that seems to get it is Joe Schriner, a good Catholic by the way. I learned of him through a kind reader of this blog, and I have actually corresponded with him since. Give him your support in whatever he decides to do next with his campaigning.

We must pray for our president-elect's party that it might come to value the life of the unborn. We must all do our part to repent of all of our culture's sins against the sanctity of life, abortion especially. But we can't pretend that what secular politics calls "pro-life" is what is really implied by the term at its deepest Christian level, and we certainly can't let these compartmentalizations and oversimplifications into the Body of Christ.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right. Neither candidate is pro-life in the best sense of the word. I totatlly agree with the need to pray for this administration. I knew a Dominican Sister who always prayed for a conversion of hearts to end abortion. It makes alot of sense to me these days.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks, brother.

Matt G. said...

I agree completely. My "political" values have had quite a change of late, primarily because it has become increasingly difficult to make decisions independent of my faith. I ultimately did not vote for either of the major candidates, partly because I did not like either one of them and partly because I find that perpetuating the system that tends to silence more qualified candidates is unjust, I voted third party.
God Bless,

Brother Charles said...

it has become increasingly difficult to make decisions independent of my faith.

May it be so for us all!

Don said...

It's hard to imagine either political party becoming truly pro-life. I intend to keep writing to political leaders regarding a consistent ethic of life. You've done a good job of pointing this out in your post. :-) Don

Anonymous said...

While I agree with you in principle that neither candidate was (or is), pro-life in the best or full sense of the word, I do not believe you can place abortion on equal footing as the other issues you mentioned. Then Archbishop Levada wrote on statement on this for his committee at the USCCB a couple of years ago.

Br. James

Brother Charles said...

Indeed, I agree that the issues are not on "equal footing;" abortion is certainly the most barbaric and criminal of the many offenses against life in our culture. My point is just that they all come as aspects of a single problem--and we do our catholicity a disservice when we allow secular politics to compartmentalize them in our thinking, practice, and prayer.

Thanks for the link!

ben in denver said...

I saw this last week on some of the other sites I follow. Quite predictably, the posters on Commonweal were very upset about it, and the comments over at What Does the Prayer Really Say, we very pleased. My reaction was something more like yours.

What Fr. Newman said was technically correct. One should not vote for a Pro-abortion politician when there is a plausible pro-life alternative. What Fr. Newman didn't say in his letter was that John McCain was such a plausible alternative. I would suspect that if pressed, he would readily concede that the judgement of "plausibility" is a matter of rudence, and that people of good will might disagree.

I could not understand the contraversy. I think his second point, the one that did not make all of the media reports was in many respects more important. he said:

"Barack Obama, although we must always and everywhere disagree with him over abortion, has been duly elected the next President of the United States, and after he takes the Oath of Office next January 20th, he will hold legitimate authority in this nation. For this reason, we are obliged by Scriptural precept to pray for him and to cooperate with him whenever conscience does not bind us otherwise. Let us hope and pray that the responsibilities of the presidency and the grace of God will awaken in the conscience of this extraordinarily gifted man an awareness that the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States and constitutes a clear and present danger to the common good. In the time of President Obama’s service to our country, let us pray for him in the words of a prayer found in the Roman Missal:

God our Father, all earthly powers must serve you. Help our President-elect, Barack Obama, to fulfill his responsibilities worthily and well. By honoring and striving to please you at all times, may he secure peace and freedom for the people entrusted to him. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.