Friday, October 12, 2012

Biden and Ryan and their Roman Catholicism

While the professing Christian Obama and devout Mormon Romney slog it out for the White House, for the first time in history two Roman Catholics are competing for the office of Vice President. Their head-to-head debate was as illuminating of their characters as it was obfuscating of their religious faith. This being the United States of America, the topic of abortion was unavoidable. From the Telegraph:
As the first pair of Roman Catholics to appear in a single US presidential election, the candidates were challenged to say how their faith had informed their views on the divisive issue of abortion rights. Mr Ryan offered an impassioned case against abortion.

“I believe that life begins at conception,” he said. “That's why I'm pro-life”. In one of several attempts to soften his image of a harsh fiscal hawk by using personal anecdotes, he recalled being shown the ultrasound scan of his first child, Liza as a seven-week-old “bean”, which remained her nickname.

However, after being painted by Mr Biden as an extremist who would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest, Mr Ryan faltered when asked if “those who believe that abortion should remain legal” should “be worried” by the prospect of a Romney-Ryan presidency.

“We don’t think that un-elected judges should make this decision,” he said. “People through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination”
One gets the feeling that there are really three candidates in this contest: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York celebrates the Catholicism of both candidates: “Do you not think it’s a cause for celebration in the Catholic community in the United States of America that the two vice-presidential candidates are Catholic?” he asked. “We’ve got two men who - and you can disagree with one of them or both of them - say they take their faith seriously, who don’t try to hide it, and who say, ‘Hey, my Catholic upbringing and my Catholic formation influences the way I think.’ Not bad. Not bad.”

There's a very specific choice of words there: '...who say they take their faith seriously'. The Cardinal says both men were picked 'because their Catholicism was attractive'. Yet it isn't at all clear which candidate truly represents the religion, and the Catholicism of each is manifestly offensive to their respective opponents.

The unavoidable media tendency is to examine personal belief through the myopic contact lenses of the prevailing culture wars. Thus Paul Ryan is 'pro-life' and anti gay marriage. He is also committed to subsidiarity and solidarity, in that order, but few will grasp the significance of this for political policy. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is fervently 'pro-choice' and very much in favour of reinventing the institution of marriage to include unions of two men and two women. He's all for solidarity with whatever Obama does or says, and he probably doesn't even understand the meaning of subsidiarity.

This contest is somewhat analogous in the UK to having two Roman Catholic potential prime ministers, one of whom takes The Tablet while the other pores over The Catholic Herald. The former is liberal and progressive - the journal of 'thinking Catholics'; the latter is conservative and rather more robust, not to say trenchant in its views (especially of those who take the 'The Bitter Pill'). There's no love lost between them or their respective readers (eg here): Ut Unum Sint becomes an obscure encyclical of peripheral significance.

Biden's understanding of Roman Catholic social teaching is a world away from Ryan's. “The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who - who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help," Biden explained. For him, it's all about social justice. For Ryan, the preferential option for the poor remains one of the primary tenets of social teaching, but it means you 'don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life'. Biden's Catholicism compassionately keeps the poor poor; Ryan's Catholicism spurs them on to take responsibility for their indolence and inaction. Biden sees victims; Ryan sees sin.

The candidates also differ markedly in their understanding of intellectual liberty and freedom of choice. For Ryan, freedom is to be exercised in accordance with the Magisterium of the Church, while for Biden, it extends to abortion and same-sex marriage, irrespective of the teachings of the Church. Indeed, he has previously said that abortion and contraception are the way forward for Africa, and that he 'understood' China's one-child policy, which most of the civilised world finds utterly incomprehensible, not to say morally repugnant.

Biden’s Catholicism has certainly been a cause for concern for American bishops, but so is Ryan's. Biden has tried to counter these turbulent priests by appropriating such theological giants as Thomas Aquinas to his 'pro-choice' cause, insisting that the Roman Catholic Church has always been healthily divided on such moral issues. Some bishops have sought to excommunicate him as a result, as Vatican authorities advocate. But Ryan has also earned the ire of some bishops for proposing a Randian budget which will decimate (at least) those programmes and community initiatives that serve the poor and vulnerable.

Between these two very different exprssions of Roman Catholicism, Cardinal Dolan is playing the via media Anglican. In 'celebrating' Biden's Catholicism, the Cardinal may be seen to affirm abortion, contraception and gay marriage, not to mention Obama's entire macro-economic programme of deficit denial and debt increase, condemning generations of future Americans to poverty and hardship. Biden is an anti-Benedict Roman Catholic, and he wants no place in the current Church Militant.

But Ryan really is a 'cause for celebration', not only within the Roman Catholic community, but also among Evangelicals and the wider Republican family. Not only is he socially conservative, he is theologically informed and fiscally adept. This is a time for strong leadership and clear values, so quite why Cardinal Dolan is sending out mixed messages to the laity is something of a mystery.

Surely it has nothing to do with 30 dollars of silver.


Blogger Nilk said...

Your Grace, as a practising Catholic, I see Cardinal Dolan as someone who does not follow the Church's teachings.

His support of openly homosexual members of his congregation is anathema to me. He should not be seen participating in gay Masses, because that is wrong. It is enabling Sin.

I don't know his motives, but for me, the word 'heretic' sometimes bubbles up to the surface of my thoughts.

It is a tragedy for those of us who hunger for strong leadership, but God does indeed move in mysterious ways.

