Elections, Part 4: The least problematic viable candidate

by SDG

in Government

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New comments link for Part 4! (TypePad says they’re working on this!)

SDG here (not Jimmy).

In previous posts, I’ve argued that, on the basis of what Catholic moral teaching understands as fundamental moral principles, the Obama–Biden ticket is far and away the more problematic of the two major-party candidacies, and the McCain–Palin ticket is far and away the less problematic of the two.

I would like to be able to leave the point there. Unfortunately, it has become necessary to make a defense for pro-life Catholics and others who agree with the above assessment — who, whatever objections, misgivings and reservations they may have about McCain–Palin, regard McCain–Palin as less problematic than Obama–Biden, who would prefer a McCain–Palin victory to an Obama–Biden victory — supporting and voting for McCain–Palin.

I don’t mean a defense of the thesis that such voters must vote for McCain–Palin. I mean a defense of the thesis that they may do so.

On first blush, this would seem to be too intuitive and obvious to need defending. Of course you vote for the candidate you hope to see win — what else?

As is often the case with intuitive insights, the reality turns out to be more complicated when you stop and think about it, with some conceptual speed bumps along the way. At the same time, also as is often the case, the intuitive insight is basically on the money. To support and vote for the candidate you hope to see win — or, as I’ve put it in previous posts, for the candidate you regard as the least problematic viable candidate — is always morally licit.

However, as I noted in my first post, some serious and thoughtful Catholics, including my friend Mark Shea and his sometime co-belligerent Zippy Catholic, have suggested or argued that McCain’s support of embryonic stem-cell research makes it objectively wrong for any Catholic to vote for him as well as Obama — even though Obama  supports ESCR as well as abortion, euthanasia and other intrinsically evil policies. (Added: Zippy has taken exception to my original characterization of his views, arguing that "in circumstances like ours there is no proportionate reason to vote for a presidential candidate who supports and promotes a policy of murdering the innocent." Mark seems at times to have proposed a similar view regarding voting for a candidate who supports any intrinsically evil policy.) Thus, on such a view, Catholics who support and vote for either major-party ticket, whatever their sincerity or their culpability may be, are engaged in objectively wrong behavior.

Among other things, it has been argued that voting for a candidate who supports objective evil as the lesser of two evils normalizes that level of evil as "the new normal." It has also been argued that voting for a candidate who supports objective evil involves remote material cooperation in evil, which requires a proportionate reason to be justifiable. But no one vote has any effect at all on the outcome of an election, the argument goes, so there is no proportionate reason.

The only moral alternatives, on this view, would seem to be (a) voting for some third-party candidate, however quixotic or hopeless, or (b) not voting at all. Mark and Zippy have thus become outspoken advocates of voting for a quixotic third-party candidate, strongly resisting any attempt, not only to encourage or pressure other Catholics to vote for McCain, but even to justify a Catholic vote for McCain.

Many Catholics and others who feel strongly about defeating Obama and wish to vote for the one ticket that could conceivably beat him have become unsettled by such claims, and are concerned that they cannot support or vote for McCain–Palin without betraying their faith. A growing number of Catholic voters, many apparently swayed by this scrupulous line of thinking, are joining Mark and Zippy in advocating quixotic candidates such as Chuck Baldwin (who, while he advocates no intrinsically evil policies, seems to be a bit of a kook) and Joe Schriner (a journalist and activist who seems to have some good ideas).

To the extent that quixotic-vote advocates may feel that the most prudent and productive course is to register dissent from all forms of intrinsically immoral policy by voting for a third-party candidate, they are within the bounds of legitimate prudential judgment.

However, to the extent that quixotic-vote advocates have been influenced by concerns over the alleged unjustifiability of voting for any candidate who supports any intrinsically immoral policy, even when the only other viable candidate is far worse, they have been led astray. Such concern is, I submit, unnecessary, unfounded and deeply unfortunate. Catholic moral theology does not
support the scrupulous conclusion that one cannot support or vote for
the candidate one regards as the least problematic viable candidate
unless that candidate is free of all support for intrinsically evil
policies.

To the extent that some quixotic-vote advocates have led others to believe that a vote for any candidate who supports any intrinsically immoral policy is objectively wrong, even when the only other viable candidate is far worse, I’m afraid that, with the best of intentions, they have done those others, and their country, a real disservice. By taking to public fora like blogs to actively influence Catholics in significant numbers to believe that they cannot vote for McCain in good conscience, it is in principle not impossible that quixotic-candidate advocates could help peel away critical support from McCain in battleground states, thereby indirectly contributing to an Obama victory. Morally speaking, this is not the same as actually supporting or voting for Obama, but the outcome for the common good of the country is no better for that.

In this and following posts I hope to contribute some needed clarity to the subject. Can informed and serious Catholics legitimately vote in good conscience for McCain–Palin in an effort to defeat the most pro-abortion major-party candidate in history? In a word: Yes. We. Can!

First, a brief summary of the argument.

  1. The outcome of any election has implications for the common good. In any election that offers more than one possible outcome, different outcomes will have differing implications for the common good, almost always including both positive and negative implications for any outcome. (In American presidential politics, once the primaries are over, the campaign underway and the VP choices announced, the number of possible outcomes is in a basic sense no more than two, and strictly limited to the major-party tickets. Note that we are concerned here with possible outcomes, not theoretical scenarios.) 

  2. Comparing and contrasting the implications for the common good of possible outcomes may be complex and uncertain, but it will often be possible for individual voters to arrive at prudential judgments regarding how positively or negatively they believe any possible outcome is likely to impact the common good, and thus to arrive at a preferential ranking of possible outcomes — or, in other words, a preferential ranking of viable candidates. This doesn’t necessarily mean liking or approving of any of the possible outcomes in any general way, only not regarding possible outcomes as equally desirable or undesirable. (In American presidential politics, this will almost invariably mean regarding one of the two major-party candidates as preferrable to, or less problematic than, the other.)

  3. In any election that offers more than one possible outcome, opinions among the electorate will differ widely, not only regarding the preferability of one candidate or another, but also the reasoning and the criteria for arriving at such judgments, even among those who agree on a particular candidate. (This is emphatically the case with our sharply divided American electorate.) There may in fact be no one policy, priority or factor that unites all who prefer a particular candidate, other than their common preference for their candidate over the major-party rival.

  4. Preferring one possible outcome to any others — regarding one viable candidate as preferable to or less problematic than any other viable candidates — seems to more or less entail hoping (or regarding it as in the interest of the common good) that the preferred possible outcome occurs, that the less problematic viable candidate wins. This in turn seems to more or less entail hoping that potential voters who share our preference for one viable candidate over any other(s) in fact vote for him in greater numbers than potential voters who feel otherwise will vote for his rival (on a state-by-state basis, in enough states to give him an electoral college victory). In other words, we believe that best possible outcome of the election as regards the common good depends on voters like us, voters who share our assessment of the candidates, voting for our preferred viable candidate, by a critical margin.

  5. What we wish to see other voters like ourselves do for the sake of the common good, we bear some responsibility or obligation to do ourselves. If we believe the common good is best served by voters like ourselves voting a certain way, that is how we ought to vote. How much responsibility we have in this regard may vary with circumstances (such as which state we live in), and other courses may sometimes be justifiable, including in some cases voting quixotic, which may also serve the public good in various ways. However, the benefit for the public good of voters voting in numbers for the least problematic viable candidate is never nonexistent (and always proportionate to the cooperation in evil), so the obligation to vote for the candidate we regard as the least problematic viable candidate is never nonexistent. And what we are in any degree obliged to do is always permissible to do.

That’s the short version. My next post will start to explore the argument in depth.

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{ 227 comments }

Jordanes October 17, 2008 at 8:40 am

Mark Shea and Zippy and those who agree with them in this matter are to be commended when they point us to the teachings of the Church and the statements of the Pope and the bishops on the issue of torture. Now they should be consistent and listen to the Pope and the bishops when they tell us that it isn’t a sin to vote for an imperfect candidate when the intent is to prevent the election of someone who is far, far worse.

Dan Hunter October 17, 2008 at 8:53 am

SDG,
I would like to send you an e-mail.
Could you please send me a contact e-mail address?
My e-mail is:
danphunter1@aol.com
Thank you and God bless you.

Eric October 17, 2008 at 8:57 am

“Catholic moral theology does not support the scrupulous conclusion that one cannot support or vote for the candidate one regards as the least problematic viable candidate unless that candidate is free of all support for intrinsically evil policies.”
This doesn’t make sense to me. If it’s supporting an intrinsic evil (labeled as “non-negotiable” by a number of folks) then how can it be justified?

SDG October 17, 2008 at 9:05 am

Dan Hunter: Will do.
Eric:

This doesn’t make sense to me. If it’s supporting an intrinsic evil (labeled as “non-negotiable” by a number of folks) then how can it be justified?

Supporting an intrinsic evil can’t be justified.
Supporting a candidate whose policy positions include support for an intrinsic evil can be justifiable if (a) one supports the candidate in spite of (not because of) the candidate’s evil policy support, and (b) the intrinsic evil supported by that candidate is less than the intrinsic evil supported by his only viable rival.
To anticipate my next post — to quote it, actually:
Let’s suppose two major-party candidates X and Y. Candidate X strongly supports several intrinsically immoral policies — virtually every such policy on the market, let’s suppose — while candidate Y is largely opposed to most of them, though with various qualifying asterisks and footnotes. (For example, let’s suppose that Y favors embryonic stem-cell research, though not as robustly as X, and while Y is anti-abortion he allows loopholes that may not be compatible with Catholic teaching, and so forth.)
In this case, it is permissible to vote for Y in spite of (not because of) his ESCR support and other asterisks and footnotes.
I’ll ‘splain more next time.

Ian October 17, 2008 at 9:54 am

Could you expand on the “Chuck Baldwin is a kook”?
I’m still trying to reconcile the statement from the bishops and Chaput et al. that don’t use the words “viable” or “likely to win” or “non quixotic” in their explanations of moral voting choices. None of their statements say picking the lesser evil of the TWO VIABLE candidates is a morally acceptable position. They do say that if there are ONLY TWO candidates then choosing the lesser evil is morally acceptable. If they meant electable, why didn’t they say it?

Augustiv October 17, 2008 at 10:03 am

I believe we will be in a far better position to actually end abortion (and ESCR) if, in the aftermath of the election, the Republicans notice that we aren’t pulling the lever for them anymore. They are using us as a constituency, keeping us herded in- like Democrats do to blacks. I’m not interested. I want it ended.
I suspect we need to actually do something different in order to get something done. Not voting presents the Republicans with a serious dilemma. Get somebody legitimate as a candidate, or get lost, and let a new party come to the fore.
McCain’s campaign finance laws are part of the reason it’s so hard for someone new to get enough funding to be a credible threat. There are enough pro-life millionaires; even just one wealthy man could fund a candidate’s campaign- but that’s illegal. This is exactly why we are sitting here with the sad choices we have today. The incumbents have made any credible competition with them illegal!

SDG October 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

Could you expand on the “Chuck Baldwin is a kook”?

Well, for example, AFAIK he’s sympathetic to the 9/11 Truther conspiracy theorists, and his opposition to the “new world order” appears to be apocalyptic in the literal sense.
In one place he says he says he considers the “three greatest threats waging war on America” to be “feminism, multiculturalism, and globalism.” But he also says:

For the record, the real battlefield today is not abortion. It is not homosexual marriage. It is not Social Security. It is not al Qaeda. It is not taxes. It is not inflation. It is not electing conservatives. It is not posting the Ten Commandments. It is not even the high cost of gasoline. … The battlefield where the devil has amassed his greatest forces and is thrusting his deadliest armies is the surrender of our national sovereignty and independence, and the creation of global government.

For starters.

I’m still trying to reconcile the statement from the bishops and Chaput et al. that don’t use the words “viable” or “likely to win” or “non quixotic” in their explanations of moral voting choices. None of their statements say picking the lesser evil of the TWO VIABLE candidates is a morally acceptable position. They do say that if there are ONLY TWO candidates then choosing the lesser evil is morally acceptable. If they meant electable, why didn’t they say it?

I’ll be discussing this more in upcoming posts. Briefly, I submit that my language on this point merely unpacks what is implicit and assumed in the bishops’ statements. The bishops are focused on clarifying the indefensible moral standing of the Catholic Obama vote, with establishing that there is no moral parity between what Obama stands for and what McCain stands for. They are looking toward those who are defecting to the pro-choice side and pulling pro-life as hard as tehy can. The issue of scrupulous quixotic voters in the other direction isn’t a blip on their radar screens.

Dave Mueller October 17, 2008 at 10:27 am

Augustiv,
That argument strikes me as so silly it is barely worth a response. In fact, the reality would probably be the exact reverse of what you say. Ceding the Presidency to Obama would cause the Supreme Court to be stocked with pro-Roe judges, and any chance to overturn Roe will probably be lost to us for the next 20 years. If FOCA passes, any and all restrictions on abortion will be nullified nationwide. Our taxes will be funding abortion, thus presenting us all with a dilemma as to whether we can even morally pay our taxes.
As for what losing the election would tell the GOP, it might give the impression you have stated. On the other hand, it’s probably more likely that it would cause some GOP leaders to think, “Gee, the other party nominated the most extreme pro-abortion candidate in history and won easily. Perhaps we better drop our pro-life stance.”

Dan Hunter October 17, 2008 at 10:37 am

Actually Alan Keyes is 100% pro-life and a devout Catholic who is running for president in the “Independant Party”.
We most definitely do have a choice other than the two pro-death candidates McCain and Obama.
Baldwin is a Baptist, but other than that he is not a “kook”. He is prolife.
and
Dr Alan Keyes is the brightest candidate out there.
Keyes is Catholic, 100% prolife and condemns the other non negotiables that the Holy Father condemns.
There is most definitely a choice other than the geezer and the buffoon.

Dan Hunter October 17, 2008 at 10:48 am

Alan Keyes on Abortion
American Independent nominee for President;2008
Principles in Declaration of Independence prohibit abortion
The Declaration of Independence states plainly that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with our basic human rights. But if human beings can decide who is human & who is not, the doctrine of God-given rights is utterly corrupted.
For these & similar reasons, abortion must be understood as the unjust taking of a human life, & a breach of the fundamental principles of our public moral creed. Some people talk about “viability” as a test to determine which human offspring have rights that we must respect, & which do not.
But “might does not make right.” So the mere fact that the person in the womb is wholly in its mother’s physical power & completely dependent upon her for sustenance gives her no right whatsoever with respect to its life –since the mere possession of physical power can never confer such a right. Therefore, medical procedures resulting in the death of the unborn child, except as an unintended consequence of efforts to save the mother’s physical life, are impermissible.
Source: Campaign website, http://www.alankeyes.com, “Issues” Oct 1, 2008
Embryonic stem cell research experiments with human life
No medical advance, and certainly no material profit, justifies denying the claim to humanity of the embryonic human person. Those who try to justify it are driven from one tortured rationalization to another, none addressing the real issue. Being undeveloped, unconscious, unattractive, small, or unwanted–these are not reasons that we accept in any other context for failing to respect the wholeness of moral worth that every human being has from his Creator. Why, therefore, should we accept it in regard to embryonic research?
No–we do not have the right to take human life merely because it is unconscious, or because it is undeveloped or damaged, or for any other reason that tempts us to deny the equal dignity of all human persons. We ourselves don’t want to be used as the basis for experiments without regard for our humanity–and neither should they.
Source: Campaign website, http://www.alankeyes.com, “Issues” Oct 1, 2008
Constitutional amendment defining life from conception
Q: What will you do to restore legal protection to the unborn?
A: The first and most important thing that we would do is champion an amendment to the United States Constitution that makes it crystal clear that the right to life of all human beings, from conception to natural death, must be respected. It’s simple. It’s clear. It must be done. I would issue an executive order immediately granting the full protection of the presidency, and every element of the executive branch, to the life in the womb
Source: 2008 Independant Values Voter Presidential Debate Sep 17, 2007
Preamble to Constitution includes our unborn posterity
We also need to reiterate the truth that, in the Preamble to our Constitution, it makes clear that the ultimate aim of our government is to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Our posterity includes many we can’t even imagine, who have not yet been born. Surely, it includes those who are sleeping in the womb. I would make sure that no judges were appointed to the Supreme Court who did not strictly respect its mandate to secure the liberties of our posterity.
Source: 2008 Independant Values Voter Presidential

Jordanes October 17, 2008 at 10:54 am

There is most definitely a choice other than the geezer and the buffoon.
In an actual sense, yes, but in a practical sense, no there isn’t. If you’re in a state that is solid Obama or solid McCain, go ahead at vote third party, but in a state where you vote could make a difference against Obama, fasten on your clothespin.

Dave Mueller October 17, 2008 at 10:55 am

Well, sure, there are plenty of good candidates for President. Besides Baldwin, Keyes, etc. you could also write in Jimmy Akin or SDG too….but it’s a waste of your vote either way.
Even if every strong pro-lifer in the country voted for one of these doomed candidates, they wouldn’t come close to winning.
If you want viable alternative parties, work hard for them in between election cycles. Right now, the reality is that the existing 3rd parties are barely blips on the radar screen. Voting for Keyes, Akin, Baldwin, Jesus, etc. isn’t worth the gas money it’ll cost you to drive to the polls.

SDG October 17, 2008 at 11:16 am

Hear Jordanes and Dave Mueller. They speak wisdom.

Pat October 17, 2008 at 11:25 am

With all that has been said on this issue and all the distinctions that we as humans (of the Catholic variety) have spelled out; what place does the Sovereignty of God play in the authority placed in any leader at any time with any agenda? There seems to be a quasi-ontological element involved here at the end of the day.
Admittedly, I am an idiot with regard to many of these issues, however, there seems to be a little theological over-kill going on here- taking the simple yet complex and turning it to the simplistic and complicated.

Ian October 17, 2008 at 11:29 am

SDG: It’s nice to be able to assume a particular intent on the part of the bishops. Do you have anything from any of them in writing or even hearsay saying that their actual intent and lack of writing about third parties is actually correct? You certainly sound reasonable in your defense but I can’t square it with what is actually on paper.
If you were trying to defend a particular liturgical aberration that didn’t square with what was on paper you would probably have the same folks praising you now dog-piling on you for disregarding what is on paper because you know what they “really” meant to say.
I would sure like to be able to accept your arguments but so far, I’m not convinced.

Dan Hunter October 17, 2008 at 11:32 am

Dave,
I would not want to be in anyones shoes,or barefeet, come their particular judgement and have to face the Great and Almighty Judge, Christ Himself, and have to give an accounting of how and why I voted for either a pro-death McCain or pro-death Obama.
If we, with Gods grace keep our souls in a state of sanctifying grace, He will look after our country, otherwise if if commit mortal sin in this matter our country will be punished.
Mark these words.
I am rallying many, many people in North Carolina to vote for Alan Keyes, or Chuck Baldwin.
God bless you.

August October 17, 2008 at 11:33 am

Dave,
History proves your position to be laughable.
If voting Republican so that they could then appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices worked, WE WOULD HAVE WON BY NOW!!!!!
Do the math. Read the history. And you know what? One real pro-life president could end abortion, but he’d have to have the guts to take on the Supreme Court, as an entity. It has no right to the power John Marshall pretended it did.
You do not present a threat, or an incentive, to either party. Nothing will change. If it did, Bush could end it today. It’s too convienent for them as a political issue.

Dave Mueller October 17, 2008 at 11:40 am

Ian,
SDG probably has a better answer, but to me, if the U.S. bishops WERE NOT limiting the discussion to only VIABLE candidates, they could simply say, “one may not vote for a candidate who supports any intrinsic evil.” Period.
This is obvious because although there are only two candidates with a chance to win, there are probably 100 million qualified candidates, and surely at least several hundred thousand of them do not support any intrinsic evil. At the very worst case, one could vote for themselves, if they were the only person they knew who were orthodox in their beliefs and did not support any intrinsic evil.
Since the bishops did not do this and instead discuss under what conditions we may vote for candidates who are not perfect on the “intrinsic evil” standard, we may therefore assume that they are limiting their calculus to those candidates who have a chance to win.

SDG October 17, 2008 at 11:41 am

I am rallying many, many people in North Carolina to vote for Alan Keyes, or Chuck Baldwin.

Wow. Just wow. A battleground state. You have the deep gratitude of Mr. Obama, NARAL, Justices Ginsberg, Souter, Stevens, Breyer, and Kennedy, Death With Dignity, and the Democratic majority in Congress, among others.

Dave Mueller October 17, 2008 at 11:50 am

Dan Hunter,
You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but I don’t think you are following the statements of the Popes and bishops on this matter, nor SDG’s attempts to synthesize them, if you think one is committing a sin at all, much less a mortal sin, by voting for McCain.
I’m certainly afraid of my appearance at the judgment seat, but voting for McCain is not one of the things I am worried about accounting for in the least. Just the opposite, my advocacy for McCain will likely be one of the few things in my favor.
As far as the Supreme Court justices, there are no guarantees. Bush took bad advice on Souter. Kennedy was supposed to be the real deal, but he changed his mind. The other four are very solid, and it wasn’t Reagan’s fault that Bork got borked.
So we have a 67-70% chance of success on the GOP side, and a 0-1% chance on the Dem side, of getting a judge to overturn Roe v. Wade. Or, by voting for Baldwin or Keyes, you can get judges with a 100% chance to overturn Roe but with a 0% chance of being elected.

Jordanes October 17, 2008 at 11:55 am

I would not want to be in anyones shoes,or barefeet, come their particular judgement and have to face the Great and Almighty Judge, Christ Himself, and have to give an accounting of how and why I voted for either a pro-death McCain or pro-death Obama.
I have many things about me that, when I consider the Judgment, make me tremble and set me begging from mercy.
Voting for McCain to stop Obama isn’t one of them, because it’s not a sin. Remember the principle of “double effect.” Listen to Mother Church, Dan.
I’d love it if Alan Keyes were the Republican candidate, and I’d love it if this were a country where his being the Republican candidate wouldn’t guarantee Obama’s election. But I have to live in the real world, not the one I wish I lived in.

Pat October 17, 2008 at 11:59 am

Dave Mueller,
You are the winner! In the words of Al Gore, “The debate is over!”
This comment nails it perfectly:
At the very worst case, one could vote for themselves, if they were the only person they knew who were orthodox in their beliefs and did not support any intrinsic evil.
It also answers Dan Hunter’s concern about answering to God at final judgement:
Dan, casting a vote for yourself is as viable as casting one for Keyes (Whom I love, by the way).

Dan Hunter October 17, 2008 at 12:02 pm

I’m certainly afraid of my appearance at the judgment seat, but voting for McCain is not one of the things I am worried about accounting for in the least. Just the opposite, my advocacy for McCain will likely be one of the few things in my favor.
Dave,
No it will not. Not for anyone who votes for any pro-death pol, unless of course there is contrition.
SDG,
NC, is not a battleground state, but the Catholics and pro-life protestants that I know will do battle against the forces of Gehenna
God bless you

SDG October 17, 2008 at 12:09 pm

No it will not. Not for anyone who votes for any pro-death pol, unless of course there is contrition.

Dan, I’m more grieved by your resistance to the Church’s shepherds and their teaching than by your de facto pro-Obama efforts in a crucial state.
That said, you are free to voice your opinion. That said, you have done so. If you have no response to the arguments being made and nothing further to add, please refrain from further imputations of sin. Thank you.

NC, is not a battleground state

Unfortunately, it is.

Dan Hunter October 17, 2008 at 12:57 pm

SDG,
What it finally comes down to, for many people, is to pick the “lesser of two evils”.
Many think that John Mccain is that “lesser of two evils”.
His pro-death stance is still evil.
Christ told us that:”he who is unjust in small things is unjust in large as well”.
We are NEVER permitted to vote for an intrinsic evil, especially since there are non-evil alternatives.
No Church authority, be it the Infallible Magisterium, the Holy Father, the Holy Office, the bishops of the world in union with the Holy Father has ever, ever, allowed, espoused or condoned choosing the lesser of two evils, for any reason.
I am sorry that this truth threatens you, but I say this in all caritas both for the Mystical Body and my eternal salvation.
I am also sorry that you see my absolute condemnation of an intrinsic
evil as me supporting Obama, “de facto”.
Nothing I have said on this matter or nothing I will do will advertantly or inadvertantly support this Moslem infanticide merchant.
“That all may be one.”

