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Bearing False Witness is not a Catholic Value

October 15, 2008, 11:28 am | Posted by Beth Dahlman

A conservative anti-abortion group is distributing voter guides, designed to look like official Catholic church materials, that include the false claim that “endorsing, support, or voting for Obama in the 2008 Presidential election flagrantly violates Catholic teaching.”

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the brochure’s creator meant the resemblance to the Bishops’ document to be “comic relief.” Well, this Catholic isn’t laughing.

I have no problem with those who might disagree with me politically arguing their case. I do, however, have a problem with them distorting the teachings of my church for partisan purposes.

The brochure from Operation Rescue claims that official teachings of the Catholic Church require voting for a “pro-life” candidate above a “pro-choice” candidate in all cases, with neither consideration for other issues , such as war, poverty or the death penalty, nor appeals to one’s personal conscience, allowed

The brochure’s logic:

These other issues can be extrinsic evils, but they are not greater than or even equal to the intrinsic evils of abortion and euthanasia.Our consciences are not ours to form as we think best; they must be formed by the Laws of God and the teachings of the Church, not personal political preference.

Randall Terry, the author of the brochure and a noted extremist, should listen to his own advice. Of course a faithful Catholic should take into account Church teaching when forming her conscience. Maybe that’s why the Bishops put out a document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

The Bishops’ document reveals a much more complex (and accurate) picture of Catholic teaching than is convenient for Mr. Terry’s purposes. On the one hand, they agree that issues of abortion and euthanasia are different in kind from other moral issues. On the other hand, they explicitly do not say that one must always vote for the anti-abortion candidate. In fact, the Bishops explicitly criticize using the issue of abortion to ignore other pressing moral concerns:

Two temptations in public life can distort the Church’s defense of human life

and dignity:

The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.

The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act.

These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues.

Debates about the common good and how it relates to voting are good and healthy. It is important to hear from Church leaders, laypeople, liberals and conservatives. Different perspectives enhance the public debate. Lies and distortion don’t.

For an example of a much better independent Catholic voting guide, checkout Vote the Common Good.

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