I guess the next few years will get ever more interesting and challenging.

12 October 2012 at 09:38  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

Can I suggest balancing the comments about Ryan by watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart has torn strips off Ryan's reputation for fiscal credibility in recent weeks with very credible arguments.
Indeed, if anyone wants to see a very good (and humorous) debate on the US Presidential campaign then check out Stewart v O'Reilly (takes a little searching but is out there).

12 October 2012 at 09:57  
Blogger nellyb said...

Mormons claim to be christians too. One doesn't read things like "The Christian X and the Baptist Y". Just saying.

12 October 2012 at 10:04  
Blogger Dunstan said...

As a Catholic, this strikes right to the contradictory heart of our faith:

On the one hand, moral relativism is the slipperiest of slopes. And much heresy is justified under the terms like "questioning" or "interpreting".

On the other hand, if we judge others to be "not as good Catholics" because they don't follow this or that, are we not today's Pharisees? His Grace Vincent+ Nichols has suggested as much to critics of the Warwick Street Masses. Withholding compassion for fear of being seen to condone is not the answer.

For those in public office, acknowledging this contradiction with humility does not come naturally.

12 October 2012 at 10:22  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

We hear an awful lot about homosexuality and practising homosexuals being sinful, but we seem to hear much less about the fact that, if they are, that only makes them exactly like the rest of us.

We all sin, consciously or unconsciously, all the time; if any of us was capable of being sinless we would not need the full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice of Christ for our redemption (to paraphrase His Grace from many years ago). That is Christianity, lesson 1.

Homosexuality and homosexuals may be sinful, but I am certain that, come judgement day, there will be plenty of honest, faithful and charitable gay people ahead of me in the queue for Heaven.

12 October 2012 at 11:05  
Blogger John Knox's lovechild said...

Yet another attempt by that prod, Cranmer, to attribute bad faith and dishonesty to a Catholic cleric. Sounds like my old man, distracted, monotonous and predictable.

Here is my tuppence worth.

Ryan is right on social issues like abortion and gay marraige. Biden is right on economic justice and protecting the poor and sick in an economic crisis.

Now if both of these mean had replicated Catholic social teaching per encyclicals the old protestant charge about Papist politicians taking orders from Rome would be trotted out in good old fashioned Know Nothing style.

By the way what is the Epsicopalian church's contribution to debate on social issues in the USA?

Don't make me laugh.

12 October 2012 at 11:08  
Blogger Corrigan1 said...

Ryan may be theologically sound (in Catholic terms), although he agrees with abortion in the cases of rape and incest - or at least is tolerant of it - however, it is highly questionable to say he is fiscally intelligent. He is a right wing hawk, which mean he believes "fiscal responsibility" to mean shovelling large amounts of taxpayers money to the richest people in the country - kind of like the Conservative Party. Oh, and the Labour Party too, obviously.

12 October 2012 at 11:30  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

I'm with you on that one Darter Noster.

12 October 2012 at 12:10  
Blogger Jon said...

I'm don't see how it's possible to not be broadly in favour of a simpler tax system with fewer exemptions and lower rates (but keeping progressive rates) when budgets permit. The only people who lose from that are lawyers and accountants.

However, where the Republican plans lose me is in their belief that the way to enhance the station of the poor is to remove the only support they have because it encourages "indolence". Of course Republicans are seen as self- serving when they say this. They aren't looking at how to improve welfare, as they don't seem to be interested in the mechanism of incentives, merely in reducing the cost.

I'm not sure Ryan is a state's rights subsidiarity type, Your Grace. To use gay marriage as an example, he supported efforts to defend DOMA and for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, rather than leaving the issue to the States. He's therefore interested in subsidiarity, except where the Federal Government can be used as a tool for his social policies.

What was the old phrase? He's against big government. He wants to make it just small enough to fit into your bedroom.

12 October 2012 at 12:56  
Blogger David Lindsay said...

They are as schismatic as each other.

What a pair! Even allowing for the fact that the addition of what might politely be called entertainment value has long been a function of the Vice-Presidency. More profoundly, it has long been said that American Catholics were "Protestants who went to Mass". But Biden is a secular liberal who goes to Mass, while Ryan is an Ayn Rand devotee who goes to Mass.

While it gives even less pleasure than to come down on the side of either of this year's candidates for the top job, Biden does at least have the advantage that he has already been doing the job of Vice-President for four years, that he might conceivably be a Presidential nominee in his own right (unlike a 42-year-old member of the House of Representatives), and that he does not imagine "our allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar" to be the appropriate arbiters between "al-Qaeda" and anyone else at all, still less between that and some mythical "Free Syrian Army" which is allegedly in favour of Jeffersonian democracy and of Coca Cola.

Neither of these men has any real interest in reducing abortion. But at least the pursuit of Biden's favoured economic and healthcare policies would not actually increase it, unlike Ryan's, and might even reduce it, like the Christian and Social Democracy of Continental Europe which together make possible 12-week limits or outright bans, or like Britain for a generation after the Attlee Government when abortion remained illegal.

Roll on 2016, when a heavy enough defeat for Romney-Ryan this year ought to have ensured that none of the present quartet will be a candidate for either office.

And thank God for Russia and China.

12 October 2012 at 13:31  
Blogger gentlemind said...

Biden is afraid of his own moral shadow.

12 October 2012 at 13:41  
Blogger John Knox's lovechild said...


Mr Lindsay has a point.