Jordanes October 17, 2008 at 12:58 pm

If Dan were to be consistent in his principles, then he would have to conclude that if he were killed by jumping in front of a train to push a child to safety, then God would have to send him to hell for committing the mortal sin of suicide. Thankfully that’s not what Catholic morality teaches.

Jordanes October 17, 2008 at 1:03 pm

We are NEVER permitted to vote for an intrinsic evil, especially since there are non-evil alternatives.
One of them is voting for McCain to prevent Obama’s election. McCain, of course, is not an intrinsic evil, but is, as God says in Genesis chapter 1, one of his “very good” creations.
Listen to your Mother, Dan. She knows best.

Steve October 17, 2008 at 1:03 pm

There is no such thing as being Catholic and pro-choice under any circumstances. These same dissident voices would equate killing the unborn human baby with jobs, health care, death penalty, immigration and other social ills as just one of the many issues to consider when voting. This betrays not only their pro-choice position but confuses the faithful, however well worded.
If we can federally fund the killing of the innocent with impunity, we have killed a nation’s conscience. Are we that surprised at the other social ills stalking this land?

SDG October 17, 2008 at 1:36 pm

We are NEVER permitted to vote for an intrinsic evil, especially since there are non-evil alternatives.

No Church authority, be it the Infallible Magisterium, the Holy Father, the Holy Office, the bishops of the world in union with the Holy Father has ever, ever, allowed, espoused or condoned choosing the lesser of two evils, for any reason.

I am sorry that this truth threatens you, but I say this in all caritas both for the Mystical Body and my eternal salvation.

My idea that when one does something in caritas, one generally shouldn’t have to say so, because if one is really filled with divine love for the other person, they’ll know without being told.
I am willing to be harsh if I judge it appropriate. I try not to be condescending. Harshness is compatible with respect; condescension isn’t. Please consider whether the amateur psychoanalysis of the last sentence above is really necessary.
If you have any thoughts about the principle of double effect, Dan, now would be the time to offer them.

David L. October 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm

It is comforting to see so many Chuck Baldwin supporters posting here. Wasting your vote on McCain is a dead end.

Zippy October 17, 2008 at 2:08 pm

… have suggested or argued that to support and vote for a candidate who advocates any intrinsically immoral policy, even if the only other viable alternative is far worse, is objectively wrong.
That is a grossly unfair misrepresentation of my conclusion (which is my own, and may or may not be coextensive with Mark’s on some points).
My position, for which I’ve given extensive arguments on my blog and elsewhere, is that in circumstances like ours there is no proportionate reason to vote for a presidential candidate who supports and promotes a policy of murdering the innocent: specifically murdering the innocent, not “any intrinsically immoral policy”.
And since both McCain and Obama support and promote policies of murdering the innocent, there is no proportionate reason to vote for either of them.
I ask that you correct the misrepresentation in the post, please.

Jordanes October 17, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Okay, Zippy, so you think that sometimes it is acceptable to vote for candidates who support and promote intrinsically evil policies, just not policies that entail the murder of the innocent?
And since both McCain and Obama support and promote policies of murdering the innocent, there is no proportionate reason to vote for either of them.
It’s a good thing Catholic morality doesn’t require us to agree with your opinion, or else Catholics in our society today would, practically speaking, hardly ever be able to have any say in the election of national leaders and Congressmen.
If we’re faced with a choice that we know will result in the deaths of millions of innocent people, and the only practical option is a choice that could save a few hundred thousand of them, would you think the only moral option is to step aside and let the millions die? Because that’s what “proportionate reasons” are about here: trying to limit an evil that we cannot stop at this time. Trying to stop FOCA and the nomination of pro-abortion judges, and trying to save the Mexico City policy and impede the spread of the abortion culture in Catholic Central and South America, is more than enough proportionate reasons to vote for McCain.

SDG October 17, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Zippy: Thanks. I’ll update the post this evening, first chance I get.

Keiser October 17, 2008 at 2:44 pm

If I might make some additional comments as an STL in Moral Theology:
1. The principle of the lesser evil has only two solid foundations in the theological tradition: a. Tolerance of certain sins by public officials since to legislate against them is prudently judged to cause a greater evil per accidens (abortion, by the way, would never apply here)
b. One may be silent for the moment in admonishing the sinner who sins in ignorance for fear that they may begin sinning formally, which is the greater evil (though the assumption is that the person can eventually be led to the truth).
In both cases, the action of the agent’s will is not to choose, but to permit, i.e., to not act.
One thing, however, that is not part of the principle is that one may CHOOSE a lesser evil. In fact, any evil, whether lesser or greater, can never be chosen as an object of our will. I believe Dan Hunter has been trying to hammer this home.
But SDG is right in that VOTING is not necessarily choosing an evil. It’s choosing a candidate. If we choose that candidate PRECISELY BECAUSE of his support for a per se evil, than we are certainly wrong. There, it is the object of our act that is wrong.
But if in prudence we choose the candidate that will promote the most good, and the least evil, that’s just fine. The object of our will is to prevent evil, not to promote it.
The thing is, such a view completely rules out the candidate that is most in favor of killing the innocent. This is simply because killing the innocent is never beneficial to society. No matter how many goods we may pretend are promoted thereby, it is simply wrong, in every case.
Both Obama and McCain are in favor of killing the innocent to some degree: Obama by intense support of abortion and infanticide, McCain by support of embryonic stem-cell research. Faced with such a decision, we may either choose a candidate that is more in line with the values we espouse PRECISELY BECAUSE of those values, or we may choose the candidate that prudence sees will more likely prevent greater evils PRECISELY TO AVOID GREATER EVIL.

David Mueller October 17, 2008 at 2:52 pm

David L., Dan Hunter,
To show how completely ridiculous your position is, consider this:
It is more likely that President Barack Obama will appoint a judge that will overturn Roe vs. Wade (albeit accidentally) than that President Chuck Baldwin or President Alan Keyes will appoint a judge that will overturn Roe vs. Wade.
There’s a famous quote: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Make no mistake, my fellow Catholics, if you vote for Baldwin, Keyes, yourself, or Jimmy Akin, you are doing nothing. John McCain is the only candidate with a chance to defeat Barack Obama.
Anyone who stands aside and allows the most pro-death candidate in US History (and I’m not limiting myself to Presidential candidates) win when they could have done something practical to stop it is complicit with the evil.
Now, if you’re in a state where the election is totally certain for one candidate or the other, then sure, go ahead and vote for whoever you want, for all the good it’ll do (none), but in states that are contested, it is totally insane not to do everything possible to stop Barack Obama from ascending to the Presidency.

Dave Mueller October 17, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Keiser,
Don’t forget that Obama also supports ESCR much more strongly than does McCain.
All,
I probably stepped over the line by saying that voting for a 3rd party in a contested state makes one complicit with evil. The Church allows that option, though my opinion is that it is EXTREMELY imprudent.

Bob October 17, 2008 at 4:35 pm

There is another thing to consider in all of this. An Obama/Reid/Pelosi/NARAL/NOW/ACORN administration is going to get things started by getting the “fairness doctrine” back in place. Then they will start in on expanding it to the internet. So down the road, blogs like Jimmy’s will have to present pro-choice arguments right along side of pro-life arguments.
So while you Baldwin/Keyes voters are walking around with your freshly amputated noses, we are going to be losing one of the most vital weapons we have in the war on abortion: the freedom to get the word out without MSM filters.
Liberalism and secularism have made progress over the last 50 years one inch at a time. As much as we would all like to take all that ground back tomorrow, we need to be honest with ourselves about how we can get this done.
Does anyone else but me see the gift that we have been given in Gov. Palin? Do you realize why she is so hated? She represents one of the best messengers for the pro-life cause that we have ever had. She chose to carry her son to term and to love him for the creation that he is. She walks the walk. And she has the ability to persuade and lead on this issue.
The reality we face is that chatter isn’t going to get the job done. I wouldn’t know Chuck Baldwin if I bumped into him. And while Keyes says the right things, it is all just academic. The guy just doesn’t have the kind of personality and leadership style that is going to get him anywhere. He just isn’t a born leader. I’m sorry if that sounds shallow, but in 2008 America that is an important element. Soldiers don’t choose their battlefields — they fight wherever they meet the enemy.

The Masked Chicken October 17, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Let me cast this argument in plain terms. A man is approaching a baby, intent to kill it. You are its father. You have a choice of two weapons: a Glock 9mm handgun or a cracked pipe, that has, maybe, five good hits. Which do you choose to defend the baby? Oh, by the way, the gun has no bullets.
That, it seems to me, is the problem with voting for third party candidates. Obama supports the existence of aggression, with respect to some unborn children, since he solidly supports abortion rights. Those babies are spiritually ours to adopt, since the parents have given them up and placed them out of reach for physical adoption. We are their, de facto, fathers and mothers and we must do something.
The primary purpose of a vote, at this date, is not to put a perfect pro-life candidate into office, but to prevent Obama from being put in office. The purpose of the vote, at this date, is to resist someone who would permit aggression towards the unborn (much more than McCain).
The possibility of defeating (resisting) Obama by voting for a third-party candidate is exactly like trying to defend the baby with a gun with no bullets. It cannot hit the target, as it can have NO effect on the electoral college votes.
On the other hand, voting for McCain, with all of his flaws, may not stop Obama from being elected, but it can take away his mandate. Obama may get hit with five blows that make it impossible for him to easily implement his pro-choice agenda. That is a good and certainly valid ground for voting for McCain and a good reason not to vote for a third-party candidate. It is not that it simply wouldn’t do any good to vote for a third-party candidate. It would do positive harm, by using a good but impotent device to stop an aggressor. It is better to get five solid whacks with a cracked pipe than to wave an empty gun.
At this point, since McCain is almost certain to lose the election (I hate to say that), the best option the pro-life people have is to make sure: a)there are solid pro-life people in place at more local, state, and federal levels, to slow Obama down, and b)that Obama cannot claim a mandate that will early on, allow him to implement his policies. Situations can change and I suspect that he will have his hands full very quickly after he is elected.
Thus, the doctrine of double effect certainly can play. You are not voting to elect McCain, even if he is an evil choice; you are voting to stop or slow down Obama. Consider the best way to do that. Only those things that affect the electoral college can do that. No third-party candidate can do that at this time.
Choose the broke pipe.
The Chicken

The Maksed Chicken October 17, 2008 at 5:11 pm

That should be:
Choose the broken pipe.
(Rats, it was a really cool tag line).
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken October 17, 2008 at 5:13 pm

I even misspelled my name in the last post. This is so a Friday night :)
The Chicken

Zippy October 17, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Okay, Zippy, so you think that sometimes it is acceptable to vote for [Presidential] candidates who support and promote intrinsically evil policies, just not policies that entail the murder of the innocent?
Right. Though more accurately, I don’t take a position on that. Killing the innocent, in its relation to what constitutes the legitimate authority of the State, is a unique case among intrinsic evils; as Evangelium Vitae tells us.
If we’re faced with a choice that we know will result in the deaths of millions of innocent people, and the only practical option is a choice that could save a few hundred thousand of them, would you think the only moral option is to step aside and let the millions die?
Well, it depends on the concrete choice; but in any case, the hypothetical doesn’t apply to voting. You don’t get to decide who actually wins and who actually loses when you vote. That just isn’t what an act of voting is. You can add your negligible voice to McCain’s mandate, whether he wins or loses, but you can’t make him win or lose. So what you need a proportionate reason to do is “adding one vote to McCain’s mandate” not “making McCain win over Obama”. A double-effect justification has to make reference to the actual effects of your act.
Now, if you had the power to choose that McCain actually win over Obama, there might well be a double-effect justification for that kind of act. But that kind of act – an act of making McCain win over Obama – isn’t what your act of voting is. You don’t have the power to make McCain win over Obama, or vice versa. We have to justify our acts based on what they actually do accomplish, not on what we wish they could accomplish.

SDG October 17, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Zippy: I’ve updated the post. Hope that’s satisfactory. In coming posts, I will demonstrate that in fact proportionate reasons exist.
Keiser: You are of course correct. I’ll be fine-tuning this argument to deal with some of the objections that have been raised by Mark and Zippy.
Dave Mueller: I agree with everything you write… including your own critique of your stepping over the line. It is better to say that voting quixotic in a contested state is extremely imprudent.
Chicken: I like your cracked pipe / empty Glock analogy.
I think of voting for the less problematic viable candidate as akin to a school of fish in a polluted river, with some of the fish suicidally trying to move the school downstream where cumulative toxicity levels are highest, and other fish more sensibly trying to move upstream where toxicity levels are lower, but still not pure. If it’s the least toxic water that is actually within the school’s range, it makes sense to swim in that direction.
I can think of ways to further specify this to take the analogy further… more later.

Jordanes October 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

We have to justify our acts based on what they actually do accomplish, not on what we wish they could accomplish.
You couldn’t be more wrong. As in the classic case of unintentionally killing yourself while saving a child, it doesn’t matter that your killed yourself if your intent was saving the child rather than killing yourself — nor does it matter if your attempt to save the child fails. If we were to adopt your erroneous understanding of double effect, hysterectomies or removal of a woman’s fallopian tube in cases ectopic pregnancy would be impermissible, because such surgery could lead not only to the unintended and unavoidable death of the baby but also to the unintended death of the mother. We have to look at intent, not just practical outcome.
Zippy, it seems the biggest part of your problem is that you don’t know how to classify or define the act of voting in terms of Catholic morality. Voting is helping to get a candidate elected, cooperating with others to nominate or select a leader. It doesn’t matter a hill of beans that a person’s individual vote doesn’t get the candidate elected, it only matters that his vote is a cooperation in a specific act that has a moral character. To express support for a candidate who espouses an intrinsic evil as a matter of policy is cooperation in evil, but as the Pope says, remote material cooperation in evil is justifiable in the presence of proportionate reasons (thankfully, because otherwise life would grind to a screeching halt). Working with others in an attempt to prevent Congress from passing FOCA and prevent Obama from signing FOCA and overturning the Mexico City policy and appointing pro-abortion judges are more than ample proportionate reasons, far outweighing the few areas where McCain’s views are contrary to Church teaching and natural law.
Whereas you seem to think those reasons cannot justify voting for an imperfect candidate, there can be no doubt that the Church doesn’t agree with your personal opinion. I just hope you live in a state that is solidly for McCain or Obama, so there won’t be any real likelihood that how you vote or don’t vote ends up unintentionally helping to get Obama elected.

Ian October 17, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Let’s suppose that we elect McCain.
Let’s suppose that the next Republican nominee, thinking that the best way to do better in the election is to move left on abortion. Let’s say he supports abortion through the first trimester. Do we still vote for him if the Democrat holds Obama’s position on abortion?
What about three elections from now when the Republican holds the same views on abortion as the democrat except that he opposes partial-birth abortions. Then what?
At what point is the evil position of both candidates enough to justify not voting for either? Or does that ever happen? If you could actually break it down to one candidate is one baby less pro-abortion than the other, do you still vote for the lesser of two evils?

Jordanes October 17, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Let’s suppose that the next Republican nominee, thinking that the best way to do better in the election is to move left on abortion. Let’s say he supports abortion through the first trimester. Do we still vote for him if the Democrat holds Obama’s position on abortion?
I suppose some would be able to bring themselves to do that, but in such a situation I would have to vote third party or not at all. There would be no practical difference between the two candidates, just one of slight degrees or shades, hard to distinguish.
Of course, as this election year has shown, the Republicans would ensure their defeat if they nominated such a candidate. The Christians would boycot the election, as they nearly did this year before McCain chose Palin as his running mate. If they’d chosen Giuliani, there would have been no way I would have voted Republican, and before he chose Palin I was still contemplating whether to vote at all this fall, or whether I should clamp on the clothespin.
What about three elections from now when the Republican holds the same views on abortion as the democrat except that he opposes partial-birth abortions. Then what?
Same as above: once that happens, there can be no voting for the two main parties’ candidates. It would have to be third party or stay home: unless, I suppose, one of the candidates was, say, promising the genocide of a whole race or class or people. Then one could again seek to limit that evil in how one casts his ballot. But once things have gotten that bad, the fellowship of the Round Table has been shattered, and it’s the Battle of Camlann: it wouldn’t make much sense to pretend there was still any civil society left to participate in, so the question of who to vote for, for Catholics, would be moot.
At what point is the evil position of both candidates enough to justify not voting for either?
Hard to say. It’s not a simple, black-and-white thing, or something that can be mathematically calculated.
If you could actually break it down to one candidate is one baby less pro-abortion than the other, do you still vote for the lesser of two evils?
Well, we can’t break it down that way, so there’s no point in considering that question.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 4:53 am

We have to justify our acts based on what they actually do accomplish, not on what we wish they could accomplish.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
Au contraire. The “proportionate” in “proportionate reasons”, in Aquinas’ account of double-effect, requires the act to be efficacious in achieving its end without going overboard. It doesn’t require a balancing act between outcomes that the act is incapable of achieving, but that the acting subject wishes it were capable of achieving.
Again, the “effects” we must weigh in evaluating an act under double effect are the actual effects of our act. So to evaluate voting under double effect we have to evaluate the actual effects of voting, not a false but pervasive mythology surrounding voting and its connection to outcomes.
It is true that intentions also matter: that is, one must never formally cooperate with evil. But we are stipulating remote material cooperation with evil here already: we assume that the person does not vote for McCain because of McCain’s support for murdering the innocent. There is no need to sidetrack the discussion on the matter of intentions because I am already assuming a right intention, and have moved on to evaluating whether or not there is in fact a proportionate reason to vote for a Presidential candidate who supports murdering the innocent. There isn’t.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 5:00 am

Let’s suppose that the next Republican nominee, thinking that the best way to do better in the election is to move left on abortion. Let’s say he supports abortion through the first trimester. Do we still vote for him if the Democrat holds Obama’s position on abortion?
Great question. That is effectively where McCain is. Any argument which can justify a vote for McCain can also justify voting for a candidate who unequivocally supports first trimester abortion, or abortion of asian babies only, or whatever.

bill912 October 18, 2008 at 5:35 am

???

Scott W. October 18, 2008 at 5:55 am

???
It’s called the Hegelian Mambo (two steps left, one step right. meaning we are always sliding leftward into oblivion). Essentially all the Dems have to do is keep nominating candidates with monstrously evil policies and the Republicans need only nominate candidates not nearly as bad to continuely have good Catholics chasing the lesser evil right over a cliff.

Scott W. October 18, 2008 at 6:27 am

“continually” not “continuely:. Is kan spel! (although “perpetually” might be a better word.)

Diane October 18, 2008 at 6:35 am

Excellent post series which I will link to on my blog. This issue needed to be touched on because of the number of pro-life Catholics I know who say they can’t vote for McCain because he is not 100% pro-life or because he was divorced and remarried.
Those pro-life Catholics who don’t feel they can vote for McCain because he is not 100% pro-life, thus – a vote for Obama (since only two men have a shot at the White House and most Pro-life voters are voting for McCain), will probably reel the most when Obama gets in and appoints people like pro-choice Michigan Gov Jennifer Granholm to the US Supreme Court. These appointments will stack the courts for decades since they are life long appointments.
They will reel the most when the Freedom of Choice Act is signed in to law, without contest in a Democratic majority congress, negating every pro-life gain in the states – including bans on partial birth abortion. Obama has vowed to make this the first thing he signs into law. Google it and watch it on YouTube as he spoke to Planned Parenthood.
They will reel when our tax dollars are used to fund abortion here and overseas.
The list goes on.

Jordanes October 18, 2008 at 6:37 am

Au contraire. The “proportionate” in “proportionate reasons”, in Aquinas’ account of double-effect, requires the act to be efficacious in achieving its end without going overboard.
You’re completely out to sea with a rudder, Zippy. St. Thomas refers to the need that the act, not the reasons for the act, not be out of proportion. But as Mangan presents the explanation of the principle of double effect, there must be “a proportionately grave reason for permitting the evil effect.” It is certain that if people do not vote for McCain, Obama become president and will certainly do the evil things he says he will do. Doing a good thing — voting against Obama — is permissible, even though it has an unintended evil side effect of electing a man who is only mostly pro-life instead of completely pro-death as Obama is. If FOCA, Mexico City, etc., aren’t proportionately grave reasons, nothing could ever allow any evil effect.
It doesn’t require a balancing act between outcomes that the act is incapable of achieving
Again, since you don’t understand what voting is and does (or maybe you’re choosing to misdefine it to come up with a justification for your not joining in the effort to prevent Obama’s election), you say the act of voting against Obama is incapable of achieving the outcome of having Obama not receive a vote.
Again, the “effects” we must weigh in evaluating an act under double effect are the actual effects of our act. So to evaluate voting under double effect we have to evaluate the actual effects of voting, not a false but pervasive mythology surrounding voting and its connection to outcomes.
Yep. That’s why it is permissible to vote for McCain.
It is true that intentions also matter: that is, one must never formally cooperate with evil. But we are stipulating remote material cooperation with evil here already: we assume that the person does not vote for McCain because of McCain’s support for murdering the innocent.
Then you have conceded the argument from the outset. Thanks. All you have is the assertion of your unsubstantiated opinion, one unsupported by Church doctrine (see Evangelium Vitae 73-74 for a little guidance here: the same principles that apply to elected officials apply to voters), that there is not a proportionate reason to vote for McCain in spite of his being “only 95 percent pro-life,” so to speak.
If your words and deeds end up contributing to Obama’s victory next month, you will have no standing to object to his rollback of every scanty pro-life gain that has been made since 1973.

Jordanes October 18, 2008 at 6:38 am

Without a rudder, that is.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 6:52 am

Ian: Let’s suppose that the next Republican nominee, thinking that the best way to do better in the election is to move left on abortion. Let’s say he supports abortion through the first trimester. Do we still vote for him if the Democrat holds Obama’s position on abortion?

Zippy: Great question. That is effectively where McCain is.

McCain says he believes that human rights begin “at the moment of conception.” His voting record seems consistent with this. Do you have evidence supporting the seriousness of your charge?
Question: Is there any reason to think that future GOP candidates will be more likely or less likely to move left on abortion rather than right if McCain wins instead of loses? My personal guess is that the defeat of McCain-Palin is more likely to move the GOP away from pro-life than their victory. Conversely, a McCain-Palin victory is more likely to strengthen the party’s pro-life commitment rather than weaken it.

It’s called the Hegelian Mambo (two steps left, one step right. meaning we are always sliding leftward into oblivion). Essentially all the Dems have to do is keep nominating candidates with monstrously evil policies and the Republicans need only nominate candidates not nearly as bad to continuely have good Catholics chasing the lesser evil right over a cliff.

In that case, society is going over the cliff either way — and all the faster once scrupulous Catholics decide that their consciences won’t let them use their votes to try to slow the slide.
If society is going over the cliff either way and all we can accomplish is slowing the slide by throwing our swing votes toward the lesser of two evils, then I think that’s worth doing.
Or is it better to say “Since we can’t stop society going over the cliff, I don’t want to get my hands dirty trying to slow it down?”
Certainly voting quixotic isn’t going to slow the slide, let alone stop it.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 6:55 am

Again, the “effects” we must weigh in evaluating an act under double effect are the actual effects of our act. So to evaluate voting under double effect we have to evaluate the actual effects of voting, not a false but pervasive mythology surrounding voting and its connection to outcomes.

It is true that intentions also matter: that is, one must never formally cooperate with evil. But we are stipulating remote material cooperation with evil here already: we assume that the person does not vote for McCain because of McCain’s support for murdering the innocent.

Zippy, I invite you to consider these brief sentences of yours and discover the fallacy I will be exploring in upcoming posts.

The Masked Chicken October 18, 2008 at 7:26 am

Actually, voting for a third party candidate is covered under the doctrine of “triple effect.” :)
Seriously, there is no such thing as being 95% pro-life, as many people have said, but they haven’t gone a step further in the reasoning process. If they had, they would see something even more bizzare.
Consider: abortion is abortion. ESCR requires abortion of some sort to obtain the embryos. McCain cannot simultaneously claim to be against abortion and for abortion, since abortion is a single final act that does not admit partitioning. Thus, in reality, McCain contradicts himself on the matter of abortion, rather than allowing abortion or preventing abortion (I do not know Palin’s views on ESCR). As such, McCain really doesn’t have a position on abortion, he only seems to. A contradiction has no truth value, so one cannot even ask the question: is McCain pro-life. The question makes no sense under the contradictory nature of his propose policies.
As such, the only charitable conclusion one can reach is that McCain doesn’t understand the issues well enough to be consistent. He is therefore, probably, ignorant of certain pro-life issues, since no candidate would, presumably, deliberately contradict himself on policy statements during an election year.
So, one cannot say McCain’s position on abortion makes any sense nor is it clear. As such, it cannot even be rationally considered. He must either clarify his position, consistently, or be ignored on this issue.
Thus, to say that a vote for McCain is a vote for an intrinsic evil is not correct. McCain really doesn’t have a position on abortion, he only seems to. One may ask, if McCain were educated better on pro-life matters, would he change is position on ESCR? If this is probable, then one may view McCain’s positions as simply based on ignorance, rather than malice and then, the idea of permitting an evil for a time based on the ignorance of the person comes into play. Voting for McCain becomes possible because: a) his position on abortion is contradictory and no one can know what he truly holds (although, this could lead to a doubtful conscience on the matter for some people, rather than a certain one) and b) because he is ignorant of the evil he intends and will, hopefully, be persuadable.
As for the matter of the effect of a vote, which Zippy raised, consider: you may be the one necessary vote that turns your state (or the country) to McCain. You cannot know this for certain, however. Thus, the effect of your vote may be anywhere from insignificant to crucial. All things being equal, it is better to assume that your vote is crucial, rather than insignificant and the doctrine of probabilism comes into play. If it is unclear whether or not double effect comes into play because one cannot know the magnitude of the effect, but there is evidence that the magnitude could probably be great, then one may do the act under the law of double effect, even though another person may judge that the probability is only slight.
The Chicken

SDG October 18, 2008 at 8:13 am

Seriously, there is no such thing as being 95% pro-life, as many people have said, but they haven’t gone a step further in the reasoning process. … So, one cannot say McCain’s position on abortion makes any sense nor is it clear. As such, it cannot even be rationally considered. He must either clarify his position, consistently, or be ignored on this issue.

I dunno, Chicken, this seems dodgy to me. The first sentence is true in a sense, though it’s a rather high-handed conceit. The second is, I think, simply not true.
Being “pro-life,” like being “orthodox” or even simply “right,” is not like a touchdown in American football where you get no credit for running 95 yards. Being “95 percent pro-life” may not comprise a philosophically coherent worldview, but wanting to defend and protect more lives, or life in more contexts, is better than wanting to defend and protect fewer lives, or life in fewer contexts.
By the same token, the fact that a candidate wishes to protect — or not protect — certain lives, or life in certain contexts, is as actionable as anything else. Their philosophical incoherence certainly does not place their likely actions in office outside the realm of rational consideration.
I don’t ultimately care that Obama’s ramblings about philosophical and theological issues makes no sense. FOCA codifies intrinsic evil, and represents a greater triumph of evil than anything McCain advocates, especially when combined with everything else Obama and McCain stand for.
We are not ultimately voting only, or even primarily, for (or against) worldviews — although the extent to which a candidate’s attempts to articulate a worldview correlates or does not correlate to reality is certainly one factor in ranking that candidate’s preferability relative to other candidates.
We are voting also, and probably primarily, for (or against) the range of actions in office that we can reasonably expect, hope for or fear from one candidate versus the other candidate (from the best reasonable scenario to the worst reasonable scenario).
We are for the most part voting for (or against) likely outcomes. If one likely outcome, however unreasonably constructed, defended and sold by the candidates, is preferable to or less problematic than another likely outcome, we may reasonably vote for that outcome over the other.

Scott W. October 18, 2008 at 8:15 am

I am entirely sympathetic to the idea of slowing down the slide into the abyss. In fact, it is the one thing keeping my voting for McCain on the table. If someone is arguing, “look, we’re just buying time with McCain and then we will find a way to break the cycle”, then I’m almost sold. Unfortunately that’s not the case from the McCain drum-bangers. It’s more like a hostage situation, “Vote for McCain, or the pro-life movement gets it and it will be your fault!”

SDG October 18, 2008 at 8:25 am

I am entirely sympathetic to the idea of slowing down the slide into the abyss. In fact, it is the one thing keeping my voting for McCain on the table. If someone is arguing, “look, we’re just buying time with McCain and then we will find a way to break the cycle”, then I’m almost sold. Unfortunately that’s not the case from the McCain drum-bangers. It’s more like a hostage situation, “Vote for McCain, or the pro-life movement gets it and it will be your fault!”

I have no idea how to break the cycle.
I have no idea whether the cycle can be broken.
I have no idea whether or how the slide into the abyss can be reversed or even halted.
At the moment the only thing I see clearly is

  1. a likely scenario that brings us further into the abyss than ever before,

  2. a likely scenario that in some ways slows and/or partially reverses our descent while failing to chart a course back out of the abyss, and

  3. utopian scenarios from people unwilling to shoot for 2 as a way of avoiding 1.

At the moment I see no better course of action, no course of action reasonably ordered toward a preferable outcome, than advocating and voting for 2.
I am all kinds of open to better ideas. Quixotic voting, at least as a prescriptive strategy that all Catholics must follow, is not a better idea. It is a refusal to take co-responsibility for the common good.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 8:39 am

Zippy, I invite you to consider these brief sentences of yours and discover the fallacy I will be exploring in upcoming posts.
It would be an interesting and novel experience for someone to actually address my argument. I look forward to the possibility of that actually happening.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 8:48 am

If FOCA, Mexico City, etc., aren’t proportionately grave reasons, nothing could ever allow any evil effect.
Those are certainly grave reasons for choosing a McCain outcome over an Obama outcome. But voting for McCain in the Presidential election, contra mythology, is not “choosing a McCain outcome over an Obama outcome”. It is, in its external effects, simply adding one negligible vote to the McCain mandate. And beyond that it has bad effects on the voter himself, and on those around him, which far outweigh any other effects.
It is true though that at the bottom of this argument is not so much any disagreement over the abstract moral theology of double effect, but rather disagreement over the nature of voting in mass scale democratic elections. Ahem.

Scott W. October 18, 2008 at 8:59 am

It is a refusal to take co-responsibility for the common good.
Every time I feel my hand ready to reach for the McCain lever, someone says something like this and I recoil. I’m not sure why, but I guess I’m going to be quite a mess on Nov. 4th.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 9:08 am

Do you have evidence supporting the seriousness of your charge?
See here, for example.
McCain supports federally funded murder of the innocent. And not just murder: cannibalization of their bodies for medical research.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 9:15 am

I’m not sure why, …
I think I might know why. The position that there is no proportionate reason for Catholics to vote for McCain – even if you disagree with it – is not “a refusal to take co-responsibility for the common good”. Saying that it is, is just a smear.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 9:16 am

Zippy, that’s not what you said. You said that McCain was “effectively” at the point of supporting abortion through the first trimester.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 9:19 am

It is, in its external effects, simply adding one negligible vote to the McCain mandate.

See points 4 and 5 in my post above for a preview of why this falls apart. Also, if you have ever offered any thoughts on what the Catechism means by describing voting as a morally obligatory form of co-responsibility for the common good, I would be happy to have them pointed out to me. Thanks.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 9:22 am

Every time I feel my hand ready to reach for the McCain lever, someone says something like this and I recoil.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that voting quixotic is a refusal to take co-responsibility for the common good. Voting quixotic as a matter of prudential judgment may be a way of trying to contribute to one good rather than another. What I have described as a refusal to take co-responsibility for the common good is insisting that voting quixotic is the only moral approach to voting in an election like ours. Dunno if that addresses your recoil issues or not.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 9:29 am

SDG:
McCain supports murdering and cannibalizing some unborn innocents. Obama supports murdering and cannibalizing a broader category of innocents. The choice between them is effectively the same, as a moral matter, as the choice between a candidate who supports first term abortions and a candidate who supports full term abortions.
As for the “preview”, I haven’t seen any reason to think that you’ve so much as addressed my core argument, let alone undermined it.
And yes, I’ve commented on the Catechism voting citation any number of times and in any number of places, though I don’t have a link immediately handy and I’m out of time for a while. But it isn’t even pertinent here, since you are treating abstaining from voting and voting third party as equivalent, so I’m not sure why you even bother to bring it up.

Dave Mueller October 18, 2008 at 9:55 am

I think there’s too much hair splitting going on here. Let me put it very simply:
1) Is it wrong to prefer that McCain wins instead of Obama?
2) If not, then how could it be wrong to cast a vote that basically says “I prefer that McCain wins instead of Obama”??
I don’t buy the argument that voting for a candidate HAS bad effects on the voter. I will agree that it COULD have bad effects, if, for example, a voter allows himself to become a mindless cheerleader for the party/candidate he/she chooses to pull the lever for, but that’s another discussion separate from the actual action of voting.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 10:14 am

Dave:
Very briefly, and then I’m gone, probably for the weekend:
Is it wrong to prefer that the Stalinists win over the Nazis? No. Does that mean that one has a proportionate reason to, as an individual, donate a clip of ammunition to the cause of the Stalinists? Not at all. The legitimate preference with respect to a possible outcome does not have a necessary legitimating connection to the specific act.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 10:17 am

McCain supports murdering and cannibalizing some unborn innocents. Obama supports murdering and cannibalizing a broader category of innocents. The choice between them is effectively the same, as a moral matter, as the choice between a candidate who supports first term abortions and a candidate who supports full term abortions.

Even if you were right, that seems an awfully callous dismissal of the controverted lives in that middle term whom McCain would try to protect and Obama would try to leave for dead.
But it isn’t effectively the same. To cannibalize a small bouquet of cells comprising a human life is certainly an inhuman thing and a direct violation of the fifth commandment, but there is a further erosion of humanity in being willing to chop up a three-month fetus made of tissue and nerves with a beating heart and brain waves — and there is a still further erosion in being willing sticking a scissors into the skull of a viable baby that is nearly born. There is a reason that partial birth-abortion is particularly singled out by pro-lifers, including the Catholic bishops, and why the word “infanticide” is used to describe the special horror of this form of abortion in particular.
And there is a still further erosion of humanity in the view of, say, Peter Singer, who thinks that parents should have a thirty-day no-obligation trial period to take their baby home and decide if they really really really want to be parents and bring a child into the world, and if not they can return it to the hospital no questions asked for a post-partum abortion.
Suppose we take candidates off the table and put a ballot initiative before the voters. There are three propositions:
Proposition A advocates a nightmare-scenario Peter Singer-on-steroids ethic: abortion on demand through all 20 months of non-personhood; euthanasia on demand and compulsory euthanasia for patients with terminal or debilitating chronic conditions at the state’s discretion; therapeutic cloning banks for replacement parts with mandatory DNA donations; one-child reproductive limits and mandatory sterilizations for the unfit; etc.
Proposition B outlaws all abortion, all euthanasia, all therapeutic cloning — everything except embryonic stem-cell research.
Proposition C outlaws all of these including ESCR.
Polls consistently show that Props A and B are in a statistical dead heat. Support for Prop C is running around 5 percent — certainly enough to swing the difference between Props A and B.
How do you vote?
Let me know when you have a chance to direct me to some of your thoughts on the CCC’s teaching on voting.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 10:18 am

Is it wrong to prefer that the Stalinists win over the Nazis? No. Does that mean that one has a proportionate reason to, as an individual, donate a clip of ammunition to the cause of the Stalinists? Not at all. The legitimate preference with respect to a possible outcome does not have a necessary legitimating connection to the specific act.

Why not?
It’s a silly parallel, of course, since, among other things, clip donation is not a morally obligatory form of co-responsibility for the common good.
Also, whereas a vote cannot do anything but contribute to the advantage of one cause over another, a clip can be used any way the recipient chooses — to shoot innocent people as well as Nazis.
Still and all, if, say, I were unlucky enough to be living in a Stalinist state, and the Nazis are attacking, I’m not sure I can see where it would be unjustified not only to donate a clip but even to join the Stalinist army to resist the Nazis.

Mary Kay October 18, 2008 at 10:29 am

Scott,
Every time I feel my hand ready to reach for the McCain lever, someone says something like this and I recoil.
On a purely pragmatic level, every time you feel yourself recoiling, substitute your own phrase, “look, we’re just buying time with McCain and then we will find a way to break the cycle”
It sounds like you’re not disagreeing with SDG’s reasoning, just with the “hostage” aspect. As one of those people who made similar statements, it’s simply because the prospect of Obama with presidential power scares the stuffing out of me.
You’re assuming the playing field will be the same after an Obama presidency. By all indications, it will not.
The Freedom of Choice Act should be sufficient for anyone with pro-life values. If you haven’t yet looked up the consequences of FOCA, this is a good time.
Check some of the conservative political sites that are reporting what the MSM is either totally ignoring or whitewashing when reporting it.
Do a search with these terms:
obama alinsky
“voter fraud” acorn
obama “free speech” DOJ
Re-read SDG’s well-reasoned points focusing on the morality aspect.
Then, if you’ve read Lord of the Rings, recall Frodo on Amon Hen (FOTR chpt 10): “neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so.” The choice is yours to make.

Dave Mueller October 18, 2008 at 10:29 am

I see Zippy’s point in the example he gave, but I think his comparison is inapt. I disagree, though, that it is necessarily OK to prefer that the Stalinists win over the Nazis. At that point, armed revolution is probably the best option. Anyway, that’s beside Zippy’s point, I think,
He is trying to say, I think, that just because you prefer an 80% evil army to defeat an 100% evil army doesn’t mean that you are allowed to donate ammunition to them. I’m not sure that it’s true that you couldn’t donate ammunition to them in the first place, but the reason the analogy is inapt is that in my question, I posit that the desire for McCain to win over Obama is, in fact, all that is being expressed by a vote, i.e. a vote carries no moral content of its own other than an expression of preference for McCain over Obama. Therefore, if the desire is not immoral, neither is the carrying out of the action.
Obviously, Zippy must assign some other objective meaning and/or moral content to the vote. The question is: what is that moral content?

Mary Kay October 18, 2008 at 10:34 am

okay, maybe I should have left off that last sentence. Intrinsically okay, but given the “hostage” aspect, maybe not the best closing. I simply wanted to say you can make a choice freely.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 10:34 am

To cannibalize a small bouquet of cells comprising a human life…
There is a concrete example of the bad effect that supporting McCain has on those who support him. Let he who has ears to hear, hear.

Zippy October 18, 2008 at 10:36 am

…clip donation is not a morally obligatory form of co-responsibility for the common good.
The very same CCC passage includes national defense as morally obligatory.

Dave Mueller October 18, 2008 at 10:42 am

There is a concrete example of the bad effect that supporting McCain has on those who support him. Let he who has ears to hear, hear.
I disagree. SDG does not think that the killing of the embryo is any less bad than the killing of the 1 month old infant. However, he IS saying that it would take a further erosion of a society/individual’s morals to progress from allowing the former to allowing the latter. In that, I think he is right.

The Masked Chicken October 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Hey, welcome back Mary Kay. How’s my asbestos suit coming? Don’t forget the red tie.
I think I dig it, at least part of it. The word abortion is being used in two, subtly different, senses between Zippy and SDG. [Geek speak alert!] Zippy is using abortion to refer to a class identifier, whereas SDG is using it as a instantiation identifier.
Consider two rooms with 100 people, each. Let there be one men outside of each room. Let’s call them, oh, let’s see, O and M. They both have guns with exactly 100 rounds. There is a third man, B, standing behind both men. He too, has a gun, but he has no bullets.
O fires into his room and kills 50 people. M fires into his room and kills 1 person.
Now, are both men murderers? Yes. I take it this would be Zippy’s position – a murderer is a man who knowingly kills some one person with malice. Murderer is a term that describes a class of actions of one person with regards to a single other person. Murder is immoral, period. One cannot be 95% a murderer. Murder as a moral attribute has a go/no-go status. Speculative reasoning says that granting even one abortion, such as is involved in ESCR, makes one an abortion supporter.
On the other hand are O and M both mass-murderers? The answer is, obviously, no. The people in the room in which one person is killed have at least fifty times greater reasons to be thankful than the one in which fifty were killed. One may state this in terms of pay-offs: In the first room, O killed fifty and spared fifty; in room two, M killed one and spared ninety-nine. Which room, prudentially, would one want to have been in at the start, knowing the eventual outcome?
In these two cases, there is a difference between the use of term, “murderer,” applied to the person doing the act and the people receiving the act. There can be only one murderer, but one hundred murder victims. It all depends on which side of the room one is standing as to whether or not murder can have degrees associated with it.
From the standpoint of the murderer, the answer is, no (this is Zippy’s point) – murder is murder. One is condemned by the first one- subsequent acts of murder do not make one more of a murderer.
From the standpoint of the people inside the room, the answer is, yes (this is SDG’s point). One shot makes you a murderer, but one shot does not make you a mass-murderer. One shot does not kill all of the people in the room.
Zippy and SDG are both right, but neither encompasses the total picture.
M can be a murderer and yet, one can want to reside inside of his room more than in O’s room. This makes M the better choice for a number of reasons.
a. M may have thought he were aiming for the ceiling, but has bad eye-sight, so he killed a person. McCain may not understand that ESCR is abortion, since he may buy into the whole embryo = lump of tissue idea. He is not Catholic, remember – why should we assume that he understands Catholic life principles? The Evangelical position is similar to the Catholic position, but is not always identical. He may be as close to his understanding of the Catholic position as he can come, for the time being. Give him a break (I bet if he got a chance to meet with Pope Benedict, he might change his mind and when is it likely to have this happen – if he is president!)
b. M has got ninety-nine other unused bullets in his gun. He could start firing at the outside of O’s room, hoping to distract him by the sound of the bullets flying off of the concrete.
c. B, having no bullets, cannot do as much to distract O as M can.
d. B is not standing outside of his own room as he never can get the necessary permission to do so. At best, he can lend moral support to either O or M. Given the outcome of the shooting, it is most likely that he would be rooting for M, since he, himself can do little else.
So, both Zippy and SDG are right to an extent, but one can only pull one level on November 4th. The problem comes when one considers the case as someone standing outside of the rooms verses someone standing inside the rooms.
As someone standing outside of the room, one can only vote for B, as he will not fire into his own room, but then, again, he hasn’t got a room, in any case. Voting for him, however, no effect on either his own room or O’s or M’s. It may be the case that, after the fact, B would have wanted you to vote for M. B can do little to affect O or M’s position, but can only, perhaps, do something to influence how many shots are fired into the room. Remember, B has no gun and is not standing outside of a room. His presence is simply as a commentator.
As a relative of someone forced to be inside of one of the two rooms, the vote would, overwhelmingly be for M. It gives you the best chance to save your relative, both because M will only kill one person and he may use his remaining rounds to distract O. If you, yourself were in the room, you would, almost certainly, want your relative to vote for M.
I think this should summarize all of the points made, to date. I have argued both sides of this issue in the combox for this post, because both sides have merit. In the final analysis,
Zippy is correct for voting considered as as a class activity: B is the only one that one can vote for if one is observing from outside of the rooms,
but SDG is correct if voting is considered as a co-operative act associated with individual cases of people within the room. If one is forced to be a relative of someone who is actually the rooms, or if one were to take a poll of people in the rooms, people from both rooms would probably prefer, overwhelmingly, that you vote for M.
Both voting for McCain or a third-party candidate can be considered as an attempt to do good, either globally or local, either speculatively or practically. I give Zippy more points speculatively, but SDG more points, practically.
If voting for McCain is the start of a slippery-slope on life issues, one must prove that by seeing if a second step would be taken (there has been no step from Bush to McCain, so preliminary data is negative). There is not enough data to make that pronouncement, yet, however. It is known from social psychology that the Hegelian Mambo, as one commenter above put it, on pro-life issues can be prevented if there are enough people who are well-informed and respectable enough to be heard when they speak. If free speech is kept free, the slippery-slope can be prevented. The problem will come, not from pro-life areas, but from free speech areas. It is essential that we elect people who will preserve free speech. This does not look good, at the present time. however. The day criticizing abortion becomes labeled as hate speech will be the real day that pro-life issues will have been lost in the United States. Sadly, this might happen under Obama.
There are two rooms and three choices. This is not a Monty Hall problem. This is real life. Choose B or M and many people will live. Choose O and many more people will die.
I cannot say which a person must choose, B or M, but in no case may they vote for O.
The Chicken
The Chicken

SDG October 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Dave Mueller: You are of course correct. My point was not that the evil inflicted on the victim of ESCR is less than that inflicted on the victim of partial birth abortion — it isn’t — but that the disfigurement of human sensibilities necessary to consent to the latter is worse than that necessary to consent to the former.
Chicken: Thank you. I have no rider to add, except that since I agree with you that quixotic voting as well as pragmatic voting can be a positive act I think I should get all the points.
Zippy:

There is a concrete example of the bad effect that supporting McCain has on those who support him. Let he who has ears to hear, hear.

So far I’ve only said you were confused. Shall I call your comment above a concrete example of the bad effect that supporting quixotic candidates has on those who support them?
Do you similarly invoke malign forces regarding the teaching of the U.S. bishops when they single out partial-birth abortion for bringing our legal system “to the brink of endorsing infanticide” (source)?

Jordanes October 18, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Jumping here and there with these comments . . .
Those are certainly grave reasons for choosing a McCain outcome over an Obama outcome.
And in the end the way an individual helps bring about a McCain outcome is by voting for him.
But voting for McCain in the Presidential election, contra mythology, is not “choosing a McCain outcome over an Obama outcome”. It is, in its external effects, simply adding one negligible vote to the McCain mandate.
So you say, even though the external effects of a vote are much, much more than the unimportant, insignificant thing you want us to think it is.
And beyond that it has bad effects on the voter himself, and on those around him, which far outweigh any other effects.
By those lights none of us should be driving cars, eating meat, or drinking alcohol. Anyway I find laughable the claim that the allegedly bad effects of a morally good choice are worse than millions of dead babies and scarred adults and the moral subversion of the culture. Those things far outweigh any bad effects that might result from the good action of casting a vote to try to prevent Obama from taking power.
I haven’t seen any reason to think that you’ve so much as addressed my core argument, let alone undermined it.
All we can do is address the comments you make. If those comments don’t include your core argument, then you’ll have to state your position more clearly and accurately. What we know is that the Church says that one may, in the presence of grave proportionate reasons, vote for a candidate who favors an intrinsic evil, and we know that in your opinion the horrendous things Obama has vowed to do do not constitute grave proportionate reasons to vote for McCain, who has more or less vowed not to change the status quo on abortion. You have not supported your assertion that McCain is not sufficiently different from Obama to make a vote for McCain anything but an objectively evil act. But that doesn’t surprise me, since it’s not possible to support that assertion. In my opinion, anyone who can’t see the difference between McCain and Obama in this matter really had best stay home on election day and leave the voting to better informed and more prudent citizens.
McCain supports murdering and cannibalizing some unborn innocents. Obama supports murdering and cannibalizing a broader category of innocents. The choice between them is effectively the same, as a moral matter, as the choice between a candidate who supports first term abortions and a candidate who supports full term abortions.
And John Paul II said it can be acceptable to support stopgap provisions that limit the evil of abortion or roll it back somewhat.
Anyway, since you have decided on a course of action that will do nothing to prevent a situation far, far worse than what we have now — and we can expect that little would change for better or worse on the pro-life front (at least in the short term) if McCain is elected — it kind of dilutes the power of your concern about supporting a candidate whose pro-life views are morally compromised. If you want to help end abortion, or at least help things from getting even worse than they already are, why do you want to take an action that won’t do a thing to prevent things from getting a whole lot worse as they will if Obama becomes president? Especially when the Church, if not your conscience, allows us to vote for an imperfect candidate like McCain?
If someone is arguing, “look, we’re just buying time with McCain and then we will find a way to break the cycle”, then I’m almost sold. Unfortunately that’s not the case from the McCain drum-bangers. It’s more like a hostage situation, “Vote for McCain, or the pro-life movement gets it and it will be your fault!”
I don’t see the two as necessarily exclusive. When it comes to voting for candidates like Reagan, Bush, or McCain, given the messed up culture we live in, all we’re doing is trying to buy more time, trying to nudge things in the right direction. It’s all we can do. Now, we are certain that the pro-life movement will suffer dramatic setbacks if Obama is elected — we know what he has promised, we know how he has voted in the past, we know the Democrats’ platform, we know the abortion industry and he are close allies, we know FOCA is waiting in the wings, and we know what Billyboy did in 1992 on the first day of his official occupancy of the Oval Office — and we know there is at this time only one viable way to prevent his election. But voting third-party in this case is not a sin, because it’s not a vote for Obama — but it is imprudent. So one would be at fault in the sense that one would be making a mistake, albeit an honest mistake — not in the sense that one would be guilty of sin.