12 October 2012 at 13:42  
Blogger gentlemind said...

Biden is afraid of his own moral shadow.

12 October 2012 at 13:43  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

nellyb - Just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn't make them so. You might want to read up on Mormonism as there are some huge differences between it and Christianity. Their only real claim can be that they have Christian roots, historically speaking. The rest is as other as Islam is to Judaism.

12 October 2012 at 14:53  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

That is rather a depressing thought that almost an entire nation of Catholics are a law unto to themselves
"Protestants who go to Mass".

There does seems to be a need to reinforce clarity in the Catholic Church by a huge sweep out and dumping en masse if necessary of all the renegade bishops and clergy.

12 October 2012 at 15:51  
Blogger Owl said...

Wouldn't seem more important for the USA to have capable people running it.

Obama/Biden haven't done the US of A a lot of good.

I really couldn't care less what creed a particular candidate has.

Can he/she do the job properly is a far more important question.

12 October 2012 at 16:32  
Blogger Rhea Flanery said...

Huh...I didn't realise that being poor was a sin. Interesting...

12 October 2012 at 17:15  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Whichever one of them becomes the next Vice-President, they will have been elected by a religiously mixed electorate in a nation built upon the separation of Church and State. The catechism of the Catholic Church is not a political manifesto, and nor is it meant to be; different people will have different interpretations of the way in which their Roman Catholic faith should guide them when making policy decisions on behalf of the religiously diverse electorate which gives them their mandate.

A Roman Catholic politician is elected to serve the electorate, as is any other politician, and not to be the Vatican's inside man; any suggestion that a Roman Catholic politician should be seeking any and every way to convert their country to Roman Catholicism sounds vaguely reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan's fears 90 years ago.

Of course a Roman Catholic politician should be anti-abortion in principle, but he or she must bear in mind that they have not been put where they are simply to enact whatever seems best to them. This sense of entitlement to shape society in their own image, rather than to be responsible to the people who elected them, is a besetting sin of politicians.

"The powers that be are ordained of God" said Luther; in a democracy, the powers that be are the electorate.

12 October 2012 at 17:35  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Cardinal Dolan is wrong to 'celebrate' Biden's *Catholicism*.

There is no via media between truth and error as Anglicans are beginning to realise.

Ut Unum Sint (May they be One) whilst stating " ... the Church must breathe with her two lungs", also reaffirmed:

The relationship between Sacred Scripture, as the highest authority in matters of faith, and Sacred Tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word of God;

The Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence of Christ and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit;

Ordination, as a Sacrament, to the threefold ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate;

The Magisterium of the Church, entrusted to the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, understood as a responsibility and an authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the faith;

The Virgin Mary, as Mother of God and Icon of the Church, the spiritual Mother who intercedes for Christ's disciples and for all humanity.

Not much room here for progressive liberalism.

12 October 2012 at 17:38  
Blogger John Magee said...

I don't think there can be any mixed messages from Cardinal Dolan of New York City as he is widely known in the USA for his conservative values and charismatic media personality. Dolan is considered to be theologically conservative. In November 2009, Dolan signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Roman Catholics and Orthodox not to comply with rules and laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters that go against their religious consciences.

During the 2008 presidential election, Dolan rebuked Democratic vice-presidential candidate then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for "misrepresenting timeless Church doctrine" on abortion, which Dolan called the "premier civil rights issue of our day".

The senior USA, Catholic Prelate Archbishop Wuerl of Washington, and Cardinal Dolan support over 40 Catholic diocese and organizations who are suing the Obama administration for violating religioius freedom of the First Amedment to the Constitution. This initiative is led by Cardinal Dolan. There are 12 separate lawsuits being pursued. One of them includes the Benedictine Belmont Abbey College at Charlotte, North Carolina. These catholic organizations are suing the federal government over a new regulation that requires employers' health insurance plans to provide free contraception and sterilization, even if it may be contrary to their religious beliefs.

As for USA Catholics being called "Protestants who go to Mass" that's news to 40% or more of over 65 million USA Roman Catholics who go to mass every Sunday. 40% of 65 million represents the population of some European countries.

To get an excellent idea of the growth of traditional Catholicism in the USA you need only look at the excellent new Catholic colleges being created like St Thomas Aquinas College in California which has a traditional liberal arts program. In lieu of textbooks and lectures, this college’s students study only original works — the great books of Western civilization — and examine, sometimes refute, and invariably learn from their claims in small classes that employ Socratic discussions. Moreover, the academic program would be ordered to the study of God in precisely the manner in which the Church has for centuries prescribed, according to the mind of Her Universal Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.

12 October 2012 at 17:46  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

"nellyb - Just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn't make them so."

Except when someone wants to use the census figures to claim we're a Christian country. I recall a thread here where this topic was cast in the opposite direction back then.

12 October 2012 at 17:50  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Way of the Dodo...

What's your point? Electing a Roman Catholic President or Vice President is not suddenly going to turn the United States into 1950s Ireland, and nor does anyone expect that it will.

Whatever the Magisterium states, and whatever they personally believe, no American politician can do things such as ban abortion unless they have a mandate from the American people to do so.

There is a great deal of difference between personal religious faith, orthodox or otherwise, and the policies to govern a nation. Except in places like Iran, of course...

12 October 2012 at 17:50  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Darter Noster and AIB

Yes, we are all sinners and are redeemed through Christ. And yes, we should show compassion and love.