J.R. Stoodley October 18, 2008 at 3:57 pm

I’ve been struggling with these issues too, and for a time there was seriously considering third party candidates. Ultimately, though, I’ve decided to hold my nose and vote for McCain.
I think the idea of moral certainty can play a role here. We don’t have absolute certainty that Chuck Baldwin or Alan Keeys or any other third party candidate will loose, but we have moral certainty, certainty strong enough to act on as if it were definite, that they will. We may lament that fact, but America will likely have a two-party system as long as the current form of government persists. Switch to a parliamentary system or ammend the constitution in other ways and that could change. Meanwhile, we can have moral certainty that either Obama or McCain will win. Additionally, we have a moral responsibility to vote unless the government is so corrupt or something that it would legitimize a boycott of the elections. In my opinion, a boycott of the elections would only be valid if the electoral system itself were fixed, so voting would only be legitimizing fake elections. So, we have a responsibility to vote and moral certainty that either a certain bad candidate or a certain worse candidate will win. With this choice, hellish though it may be, we must hope that the bad candidate is the one to win the election. This means we must hope more people vote for the bad candidate, which means as SDG noted that we should do so as well.

J.R. Stoodley October 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Woops, sorry for misspelling Alan Keyes’ name. Typo.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Incidentally, Zippy, I can say with confidence that my comments about “cannibalizing a bouquet of cells” in relation to aborting a three-month fetus are not in fact some malign side effect of my supporting McCain. My views in this regard have roots in my thought extending long before I attained majority and the right to vote, beginning with reading Catholic pro-life literature in seventh grade.
And, really, I suspect that the factors influencing your willingness to ascribe what you see as problems in other people’s thought to the morally deleterious effects of political actions you disagree with probably antedate the present election as well. So I don’t really ascribe it to your quixotic activism.

David L. October 18, 2008 at 5:54 pm

First of all, I live in Illinois which Obama will carry anyway by large majorities. Second there are few toss up states anymore. By all conventional polling Obama will win easily for the simple reason that the Republican Party doesn’t deserve a third term in the White House. A party that gave us Iraq and the Economic Collapse deserves to go the way of the Whig Party! To that extent it is worthwhile to support Chuck Baldwin in every state where he is on the ballot. That’s why I voted for Baldwin on Monday when Early Voting opened up in Illinois. You want to vote for a psychopath, which is what McCain is, feel free. His ship is sunk and perhaps we can build on the ruin of his misguided campaign an authentic conservative movement in this country. The Constitution Party is a good place to start!

bill912 October 18, 2008 at 6:16 pm

“You want to vote for a psychopath, which is what McCain is, feel free.”
Some people have their own way of telling others not to take them seriously.

SDG October 18, 2008 at 6:49 pm

That’s why I voted for Baldwin on Monday when Early Voting opened up in Illinois. You want to vote for a psychopath, which is what McCain is, feel free. His ship is sunk and perhaps we can build on the ruin of his misguided campaign an authentic conservative movement in this country. The Constitution Party is a good place to start!

If “authentic conservatism” means considering threats to “national sovereignty” as more important than abortion and same-sex marriage, I have no interest in “authentic conservatism.”
Also, if, in some future decades from now, there were a Constitution Party that could mount a credible bid on the White House, it would be a party bought and paid for, just like the GOP and the Dems.
Also, bearing false witness is bad for your soul. “Psychopath” is a serious word. There are lots of people I think deserve to be called a good many deplorable names that do not deserve that one: Barack Obama, Bill Maher, Nancy Pelosi, Fred Phelps, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Christopher Hitchens, and Jack Chick to name a few.
McCain has personality issues, and his personal life certainly has problems. There is also a lot to admire and appreciate about him, however much one may disagree with him on given issues — as most of his opponents acknowledge.
Anyone is free to disagree with this assessment. However, people who throw around words like “psychopath” are, as bill912 indicates, saying more about themselves than about the target of their ire.

Jordanes October 18, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Hopefully most Baldwin supporters aren’t cut from the same cloth as David L. Not even a Libertarian deserves such supporters.
You know, David, since you’re from Illinois, you can safely vote third party since, barring divine intervention, Illinois’ electoral votes are going to Obama. Vote your conscience. Just don’t work to undermine the efforts of other people to prevent Obama’s victory.
By the way, the economy has been hurting McCain pretty bad in the polls — no surprise, since most people are uninformed and shortsighted and the slave of their passions, and reflexively blame the party in power for economic problems, regardless of who is really to blame. Still, the polls in recent days have been much more encouraging, with a couple of the most accurate polls showing McCain only 2 or 3 points behind Obama at the national level, and McCain regaining lost ground in Ohio and Florida. Obama still has the advantage, but the race isn’t over yet, and Catholics should all be daily asking St. Michael to fight for us so Obama won’t be elected. This nation deserves an Obama presidency and worse, but we desperately need God’s infinite mercy and I hope we can be spared His fearful justice.

Jordanes October 18, 2008 at 8:12 pm

Duh. For the past few days I’ve been mashing Chuck Baldwin, Constitution Party, together with Bob Barr, Libertarian Party. It’s hard to keep all these unimportant third-party candidates straight, especially when their last names both start with “Ba.”
Feeling pretty sheepish now . . . .

elijio October 18, 2008 at 8:55 pm

A problem I see is that it seems we’re being discouraged from voting third party. What if we didn’t rely on CNN or Fox News only to tell us who the candidates are? What if Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin or Ralph Nader were on the tube each time you turned it on and not Obama and McCain? There’s nothing wrong with knowing that it is not only these 2 running for president or anything wrong in supporting them. The problem is that we let the mainstream media decide for us on who to vote for and if they come across as ”crackpots” it’s because the mainstream media makes them appear as such. They did this to Ron Paul, whom I supported, and now have him on for his knowledge of economics.
We sometimes forget that McCain voted for a Bush war that has killed more innocent people if not equal to the number of abortions per year in the U.S.! The fear I have is that he will do it again at the drop of a hat and spread the terror onto Iran who, by the way, has a very large Jewish community as well as Christians never threatened by the president of Iran while Israel continues to kill Palestinians everyday! Israel is supported by both Obama and McCain and as our ”best ally” I have yet to hear of how many Israeli troops are in Iraq or Afghanistan.
My priest said during his homily tonight at mass that we should educate ourselves before we vote. I couldn’t agree more but I would add that if we continue to rely on Fox and CNN only for our education and not research for ourselves, we will quickly be misled into another unjust war with another million innocent lives lost by the horrific and careless decisions by a President John McCain. At least Obama says he’ll end it!
I will not vote this year for a president since I have known that Obama was picked way back in 2004 for this moment. He will be the next president, regardless. Our votes may work locally but when it comes to the system we use, The Electoral College, it is often fixed as were the last 2 elections.
We shouldn’t be discouraged to vote for an independent party, though, no matter what I say. If we all voted Catholic as Tim Staples once said, ”we could change the direction of this nation!” If we continue to go along with what the mainstream media wants us to do, then we’ll never have politicians who will truly be Catholic! At what point are we going to dig our heels in and make a stand?
Peace.

bill912 October 18, 2008 at 9:20 pm

“…a Bush war…” Uh-huh.
“…that has killed more innocent people if not equal to the number of abortions per year in the U.S.!” Right.

Jordanes October 18, 2008 at 9:39 pm

What if Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin or Ralph Nader were on the tube each time you turned it on and not Obama and McCain? There’s nothing wrong with knowing that it is not only these 2 running for president or anything wrong in supporting them. The problem is that we let the mainstream media decide for us on who to vote for and if they come across as ”crackpots” it’s because the mainstream media makes them appear as such.
The main reason they seem to be out of the mainstream is because they’re out of the mainstream (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and can be a strong point in a candidate’s favor). But another reason Nader, Paul, and Barr (almost typed Baldwin again!!!) have come across as crackpots is because they’ve at times said crackpotty things.
We sometimes forget that McCain voted for a Bush war that has killed more innocent people if not equal to the number of abortions per year in the U.S.!
I doubt it’s been that many, and anyway there’s a difference between intentionally killing unborn children and unintentionally killing civilians during a war: and let’s keep in mind that a large number of those civilans were killed by the enemy, not by the coalition forces.
The fear I have is that he will do it again at the drop of a hat and spread the terror onto Iran
I find that highly unlikely. It wouldn’t be possible unless and until we can pull sufficient troops out of either Iraq or Afghanistan, since we’re already overextended. Of course they could reinstate the draft, but that’s also highly unlikely. The government is also unable to finance any more wars: we can’t even finance the two we’re fighting right now. So the fears and dire predictions that have been made for the past several years that we’re about to invade Iran are unrealistic.
who, by the way, has a very large Jewish community as well as Christians never threatened by the president of Iran
You are not informed about how Iran Muslims treat their Dhimmis, and what about Iran’s death penalty for those who convert to Christianity?
http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=50000030
http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Security/?id=1.0.2506722237
while Israel continues to kill Palestinians everyday!
And Palestinians continue to kill Israelis and Palestinians every day.
Israel is supported by both Obama and McCain and as our ”best ally” I have yet to hear of how many Israeli troops are in Iraq or Afghanistan.
You think the Shiite Muslims government of Iraq would let a single Israeli troop on their soil as a coaltion force member?
My priest said during his homily tonight at mass that we should educate ourselves before we vote. I couldn’t agree more but I would add that if we continue to rely on Fox and CNN only for our education
I don’t watch Fox or CNN. I watch very little television. T.v. news has never been very informative, and now it is blatantly, all but openly, partisan.
and not research for ourselves, we will quickly be misled into another unjust war with another million innocent lives lost by the horrific and careless decisions by a President John McCain. At least Obama says he’ll end it!
“Said” he’ll end it. He’s not really saying that any more, since he has to sound like he knows something about being a Commander in Chief. Not that what he says about Iraq is worth anything: if he’s elected, events in Iraq will determine if or when he can bring America’s troops home.
I’m more inclined to trust McCain than either Obama or Bush when it comes to strategic military decisions. Horrific and careless decisions would very likely be made by Obama. I’m not worried about McCain on that front. It’s his cluelessness on economic matters, and most serious of all, his moral confusion on life issues, that bother me about him.

Dan Hunter October 18, 2008 at 9:40 pm

As Catholics our ONLY options to vote for are Chuck Baldwin or Ambassador Keyes.

Jordanes October 18, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Or Senator McCain, or we can write in our own names, or we can stay home and not vote at all.

Zippy October 19, 2008 at 6:17 am

I can say with confidence that my comments about “cannibalizing a bouquet of cells” in relation to aborting a three-month fetus are not in fact some malign side effect of my supporting McCain. My views in this regard have roots in my thought extending long before I attained majority and the right to vote, beginning with reading Catholic pro-life literature in seventh grade.
(1) Callousness with respect to McCain’s brand of murdering the innocent, and (2) voting for McCain, are birds of a feather. See also Lydia McGrew’s excellent post here. It isn’t that the one is clear cause and the other is clear effect following from that cause. Democratic elections are our civic ritual: how we vote and how we think about voting and politics has a dramatic effect on us, and on the people around us (including our children), etc. It isn’t that acts of voting are meaningless in general: it is that they have a far more profound effect on us, and by extension on the little circles where we actually do have some influence, than they do on the outcomes of national elections. Voting is our expression of political will, a civic ritual which makes compromisers-with-evil out of all of us; and when those compromises involve murdering the innocent, which is so radically opposed to the common good that it directly contradicts legitimate political will (see Evangelium Vitae), it damages us as people: it damages us as people to a much greater extent than it has influence over the outcome in a national election. You don’t think it is pertinent to your writing. I think you are a good man, but your writing on this subject is a poster child for it.
Lex orandi, lex credendi. I would think that Catholics would understand this in a way that the general population does not.
And by the way, Evangelium Vitae makes a different argument than you do in the following sense: the encyclical argues that murdering a living child which does not even have the defense of crying out and expressing pain to his murderer is more grave than other kinds of murder. Throw in the fact that it is done for the purpose of cannibalizing their little bodies, and ESCR is more gravely evil than infanticide. In the case of infanticide, the innocents murdered have the defensive weapon of appeal to the sympathy of all of the rest of us, and even of their would-be murderers. The victims of ESCR don’t even have the sympathy of many good and orthodox Catholics, to all appearances. Why? Because facing the gravity of what it all really means would make support for McCain, knowing that you aren’t personally going to change the outcome anyway, intolerable to all but the most callous of consciences.

Dave Mueller October 19, 2008 at 8:08 am

Zippy,
So murdering a human being that can’t feel pain is worse than murdering one that can feel pain? That seems like some torturous logic to me. Plus, you think that there is no way to murder an infant such that it doesn’t have time to cry out? I think you are interpreting the evidence to suit your position.
Look, I don’t like the fact that McCain supports (limited) ESCR any more than you do. With McCain, however, he has shown preference to other kinds of SCR, which are licit, unlike Obama, who wants full steam ahead on the ESCR front ONLY. Unfortunately, given the candidate’s positions and the FACT that one of them is going to win, it looks like we are stuck with ESCR to some extent. We can still influence how extensive the practice will be, and vote to eliminate other evils by voting McCain.
elijio,
If you look at the website http://www.iraqbodycount.org, you will see that the amount of people killed in Iraq is, at most, equal to the number of babies killed in a MONTH by abortion in the U.S. You can’t compare it directly anyway.
Dan Hunter,
If you are unwilling to engage the arguments being made and make some counterarguments of your own, which Zippy is at least trying to do, then why bother posting?? “One can only vote for Baldwin and Keyes, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah” doesn’t do much to impress anyone.

Dave Mueller October 19, 2008 at 9:02 am

Also, and I don’t think anyone has brought this point up before, even though I want to state UP FRONT that this consideration by no means excuses McCain’s ESCR position, we need to realize that the only embryos McCain favors “cannibalizing” are the leftover IVF embryos. He does not favor the creation of ANY new embryos.
Now these “leftover” IVF embryos are in a very precarious position as it is. They are frozen. Their only chance to have any kind of further life is to be implanted in a woman’s womb. This process has about a 30% success rate. It is unknown how long they can retain viability in a frozen state. There are about 400,000 of these embryos and nowhere near that demand for their implantation. So, these poor human beings are already in a very dire situation. We should try our best to save them, but the truth is that the solid majority of them cannot really be saved. As we know, they should never have been created in this way in the first place.
This is no consideration against the objective evil of the positions of McCain and Obama, but it is a fact to be assessed in weighing the scales of possible outcomes for these embryos.

SDG October 19, 2008 at 9:46 am

Callousness

Zippy, you have no call to be making such moral judgments against me. I deplore the evil of ESCR. It is a direct violation of the fifth commandment. I make no excuses for anything or anyone. I repudiate and deny any suggestion of “callousness” in fact or in expression and I remonstrate in sadness with any fellow Catholic who presumes to render such a judgment against me. This is not the charity and fear and trembling to which we are called.

Zippy October 19, 2008 at 10:12 am

…you have no call to be making such moral judgments against me.
To the contrary, I am required to remonstrate moral error of such gravity – in your writing, which, not your person, is the object of my judgment – when I see it.

Dan Hunter October 19, 2008 at 11:05 am

Dan Hunter,
If you are unwilling to engage the arguments being made and make some counterarguments of your own, which Zippy is at least trying to do, then why bother posting?? “One can only vote for Baldwin and Keyes, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah” doesn’t do much to impress anyone.
I could not give a fat rats ass about trying to impress anybody.
I am just stating the truth.
God bless you

SDG October 19, 2008 at 12:35 pm

To the contrary, I am required to remonstrate moral error of such gravity – in your writing, which, not your person, is the object of my judgment – when I see it.

If you feel there is grave moral error in my moral reasoning regarding the best way to try to defend innocent victims of government-sanctioned murder, feel free to challenge my reasoning.
If you feel you have detected callousness on my part toward the victims of ESCR, specifically in the poetic phrase “a small bouquet of cells comprising a human life” in a clause which specifically called ESCR “cannibalizing,” I tell you for a stone cold fact that your callous-vision is jaundiced, possibly (this part is not stone cold fact) by a desire to defend your view as the only moral one by finding moral fault in those who disagree.
If in spite of my denial you wish to stand by your moral judgment of my alleged callousness, as opposed to your critique of my moral reasoning in general, I can only say I find such precipitous fault-finding as disheartening as it is unconvincing.
I said earlier that your statement that the Obama supporting murdering “a broader category of innocents” than McCain made the choice between them “effectively the same” “seems an awfully callous dismissal of the controverted lives in that middle term whom McCain would try to protect and Obama would try to leave for dead.”
Note that this is a provisional judgment of what I see as the implication of your argument. I am not saying “Look here: Your comments here are in fact callous. This sort of thing is what bad moral reasoning does to you.” Moral reasoning on voting involves some complexities, and it’s not for me to judge when bad moral reasoning on such a subject becomes bad morality in practice.
Christian charity in reasoned discourse is less complicated. I’m willing to admit that my earlier high-handed asides about the fallacies in your reasoning and why your arguments fall apart were more provocative than they needed to be; I thought, rightly I think to judge from your responses at that time, that you could take it and give as good as you got. It was meant in a spirit of intellectual rigor and (I confess) rhetorical archness; perhaps it could have and should have been leavened with charitable softness of speech.
Quasi-prophetic denunciations like “There is a concrete example of the bad effect that supporting McCain has on those who support him. Let he who has ears to hear, hear” strike me as crossing a line that one had better be damn certain of before crossing, not only as regards the general rectitude of his own position but also as regards the concrete moral charge against the other person.
If you somehow meant it some other way, or have any other clarification to offer, feel free to clarify. If you embrace that quasi-prophetic stance and will not be dissuaded from it, I have nothing more to say on that subject. To our own master we both of us stand or fall.

SDG October 19, 2008 at 12:37 pm

I could not give a fat rats ass about trying to impress anybody.
I am just stating the truth.

Dan Hunter: Consider your duty to speak the truth on this subject, as you see, it in this forum, sufficiently discharged.
Further restatements of the truth on this subject, as you see it, in this, in the absence of specific argumentation and positive contribution to the discussion, are neither necessary nor helpful. Thank you.

Zippy October 19, 2008 at 12:59 pm

I tell you for a stone cold fact that your callous-vision is jaundiced, possibly (this part is not stone cold fact) by a desire to defend your view as the only moral one by finding moral fault in those who disagree.
And I find your internet psychologizing uninteresting.
Your statement was objectively of a piece with the callousness toward ESCR victims in McCain support more generally. Always we are told that he is a geniunely pro-life candidate, what a great pro-life record he has, etc etc. The propoganda, supported by pro-lifers, is relentless. A commenter in a post on my blog just cited the candidate comparison in the printed NRLC newsletters from the last two cycles: the one before the most recent had McCain’s support for ESCR listed at the very bottom; the most recent elides it entirely.
Whatever you may think you are doing, and I have never doubted your sincerity in the least, you have made yourself a public contributor to that shibboleth. Let he who has ears to hear, hear.

David L. October 19, 2008 at 1:50 pm

McCain is a psycopath. Check out the latest edition of the “American Conservative.” And frankly, Obama is clearly the lesser of the two evils, granted he is intriniscally evil but then so is McCain. At any rate Obama will be our next president in spite of Jimmy’s blog. Perhaps then all of you will come on over to the Constitution Party, assuming you have the brains to do it!

Rotten Orange October 19, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Dear David L.
Please see the 4 or 5 previous comments and read what’s been said to Dan Hunter. What’s the point in just repeating everything you’ve alrady said?

bill912 October 19, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Do you get the idea that David L has read a book titled: “How To Lose Friends And Disinfluence People”?

Jordanes October 19, 2008 at 3:18 pm

With folks like David L standing up as advocates for the Constitution Party, we can be sure it will remain a muted, tiny, barely-noticeable group.
And frankly, Obama is clearly the lesser of the two evils, granted he is intriniscally evil but then so is McCain.
Your statement is irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine. No human being is intrinsically evil, because God is good and all that He creates is good. Presumably you mean that that both Obam and McCain are supporters of intrinsic evil, although given you remarkably stupid repeated assertion that McCain is psychopathic, one must wonder if you really are so confused and misinformed as to believe that God is the author of evil.
As for Obama’s positions involving less intrinsic evil than McCain’s, you apparently know so little about their positions and understand so little about morality that I am beginning to understand why you insist that McCain is a psychopath: you just haven’t the slighest idea what you’re talking about.
At any rate Obama will be our next president in spite of Jimmy’s blog.
Very likely, but it’s not a done deal yet.
Perhaps then all of you will come on over to the Constitution Party, assuming you have the brains to do it!
Is that part of your secret plan to destroy the Constitution Party?
“You guys are probably all morons, and I want you to join our organisation.”
Hint: Insulting people is not an effective strategy for convincing them to join your group.

SDG October 19, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Whatever you may think you are doing, and I have never doubted your sincerity in the least, you have made yourself a public contributor to that shibboleth.

Textbook guilt by association. Textbook.
Other people who support voting for McCain callously bury McCain’s ESCR support at the end of their discussion or elide it entirely; therefore I, because I support voting for McCain, am guilty of callousness — even though I highlighted McCain’s ESCR support in the first sentence of my post on McCain, even going so far as to emphatically say that “McCain gravely disqualifies himself for public service.”
P.S. One important sense of “shibboleth” has to do with a test of membership bona fides turning on a distinction that insiders regard as telling and damning but which seems unimportant or irrelevant to outsiders. I accept both quixotic and pragmatic voting as ways of serving the good within the scope of prudential judgment. You don’t. So in that sense it would seem that McCain is a shibboleth for you, not for me.
P.P.S. Since you find my (speculative) internet psychologizing uninteresting, I’m happy to withdraw it. The substantial moral concerns raised in my last post remain.

SDG October 19, 2008 at 4:06 pm

PLEASE NOTE:
Users who continue to repeat previously made talking points, ignoring existing responses and not offering anything new, are not respecting Da Rulz. This type of behavior is called “hobby horsing.” It is rude. Please stop it.
Two shibboleths which are now past the maximum hobby-horsing tolerance threshold include:
“McCain is a psychopath” (please note)
“Truly pro-life Catholics have no choice but to vote for [insert quixotic candidate/s here]”

SDG October 19, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Another note:
In humility and profound (though doubtless inadequate) awareness of and grief for my own shortcomings, I beg everyone to consider before posting how to strike a blow, not only for The Truth™, but also for charity.
A parable (that happens to be true): In another forum a certain pro-Obama Catholic rather smugly announced that, with Obama’s inevitable victory, anti-Obama Catholics (which includes everyone I see participating here) were now commencing with burning their heretics.
We can’t help disagreeing strongly. Let’s try to do so in such a fraternal spirit as to give such a pro-Obama Catholic no pretext for smugness.

Zippy October 19, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Textbook guilt by association. Textbook.
First, this assumes that we ourselves are not harmed by throwing our support behind a candidate who supports murdering the innocent, whereas I think we are harmed. I think doing it harms you, and those around you, which is why I counsel against it. Also in its external (but non-outcome-dependent) effects it isn’t guilt by association, or if it is, then GBA has gotten a bad rap. It follows quite directly from the fact that we are social animals; and as St. Paul observes:
9 But take heed lest perhaps this your liberty become a stumblingblock to the weak. 10 For if a man see him that hath knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not his conscience, being weak, be emboldened to eat those things which are sacrificed to idols?
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ hath died? 12 Now when you sin thus against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother.

Don’t throw your support behind candidates who support murdering the innocent, lest you scandalize your brother.

David B. October 19, 2008 at 5:26 pm

SDG,
I appreciate your thoughtful confrontation of the moral challenges in this present election. Kudos and prayers.

David B. October 19, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Zippy,
Not eating pork in front of a faithful Jew is choosing to avoid something unneeded. Eating is required for life, but the food one chooses is easily interchangeable. The Jew put no burden on the gentile.
One is not, however, free to impose one’s own conclusions on another Catholic and bind them to their own prohibitions. A Catholic is not responsible when another takes offense at a decision said Catholic is free to make in good moral standing with the Church. Perhaps that Catholic would do well to take a charitable view of the deciding Catholic. (this is not a sneaky attack on you, Zippy.)

SDG October 19, 2008 at 5:45 pm

First, this assumes that we ourselves are not harmed by throwing our support behind a candidate who supports murdering the innocent, whereas I think we are harmed. I think doing it harms you, and those around you, which is why I counsel against it.

It doesn’t assume that, because this is not guilt by association. It is a different argument from the one I responded to above under that rubric. I will respond to this argument in due time.

Also in its external (but non-outcome-dependent) effects it isn’t guilt by association, or if it is, then GBA has gotten a bad rap. … Don’t throw your support behind candidates who support murdering the innocent, lest you scandalize your brother.