However, advocates of *normalising* homosexuality and abortion (and divorce and remarriage, for that matter) go one step further. They deny these behaviours are sinful and actually promote these activities as acceptable thus drawing more into the net of sin.

Compassion for the sinner is not the same thing as condoning the sin, and the liberal, progressive who claim to be teaching God's word need to wake up to this.

12 October 2012 at 17:51  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Interesting Your Grace. Different shades of Roman Catholicism. Did you not expect that ?

For gloating protestants, the following…

We are as questioning of doctrine as the best of the protestants, but with one big difference. We don’t go off and take our ball with us and set up a rival kick around on the opposite side of the field, throw half the rule book over the fence and make up our own often bizarre ideas on how to play, and that half heartedly and no mistake !

12 October 2012 at 17:55  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Way of the Dodo,

I'm not advocating a change in teaching; that homosexuality is sinful according to Scripture and Tradition I do not deny, and I very much oppose attempts to claim that it is not. The question is how do we respond to that fact.

Sinfulness is a consequence of our very humanity; thus, at the heart of any Christian response to homosexuality and homosexuals must be an understanding that sinfulness is universal. Heterosexuals are not 'better' than homosexuals; heterosexuals do not speak to homosexuals from a position of moral superiority, but from a position of absolute equality in the eyes of God.

I am a heterosexual person, but that does not mean that a homosexual person is intrisically more sinful than I am; the first thing I as a Christian must seek to do is not to judge the sins of another, but to ask myself how I can live my life in a way which brings me closer to what God wants for all humanity, and to be thoroughly aware of the many ways in which I fail. Homosexual people can live their lives in a better, more Christian way than I do, and rather than condemning them for one aspect of their lives I should be asking myself what I can learn from them, because in other aspects my behaviour will be more sinful in the eyes of God than theirs.

12 October 2012 at 18:17  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Your understanding of the nature of sin is different to mine Darter Noster.From what I understand Protestants believe that all sin is equal. A mass murderer is no worse than a homosexual or someone who steals a cutting from a neighbour's garden. I do not subscribe to this view.Fortunately our justice system does not either.

Homosexuals may live a better life than you do Darter Noster but that is not really pertinent to the discussion. It is about homosexuals demanding ssm as a ploy to normalise homosexuality.
It is about homosexuals being able to divorce and remarry as almost half of marriages end in divorce.

According to Catholic belief the practice of homosexuality contraception,abortion,sex outside of marriage,divorce and remarriage is sinful and disallowed. Thus the reason for the rise of liberal Catholics as at least half of the Catholics living in Western modern societies would find themselves in one of these situations.The only problem being that the nature of Catholicism does not allow for liberalism.So you may ask how do Bishops and clergy get around this one?Well the answer is they cannot.If they could then we would all be Anglicans.The question should be why are they still permitted by Rome to continue in this vein.If they are permitted then it could be read as a form of consent and then the walls come tumblin' down.

12 October 2012 at 19:02  
Blogger len said...

It is not the individual acts of sin that makes one' a sinner 'but because one has inherited a' sin nature'which drives one towards sin (that is the problem... if one groups sins into' large sins and small sins then one has missed the point entirely)

God has supplied the remedy........ the Cross and the resurrection.

or you can' stick a plaster' on the problem and try and improve what God has condemned......

12 October 2012 at 19:25  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Len your belief in total depravity of man is not only fallacious but a perversion.I believe you share that strange view with the Calvin cult.Individual acts of sin are actually sin.And yes there are small ones and big whoppers.

12 October 2012 at 19:35  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

One is rather beginning to picture Len as clothed in sackcloth and with a long straggly beard. A sort of Roy Wood gone wrong, if you will...

12 October 2012 at 20:01  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

I'll state it once again, Cressida: I'm not denying the sinfulness of homosexuality or homosexuals. I'm simply stating the standard Christian belief that sinfulness is a universal and unavoidable condition of humanity, and therefore I question the reasons why homosexuality attracts such particularly strident condemnation from Christians who should know better. To describe someone or something as sinful, without being fully conscious of one's own sins and failings, is to be judgemental and hypocritical, which Christ condemns far more explicitly and repeatedly than homosexuality. That should not be a controversial statement.

Total depravity means that mankind is so corrupted by sin that any possibility of salvation comes entirely through the unmerited grace of God - it is a consequence of belief in predestination. Roman Catholicism does not deny the utter sinfulness of man as a condition; it believes that man has the ability to respond to the grace of God of his own free will, but man's nature is still intrinsically sinful, Calvinist or Catholic.

12 October 2012 at 20:27  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...


"They aren't looking at how to improve welfare, as they don't seem to be interested in the mechanism of incentives, merely in reducing the cost."

That pretty much encapsulates my concerns about the Republican plans - and indeed similar moves in British Conservatism.


Some consistency on the thorny subject of self-affirmed identity vs. reality would be nice, and has been lacking in much of the Christian commentary on the subject. Quite a lot of the time, though it gets mooted as irrelevant anyway, though. Making demographics meaningful in any debate almost always now requires a fair bit of circumscription and contextualisation, both of which tend to get ignored any way.

Darter Noster:

Agree with the position you outline @18:17, the spirit of which will surely not be disagreeable to Dodo. It is very easy to lose sight of the fact that when we first approach the Throne of God we arrive utterly destitute.

12 October 2012 at 20:49  
Blogger OldJim said...

Darter Noster,
yes, everyone sins. Christians ought to recognise that this is unavoidably, even trivially, true.

The real problem with homosexuality is not simply that homosexual acts (not the tendency itself, of course) are sinful, but that if a homosexual person enters a relationship, then just like any person having sex outside of marriage, they commit themselves to regularly sinning for as long as they remain in that relationship.

I am a Christian and I oughtn't to go to a whorehouse. But if I do, then I leave open the possibility that I will later repent and be forgiven. If I enter a situation where I am committed by a sexual relationship to a regular, normalised act of sin, particularly in the context of a close personal relationship where refusing may be seen as an act of betrayal to a loved one, then I close off avenues of grace and repentance in a way no Christian should ever have to do. Again, if I am straight and have a premarital sexual relationship, I am in a morally equivalent situation, but I can rectify it by marriage. My commitment to my partner doesn't in and of itself compromise my commitment to God. Gay people have no such luck. You can repent of something that you sadly acknowledge you will probably end up doing again. But you can't repent of something that you actually plan to do again, as you more or less must in a sexual relationship.

We all sin, but hopefully we Christians can at least commit to lifestyles where sins are momentary lapses and not planned routines. That is at bottom why Christians seem to spend a perverse amount of time harping on about homosexuality. It is emphatically not that homosexuals are "worse" or "more evil" or "less" than straight people. It is that they are tempted to and invited to lifestyles that would preclude repentance, or at least make it terribly hard and emotionally crippling.

12 October 2012 at 21:10  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Fellows, this Catholic does not have a downer on homosexuals. However, when they become agitated as in wanting to marry each other, they get everything that’s coming their way.

Similar thing when you are an Afghan insurgent who seeks to kill 7 British Marines and instead finds himself pushing up the daisies...

12 October 2012 at 21:24  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Darter Noster, Catholics believe that man is flawed but basically Good.We do not share your bleak negative total depravity concept. You believe man is intrinsically and utterly evil.I will also repeat.. the reason why homosexuals are being criticised at the moment is because of their attempt to institute ssm.

12 October 2012 at 21:25  
Blogger OldJim said...

More general thoughts:
Yes, Darter Noster, a politician certainly is elected by the electorate, who exercise their collective judgement in selecting him/her, and to whose collective judgement the representative must defer and make reference in any and all actions made in affairs of state.

However, in order to be elected, a politician must inform the electorate of their character and philosophy. They cannot, simply because it is popular, claim to be great fans of ethnic cleansing, nor can they carry such a policy out without culpability simply because it is the wish of the electorate.

Catholic's consciences are bound in like manner on matters like abortion and same-sex marriage. It is not "Catholics were elected by the electorate, who are diverse, so they can't recreate society in their faith's image"; it is rather "Catholics are Catholics. They cannot break with their Church on moral issues in order to be more appealing or palatable to the electorate during an election. If the electorate vote them in knowing that they favour stronger term limits on abortion, then they do indeed have a mandate to bring those term limits in, regardless of the religious makeup of the electorate."

In other words, you try to say that Catholics are breaking faith with democracy, when, as politicians, they foist their faith on others. On the contrary, Catholics break their faith with their Church, when, during an election, they do not make it clear to their electorate that there are issues on which they cannot in good conscience budge.

You might say that this makes Catholics unelectable. Then it makes Catholics unelectable. We have no right to office. But we do have a duty to our faith.

We can talk, quite separately, about how far left on social issues a Catholic can morally go. I don't think a Catholic politician must always commit themselves to a complete ban on abortion. But they must at the most liberal extreme: inform the electorate of their strong disapproval of abortion when it is not related to rape, incest or to the physical health of the mother; if they leave out of their electoral position stronger term limits or stricter conditions for abortion, they must make the case IN PUBLIC that this would render them unelectable and that they believe they can do sufficient good in other domains of government to justify their abdication of responsibility on this issue, and enumerate what these goods might be; and never vote for a bill or law that would extend or increase opportunity for the procuring of an abortion.

Anything more liberal is a dereliction of a Catholic's duty. Biden's position is a dereliction of Catholic duty.

Yes, Ryan's position may be equally heterodox for a Catholic economically speaking. But he can make a case for it, as His Grace observes, by pitting subsidiarity against solidarity.

I am unconvinced, I think some economic redistribution can only be sensibly done at the federal level and that it is appropriate in order to meet the condition of charity. But when we discuss the appropriate MECHANISM by which solidarity can be effected, we discuss facts, not values; ises, not oughts. Catholics can disagree on these matters without sin, so long as they hold them earnestly and are sufficiently open to being convinced otherwise.

So I believe that, however mistaken he may be, Ryan can hold most of his economic positions without sinning (Actually Randian views, though, no, he couldn't. Catholics cannot idolise selfishness nor the cult of ego nor the cult of independence rather than interdependence).

The difference is, I know for certain, given the repeated statements of the magisterium and the nature of the argument, which is moral, not factual, oughts, not ises, that Biden cannot hold his social positions without sinning gravely.

And that is all the difference in the world.

12 October 2012 at 21:48  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

OldJim said ...