Ah, this clearly won’t do. To begin with, St. Paul himself, in the very passage you cite, balances this principle against another:
“The one who eats must not despise the one who abstains, and the one who abstains must not pass judgment on the one who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on someone else’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand … Let everyone be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom 14:3-5).
Food, though, is merely a matter of cleanness or uncleanness. When it comes to taking co-responsibility for the common good, I must serve the good in the way that I judge best according to my own conscience.
I say that either quixotic or pragmatic voting is legitimately in the realm of prudential judgment. I do not say that all judgments are equally prudent. Prudential judgment by definition means each man must make his own decision before God by the lights given to him.
For myself I have no doubt that the preferability of McCain to Obama warrants my vote for McCain. I have absolutly no quarrel with my brother who feels otherwise, but I can’t refrain from casting my vote to avoid scandalizing my brother. Nor, while my brothers are actively seeking to persuade others of the unique validity of their own course, can I refrain from answering their arguments and freeing consciences to vote in a way (not the only way) that I am convinced is both right and prudent.
Incidentally, quasi-prophetic denunciations of concrete moral failings in others can also be an occasion of scandal.

Zippy October 19, 2008 at 6:11 pm

One is not, however, free to impose one’s own conclusions on another Catholic and bind them to their own prohibitions.
On the other hand, people are not entitled to their own facts. One of the harmful things that has happened on the political Right has been its descent into moral relativism when confronted with facts it does not want to accept.
If it is true as a matter of fact that in circumstances like ours the harm done to onesself and those around one is significant, and the influence one has on the outcome of the election is insignificant, then there is no proportionate reason to vote for a candidate who supports murdering the innocent. For anyone.
Perhaps we can at least agree that the entiriety of the argument rests on whether or not it is true as a matter of fact that in circumstances like ours the harm done to onesself and those around one is significant, and the influence one has on the outcome of the election is insignificant. Everything else is window dressing.

David B. October 19, 2008 at 6:19 pm

“On the other hand, people are not entitled to their own facts.”
No argument. No ‘facts’ of mine even offered.

Rotten Orange October 19, 2008 at 6:24 pm

One of the harmful things that has happened on the political Right has been its descent into moral relativism when confronted with facts it does not want to accept.

Dear Zippy
But aren’t you doing exactly that here, for Pete’s sake?

SDG October 19, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Zippy believes that my moral reasoning regarding the legitimacy of voting for McCain is indefensible, much as I believe that Kmiec’s moral reasoning regarding the legitimacy of voting for Obama is indefensible. I have made free to argue my point of view against Kmiec, and I have no moral quarrel with Zippy arguing his point of view against me.
I have intellectual quarrels with some of Zippy’s arguments (like “Other McCain supporters callously downplay the victims of ESCR, and you support McCain, so that makes you callous too” or “Don’t condone voting for a candidate who opposes only some forms of killing the innocent because it will scandalize your brother”). And I have moral reservations regarding some of his rhetoric (like “There is a concrete example of the bad effect that supporting McCain has on those who support him. Let he who has ears to hear, hear”).
But Zippy is free to argue that McCain advocacy does more harm than good and thus is not justified by the principle of double effect.

Perhaps we can at least agree that the entiriety of the argument rests on whether or not it is true as a matter of fact that in circumstances like ours the harm done to onesself and those around one is significant, and the influence one has on the outcome of the election is insignificant.

I reply: We must distinguish essential consequences from accidental consequences.
No action is so worthy, no consequences so beneficial and no motives so pure that fallen men cannot grievously harm themselves in undertaking even the best of actions toward the best of consequences with the best of motives.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Well, okay, so that isn’t the best of motives. But even if I do it not to boast but to honor God, yet at the same time I condemn those who execute me, or my brethren who do not likewise hand their bodies over, I do myself grave harm rather than (or at least alongside of) good.
An evil cause always redounds to the harm of its advocates. However, the justice of a cause does not always equate to the moral good of its advocates. This is most emphatically the case in political matters, where charity is usually the first casualty and truth and justice close seconds.
In my opinion, no Catholic can engage in Obama advocacy in this election without harm. However sincere they may be, the cause itself is wrong — a cause to do more harm rather than less — and they cannot fail to be harmed by it.
With respect to the harm Zippy is concerned about in connection with McCain advocacy, I do think it has a basis in reality, and there is reason for McCain advocates to fear such harm. I do not, however, believe that quixotic advocates are any better off in this regard. All factions sustain casualties to charity, and none are so blind as those who believe that they alone see.
I do not believe that quixotic advocacy in itself causes any harm at all, however much harm some quixotic advocates may inflict on themselves in undertaking it. Neither do I believe that McCain advocacy in itself, however much harm some quixotic advocates may inflict on themselves in undertaking it, causes any harm at all.
Is McCain advocacy associated with harm? Most certainly. Is quixotic advocacy associated with harm? Definitely. Let us all walk in fear and trembling before God. For even in a just war unjust campaigns and acts remain an ever-present danger.
More than that, however, Zippy has not shown and I do not concede. I will continue to build my case over the next week or two.
P.S. Aside to Rotten Orange: Whatever Zippy’s missteps in this thread, moral relativism is not one that had occurred to me to charge him with. I’m not sure what you can be thinking of.

Rotten Orange October 19, 2008 at 7:19 pm

I’m not sure what you can be thinking of.

Perhaps I was thinking on what you were thinking when you wrote

…some serious and thoughtful Catholics, including my friend Mark Shea and his sometime co-belligerent Zippy Catholic, have suggested or argued that McCain’s support of embryonic stem-cell research makes it objectively wrong for any Catholic to vote for him as well as Obama — even though Obama supports ESCR as well as abortion, euthanasia and other intrinsically evil policies. (Added: Zippy has taken exception…

I just thought that a charge of moral relativism coming from someone who has made the moral equivalence argument described above was rather strange.
I hope you are surer now.

SDG October 19, 2008 at 7:28 pm

It’s not my impression that Zippy equates McCain advocacy with Obama advocacy. My impression is that he regards McCain advocacy as objectively wrong and Obama advocacy as objectively wronger.

Zippy October 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm

We must distinguish essential consequences from accidental consequences.
Kind of. People often invoke necessity in these discussions, contending that harm to onesself and others is not a necessary concomitant in all circumstances to voting for a presidential candidate who supports a policy of murdering the innocent. I agree that it isn’t necessary. On the other hand, the fact that getting a losing ticket in the lottery is not a necessary concomitant to buying a lottery ticket does not conjure a proportionate reason to spend all of one’s savings on lottery tickets. Proportionate reasons aren’t the kind of thing that can be summoned from an abstract possibility in principle: proportionate reasons have to be real.
So I don’t think the “harm is not necessary” invocation helps the opposing argument. As a practical matter voting for a presidential candidate who supports murdering the innocent harms the person who does it and those within his sphere of influence; this harm is significant, whereas the influence of his vote on the outcome is insignificant; therefore there is no proportionate reason to vote for a presidential candidate who supports murdering the innocent.
In my opinion, no Catholic can engage in Obama advocacy in this election without harm. However sincere they may be, the cause itself is wrong — a cause to do more harm rather than less — and they cannot fail to be harmed by it.
I agree — and I think the same applies to McCain advocacy, because of the nature of our circumstances, of modern democratic elections, and of acts of voting in them.

Zippy October 19, 2008 at 7:34 pm

My impression is that he regards McCain advocacy as objectively wrong and Obama advocacy as objectively wronger.
That’s right. I have a lot of sympathy for those who struggle over voting for McCain. My “comfort zone” could probably be described as more conservative or reactionary than most or perhaps all others in this discussion. The notion of supporting Obama is so ludicrously indefensible that it doesn’t even make for the possibility of an interesting discussion. But I do think supporting McCain is wrong, and not just (in a fit of moral relativism) wrong for me as a result of my truth, but just plain wrong.

Rotten Orange October 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm

It’s not my impression that Zippy equates McCain advocacy with Obama advocacy. My impression is that he regards McCain advocacy as objectively wrong and Obama advocacy as objectively wronger.

OK, fine and dandy. But then you would agree that, for him, the difference between each advocacy would be in degree, not in genre. Which is anyway an argument of equivalence and within the bounds of my observation.
It’s so unpleasant to see oneself involved in this kind of complex, rocket-science discussions… :)

SDG October 19, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Zippy,
If we agree that harm is necessary in the case of Obama advocacy, and that it is not in the case of McCain advocacy, then I don’t think the words “the same” belong in the last sentence of your penultimate post. The difference is one of kind, not degree.
Let me be specific: I do not believe that my McCain advocacy poses any greater extrinsic risk to my spiritual health than, say, your quixotic advocacy does to yours, or than quixotic advocacy would to me.
I don’t see myself as taking some kind of spiritual hit (negative effect) for the sake of a negligible contribution to defeating Obama (positive effect). I don’t see the spiritual hit at all. In fact, the whole premise of treating the spiritual hit as the “negative consequence” that makes the act problematic strikes me as backward moral reasoning.
The spiritual hit from a morally unjustifiable act is derived from the acquiescence of the will either to the intrinsic wrongness of the act itself, or to evil effects disproportionate to good effects, or to wrong motives.
When we speak of the acquiescence of the will to evil effects disproportionate to good effects, this must mean evil effects outside the will, otherwise we are arguing in a circle. It is nonsense to talk about harmful effects upon the will themselves becoming the “bad consequences” that make the act evil, thereby harming the will. That’s all cart, no horse.
I’ll leave the rest of the argument till later.

The Masked Chicken October 20, 2008 at 5:19 am

SDG,
You wrote:
My impression is that he regards McCain advocacy as objectively wrong and Obama advocacy as objectively wronger.
Wronger? That just sounds like such a weird word. Maybe better as, “as objectively, worse”?
The Style-conscious Chicken

SDG October 20, 2008 at 6:24 am

Chicken:
Bad style on purpose = good style.
It’s ironical. It’s colloquial. It’s ironoloquial.

Dave Mueller October 20, 2008 at 6:28 am

I’m still going back to this simple argument:
1) Is it wrong to prefer that McCain wins instead of Obama?
2) If not, then how could it be wrong to cast a vote that basically says “I prefer that McCain wins instead of Obama”??
I don’t buy the argument that voting for a candidate HAS bad effects on the voter. I will agree there is reason to guard ones self; it COULD have bad effects – if, for example, a voter allows himself to become a mindless cheerleader for the party/candidate he/she chooses to pull the lever for, but that’s another discussion separate from the actual action of voting.
Of course, Zippy, if you are correct that a vote for McCain ALWAYS carries with it a bad effect, you would have a good point, but I do not think you have come close to showing this, though you seem to strain to find such a bad effect in those who are voting for McCain. If you are correct, you should be able to show this at a theoretical level, rather than pointing at SDG or anyone else and saying “see, see!” Such evidence could only be anecdotal even if it were true.
Other than this, you could show that a vote objectively and necessarily carries with it a moral choice beyond simply “I prefer McCain over Obama as President.” Then, you might argue, the end does not justify the means. However, the burden of proof is on you to show this. To me, my vote means nothing other than a registration of my preference that McCain be our next President rather than Obama.

Rotten Orange October 20, 2008 at 6:34 am

That just sounds like such a weird word. Maybe better as, “as objectively, worse”?

Bad style on purpose = good style.
It’s ironical. It’s colloquial. It’s ironoloquial.

Especially when written to a foreigner semi-illiterate in English like me, who wouldn’t notice either the “weirdness” or the bad style, anyway… :)

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 6:57 am

If you are correct, you should be able to show this at a theoretical level, …
Not if it is an empirical fact about the nature of things. There are all kinds of rock solid empirical facts which cannot be deduced from some theory.

Dave Mueller October 20, 2008 at 7:05 am

Not if it is an empirical fact about the nature of things. There are all kinds of rock solid empirical facts which cannot be deduced from some theory.
OK, then…what is the bad effect on the voter that inexorably follows from voting for a “lesser evil” candidate, or “one that supports murder” or whatever exactly your standard is?

SDG October 20, 2008 at 7:40 am

Not if it is an empirical fact about the nature of things. There are all kinds of rock solid empirical facts which cannot be deduced from some theory.

Crash.
That’s not how Catholic moral theology works. “It’s bad for you because it just is, and I know it is because I just see it” isn’t going to cut it.

Rotten Orange October 20, 2008 at 7:52 am

I don’t buy the argument that voting for a candidate HAS bad effects on the voter.

Dear Dave
Although I disagree with Zippy’s argument and think it has been so far very well addressed by the ellaborate reasoning from you, TMC and SDG, I can think in a sense in which I agree with Zippy’s “harm on the voter” thing (whether or not this sense happens to coincide with the sense that Zippy is trying to convey, I have no idea).
I think that it’s undoubtedly sad that, as a Catholic voter in a Western democracy, one isn’t able to vote for a candidate that one considers perfectly in accordance with one’s worldview (or just plainly satisfactory). I also agree with Zippy that being accommodated with such state of affairs can, in the long run, desensitize the voter.
But I think it’s uncharitable and pretentious to presume that anyone here who disagrees with Zippy subscribe to that accommodation, or is serving as a cheerleader for the Republican party; and I disagree as well that the harm described above is a suffucient reason for one to wash his hands and declare that voting for both candidates is wrong. I think it’s the kind of bothersome sacrifice that we are frequently called to make.
And the reason why I particularly consider Zippy’s position to be a waste is that I live in a country where there’s no conservative political forces whatsoever (we are on the verge of legalizing abortion). We don’t have here any equivalent of McCain-Palin, and we couldn’t even possibly dream about an Alan Keyes. In every election we must choose between a social-democrat and a socialist (our quixotic candidates have the common trait of going even further in their socialist allegiances). I always see myself voting for the social-democrat, because they at least so far never dared to openly support abortion, but we may very well get to the point where us Catholics will have to subscribe to Zippy’s position and dismiss all the candidates as equally offensive to our Faith.
So I think that Catholics in the US should do the best they can in this election time, always conscious that after it there will be four years for you all to fight in the political and cultural battlefield, when those third-parties may be strengthened.

Dave Mueller October 20, 2008 at 8:02 am

I think that it’s undoubtedly sad that, as a Catholic voter in a Western democracy, one isn’t able to vote for a candidate that one considers perfectly in accordance with one’s worldview (or just plainly satisfactory). I also agree with Zippy that being accommodated with such state of affairs can, in the long run, desensitize the voter.
No argument there…but the key word in your last sentence is “CAN”. In order for Zippy’s point to be correct, he must show that not only CAN the voter be desensitized, he CANNOT AVOID being desensitized.

SDG October 20, 2008 at 8:20 am

No argument there…but the key word in your last sentence is “CAN”. In order for Zippy’s point to be correct, he must show that not only CAN the voter be desensitized, he CANNOT AVOID being desensitized.

AND that “desensitization” = harm.
Because it doesn’t always. Sometimes desensitization is part of growing up, or becoming capable of dealing effectively with unpleasant realities.
For example, a premature baby is excessively sensitive to touch. A new dad may have difficulty changing poopy diapers. A green priest confessor may be so stressed by hearing certain sins that he is ineffective in the confessional. A certain kind of desensitization can be a necessity, or at least no bad thing.

Rotten Orange October 20, 2008 at 8:36 am

Hey guys
Have you read my entire comment? I was exactly trying to prove that Zippy’s position is inconsistent, on your side.
Look at what I wrote just after that:

…I disagree as well that the harm described above is a suffucient reason for one to wash his hands and declare that voting for both candidates is wrong. I think it’s the kind of bothersome sacrifice that we are frequently called to make.

SDG October 20, 2008 at 8:39 am

Orange, I don’t think either Dave or I was disagreeing with you — just expanding on what you wrote.

Rotten Orange October 20, 2008 at 8:50 am

OK, great. As matter of fact, when I was writing my previous comment, I had even though about using a similar example that you used about “harm” involving a mother or anyone having to deal with excrement to obtain the desired result of cleaness…

John October 20, 2008 at 9:20 am

I was tilting toward Zippy’s perspective before reading the debate (if I can call it that) on this thread. I remain sympathetic to that view, but no longer hold it. I’d like to give some suggestions to Zippy and anyone on his side of the debate.
Seek to win hearts, not minds. Instead of calling people sinners, explain why you think such and such an act is wrong.
Organize your thoughts. They have not been (at least to this reader) clear, concise or focused.
Finally, strength is shown by taking up your opponent’s strongest arguments, not his weakest. So far you have avoided them. For example, you did not comment on the illustration about the difference between voting inside and outside the two rooms. Your opponent thought it was a brilliant illustration. That was an indicator he needed your input, whether to correct the illustration or to let him know you agree. As Dennis Prager says on his show, “I prefer clarity to agreement.” You can’t pick every battle, but you can and ought to respond to ones your opponent deems essential.

DBP October 20, 2008 at 9:35 am

That voting involves no more than an expression of preference for one outcome over another seems plausible in the present American voting regime. However, were that regime change to a different system such as approval voting, it does not appear as plausible. Unorthodox voting systems are in use in some American jurisdictions; it is probable that some day approval voting may be in use among these.
Kmiec on Obama, abortion, and the blogosphere

Senator Obama has the interesting capacity to go to people and emphasize the values of self responsibility. So when he goes to Planned Parenthood, he says the usual things the Democrats say, but then he also emphasizes that we need to teach young people to have a reverence for what sexual intimacy means and how it’s necessarily linked to new life and parenting. That’s remarkable for someone on his side of the world to say. It’s not enough to satisfy my concerns as a Catholic and conservative who believes the Court had no business in that territory. But it is a kind of federalist reminder – that these problems get solved first in family, church and the community.

McCain on whether he wants to see Roe overturned

“I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary,” McCain told The Chronicle then. “But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (undergo) illegal and dangerous operations.”
But on Sunday, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, McCain said he favors the ultimate repeal of Roe vs. Wade, “but we all know, and it’s obvious, that if we repeal Roe vs. Wade tomorrow, thousands of young American women would be (undergoing) illegal and dangerous operations.”

Assuming consistency, McCain’s view is that Roe may be wisely overturned one day if women were ever to not be disposed to seek dangerous procedures but that it would be wrong to overturn it in both the short and long term. I assume, barring a divine miracle, “long term” would encompass the next four years and that McCain, especially with a Democratic filibuster-proof Senate, would not be eager to nominate justices eager to overturn Roe. Since abortion is a political cash cow for the GOP, many political analysts and scientists consider it naivete to think that the GOP would really effect the overturning of Roe and endanger their political advantage.

SDG October 20, 2008 at 9:38 am

Thanks for your input, John. (I wonder which John you are … combox-wise, that is. I can think of at least one that you’re definitely not, and one that you might well be.)
One quick thought:

Seek to win hearts, not minds. Instead of calling people sinners, explain why you think such and such an act is wrong.

I like the second sentence, but I’m not sure it isn’t mismatched with the first sentence. It sounds as if you might really want to suggest that Zippy try to win minds (“explain why think think such and such an act is wrong”) without pushing away hearts (“Instead of calling people sinners”).

Dave Mueller October 20, 2008 at 9:52 am

DBP,
The article you quoted is from 9 years ago. McCain has a different position now, and he stated that at the last debate. His point about the “thousands of women” is probably not accurate, because even if Roe v. Wade were overturned, at least half of states would keep abortion legal.
I wouldn’t assume that he won’t appoint judges who will overturn Roe vs. Wade, not at all. McCain has stated that the type of judges he will appoint are the same type that will overturn Roe vs. Wade and other “creative” readings of the Constitution.

peregrinator October 20, 2008 at 10:01 am

I think Zippy self-diagnosed some posts back, when he stated that part of his unconquerable difficulty with SDG’s and other’s sound reasoning is in how he views the act/nature of voting.
From what I have read in this thread and on his blog, his position stands thus:
Voting is a direct act of aid to one candidate or another (see the clip of ammo anology.)
However, it is an essentially futile act because one’s one, single vote (or “clip of ammo”) cannot possibly make a difference to the outcome of the conflict/election.
But, even though the act of voting (in a national, presidential election) is totally futile it would be morally wrong (and thus damaging to one’s soul) to aid a candidate who supports evil.
Thus in Zippy’s view, voting is stripped of all practical consequence and becomes akin to an abstract proposition; so that voting for John McCain is not a practical attempt to ward off great evil by less than the best means (which is often the position in which we find ourselves on this fallen earth) but supporting evil in principle.
I think SDG and many others on this thread have already made clear that this not the only morally tenable view very effectively. Like the Masked Chicken, I choose the cracked pipe.
Contrary to the implications of Zippy’s argument, voting is our primary way as citizens to contribute to the common good of society in this country (if not, there would be no obligation to vote at all.)
And for this reason we all ought to be as involved in local elections (where individual participation has a more direct effect) as in national ones. Statewide political candidates are drawn from local pools and national candidates from statewide pools.
Not only voting for, but campaigning for and supporting candidates who hold correct moral positions on the local level, will do much more to eliminate the choice-of-evils situation on a national level than quixotic voting can.

Jordanes October 20, 2008 at 10:16 am

DBP, regarding “Kmiec on Obama, abortion, and the blogosphere,” Archbishop Chaput of Denver just took Doug Kmiec to the woodshed for trying to mislead people into thinking Obama is the right choice for pro-lifers:
http://wdtprs.com/blog/2008/10/the-lion-of-denver-on-catholics-supporting-pro-abortion-candidate-sen-obama/

John October 20, 2008 at 10:25 am

I’m the mean one. Actually I have no history on Jimmy’s blog minus the post above and a question I asked him years ago.

kritarchist October 20, 2008 at 10:39 am

I have voted for the lesser of two evils for years, and all we ever got was evil. We can’t play their game any more. Voting any third party will send the message of rejection of this tired and tiresome game.
To those many Catholics who are ready to look the other way on Obama’s horrible anti-life record because he is “good” on other social issues, don’t you understand that we have been getting war, destruction, impoverishment (and no overturning of RvW) precisely because we have not worked passionately enough for life? First things first.
Finally, isn’t it abundantly clear that government as we know it is, per se, contrary to natural law? What natural law allows one group of people to subject another, the very definition of republican government. Government is morally identical to slavery. Every evil thing contains the root of its own destruction, and that applies to nothing so well as to government.

JACK October 20, 2008 at 11:04 am

I am still troubled how the analysis begins with a pragmatic assumption and then turns to Church teaching.
The pragmatic assumption is this: only two candidates are viable.
Having eliminated all other candidates from analysis, then individuals go on to apply the Church’s teaching about proportional reasoning and whether one can vote for a candidate that holds to intrinsically evil positions (that he will in fact have authority to implement or promote or effect).
I realize everyone has a tough time conceiving of a viable third-party candidate. And if we Americans are anything, we like to be with winners. But since when does the Church’s teaching demand our allegience to things only when we can see temporal fruits of our labor.
I haven’t bothered to go to the level of analyzing whether McCain supports intrinsic evils. I didn’t have to go there to decide that I was going to vote third-party and write in a candidate. But let’s assume for a moment that Mark’s analysis is right.
It seems to me that those wanting to argue with it need to demonstrate why the Church’s teaching on proportial reasons for supporting a problematic candidate when all candidates support intrinsic evils is to be interpreted as only requiring a comparison of the two major-party candidates before getting to the question of proportionality. I thought it was all candidates. And the fact is there are candidates who are not problematic in this election. But they are being dismissed a priori.
Now many will simply respond by saying a third-party candidate is doomed. I think that’s a bit of presumption. After all, if Catholics rigorously applied Church’s teaching to their voting habits, and considered all the candidates not just the republican and democrat offerings, a third-party could be incredibly viable.

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 11:10 am

John:
Instead of calling people sinners, explain why you think such and such an act is wrong.
I’M NOT CALLING PEOPLE SINNERS. I’m saying that there is no proportionate reason in the present circumstances to vote for McCain, or any other national candidate who supports policies of murdering the innocent. Voting has multiple effects. Some of those effects (McCain winning and therefore blocking Obama’s election) are dependent on the election outcome; some of those effects (e.g. the self-destruction of the pro-life movement) do not depend on the election outcome. And since your vote’s influence over the election outcome is negligible, it is only the latter kind of effect which has any pertinence to whether or not there is a proportionate reason to do it.
The reason I didn’t respond to the “two rooms” discussion is because I didn’t (and still don’t) see the pertinence of it.
SDG:
Whether or not voting for a candidate who supports murdering the innocent harms the person who does it and/or those within his sphere of influence is an empirical question. Empirical questions are answered by reality, not abstract argument.

Dave Mueller October 20, 2008 at 11:12 am

Jack,
I have already shown this…above. I’ll copy it again for you:
if the U.S. bishops WERE NOT limiting the discussion to only VIABLE candidates, they could simply say, “one may not vote for a candidate who supports any intrinsic evil.” Period.
This is obvious because although there are only two candidates with a chance to win, there are probably 100 million qualified candidates, and surely at least several hundred thousand of them do not support any intrinsic evil. At the very worst case, one could vote for themselves, if they were the only person they knew who were orthodox in their beliefs and did not support any intrinsic evil.
Since the bishops did not do this and instead discuss under what conditions we may vote for candidates who are not perfect on the “intrinsic evil” standard, we may therefore assume that they are limiting their calculus to those candidates who have a chance to win, or AT LEAST that limiting the calculus to candidates who have a chance to win is an acceptable strategy.

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 11:17 am

So, to be clear, if the central question we need to answer, around which this whole issue revolves and with respect to which all other questions are window dressing, is “does voting for a candidate who supports murdering the innocent harm either the person who does it or those within his sphere of influence”, we shouldn’t be looking for arguments. We should be looking at reality, as objectively and humbly as we can, through observation and introspection, and seeing if this is actually happening. It sure looks to me like it is, as surely as the earth moves around the sun. But at bottom it is a question about the factual nature of things, not a question to be settled by argument.

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 11:20 am

…if the U.S. bishops WERE NOT limiting the discussion to only VIABLE candidates, they could simply say, “one may not vote for a candidate who supports any intrinsic evil.” Period.
No, you are reading that into what they wrote. Jack is right. What they wrote was all candidates, not all candidates you think have a good chance to win.
Not that I think infinite parsing of Faithful Citizenship is necessarily helpful.

Rotten Orange October 20, 2008 at 11:22 am

…if Catholics rigorously applied Church’s teaching to their voting habits…a third-party could be incredibly viable.

Or, as we say here, if my uncle were a woman, he would be my aunt…The point has already been made that this argument doesn’t address this current election.

SDG October 20, 2008 at 11:37 am

Whether or not voting for a candidate who supports murdering the innocent harms the person who does it and/or those within his sphere of influence is an empirical question. Empirical questions are answered by reality, not abstract argument.

If your thinking here were sound, Catholic thought would need no just war theory, no principle of double effect, no moral first principles, no intrinsic evil, no theology of the body, no moral theology of any kind.
We could just go: Look. Does contraception hurt you, or not? It’s an empirical question. End of discussion. Next subject.
Now, is there empirical sociological evidence regarding the harmful effects of contraception? Certainly. But the Catholic case begins with faith and reason, not sociology.
I don’t know what sociological studies you have undertaken to determine the baneful effects of McCain advocacy versus quixotic advocacy. Somehow I doubt you have anything better than anecdotal evidence.
I confess I am beyond astonished at what seems to be your claim to know, contrary to the judgment of all Catholic supporters of McCain, that such Catholics are really harming themselves, because you can just see it.
If you’re really saying something else, please clarify, because the apparent hubris is breathtaking.

JACK October 20, 2008 at 11:40 am

Dave:
I find your style of argumenting bothersome. To be fair to you, after your comment on Mark’s blog that the “matter had been answered” on this thread, I came over here to read it. Only to discover that the “matter had been addressed” by only you. Your argument is specious. Nothing in the bishops principles limits their application to all of the candidates and one can conceive of a situtation where all candidates support intrinsic evils.
In fact, to use your style of reasoning, if the bishops wanted to make this really simple they could have actually used the word viable candidates. But they don’t:
“When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the
conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the
extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation,
may decide to vote for the candidate
deemed less likely to advance such
a morally flawed position and more
likely to pursue other authentic
human goods”
There it is that darn word called “all”. Not all “viable” candidates. All. Now if the bishops wanted to speak about all “viable candidates” they could have said that. They didn’t. Which isn’t shocking, given that there mission is to teach matters of faith and morals and not engage directly in partisan politics (which the viability of a canddiate couldn’t be a more prime example).

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 11:44 am

If your thinking here were sound, Catholic thought would need no just war theory, no principle of double effect, no moral first principles, no intrinsic evil, no theology of the body, no moral theology of any kind.
That is obvious nonsense. Whether or not (say) a particular chemical is harmful to the body is a question of empirical fact. Whether or not murder is wrong is a question of moral-theological fact. In the domain of prudential judgment, that is, double effect, there are always pertinent moral principles and pertinent empirical facts.
I confess I am beyond astonished at what seems to be your claim to know, contrary to the judgment of all Catholic supporters of McCain, that such Catholics are really harming themselves [and/or those within their spheres of influence], because you can just see it.
Not because I can just see it, but because it is observable fact for which at least some empirical evidence has been provided. And yet, when you render the same judgment about Obama supporters, with which I concur, there isn’t even a hint of hubris involved, eh?

SDG October 20, 2008 at 11:57 am

Whether or not (say) a particular chemical is harmful to the body is a question of empirical fact. Whether or not murder is wrong is a question of moral-theological fact. In the domain of prudential judgment, that is, double effect, there are always pertinent moral principles and pertinent empirical facts.

In Catholic moral theology, persons incur moral harm by conforming their will to acts which are morally wrong by object, circumstances or motive. Wrongness of object, circumstances or motive is ascertained by moral reasoning from moral principles.
Dig: First we ascertain that the act is wrong, and then we infer harm to the soul. Not the other way around.

And yet, when you render the same judgment about Obama supporters, with which I concur, there isn’t even a hint of hubris involved, eh?

My judgment in that case is based on moral reasoning from moral principles — not claims of direct empirical insight into the actual moral effects on Obama supporters. I can’t speak to your concurrence. Others may judge my hubris as they see fit.

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 1:15 pm

SDG:
If the part I put in brackets:
Wrongness of object, circumstances or motive is ascertained [exclusively] by moral reasoning from moral principles.
… accurately represents what you are trying to say, then you could not possibly be more wrong. For example, the justice of a war depends on whether the threat is lasting, grave, and certain (which are empirical matters of fact), and whether or not there is a reasonable chance of success (which is an empirical matter of fact).
The notion that we can or should banish the pertinence of empirical matters of fact from moral judgments, especially prudential judgments, and in particular from assessment of whether or not there is a proportionate reason to materially cooperate with evil in a particular case, is really bad moral theology. The facts on the ground always matter in prudential judgments, and we are not entitled to our own facts.
I’ve addressed this general issue on my blog before, e.g. most recently here. Going back at least to the Iraq war there has been a tendency on the Catholic political Right to try to banish empirical facts from moral judgments. It is a fallacy we should not permit ourselves to fall into.

SDG October 20, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Zippy,
Of course circumstances (such as whether the threat in war is lasting, grave, and certain and whether there is a reasonable chance of success) are by definition subject to empirical scrutiny (AFAICT, I agree in principle with your critique on this point).
But you seem to be trying to make an argument analogous to saying “This war is unjust because waging it makes the people doing so mean and barbarous.”
Of course waging a particular war may indeed correlate with mean and barbarous behavior on the part of many waging it — e.g., the Allied bombing of civilian urban targets in Germany. That goes to the justice of particular campaigns in a war, i.e., how the war is being waged. And of course it’s true that the war — any war — shouldn’t be waged by unjust means.
But we don’t argue from the meanness of those waging the war (moral effect) to the injustice of bombing civilian targets (moral act) — much less the unjustness of waging the war in principle.
Rather, we argue from the injustice of bombing civilian targets (moral act) to the meanness of those waging the war (moral effect). As for the justice of waging the war itself, that remains to be decided on other grounds — grounds rooted in the circumstances of the war itself, not our scrutiny of the moral impact of those waging it.
From which the main point should be sufficiently clear.

Diogenes October 20, 2008 at 2:22 pm

[COPYRIGHTED CONTENT DELETED]

SDG October 20, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Dan Hunter,
Reposting copyrighted material beyond the scope of fair use is against the law. Use a link in the future.

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 2:48 pm

But you seem to be trying to make an argument analogous to saying “This war is unjust because waging it makes the people doing so mean and barbarous.”
That is an atrocious analogy. A better one would be to say that this war is unjust because the use of arms produces evils and disorders graver than any good the use of arms is capable of achieving. The evils and disorders in the analogy happen no matter what the outcome of the election, whereas the good one hopes to achieve is only as achievable as one has actual influence over the outcome.

SDG October 20, 2008 at 3:30 pm

That is an atrocious analogy. A better one would be to say that this war is unjust because the use of arms produces evils and disorders graver than any good the use of arms is capable of achieving. The evils and disorders in the analogy happen no matter what the outcome of the election, whereas the good one hopes to achieve is only as achievable as one has actual influence over the outcome.

But what evils and disorders would those be? That the people who use them become mean and callous, or something else? I’m sure your POV is perfectly clear and consistent to you, but I can’t read your mind.
Suppose that next election one of the major parties puts forward a candidate who opposes all forms of killing innocents, and in fact generally stands for everything good. Hooray! At last, a candidate we can actually vote for who could actually win.
At the same time, he’s a fierce campaigner with a ruthless machine — and his base, scarred by four years of Obama, is in no mood for bipartisanship. A divisive, us-against-them mentality thrives at his rallies (not necessarily entirely his fault), and triumphalism, smugness and contempt for those on the other side of the aisle largely characterizes his constituency.
How would you weigh the potentially palpable harm sustained by participation in such a campaign versus the negligible influence of one vote? Granted, such harm is not necessary, but it would be incurred by a great many people.
So presumably we should discourage people from campaigning for this candidate.
I’m reminded that, in the days before women’s suffrage, men justified denying women the vote on the ostensibly chivalrous grounds that politics is a dirty business and women should not be subjected to it. Perhaps it is too dirty a business for scrupulous Catholics as well. Perhaps the CCC should have said that it is morally obligatory not to vote.

Dave Mueller October 20, 2008 at 3:34 pm

I tired of the debates, so I did what I am surprised no one thought to do before; I asked an actual Bishop who had weighed in on voting guidelines for Catholics. As it happens, the Bishop I asked was Bishop Finn of Kansas City, MO. His answer was short, but I think he clearly answered the question.
Firstly, here was my somewhat verbose question:
Your Excellency,
Thanks so much for your statements on Catholic voting principles. They are much needed!
I have a very important question to ask in regards to this. There are debates going on in Catholic circles online (for example at markshea.blogspot.com and http://www.jimmyakin.org) about whether “candidates” to be evaluated should include those those (sic) who have a chance to win, or whether it should also include “fringe” candidates such as Chuck Baldwin, Joe Schriner, etc.
There are some who are saying that since Chuck Baldwin does not support any intrinsic evil, we MUST vote for him (or a similar candidate who does not support any intrinsic evil) rather than voting for the candidate who actually has a chance to win but supports some moral evil (though much less than the other candidate who has a chance to win). I think it is clear that one MAY vote for such a third party candidate, but MUST one? Is it legitimate to limit one’s choices to only the candidates that have a non-zero chance of actually being elected?
In short, how does the VIABILITY of a candidate play into your analysis?
Your answer would be very much appreciated and helpful!!
=======
BISHOP FINN’S ANSWER:
Dave,
You are correct. You may choose an imperfect candidate if it is the best chance to limit grave evil.
Peace,
+Bp Finn

c matt October 20, 2008 at 3:41 pm

look, we’re just buying time with McCain and then we will find a way to break the cycle
Thing is, we’ve been trying to buy time now for 30 years, and we are no closer to breaking the cycle. In fact, it seems highly unlikely that we we can break the cycle by perpetuating it. It’s like Obama is digging a hole with a big shovel, and McCain is digging with a small shovel. But both are digging.
Which room, prudentially, would one want to have been in at the start, knowing the eventual outcome?
The room where B is shooting.

Dave Mueller October 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Thing is, we’ve been trying to buy time now for 30 years, and we are no closer to breaking the cycle.
I would strongly disagree with this statement. To say that the pro-life movement is not stronger politically than it was 30 years ago is laughable. Even to say that we are no closer to overturning Roe v. Wade than we were 30 years ago is, in my opinion, laughable.

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 3:56 pm

But what evils and disorders would those be?
These, for example. They are all around us.

The Masked Chicken October 20, 2008 at 4:01 pm

A few points:
Jack,
You wrote:
Now many will simply respond by saying a third-party candidate is doomed. I think that’s a bit of presumption. After all, if Catholics rigorously applied Church’s teaching to their voting habits, and considered all the candidates not just the republican and democrat offerings, a third-party could be incredibly viable.
While I have a great deal of sympathy with this position (who could disagree with Catholics voting like Catholics?), there is a long way to go before such a state becomes practical:
1. People would have to have a way to find out about all third party candidates for the voting to be fair. Only with the rise of the Internet has this become even remotely possible (everyone can set up a web page).
2. Catholics would actually have to know and HOLD catholic teachings. How many Catholics think that contraception use is simply a matter of “personal” conscience? How many Catholics even know how to find out the Church’s mind on a subject? How many Catholics, especially in the United States, have developed a quasi-Protestant understanding of Christianity and the relationship of Church to State?
3. There would have to be a way to fund the third party candidates so that they could even have a chance of influencing the majority of voters, most of whom are not Catholic.
4. The candidates would have a hard time not making theological answers to some political questions, such as why ESCR is evil. This sort of approach has not worked well for Catholic politicians in the past and as the country becomes more diluted, spiritually (i.e., “diverse,”), it will be even harder for the voters to see that consistency in policies must be based on an underlying view of man?
5. How many voters are interested in evil, today, unless it directly impacts them? We are a distracted society. Catholicism works best when explained slowly and carefully. It demands concentration.
6. Why not have a Catholic party and be done with it?
I would love to see catholics vote for an orthodox Catholic candidate, but this country has too much history to allow it at the present time. Wait until we are starving. Then, people might be willing to listen, but rich countries tend to abandon the faith easily.
Zippy,
You wrote:
And since your vote’s influence over the election outcome is negligible, it is only the latter kind of effect which has any pertinence to whether or not there is a proportionate reason to do it.
The guy who wrote that article would flunk a freshman statistics class. Good grief, this is so idiotic, I can’t even think of where to begin to critique it. Has he never heard of the Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy? Just because the odds that your particular vote may seem negligible because it is lost in a sea of other votes, does not, in fact, make the vote negligible. Just because your vote might not have mattered in the last election is no grounds for arguing that it will not matter in this election. That is the Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy. Just because something has never happened, before, does not mean that it won’t happen.
Also, because voting is in secret, how can one apply observations to individual voters? If one cannot tell the state of an individual vote, one cannot assign a probability to an individual vote. This is really silly. Since it is a secret ballot, one could, in fact, argue that it was really only your vote that counted. The statistical argument for or against the significance of any given vote in a secret vote is exactly symmetrical.
The Chicken

Zippy October 20, 2008 at 4:21 pm

The statistical argument for or against the significance of any given vote in a secret vote is exactly symmetrical.
Well, I agree that one’s influence over McCain beating Obama is on the same order as one’s influence over McCain carrying out his policy of federally funding the murder of the innocent. Both of those have to pass through the attenuating effect of the election process, and are symmetrically negligible. But that is not the case with the bad effects on onesself, those around one, and the pro-life movement more generally which proceed from jumping on the bandwagon of a candidate who supports murdering the innocent. Those bad effects, the bad effects of making a candidate who supports murdering the innocent into the pro life guy, are not attenuated to the level of influence one actually has on the outcome. Pro-lifers have made John McCain their quarterback, whether he wins or loses. And we’ve seen for decades how this degrades and destroys the pro-life movement from within.
That people actually entertain, as a supposedly serious proposition, the hypothetical of their own vote changing the outcome does demonstrate how far, far away from reality the discussion is though.

John October 20, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Voting has multiple effects. Some of those effects (McCain winning and therefore blocking Obama’s election) are dependent on the election outcome; some of those effects (e.g. the self-destruction of the pro-life movement) do not depend on the election outcome. And since your vote’s influence over the election outcome is negligible, it is only the latter kind of effect which has any pertinence to whether or not there is a proportionate reason to do it.
Now you are arguing I should vote according to the effect it will have on the pro-life movement? Great! That’s the reason I will be voting for McCain. Not because he is a pro-life “quarterback”, but because the opposition is much more likely to prolong our pro-life efforts. What we know of government is this: when it gains a foothold on something, it takes decades to overcome, if ever. An Obama victory will set back the pro-life movement decades if he appoints Supreme Court Justices (which is almost certain) or instills the Fairness Doctrine (which has happened before).
The reason I didn’t respond to the “two rooms” discussion is because I didn’t (and still don’t) see the pertinence of it.
If you believe the illustration was inaccurate, could you please explain why? I assume that is what you mean by “pertinence”.
BISHOP FINN’S ANSWER:
Dave,
You are correct. You may choose an imperfect candidate if it is the best chance to limit grave evil.
Peace,
+Bp Finn
This is important! If you want the issue settled once and for all, write to your Bishop.

The Masked Chicken October 20, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Dear Zippy,
You wrote:
That people actually entertain, as a supposedly serious proposition, the hypothetical of their own vote changing the outcome does demonstrate how far, far away from reality the discussion is though.
That was the whole purpose of my paragraph, above – to show that a person’s vote may either be very significant or very insignificant in changing the outcome. One simply cannot tell in a secret ballot, therefore, one may assume either case, although, prudentially, it would seem to me that, unless there is evidence to the contrary, it is safer to assume that one’s vote is significant rather than insignificant.
A proportionate reason to vote for the lesser candidate must assume that an individual vote is proportionate. What I tried to show above is that in the secret voting in the United States, this is at least 50/50 possible. I think the Slate article is simply wrong in comparing a secret ballot to a lottery where each pick is known, although I was too harsh on and probably unfair to the writer.
I was not trying to make a comment on the bad effects on a voter that might result from voting from any one candidate. Given the level of self-delusion in the United States voting population and how poorly people understand the voting process, one could imagine that the perceived effect would be minimal, however, the objective effect could be huge. When a gang member shoots a rival gang member, his subjective sense of self-esteem is enlarged even though his objective sense of self is diminished. If voting for McCain is intrinsically evil, then there would be an objective harm to the soul; if it is not, then there might not be. I suppose the question boils down to whether or not voting for McCain is an intrinsic evil, in itself. Is it possible to vote for someone without supporting all of his policies?

Jordanes October 20, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Strange. The comments end with Oct 17, 2008 12:57:01 PM, despite all of the other comments which have been posted here since then, and which display in the “recent comments” column at the upper right of the screen.

Jordanes October 20, 2008 at 6:17 pm

Even weirder. Now the comments end with the one posted Oct 18, 2008 6:27:18 AM. I wonder what’s going on.

Sleeping Beastly October 20, 2008 at 6:52 pm

SDG,
You wrote:
To the extent that quixotic-vote advocates may feel that the most prudent and productive course is to register dissent from all forms of intrinsically immoral policy by voting for a third-party candidate, they are within the bounds of legitimate prudential judgment…
However, the benefit for the public good of voters voting in numbers for the least problematic viable candidate is never nonexistent (and always proportionate to the cooperation in evil), so the obligation to vote for the candidate we regard as the least problematic viable candidate is never nonexistent.

I am having trouble reconciling these two statements. You seem to be saying that it is permissible to vote third party, and also saying that we have an obligation to vote for a viable candidate. Which is it?
A lot of what I read is very heated. I have had at least half a dozen commentors tell me that my vote for Keyes is effectively a vote for Obama, and that if I vote third party, I am thereby responsible for all the babies that die that might not have died had McCain been president. Needless to say, I disagree. The impact of my vote (and even of my persuasive speeches to others) on abortion in this country is highly debatable.
I will vote for Keyes because I believe that registering dissent to many established policies of both major parties (including long-standing Republican tolerance for abortion) will have a better effect on our country than ensuring a McCain presidency. This is my belief, but I sympathize with those who think we need to prevent an Obama presidency at all costs, and I understand why they think this way.
It’s a prudential judgment, is it not?

Rotten Orange October 20, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Is it just my impression or a good part of the comments vanished away?

Sleeping Beastly October 20, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Scott W.,
Hegelian Mambo! Love it!
Chicken,
I almost always agree with you 100%, but I’m wondering whether a vote for third party candidate wouldn’t detract from Obama’s mandate just as effectively as a vote for McCain.

SDG October 21, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Well, I agree that one’s influence over McCain beating Obama is on the same order as one’s influence over McCain carrying out his policy of federally funding the murder of the innocent. Both of those have to pass through the attenuating effect of the election process, and are symmetrically negligible. But that is not the case with the bad effects on onesself, those around one, and the pro-life movement more generally which proceed from jumping on the bandwagon of a candidate who supports murdering the innocent. Those bad effects, the bad effects of making a candidate who supports murdering the innocent into the pro life guy, are not attenuated to the level of influence one actually has on the outcome. Pro-lifers have made John McCain their quarterback, whether he wins or loses. And we’ve seen for decades how this degrades and destroys the pro-life movement from within.

Fine, Zippy. Rail against the corruption of the pro-life movement. I’m with you 100 percent on that.
But let’s look at what has been accomplished because enough people held their noses and voted for the lesser of two viable evils.
Not just negligible votes that don’t matter. Lame-ass abortion restrictions are less lame, and evil funding for abortion is less evil. A great many actual babies who would have died have been born instead, and a great many mothers have not become murderers. A few good justices on the Court instead of the evil justices that Dem presidents always nominate. For starters.
And look what could be accomplished in this election if enough people held their noses and voted for the lesser of two viable evils. Look at all the evil that Obama wants to do that wouldn’t happen. And maybe, just maybe, a chance to finally tip the balance on the Court.
Sure, I’m concerned about the soul of the pro-life movement. I’m more concerned about the actual lives at stake in the election, as well as the legal and juridical implications for our civil society.
I notice you didn’t answer my question about the hypothetical non-killing candidate.

SDG October 21, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Well, I agree that one’s influence over McCain beating Obama is on the same order as one’s influence over McCain carrying out his policy of federally funding the murder of the innocent. Both of those have to pass through the attenuating effect of the election process, and are symmetrically negligible. But that is not the case with the bad effects on onesself, those around one, and the pro-life movement more generally which proceed from jumping on the bandwagon of a candidate who supports murdering the innocent. Those bad effects, the bad effects of making a candidate who supports murdering the innocent into the pro life guy, are not attenuated to the level of influence one actually has on the outcome. Pro-lifers have made John McCain their quarterback, whether he wins or loses. And we’ve seen for decades how this degrades and destroys the pro-life movement from within.

Fine, Zippy. Rail against the corruption of the pro-life movement. I’m with you 100 percent on that.
But let’s look at what has been accomplished because enough people held their noses and voted for the lesser of two viable evils.
Not just negligible votes that don’t matter. Lame-ass abortion restrictions are less lame, and evil funding for abortion is less evil. A great many actual babies who would have died have been born instead, and a great many mothers have not become murderers. A few good justices on the Court instead of the evil justices that Dem presidents always nominate. For starters.
And look what could be accomplished in this election if enough people held their noses and voted for the lesser of two viable evils. Look at all the evil that Obama wants to do that wouldn’t happen. And maybe, just maybe, a chance to finally tip the balance on the Court.
Sure, I’m concerned about the soul of the pro-life movement. I’m more concerned about the actual lives at stake in the election, as well as the legal and juridical implications for our civil society.
I notice you didn’t answer my question about the hypothetical non-killing candidate.