"I am a Christian and I oughtn't to go to a whorehouse. But if I do, then I leave open the possibility that I will later repent and be forgiven. If I enter a situation where I am committed by a sexual relationship to a regular, normalised act of sin ... then I close off avenues of grace and repentance in a way no Christian should ever have to do. Again, if I am straight and have a premarital sexual relationship, I am in a morally equivalent situation, but I can rectify it by marriage. My commitment to my partner doesn't in and of itself compromise my commitment to God. Gay people have no such luck. You can repent of something that you sadly acknowledge you will probably end up doing again. But you can't repent of something that you actually plan to do again, as you more or less must in a sexual relationship.

Very well said, Sir.

Catholics believe genuine repentance is true sorrow for one's sins. Perfect repentance being grief because they offend God and Christ gave His life for sin.

Renpentance that receives forgiveness is accompanied by that 'old fashioned' concept: a firm purpose of amendment and an undertaking to avoid, another an 'old fashioned concept: occassions of sin where we will be tempted. The sacraments of penance and the Eucharist are channels of God's Grace to strengthen us in this battle.

12 October 2012 at 22:01  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Old Jim @ 21:48

Very well said again!

12 October 2012 at 22:41  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

@ Cressida...

It so happens that we are both Catholic.

I did not say that I believed in total depravity; I simply explained what total depravity is - the doctrine that man is so fallen into sin that his salvation is entirely dependent upon the grace of God and he has no choice in the matter (Irresistible Grace) - as opposed to the Catholic view that the good part of man responds to the grace of God of its own free will, which is the one I believe, as I may have mentioned, because I am a Catholic.

I did not say man was intrinsically evil; I said that human nature was intrinsically sinful, such that without the sacrifice of Christ no-one can be saved. Not quite sure why for a Christian that should be controversial but anyhoo...

@ practically Everyone else...

I don't dispute anything you say about the need for sincere repentance, etc. etc. My concern is that the way in which too many Christians express the concept of homosexuality as sinful is considerably more vitriolic and judgemental than it needs to be, lacks true Christian humility and self-awareness in the face of personal sin, dehumanises gay people, and betrays a very unsophisticated understanding of the nature of sin itself.

13 October 2012 at 00:00  
Blogger John Magee said...


Well said. We can be critical at times of a person or an institution we love. True fiendship and loyality means you love that person or institution so much you will be competely honest with them at all times. I wish a few Catholics here would try to understand this view.


I think you have Cardinal Dolan of New York City confused with the late Cardinal Bernadine of Chicago who was sympathetic toward Gays and outraged Pope JP II.

Cardinal Dolan is, as I already posted, definately not on the side of liberals on 90% of societal issues today.

Here are a few things Cardinal Dolan has said about homosexuality and Gay "marrriage".:

In 2005, the Vatican issued an Instruction that deals with admitting same-sex attracted men to seminaries or Holy Orders which says men who "practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture'" are incompatible with Holy Orders and cannot be admitted to the seminary or to Holy Orders.[47] Commenting on that document, Dolan has been quoted as saying that a homosexual who exhibits none of those criteria and feels he may have a vocation "shouldn't be discouraged" from becoming a seminarian.[48]

In a 2001 interview on the subject, while rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, he is quoted as saying that Seminary formators owe it to the Church to be vigilant, never allowing a man to be ordained who gives any evidence of tendencies to sexual immorality and being very blunt in holding up to their men the clear expectations of Jesus and his Church. He said formators must present the beauty of celibacy but at the same time be candid about the dangers to celibate commitment, including a homosexual inclination. He further said that formators must be sure that candidates accept that they are both embracing a life of generous love in selfless service to the Church and that they are leaving behind all genital expression, alone or with others, male or female, in thought, word and deed.

Dolan on Gay "marriage:

"There is an in-built code of right and wrong that is imbedded in the human DNA...Hard-wired into us is a dictionary, and the dictionary defines marriage as between one man, one woman for life, please God, leading to the procreation of human life. And if we begin to tamper with the very definition of marriage, then we're going to be in big trouble." Describing the Church's position as not "anti-gay," he said, "We're pro-the most basic definition of marriage."

In a blog post in June 2011, Dolan compared a proposal to redefine marriage in the State of New York to life in China or North Korea, where "government presumes daily to 'redefine' rights, relationships, values and natural law." "Please, not here!" Dolan continued. "We cherish true freedom, not as the license to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought

13 October 2012 at 01:04  
Blogger John Magee said...

Old Jim

You said: I think some economic redistribution can only be sensibly done at the federal level and that it is appropriate in order to meet the condition of charity.

Isn't the present welfare state "charity" with its abuses and fraud paid for by the tax payers enough? You know as well as I do 47% of the USA adult population pay no Federal Income Tax. The top 5% of wage earners pay 40% of Federal Taxes and Obama whines that the rich don't pay "their fair share"!

In my view any force or intimidation used by a government to in any way try and redistribute any wealth earned by individuals or a company is state sponsored robbery of its hard working tax paying citizens.

Robin Hood and his Merry Men took action against the tax collectors and the Sheriff of Nottingham not against people who happened to be rich or poor who atcually did pay their taxes and were being abused by the Sheriff of Nottingham and his thugs.

I ask all modern day Robin Hood's to stand up and protest the present tax codes and the tax collectors.

If you advocate redistribution of wealth by the federal government I hope that idea starts by the taxing of all churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other religious structures as well as colleges and universities who are also exempted from taxes. This tax will include all their property, investments, and their endowments.