Dave Mueller October 21, 2008 at 4:01 pm

For a second opinion, I asked Bishop Vasa, who gave a longer answer, but one that is consistent with Bishop Finn’s:
Your Excellency,
I have corresponded with you a bit in the past regarding the “Safe Environment” programs, so I hope you won’t be bothered if I pose a question to you. This stems from debates online where Catholic voters are trying to understand the Bishops voting principles. Any answer would be most helpful in helping us fulfill our civic duties!
The question relates most closely to paragraph 36 of “Faithful Citizenship”:
36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.
There are debates going on in Catholic circles online about whether “all candidates” to be evaluated above should include only those who have a chance to win, or whether it should also include “fringe” candidates such as Chuck Baldwin, Joe Schriner, etc.
There are some who are saying that since Chuck Baldwin does not support any intrinsic evil, we MUST vote for him (or a similar candidate who does not support any intrinsic evil) rather than voting for the candidate who actually has a chance to win but supports some moral evil (though much less than the other candidate who has a chance to win). Some questions based on this:
1) I think it is clear that one MAY vote for such a third party candidate, but MUST one?
2) Is it legitimate to limit one’s choices to only the candidates that have a non-zero chance of actually being elected?
3) Would prudence dictate that a voter support the candidate who actually has a chance to win, or is that completely up to the voter?
Secondly, we know that we need to have proportionate reasons to vote for a candidate who supports some level of intrinsic evil. Can you clarify how that would play out in reality? For example, if there are two candidates who could win the election, and both support intrinsic evil (let’s say they both support Embryonic Stem Cell Research), but one candidate also supports abortion, gay marriage, etc. while the other candidate does not, is that in itself enough proportionate reason to vote for the candidate who supports ESCR but not the other evils, or is something else needed?
Bishop Vasa, I know you and all of the Bishops are extremely busy, but if you could answer these questions, we’d be eternally grateful!
============
Bishop Vasa’s answer, verbatim:
Dave: It seems to me that you have the principles well in hand. Proportionate reasons means reasons which concern an approximately same level of seriousness, i.e. abortion and euthanasia are both life issues and are thus somewhat proportionate though the greater number of actual abortions taking place would raise that issue, in my estimation above euthanasia. As far as third party candidates are concerned it would seem to me that voting for a candidate who has NO possibility of winning is a symbolic vote which has some merit but it is the same as casting a vote for the person whom you deem LEAST suitable for the position since it takes a vote away from that candidate who has values closer to ours but is not entirely right on all issues. It is not easy. God bless +RFV
P.S. As Archbishop Chaput says, Doctrine is one thing, strategy is another.
==========

Sleeping Beastly October 21, 2008 at 6:52 pm

SDG,
You wrote:
A great many actual babies who would have died have been born instead, and a great many mothers have not become murderers.
This is exactly the kind of thing that is so difficult to prove. You argue that by making some compromises, we have limited abortions. Others (including myself) believe that by refusing to take a more principled stand, we have allowed abortion to become more firmly entrenched in our culture and have allowed the “center” to be pulled further towards the pro-abortion side. The mainstream debate now has the anti-abortion side represented by a guy who supports abortion in some cases, while the other side is about as pro-abortion as it is possible to be. If we keep this up, in thirty years, we will be lining up to vote for someone who supports infanticide up to age five simply because the other guy is in favor of involuntary euthanasia of the poor. We have to draw a serious line somewhere. We should have drawn it 35 years ago.
I believe that we have such an atrocious choice to make now because we have not been more principled in the past. I can’t prove my point anymore than you can prove the point I quoted above. But I have good reason to think that by making these kinds of compromises we are actually prolonging the battle to end abortion. I may be repeating myself at this point, so I’ll get off this particular hobby horse now. Pax.

SDG October 21, 2008 at 7:52 pm

This is exactly the kind of thing that is so difficult to prove. You argue that by making some compromises, we have limited abortions. Others (including myself) believe that by refusing to take a more principled stand, we have allowed abortion to become more firmly entrenched in our culture and have allowed the “center” to be pulled further towards the pro-abortion side.

I’m saying that, concretely, measures like the Mexico City Policy and the Hyde Amendment have prevented government funding of a great many abortions, and that, of these, many have not taken place as a result. NARAL agrees; they say the Hyde Amendment alone may cut the abortion rate in half. Even if that’s overstated, it surely has an effect. The same goes for countless other measures such as parental notification and informed consent measures that the pro-choice lobby has fought tooth and nail.
You say “we have allowed” the center to be pulled further towards the pro-abortion side. I see no reason to think it was ever in our power to prevent that — that we were ever in a position to “allow” or disallow such a slide. I see no reason to think that we would be better off taking ourselves out of the general election. What viable presidential candidate of the last twenty years could we have voted for, by the scrupulous standard at issue? What reason do we have to think that our refusal to do so would somehow generate better candidates for future elections?
In this election, a sufficient number of pro-life Catholics voting quixotic rather than for McCain will either have no effect on the outcome, or it will mean an Obama victory rather than a McCain victory. If Obama wins, and we lose the Hyde Amendment and Mexico City and get FOCA and clone-and-kill, that will be a rapid slide toward the pro-abortion side rather than a slower slide (or possibly some victories from McCain).
Unquestionably, losing the Hyde Amendment and Mexico City and getting FOCA and clone-and-kill will mean a great many more dead babies than would otherwise be the case without an Obama victory. Even if Obama achieves only part of his agenda, it will mean more dead babies. Conversely, a McCain victory will mean fewer dead babies.
The proposal that, by a sufficient number of us hanging tough and refusing to settle, even at the potential cost of those lives whose Obama’s policies will cost, we will, I don’t know, maintain our integrity and spank the GOP and get better candidates at some point down the road, seems to me to hazard too much concrete short-term loss for too little uncertain long-term gain.
If there were reason for confidence in such a long-term outcome, it might be worth it. But it seems to me at least as likely that a McCain loss will diminish the influence of the pro-life movement, not enhance it.
I understand not wanting to be the GOP’s patsy. I just don’t see the likelihood of a better outcome from a different course of action. Mark’s battered-spouse analogy really kind of works for me. I would rather stay in the house and take the abuse, and maybe protect the children a little, than walk out and preserve my dignity and leave the children to the mercies of the abusive spouse and his evil twin brother.

Zippy October 21, 2008 at 8:33 pm

And look what could be accomplished in this election if enough people held their noses and voted for the lesser of two viable evils.
I think, separately from my specific argument about proportionate reason, that that is a false hope. I think that there is an inexorable dynamic at work where the less evil is the ally of the greater evil, and this can only be stopped when pro-lifers get to the point where they stop labeling mass murderers “pro life” and encouraging people to vote for them.

Michelle October 21, 2008 at 11:43 pm

The issue of scrupulous quixotic voters in the other direction isn’t a blip on their radar screens.
But it certainly is on yours.

SDG October 22, 2008 at 3:59 am

Zippy,

I think, separately from my specific argument about proportionate reason, that that is a false hope.

No, simple causality. If Obama is not elected this year, FOCA and clone-and-kill will not kill more babies in the next four years.

I think that there is an inexorable dynamic at work where the less evil is the ally of the greater evil, and this can only be stopped when pro-lifers get to the point where they stop labeling mass murderers “pro life” and encouraging people to vote for them.

Could you suggest a plausible scenario describing how the strategy you suggest is at all likely to bring about the effect you posit?
I would also be interested in your response to the future voting scenario I gave above.

SDG October 22, 2008 at 4:02 am

SDG: The issue of scrupulous quixotic voters in the other direction isn’t a blip on their radar screens.

Michelle: But it certainly is on yours.

Yes, that is because I am a little fish that swims in more limited and conservative circles than the bishops. The bishops are pastors of the entire local Churches and are rightly concerned about the big picture, which is that Catholics seem to be widely defecting to Obama.
The bishops are addressing the big, serious, practical moral problem of how many Catholics are actually voting; I’m more concerned about the little, theoretical moral problem of how a few Catholics are thinking about (the morality of) voting. (The actual vote is not a moral problem for me, because I don’t oppose voting quixotic as objectively wrong.)
I am not friends with a lot of Catholic Obama supporters and they don’t hang out en masse in the Internet forums I frequent. I did devote one post to the big problem, which was largely uncontroversial among the group of people most likely to pay attention to whatever I might have to say. The bishops don’t have the luxury of being principally concerned with what a minority of conservative and scrupulous Catholics are doing.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 4:22 am

If Obama is not elected this year, FOCA and clone-and-kill will not kill more babies in the next four years.
Right. But you have no say in whether or not that happens, any more than you have a say in whether or not I find a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk and donate its proceeds to NRL. The election outcome is in God’s hands, not yours. What you do have a say in is what kind of person you will become, how you will think and act, how others who are influenced by you will think and act, etc.
Could you suggest a plausible scenario describing how the strategy you suggest is at all likely to bring about the effect you posit?
Sure. Devout Christians stop supporting mass murderers and labeling them “pro life”, and instead consistently witness to the culture, and pray, and fast, and when they vote, vote for candidates who are not mass murderers. Through the additional intervention of God’s Providence, things get better.
I would also be interested in your response to the future voting scenario I gave above.
I don’t know what scenario that is. I probably missed it in the missing comments hubbub, or else I just didn’t think it was pertinent. Hypotheticals can be useful, but they can just as easily be a distraction from the actual reality we actually face.

SDG October 22, 2008 at 4:56 am

Right. But you have no say in whether or not that happens, any more than you have a say in whether or not I find a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk and donate its proceeds to NRL. The election outcome is in God’s hands, not yours. What you do have a say in is what kind of person you will become, how you will think and act, how others who are influenced by you will think and act, etc.

When the Catechism calls voting a morally obligatory exercise in “co-responsibility for the common good,” it is not thinking primarily of the moral effect that my advocacy for a particular candidate on me and those around me. The outcome of the election is in God’s hands in exactly the same sense that everything else is in God’s hands; it is also in our hands. My points 4 and 5 in the post for this combox address the “you have no say” argument: It is true, for all practical intents and purposes, that one vote can’t change the outcome, but it is also true that enough people voting for McCain will change the outcome, and since I hope McCain will win, I hope enough people will vote for him, and what I hope enough other people will do I have some obligation to do myself, since it is only by individuals doing what we all want done that the thing will happen.

Sure. Devout Christians stop supporting mass murderers and labeling them “pro life”, and instead consistently witness to the culture, and pray, and fast, and when they vote, vote for candidates who are not mass murderers. Through the additional intervention of God’s Providence, things get better.

God’s Providence is a great imponderable, and the relationship between Providence and our actions is seldom cut and dried. We don’t know what God will or won’t do if we do one thing rather than another. We must always trust to Providence however good or bad things look, or however good or bad our choices are. That doesn’t let us off the hook trying to bring about the best possible outcome on the merits of our actions.

I don’t know what scenario that is. I probably missed it in the missing comments hubbub, or else I just didn’t think it was pertinent. Hypotheticals can be useful, but they can just as easily be a distraction from the actual reality we actually face.

How we respond to the actual reality we face depends on the theories we hold, and the credibility of our theories can usefully be tested by hypotheticals. The scenario I mentioned is in this comment, starting with the words “Suppose that next election one of the major parties puts forward a candidate who opposes all forms of killing innocents, and in fact generally stands for everything good.”

Michael October 22, 2008 at 5:05 am

If they’d chosen Giuliani, there would have been no way I would have voted Republican, and before he chose Palin I was still contemplating whether to vote at all this fall, or whether I should clamp on the clothespin.
Why does the selection of Palin make such a difference? Just curious. The election is between McCain and Obama and the Quixotes. There is the possibility that McCain may not survive long if elected and Palin will become president but that is a vague hope and more in God’s hands than ours. Its possibility seems to be obscuring the point of choice we are being asked to make.
Same as above: once that happens, there can be no voting for the two main parties’ candidates.
You must realize that this has already happened as some people look at it? It used to be that supporting embryonic stem cell research would have been beyond the pale for a Republican presidential candidate. If McCain gets elected the message to the Republican party leadership will be that support for this goulish practice has no political consequence and the base can be brought in line once again. Again, it is just a question because four years from now we will be making the same arguments for and about a candidate who is even worse on life issues.

SDG October 22, 2008 at 5:14 am

Why does the selection of Palin make such a difference? Just curious.

The VP choice is a significant straw in the wind for the what is left of the soul of the GOP. A vote for a McCain–Giuliani ticket could be seen as a vote to kill what is left of the pro-life movement in the GOP. A vote for McCain–Palin can be seen as a vote to preserve and possibly strengthen what is left of the pro-life movement in the GOP.
Likewise, I find it likely that a McCain–Palin defeat will further weaken, not strengthen, what is left of the pro-life movement in the GOP. I mean, Divine Providence can do whatever God wills, but.

It used to be that supporting embryonic stem cell research would have been beyond the pale for a Republican presidential candidate. If McCain gets elected the message to the Republican party leadership will be that support for this goulish practice has no political consequence and the base can be brought in line once again. Again, it is just a question because four years from now we will be making the same arguments for and about a candidate who is even worse on life issues.

I don’t buy the “Everything is always getting worse in every way” argument. McCain is in some ways (directly related to life issues) better, not worse, than Bush 43, and Bush 43 was in some ways (directly related to life issues) better, not worse, than Bush 41.
And, again, the question is not whether the next candidate four years from now will be better or worse, which is something we don’t know. To the extent that the next election is a factor at all, the proper question is (a) whether the outcome of this election makes it more likely or less likely that the next candidate will be better or worse, and (b) whether, if things do get worse, any outcome this year could make them better, or prevent them from getting worse, or slow the rate of decline.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 6:39 am

When the Catechism calls voting a morally obligatory exercise in “co-responsibility for the common good,” it is not thinking primarily of the moral effect that my advocacy for a particular candidate on me and those around me.
That is your interpretation. The passage actually says:

Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country:
Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
[Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.
The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.”

Nothing about personal influence over the outcome of elections in there. (It would be out of place if there were, since election theory is outside the domain of the Church’s teaching authority). Interpreting this to mean “there is always a proportionate reason to vote for a mass murderer, as long as he is not as bad as the other viable candidate” involves, shall we say, more than a little filling in of the blanks.
On the issue of wanting others to vote for McCain too, well, all I can say at this point is that it is something I’ve addressed many times. I can’t tell if you are denying my response to it or if you haven’t understood my response to it, but in either case there seems to be little point in repeating the same points over and over again. Yes, as votes aggregate their infinitesimal overall effect becomes less negligible; but the bad non-outcome-dependent effects, which are far larger than any influence over the outcome, also aggregate. So comparatively speaking, in national elections, the influence of voting over the outcome is always negligible compared to the outcome-independent effects of voting.

SDG October 22, 2008 at 7:13 am

That is your interpretation.

That is my appeal to a reasonable reading, yes. I think nearly everyone will agree.

The passage actually says: Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country

It does. And the primary rationale for paying taxes and defending our country, as with voting, is that, when we all pitch in and do our bit for the community, the outcome of our actions benefits the common good. The rationale is not first of all that, by valuing things that really matter, we become better people. On the contrary, we become better people precisely because we are acting toward an outcome that benefits the common good.

On the issue of wanting others to vote for McCain too, well, all I can say at this point is that it is something I’ve addressed many times. I can’t tell if you are denying my response to it or if you haven’t understood my response to it, but in either case there seems to be little point in repeating the same points over and over again.

You could humor me, or at least point me to where you have addressed it many times. Lots of people say lots of things, and nearly all of it goes unnoticed by a lot of people.
I’m still curious about your response to my future voting scenario.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 7:32 am

It does.
Well, yes; and when you truncate it the way you did, that makes your reading seem more plausible to the unreflective.
…at least point me to where you have addressed it many times…
Isn’t that kind of moot, since I did repeat it in that comment?
I’m still curious about your response to my future voting scenario.
For the second time, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. Perhaps a link to it would help. If I think it is pertinent, I’ll respond.

Dave Mueller October 22, 2008 at 7:48 am

It’s kind of interesting to me that, because of this debate, I asked two bishops for a clarification. They’ve given the clarification, but no one seems to care. The argument goes on as if nothing ever happened. What is going on here?

SDG October 22, 2008 at 7:53 am

For the second time, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. Perhaps a link to it would help. If I think it is pertinent, I’ll respond.

I GAVE YOU A LINK TWO COMMENTS AGO — AND A FIRST SENTENCE.
Sorry for shouting, but I get the distinct feeling you aren’t reading my posts all the way to the end, and I’m shooting myself in the foot ever trying to say more than one thing.
Here is the link AGAIN. Here is the first sentence again: “Suppose that next election one of the major parties puts forward a candidate who opposes all forms of killing innocents, and in fact generally stands for everything good.”
The comment is on THIS PAGE. I bet you can find it if you look.

SDG October 22, 2008 at 7:55 am

Dave: I care. In fact, I’m planning on putting the same question to two bishops in my state, first chance I get.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 7:57 am

Dave, if you think getting private and qualified opinions by email from a couple of bishops – bishops who have not so much as glanced over the particular arguments here, and have just answered particular questions as you posed them – should settle a subtle and counterintuitive dispute over moral theology and the factual nature of elections and voting in your favor, well, then you just don’t understand Catholic ecclesiology.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 7:59 am

Oh, that? No, I don’t see voting for a ruthless campaigner as on the same order as voting for a mass murderer.

Dave Mueller October 22, 2008 at 8:04 am

if you think getting private and qualified opinions by email from a couple of bishops…should settle a subtle and counterintuitive dispute over moral theology and the factual nature of elections and voting in your favor, well, then you just don’t understand Catholic ecclesiology.
It might not definitively settle it, but at the very least I’d think it would become part of the discussion. I’d also venture to say that “the factual nature of elections and voting” is something that is assumed in the Bishops answer. I don’t see how one writes a letter on moral guidelines for voting without considering the “factual nature of election and voting.”

SDG October 22, 2008 at 8:04 am

Oh, that? No, I don’t see voting for a ruthless campaigner as on the same order as voting for a mass murderer.

Nice try, but that wasn’t my question. The issue is one of principle, not magnitude.
Let’s agree that the harm done by voting for a ruthless campaigner is less than the harm done by voting for a mass murderer. But that is still actual harm, whereas your individual vote, you say, makes no difference at all. Therefore there is no proportionate reason to incur even this mitigated harm for the sake of a nonexistent good.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 8:18 am

But that is still actual harm, whereas your individual vote, you say, makes no difference at all.
That isn’t true, or at best is shorthand. My claim is that
1) Murdering the innocent is the singular act which is most radically opposed to the common good, so much so that when sanctioned by authority it undercuts the very foundation of legitimate authority (see Evangelium Vitae);
2) Voting is a civic ritual in which we express our submission to legitimate authority and co-responsibility for the common good (see the Catechism);
3) Because of the radical opposition between (1) and (2), there is always some harm done to the person and those around him in voting for a candidate who supports murdering the innocent;
4) This harm far, far outweighs any influence one’s vote has over the outcome in national elections, because in national elections one’s influence is very, very small;
5) As votes aggregate in influence over the outcome, the outcome-independent harm also aggregates in influence;
6) Therefore the outcome-independent harm in voting for a national candidate who supports murdering the innocent always far outweighs any concomitant influence over the outcome;
So there is no proportionate reason to vote for a national candidate who supports murdering the innocent in circumstances like ours.

Paul Goings October 22, 2008 at 8:35 am

Zippy,
I think that I better understand your perspective from this last post than from everything else that you’ve said thus far.
Basically, your argument is entirely dependent on proposition (4) being unquestionably true. I’m not sure how you could demonstrate that; you haven’t so far in this discussion.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 8:48 am

Paul:
Well, it doesn’t depend on it being unquestionably true, it just depends on it being true. Conversely, if it is true then there is indeed no proportionate reason to vote for McCain, so people ought to be worried about whether or not it is true.
But yes, the particular argument does depend on it being true, and as an empirical (putative) fact it is the kind of thing we can come to know through observation and introspection. Some evidence has been offered up for it in the observational sense; but yes, I think it is true, for the most part people have to make their own observations and introspections and decide for themselves if they believe it to be true, and it has always been at the core of the dispute.

Paul Goings October 22, 2008 at 9:14 am

Zippy,
I take your point that “unquestionably” was the wrong word. I think that “objectively” (or possibly “demonstrably”) would have been better.
But I’m glad that you understood my point.
I think that the evidence that you refer to has been largely anecdotal, and therefore not very persuasive. Too, I think that if the truth value of a proposition depends on introspection, it is unlikely to be objective in a sense that is any broader than individual (i.e. such-and-such is true for me).

Dave Mueller October 22, 2008 at 9:27 am

I’m not sure I agree with any of Zippy’s points, other than #1. I’d say:
2) Voting is more than JUST a “civic ritual” and the primary purpose of it is to determine who will be our leaders, not to “express our submission to legitimate authority.”
3) I believe the bishop’s statements and clarifications have shown this to be false.
Therefore, 4, 5, and 6 are rendered moot.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 9:28 am

I think that the evidence that you refer to has been largely anecdotal, and therefore not very persuasive.
I’m not really concerned if it is persuasive. Persuasive to whom? What experience and background and biases does the person have? Life is too short to worry about who finds it persuasive. I think it is true.
Too, I think that if the truth value of a proposition depends on introspection, it is unlikely to be objective in a sense that is any broader than individual (i.e. such-and-such is true for me).
The truth of the proposition doesn’t depend on introspection. Knowledge of it can be gained in part from introspection. That it is true that human beings are conscious doesn’t depend on introspection, but introspection provides a lot of the evidence for believing it.

Sleeping Beastly October 22, 2008 at 9:30 am

SDG,
You wrote:
I’m saying that, concretely, measures like the Mexico City Policy and the Hyde Amendment have prevented government funding of a great many abortions, and that, of these, many have not taken place as a result.
Your claim was that these gains were made because enough people “held their noses and voted for the lesser evil.” My contention is that you cannot possibly know for certain that these gains were not, in fact, smaller than the gains that would have been made had anti-abortion voters stood more solidly on principle. This, to me, is the more crucial distinction in our disagreement about how to vote. You can point to concrete gains and say “because” and I can point to those same gains and say “in spite of” or even “instead of more substantial gains.”
The problem is that neither your contention nor mine is provable. It’s a matter of opinion, of personal judgment. I respect the way you have arrived at your decision, and I don’t doubt that you can cast your vote for McCain with a clear conscience. I am not even entirely certain you’re wrong. We’re both guessing to some extent, and voting accordingly.
If McCain is elected, and the pro-abortion cause gains ground over the next ten years (as I think likely, particularly with a Democratic majority in Congress, and a president unlikely to veto the FOCA when they send it through) I will not blame you for that, as that was certainly not your intention. All I ask is that, if I vote for Keyes and Obama is elected, you all not blame me for the abortions you assume I could have prevented by voting for McCain. Fair enough?
What viable presidential candidate of the last twenty years could we have voted for, by the scrupulous standard at issue? What reason do we have to think that our refusal to do so would somehow generate better candidates for future elections?
For one thing, a third party that gains a substantial minority vote gets more press exposure and bigger donations. It gets more spots on more ballots. The reason third parties are not viable is that… well, people are told (and believe) that they are not viable, so they don’t bother with them.
For another, if the GOP saw anti-abortion voters running to a third party, they might just improve their own stance on the issue.
These may not seem proportionate reasons to you to allow an Obama presidency, and I can sympathize with that view. But they’re legitimate reasons for casting a third party vote, no?
If Obama wins, and we lose the Hyde Amendment and Mexico City and get FOCA and clone-and-kill, that will be a rapid slide toward the pro-abortion side rather than a slower slide (or possibly some victories from McCain).
First, I am not as certain as you that a McCain presidency would be so terribly different from an Obama presidency. I’ve seen Republicans and Democrats behaving essentially the same way in office for my entire life. Even if McCain was able to put his own views into practice (no abortion except in cases of rape or incest) all I can see that achieving is putting another piece of paper in each Planned Parenthood file: the paper that the mother signs saying she was raped.
Second, I am not convinced that these legislative defeats are the same as an overall rapid slide towards the pro-abortion side. There’s more involved here, particularly when we’re talking about putting pressure on politicians and possibly enabling a third party to become viable. As long as those opposed to abortion can be counted on to vote Republican, their cause can be effectively ignored while the GOP courts the “center” vote. (There is a similar dynamic involved with the anti-war vote and the Democratic party. Anti-war voters still flock to the Dems even after every Democratic senator spat in their face by granting Bush the power to invade Iraq.)
Unquestionably… Even if Obama achieves only part of his agenda, it will mean more dead babies. Conversely, a McCain victory will mean fewer dead babies.
I do think there is a question here. If I really believed that there would be such a substantial difference in the outcome, I would be voting for McCain, although with a pocket full of clothespins. There may be something of an immediate difference, but I don’t think it’s necessarily big enough to outweigh the long-term difference between a McCain vote and a Keyes (or Baldwin) vote.
The proposal that, by a sufficient number of us hanging tough and refusing to settle, even at the potential cost of those lives whose Obama’s policies will cost, we will, I don’t know, maintain our integrity and spank the GOP and get better candidates at some point down the road, seems to me to hazard too much concrete short-term loss for too little uncertain long-term gain.
Fair enough. That’s the reason I call it a matter of personal judgment. It seems to me that we now ought to do what we ought to have started doing 35 years ago.
Mark’s battered-spouse analogy really kind of works for me. I would rather stay in the house and take the abuse, and maybe protect the children a little, than walk out and preserve my dignity and leave the children to the mercies of the abusive spouse and his evil twin brother.
What about walking out of the house and getting a lawyer to try and get full legal custody? Surely bringing the children entirely out from under the abuser is the best outcome. You may think it’s not worth the risk to the children while you’re gone. I think it’s not worth the risk that the abuser is just going to get worse and worse as time goes on, and both the battered spouse and the children are just going to get more and more desensitized to the abuse. Likely the children will grow up to do the same and worse to their children.
And I still have a question as to where you stand on “quixotic” voting. Am I morally obligated to vote for a viable candidate, or am I within my rights to vote third party?

SDG October 22, 2008 at 9:52 am

The weak link in Zippy’s argument is this step:

3) Because of the radical opposition between (1) and (2), there is always some harm done to the person and those around him in voting for a candidate who supports murdering the innocent

Anecdotal evidence of such harm occurring in fact does not establish the necessity of such harm — and, in fact, I think Zippy has elsewhere conceded that such harm is not necessary. But if not necessary, then, very likely at least, not “always” either.
Consider a very different scenario with some similar implications from Evangelium Vitae:

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations — particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

First the dissimilarities: The pope’s scenario involves an elected official (not a voter) whose legislative vote for a particular law would be decisive (not one vote among millions in any given state) for a particular law (not a particular candidate).
Some of these dissimilarities diminish the overall applicability of the underlying principles to our current topic; others increase it. However, in one crucial respect they are the same: Both involve the same sort of “radical opposition” noted in the third point of Zippy’s argument regarding the evil of murdering the innocent and the duty of the individual, whether a private citizen or (much more) a public official, to promote the common good.
Whether the vote is likely to be decisive or irrelevant goes to step (4) in Zippy’s argument, and is not relevant at the earlier stage. Following the structure of Zippy’s argument, it would seem that the pope’s scenario is subject to the following analysis:
1) Murdering the innocent is the singular act which is most radically opposed to the common good, so much so that when sanctioned by authority it undercuts the very foundation of legitimate authority (see Evangelium Vitae);
2) Public witness to our faith “is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms … Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature” (see Sacramentum Caritatis);
3) Because of the radical opposition between (1) and (2), there is always some harm done to the elected offical and those around him in voting for a law that partially legitimizes murdering the innocent.
Indeed, the opposition here is much more radical than in the original case, since (a) the vote is for a specific law on the brink of passage, not one of two candidates with countless positives and negatives to consider, agendas that might never get enacted, etc., and (b) the elected official’s responsibility obliges him much more strictly to “support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature.”
Having argued so far, it would still be possible without complete absurdity to reconcile this interpretation with JP2′s conclusion regarding the liceity of the official’s support of the law, since, one could argue, the harm done to the elected official and those around him, though real, is outweighed by the actual decisive influence of the politician’s vote in this instance.
However, I submit that this would be an unreasonable interpretation of JP2′s thought. In saying that the official may licitly support the measure in question, and that in so doing he does not cooperate illicitly with an unjust law, but rather seeks to limit its evil aspects, the pope does not mean to suggest that the official accepts the harm to himself and others for the sake of the greater good. He means to say that, since the act is licit, the official does himself no moral harm.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 10:16 am

He means to say that, since the act is licit, the official does himself no moral harm.
I don’t know what is meant by “moral harm”, but it is clear that harm proceeds from the act, although the elected official does no moral wrong. That is always true in cases of double effect.
And the distinction here is indeed the degree of influence over outcomes. I’ve long held that the way people are talking about voting for McCain as licit material cooperation with evil would be perfectly valid if “voting for McCain” were equivalent to “making McCain win by fiat”.

SDG October 22, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I don’t know what is meant by “moral harm”, but it is clear that harm proceeds from the act, although the elected official does no moral wrong. That is always true in cases of double effect.

Well, and every single act under the sun can wind up causing some harm somewhere, so everything is always subject to double effect. Somebody somewhere is going to stumble; that’s why the pope specified that the official’s opposition to abortion be well known, though even that won’t absolutely prevent the harm. However, the official has made sufficient effort to limit such harm, and must now do what he can to limit the greater harm of his nation’s abortion laws.
By the same token, harm of this sort will always occur as a result of any support of any candidate. Someone will always be scandalized. Occasions for uncharity will always be legion. There will always be people in the tank in the worst way for any candidate, and any support to that candidate can always be seen as participation in that evil.
But it isn’t. Candidates are elected by coalitions of voters with vastly divergent priorities and concerns, voters who in some cases may not agree on any single policy issue, and are united only by a shared preference for one candidate over another. No supporter of any candidate can be implicated in the excesses or failings of other supporters simply on the basis of common support.
Far from cooperating in the evil you describe of downplaying or ignoring ESCR, I’m actively working against it. I put ESCR at the top of my considerations of reasons for and against voting for McCain, not the bottom. To the extent that McCain supporters within my sphere of influence might be in any way tempted to minimize or ignore ESCR, my participation in the discussion diminishes rather than increases the likelihood of that happening. The idea that one can’t cast a vote for McCain without encouraging people to ignore ESCR doesn’t fly.

And the distinction here is indeed the degree of influence over outcomes. I’ve long held that the way people are talking about voting for McCain as licit material cooperation with evil would be perfectly valid if “voting for McCain” were equivalent to “making McCain win by fiat”.

Which is why the best way to vote is to ask “What approach to voting in this election by other voters who share my general priorities has the best chance of contributing to the best achievable outcome in this election?” — and then to vote that way.

skyhawk October 22, 2008 at 12:10 pm

“And the distinction here is indeed the degree of influence over outcomes.”
And how this difference in degree would change the situation? I am not sure I understand your point here. To me it sounds like a cop out to avoid dealing with the weakness of your views. I would appreciate further explanation from you.

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Bull on the ‘copout’. That it is counterintuitive to you does not imply that I do not consider the point central.

The Masked Chicken October 22, 2008 at 6:11 pm

I tend to agree that Zippy’s argument lives or dies by his proposition 4:
4) This harm far, far outweighs any influence one’s vote has over the outcome in national elections, because in national elections one’s influence is very, very small;
A few questions/comments, here.
a. McCain has actually voted for ESCR bills, but this article points out that he may be capable of being educated (although with difficulty). People who have been staunch supporters have been known to change. If Palin has his ear, perhaps her nagging might wear him down.
b. If one’s influence in the election is so insignificant, then one is not required to use any burdensome means to vote, such as the aged might have to face. So, why should they vote and aren’t they dispensed because of the burden, if, in fact, their vote is insignificant?
c. The Slate article is playing fast and loose with statistics. The “significance” of any one vote is directly proportional to how it affects the outcome of the vote. How any single vote affects the outcome cannot be known, unlike the flip of a coin. It is a blind vote, specifically done that way to prevent retaliation should that data be made know. Assigning a significance to any one vote does not meet the criteria of the statistics the Slate author is trying to push. This is not a lottery, where each voter’s (buyer’s) purchase (vote) is recorded by some identifying number. One cannot assign each voter’s vote an absolute significance. The man who has the winning lottery number has placed a very significant buy and it can be documented that his buy was significant and everyone else’s was insignificant. If the name of the voter cannot be matched to his vote, then the person casting the “over-the-top” vote cannot be known, thus, one cannot assign a significance. The Slate article starts with the assumption that all statistics starts with: that all events are random and recorded, with knowledge. Of course, almost all are going to be singularly insignificant, if they are defined that way.
In the absence of the relation of one’s vote to someone else’s one must assume that their vote is significant, otherwise, they are not required to vote under Catholic moral principles. One is required to co-operate in civic decisions, but not if that co-operation is almost insignificant and the difficulties are somewhat greater than the significance of the vote. You can’t have it both ways. Either the vote is significant and one is required to vote or it is not. If the compounding of votes is significant, then to interrupt any aspect of that compounding process (the individual votes) is to interrupt the significance of the voting process, itself. So, again, either a single vote is significant, precisely because of its compounding effect, or one does not have to vote if even a moderate difficulty presents itself. I see no way out of this conclusion.
Information theory gives an entirely different (and better for this purpose) definition of significance. Until I see an analysis from this perspective, which takes into account such things as outside influences, how important each vote is relative to how close the percentage points for each candidate are, the knowledge states of the voters, etc. I suggest we all avoid using the term significant, because I will then have to hound Zippy to present an analysis that is at a higher level than the Slate analysis involving mere card shuffling statistics.
One could even do the analysis assuming the electoral college process we have in the US. It involves adding some filters to change the relative weight of the data depending on whether the state apportions electoral college votes based on percents or whether the state is winner-takes-all.
I am just against simplistic analysis such as in the Slate article when the stakes are so high and making global statements should be avoided.
Until a better analysis of the significance of each voter is done, I will have to set aside Zippy’s proportionality argument as it is derived from an individual voter’s influence, which I am arguing cannot be know, even though he claims it can.
d. What would happen if every pro-life person voted for the perfect pro-life candidate (assuming there is one) in this election? The answer is that it would have no effect on stopping Obama from being elected. If one can reasonably foresee that effect, then voting for a candidate who is not capable of winning seems like a form of back-door cooperation by omission in abortion because one saw an evil and did nothing useful to try and stop it. Jimmy wrote an article discussing proportional reasons for voting for a candidate. Someone tell me how voting for a candidate who is unelectable can do anything to stop the destruction of babies? Voting for a third party candidate is a little like having a pleasant conversation with a friend while a building is burning down in front of your face. The conversation is sinless, but it does nothing to put out the fire. You only have two methods of putting out the fire: one will certainly kill you and the other may kill you or maim you for life. Do you:
a.keep talking to your friend
b.select the way that will kill you
c. select the way that may kill you, but will certainly maim you?
Oh, and you are a member of the fire department called to put out the fire.
e. If John McCain changed his position on ESCR, would he then be a viable candidate for the Catholic voter in the opinion of everyone, here? If so, then why the heck aren’t you (that means YOU) working for this end, seeing as how, if this could be changed, we might have a chance of getting him in office? THAT is being the co-operator in the good of society that the CCC mentions, it seems to me. Can we do something, now, so that maybe we won’t have to make a morally ambiguous choice on election day. I wish SDG had posted these comments a year ago (or he could invent a time machine, now). That would have been the time to realize this. Still, it is a lesson learned from this election – keep bugging the questionable candidate if he is near enough to becoming the good.
The Chicken
P. S. Sorry for the long post. I looked on JA.org this morning and there were so many new posts that envy crept in ;)

Zippy October 22, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Chicken:
I think the idea that one is “required to vote” in the sense you appear to be using the term is wrong, that is, a sense in which (for example) the elderly ought to go through some significant hardship in order to vote. The very same sentence (not paragraph – sentence) in the Catechism tells us that we are required to defend our country, but nobody seriously thinks that that means that everyone is required to join the Army. These duties are merely particular concrete duties which arise in certain circumstances as a result of our more general responsibility to submit to legitimate authority and take co-responsibility for the common good. Refusing to vote out of apathy is never a good thing, because of the apathy. Apathy and failure to submit to legitimate authority are the (potential) errors here.
Until a better analysis of the significance of each voter is done, I will have to set aside Zippy’s proportionality argument as it is derived from an individual voter’s influence, which I am arguing cannot be know, even though he claims it can.
Well, I think it is manifest that my act of voting or abstention is not going to have any effect on the outcome of a national election. I am not capable of the kind of willful blindness that would be required to think otherwise. People disagree rather vehemently, but I tend to think that has more to do with our civic mythology than it does with reality: the insignificance of an individual vote is civic heresy, which makes it very hard for people to accept despite the obvious truth of the matter.

DBP October 22, 2008 at 8:30 pm

It is implausible to interpret the text as proposing a generalized, let alone universal, moral obligation to vote since the Pope and Italian bishops recently urged people to not vote in a particular referendum.
The probability that a single vote in a presidential election will change the outcome is negligible. Even in the 2000 election, it did not come down to a single vote. One can say that if many believed their vote was inconsequential that that could have an impact; but an individual’s decision to not vote or vote for a particular candidate will not cause a number of people to not vote or vote for a particular candidate at a threshold at which it is significant. The only exception would be endorsements from famous individuals.

Pauli October 22, 2008 at 9:21 pm

My favorite thing about Joe Schriner, Northest Ohio’s perennial write-in candidate, is that he’s never been elected to any office whatsoever. He’s a nice guy, I’m guessing, but his farcical campaign is utterly unserious. The saddest thing about Joe is that he could probably get support for a local office as a pro-life Democrat. Heck, at least he could run against Kucinich in the primary like every other half-serious fool does in this town just to get himself some press even as a loser.
But his quixoticism reminds me of a guy I knew in High School who said that he wasn’t going to college; instead, he was going to run for President with the money he’d get when he won the state lottery. Sadly enough, he wasn’t joking either and didn’t like it if you suggested that he was. Deludedness is not an attractive attribute, esp. not close up.
Voting for these hopeless candidates is of course not immoral, just like there’s nothing immoral about running around wearing a chicken costume. But it does seem to be a sort of squandering of a gift. As a strong contrast to this fantasy land behavior, Catholic and other pro-life Republican delegates for McCain, by taking part in the system, crafted the most pro-life Republican platform ever. I’ll take the example of their positive civic involvement over wishful thinking, armchair QBing and political onanism any day.
BTW, that guy from high school never won the lottery.

The Masked Chicken October 23, 2008 at 5:14 am

Dear Zippy,
You wrote:
Well, I think it is manifest that my act of voting or abstention is not going to have any effect on the outcome of a national election. I am not capable of the kind of willful blindness that would be required to think otherwise. People disagree rather vehemently, but I tend to think that has more to do with our civic mythology than it does with reality: the insignificance of an individual vote is civic heresy, which makes it very hard for people to accept despite the obvious truth of the matter.
Voting is a threshold event and without knowing a heck of a lot more about the contributing factors to each person’s individual reasons for voting, one cannot say, as DBP suggests, that one person not voting might not influence another. He makes the suggestion of a “famous” person affecting other people’s votes. The more general way of stating that is that the “significance” of the individual (famous or not) might be the only thing that has an affect on a voting (I disagree that this is the only thing, but it is, certainly, one thing). Suppose a whole church down the block decided that it didn’t like any candidate and decided, en masse, not to vote. Their decision might influence another church down the street and so on. One could (although not likely) get a cascade effect from a relatively small number of initial seed voters. Certainly, these non-voters would be significant as information transfer points for spreading the word that they chose not to vote. Significance is not about the mere individual vs. group number statistics of the Slate article. It is about the information transfered in the voting process. There are at least two types of information transfered: information to the apparatus (voting machine) and information to the environment, what sort of things the voter chooses to tell other people about their vote (both before and after) and the significance (there we go with that word, again) of the “coupling”, i.e., relationship of the transmitter to the environment (the other people to whom they communicate).
I’ll say it, again. All of this is highly nonlinear. Assigning a significance to any single person’s vote (information transfer action) is very tricky, especially if there is a chaotic attractor, nearby, so that the outcome is very dependent on initial conditions, including the actions of a single bit of information.
So, no the truth is not at all obvious and your saying so will not make it so. I do mathematical modeling of aggregates of neurons and this sort of behavior is common. A single spike in any neuron in the aggregate can cause the entire aggregate to change behavior. Voting is not simply a man pulling a lever in the voting booth. It is a cooperative activity that couples a man to society or individuals within society in strange and often counter-intuitive ways.
The Chicken

SDG October 23, 2008 at 6:50 am

All of this is highly nonlinear … So, no the truth is not at all obvious and your saying so will not make it so.

Particularly when we factor in the Internet and blogs and ongoing public debates urging those with similar worldviews to consider whether there is proportionate reason justifying a particular vote.
In particular, it seems entirely within the realm of possibility that Mark’s and Zippy’s anti-voting-for-McCain crusade could have a statistically meaningful impact on the conservative Catholic vote in key swing states, in principle even a decisive one.

Ian October 23, 2008 at 7:52 am

If so, then why the heck aren’t you (that means YOU) working for this end, seeing as how, if this could be changed, we might have a chance of getting him in office? THAT is being the co-operator in the good of society that the CCC mentions, it seems to me. Can we do something, now, so that maybe we won’t have to make a morally ambiguous choice on election day.

Actually, after Joe Biden made his ridiculous statement about stem cell research I wrote to McCain and told him that the only thing holding me back from voting for him was his support of ESCR and that Biden’s comments offered him the perfect opportunity to come out against the practice and look like the rational person in the argument. We also pray for the conversion of our politicians on the abortion issue every night and I have been offering my rosary on my way to work for the same end.
I’m not participating in early voting in the hopes that McCain will change his position before election day so I can vote for him.

Sleeping Beastly October 23, 2008 at 10:32 am

Ian (and others),
Why do you consider McCain’s support of ESCR more troubling than his support of abortion in cases of rape and incest? To me the latter seems much more troubling, and indicative of either flawed thinking or deceptive campaigning.
Zippy,
I sympathize with your argument, but I cannot buy the idea that I ought to vote as if my vote made no difference. I make plenty of decisions based on the idea that I am acting in concert with many of my fellow citizens. I don’t litter in public parks, even though the effect of my personal litter would be negligible. I do research on the companies with which I do business, even though the effect of my own personal expenditures is negligible. And I vote in the most responsible way I can imagine, even though the effect of my personal vote is negligible. The idea is that, if I take this seemingly-negligible social duty seriously and many others do as well the overall effect will be a good one.

DBP October 23, 2008 at 2:33 pm

The effect of one act of littering is never negligible. Even one piece of gum can make one person’s day horrible. One vote however has never had any effect in a presidential election. It can have an effect in local elections. Persuasion of others can also have an effect if one’s say has a wide enough pull or audience. For an ordinary person, the probability that his vote or any action associated with it will change the outcome of a presidential election is negligible. The scenario of a charismatic voter convincing his congregation to vote in a particular way is not a scenario involving an ordinary person or if it were it would be a scenario of negligible probability. The issue of voting involves a negligible probablity of it having any impact; the issue of literring involves an allegedly negligible impact, but an impact nevertheless. But as someone who sometimes chooses to pick up after litterers I can assure you that even one piece of gum or one even one piece of paper is significant. It may not be significant in terms of global warming but it is significant in terms of the concrete harms it does to one’s neighbor.

SDG October 23, 2008 at 2:52 pm

The effect of one act of littering is never negligible. Even one piece of gum can make one person’s day horrible. One vote however has never had any effect in a presidential election.

Okay, clearly it’s time for me to finish and post part 5…

The Masked Chicken October 23, 2008 at 4:02 pm

I have the perfect solution. How many people, here, want to want to go off to an unused part of the US and form our own country? We could set up our own laws and have our own elections. This didn’t work in the past, I admit, but if at first you don’t succeed…
Okay, now, who’s with me on this? Anyone?
At least we wouldn’t have to worry about whom to vote for, because, of course, Jimmy would be emperor. I, of course, would be secretary of agriculture.
I’m suffering from election burn-out. Can’t you tell?
The Chicken

Rotten Orange October 23, 2008 at 6:12 pm

I, of course, would be secretary of agriculture.

I couldn’t go, otherwise I would “spoil the whole bunch” and cause you to be fired…

Ian October 23, 2008 at 9:14 pm

RE: McCain’s support of abortion for rape and incest.
The election of McCain could not increase the number of abortions due to rape and incest. His election could, on the other hand, increase the number of aborted babies through ESCR as the current government support for such experiments is minimal and he seems to support expanding that support as long as the embryos already exist and weren’t created for that purpose.
I take a similar view to this as with laws that incrementally put more restrictions on abortion. I’ll vote for laws that decrease abortions even if they don’t seek total elimination. If a law were proposed that sought to loosen abortion restrictions in some cases and tighten them in others, I would vote against it.

Sleeping Beastly October 24, 2008 at 5:36 am

Ian,
If McCain supports ESCR only with embryos not created for that purpose, how could his support contribute to the number of abortions performed?
My understanding is that this is the current president’s policy as well. He wants to allow scientists to use existing lines of embryonic stem cells, but prohibit creation of new lines. Gruesome, certainly, but I don’t see how that leads directly to any more death.
I too would support a law limiting abortion to cases of rape and incest, if that were the best course available. I just wouldn’t hold my breath that it would put much of a dent in the abortion business. Planned Parenthood would have to revise its intake paperwork to include a clause saying that the mother had been raped, and that would be that.
The fact that McCain says he supports abortion in these cases does not line up well with his assertion that human beings deserve human rights from the point of conception on. I can think of two possibilities:
a) He hasn’t really given the matter much thought, and so hasn’t noticed the inconsistency.
or
b) He doesn’t care about the issue so much as he cares about the votes, and he believes this stance will get him elected.
Neither cheers me much.

Skyhawk October 24, 2008 at 7:46 am

“Bull on the ‘copout’. That it is counterintuitive to you does not imply that I do not consider the point central.”
As I said, it looks like a copout to me, doesn’t mean it’s one. Also sure it doesn’t imply anything about your considerations. I just figured that you would be willing to explain this to me. I am not trying to be a smart alec here, I am just trying to understand your reasoning, as I currently don’t get it (very likely my fault), that’s all.
But if you don’t think it worth your time then that’s fine…

Ian October 24, 2008 at 10:54 am

McCain does support the use of embryos that were created at fertility clinics for research even if he doesn’t support the creation of embryos specifically for research. A very tortured distinction in my mind. However, such support could lead to greater government funding of the destruction of embryos and possibly to the masking of what embryos were created for in order to get government money.
I agree that McCain’s position appears politically expedient and his failure to articulate how he comes to this conclusion points towards a failure to really give the issue serious thought.
My point is that his support of abortion in cases of rape and incest would not increase abortion or lead to an expansion of abortion rights while his support of government funded ESCR (Which I think should be banned even in the private sector), could lead to an expansion of the destruction of human life.
Therefore, if he changed his position on ESCR I could vote for him on the same principle I would use to vote for a law that limits but doesn’t end abortion or expand abortion.

Dan LaHood October 25, 2008 at 9:30 am

My Name is Daniel LaHood
1505 Cody Dr. Silver Spring MD 20902
301-691-5784
I wrote this after attending Pope Benedicts Mass at Nats Stadium in Washington. My wife and I are Lay Missionaries of Charity in Forest Glen Maryland. I am sending this as a letter to the Editor.
Before Pope Benedict came to America to celebrate Mass in New York and Washington, it was revealed that as a young boy in Germany he had had a cousin with Down Syndrome. One day a Nazi doctor came and claimed his cousin for the Third Reich. Taken to be “cared for” at the “hospital” young Joseph Ratzinger never saw his cousin again: one of the host of “useless eaters” marked for extermination by that brutal regime.
My wife and I operate St. Joseph’s House, a daycare and respite care home for handicapped children. As it happened one of the children we care for, a wheelchair bound young lady, was chosen along with three other handicapped folks to carry the gifts up to the altar before the consecration at the Mass at Nationals Stadium in Washington D.C. on April 17, 2008. One of these was James, a 30ish man who works in the Officer’s Club at Andrews AFB. James has Down Syndrome. He was chosen to carry the large host which would become the Body of Christ lifted up before the assembled. As James with great ceremony advanced toward the Pope, his native enthusi­asm overcame his reserve and he started to run. Simultaneously the Holy Father leapt from his chair and walked towards James with his arms out­stretched. We have a picture of this moment which I cannot look at without tearing up. What did he see as he gazed so lovingly at James? I believe he saw his cousin. I believe he saw the face of Jesus. And I believe that his great prayer as he elevated that host on that impossibly beautiful day was “As long as you did to these the least of my brethren, you did it to Me.”
The next day April 18th, a boy was born to of all people, the Gover­nor of Alaska. They named him Trig.

Jennifer Evancho October 30, 2008 at 8:43 am

I am just buzzing through here, looking at all angles. I can only offer that I think McCain may be in favor of not disbanding the current ESCR lines that were authorized under Bush but he is in no way in favor of having more! From his issues on his web
Addressing the Moral Concerns of Advanced Technology
Stem cell research offers tremendous hope for those suffering from a variety of deadly diseases – hope for both cures and life-extending treatments. However, the compassion to relieve suffering and to cure deadly disease cannot erode moral and ethical principles.
For this reason, John McCain opposes the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes. To that end, Senator McCain voted to ban the practice of “fetal farming,” making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes. Furthermore, he voted to ban attempts to use or obtain human cells gestated in animals. Finally, John McCain strongly opposes human cloning and voted to ban the practice, and any related experimentation, under federal law.
As president, John McCain will strongly support funding for promising research programs, including amniotic fluid and adult stem cell research and other types of scientific study that do not involve the use of human embryos.
Where federal funds are used for stem cell research, Senator McCain believes clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress, and that any such research should be subject to strict federal guidelines.

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