As an just one example of how these churches and educational institutions in the USA fail to contribute "their fair share" of taxes. Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachussets has over 26 BILLION $$ in endowments and it's all tax free.

I can only wonder at the enormous fortunes in property and investments the Catholic and Protestants Churches, Jewish synagogues, and the few mosques not to mention colleges and universities in the USA are exempted from paying in taxes each year that would go a long way to make the present welfare state and the lives of many, not all, of its recipients even more comfortable.

13 October 2012 at 02:31  
Blogger non mouse said...

Your Grace, until about 10 years ago, a candidate's RCism would have inclined me to vote his way. That was because I believed RCs generally tried to be good Christians, so one could hope they would be educated, honourable, caring, generous, and hard-working. However, it's been that long since I met a Catholic who gave such an impression.

Furthermore, an RC commentariat presently colonises and presumes to dominate Your Grace's site. Most of these characters have confirmed my disillusion; I now see RCs as possessed of a rabid will to invade, to dominate, to judge and to destroy all who disagree with them. Obsessed with these ends, they have largely abandoned "the search for Truth."
Seeing RCs in that light, I am inclined to hope that Americans now have a way to 'spoil their votes.'

Nevertheless, and despite this new dislike, I am more deeply concerned about the present-day focus on religious issues in politics. This narrows our field of vision and renders us less sensible of the larger context. There, Western Civilisation is being destroyed, our nations deconstructed, our families dismembered, and our individual lives devalued/extinguished. Those who set the political agenda thus distract us from the matters we entrust to them: that is the real problem, and that is the just reason for not voting for whatever they put in front of us--in either the UK or the US.

So I say OWL has it right @ 12/10 16:32: I really couldn't care less what creed a particular candidate has.

Can he/she do the job properly is a far more important question.

That job involves regaining our Freedom from Oppression.

13 October 2012 at 03:09  
Blogger Naomi King said...

Well on foreign policy Mitt Romney and his team are completely on track and Obama is completely wrong.

Yesterday, also in the Telegraph, there was an excellent and truthful article about the Arabs being their own worse enemies and that life for muslim arabs in Israel is much better than life for muslim arabs in all the surrounding, muslim run states.

And the source of the this refreshingly truthful analysis of life in the `Middle East. The retiring Saudi Arabian Naval Commodore, ABDULATEEF AL-MULHIM ...

"If I were to argue that the real enemy of the Arab world is not Israel, but the Arab world itself, what would people say? If I suggested it is the Arab states’ own endemic corruption, poor healthcare, inadequate education system, lack of respect for human rights, and disregard for human life and freedom of speech that is the real problem? If I said that many Arab states actually cause their own people far greater suffering than Israel does? That in attacking Israel in 1948 and 1967, and intermittently thereafter, the Arab world only harmed itself? That Israel offers a far better standard of living to Muslim arabs than many Arab states offer their own citizens? If I argued all of this, wouldn’t the response be a tsunami of animosity?

“The Arab world … has many enemies, and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good healthcare, lack of freedom, lack of respect for human lives and, finally, the many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people. These dictators’ atrocities against their own citizens are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars … Syrians are leaving their own country not because of Israeli planes dropping bombs on them but the Syrian Air Force doing so.”

On the comparison of many Arab states and Israel: “If many of the Arab states are in such disarray, we should contrast them with Israel. It now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of Palestinians living in Israel is far greater than in many Arab states and they enjoy far greater political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip [sic] enjoy more political and social rights than in some parts of the Arab world.”

On the lessons from the Arab Spring: “The Arab Spring showed the world that the Palestinians are happier and living better than their Arab brothers who fought to liberate them from the Israelis. It is time to stop the hatred and wars and create better living conditions for future Arab generations."

Nice to hear the truth stated for a change.

13 October 2012 at 07:27  
Blogger Naomi King said...

For the references to both these article about the Middle East

13 October 2012 at 07:29  
Blogger John Magee said...

Naomi King

I completely agree. The first warning bell went off in ealry 2009 when Obama went to Cairo, Egypt and spoke at the University there. This was the first of his "apology tours" we have come to know all too well. If you remember Obama praised Islam and the accomplishsments of Islamic Civilization in his speech at Cairo. Which was fine if it was all true. Of course he never mentioned that Islam cares nothing about the rights of the individual or has ever inspired governmental system that demands freedom for its citizens and individual rights. These concepts are in his own country's founding documents which were inspired by pagan Greek and Roman Civilization and the basic beliefs of Christianity and some Jewish concepts such as the ten Commandments. The thinkers and writers of the Italian Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment contributed enormously to the revival of the belief in the rights of the individual and the revival of the ideals of Greek democracy in our modern republics and demcracies which is totally lacking in Islamic culture Obama praised.

Then there are the photos of Obama bowing at a 90 degree angle in front of the King of Saudi Arabia at Mecca in Saudi Arabia the home of Islam... "A picture speaks a thousands words"...

As far as Israel and the Palestinians are concerned. The Palestinains only have to look at their half of the desert they share with the Israeli's and ask themselves why they live in poverty and squalor while Israel next door has built a prosperous country for it's people since 1948. Both Israel and the Palestinians receive billions in foreign aid each year and what to the Palestinains do with their share? Almost all of it goes into the pockets and Swiss bank accounts of their corrupt leaders. They are constantly whipped into fits or hatred by these same leaders against Israel and wallow in self pity and hatred because of the wrongs that happened to them in 1948 when they could better direct that energy into improving their wretched lives through hard work and a positive attitude and forget the hatred Islam inspires in them.

13 October 2012 at 16:04  
Blogger John Magee said...

non mouse

The article that has inspired Catholic posts here is about RC VP candidates in the USA and a RC USA Cardinal so it's natural Catholics will post their views about the subject here.

His Grace says his web is both "Catholic and Reformed" and I as a RC appreciate his tolerance and ability to post interesting articles and have fun seeing his pot stirred daily by so many thoughtful individuals representing many points of view. You are correct, many RC's do visit Cranmer's blog. Where are the Anglicans and Reformed?

To understand the RC point of view please remember it was a Roman Catholic Pope, Gregory the Great, who sent a Benedictine monk named Augustine to officially plant the seed of the Latin Western Church (Roman Catholic) at Canterbury in 595 AD. St. Augustine was a Bishop of the common faith of all Christians of his time which transcended individuals and national states: the Catholic Church with the Pope as its elected leader.

Catholic citizens of the city of Rome founded the Catholic Church in England.

By the way. At the time of the Reformation in England the shrine inside Canterbury Cathedral and the bones of the founder of the Church IN England, St. Augustine, was wrecked and his relics lost (desecrated and thrown in the gutters of the streets of Canterburg by Protestant mobs).

Western Christian Civilization was created by the Roman Catholic Church in the western portions of the former Roman Empire and lands Catholic missionaries converted in northern Europe and Central Europe.

In your harsh indichtment of Roman Catholic's you claim we are not "educated or hard working". Please define what you meant by this remark. Thank you.

13 October 2012 at 16:48  
Blogger Katie said...

Have a heart. Dolan has to say SOMETHING nice about Biden and the only 2 things he can think of are that Biden has a sharp dentist and that he's catholic.

13 October 2012 at 17:39  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

non mouse said ...

" ... an RC commentariat presently colonises and presumes to dominate Your Grace's site."

You really need to get out more!

If your co-religionists fail to post as frequently as you'd like that is either through their own free will, (if you're of an Arminian disposition, or its predetermined, if Calvin floats your boat.

13 October 2012 at 19:46  
Blogger John Magee said...


You are now accused of dominating and I have been accused of pontificating here.

I guess we strike a raw nerve once in awhile by telling the unvarnished truth and revealing a few unpleasant facts?

This happy pontificating papist salutes your intelligent dominating papist point of view here.

13 October 2012 at 20:12  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

mouse.Furthermore, an RC commentariat presently colonises and presumes to dominate Your Grace's site,

One rather thinks the Archbishop should bathe in the knowledge that his site is of such interest to Christians, that RCs choose to have intercourse with him {AHEM}

When the young Inspector was receiving his English Carmelite education forty years ago, he was impressed by the zeal those fellows had for their work. Had he known then that his involvement with women would render him a bachelor at 53, he may well have gone down the religious road himself. Of course, a pre-requisite being the availability of the water of life, but one believes he would not have been disappointed...

13 October 2012 at 23:05  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

non mouse

Meh. Volume isn't dominance. Dodo is a reasonably knowledgeable traditional RC apologist. OIG is consistent in what he presents, but his is at best an eclectic combination of Catholicism with something else. Not sure what that something else is, though. Regarding John Magee I haven't quite converged on a solution. The process noise is too high. More measurements are required.

Now, Albert. He could dominate a thread. He could rip out 10 4000-character posts before you could respond to one. And they would all be well-reasoned. There were times when I surrendered the field to him simply because of the amount of work a response would have required.

Besides, a traditional RC is an ally to a traditional Protestant once you get beyond contentious doctrinal disagreements. Don't get me wrong. Those disagreements are essential. But many posts on this weblog don't involve those those disagreements. Be happy to stand in the ranks with them when you are able.


13 October 2012 at 23:55  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Carl. OIG is consistent in what he presents, but his is at best an eclectic combination of Catholicism with something else. Not sure what that something else is, though

Trying to make sense of this earthly creation, old fellow. Whatever the truth is, it has evaded us mere humans and is certainly not politically correct. That’s for sure...

14 October 2012 at 00:25  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Why Bless you and your gracious words.

However, surely you could have gone beyond: " ... a reasonably knowledgeable traditional RC apologist."?

I am a Catholic, knowledgable or otherwise, and all true Catholics are traditionalists. That's why the faith has and will continue to endure until Christ returns.

I remember posting here in late 2010 and there were very few Catholics present. I think we bring something valuable to the table and, as you rightly say, we speak with one voice with our Christian brethren on the critical issues of our time.

14 October 2012 at 01:16  
Blogger John Magee said...


Truth in the secular world outside religion is common sense. You need a search warrant to find common sense today, it's that rare and is in hiding. When the left or their allies, the PC crowd, hear the truth or facts they don't want heard they become "offended" and demand what was said banned or censored. If not, they will come after you with lawyers, the speech police, or hateful lies and sexual innuendos intended to destroy you.

I've always admired the Carmelites. As a boy I knew almost nothing about RC saints but I was fascinated by a holy card my maternal Grandmother once gave me of St Therese de Lisieux, the Little Flower, in her brown and white Carmelite habit holding a crucifix and roses. A few years ago I finally read her memoirs, "The Journey of a Soul, which she wrote while she was dying of TB in 1897 and it helped me understand the meaning of physical suffering for a Christian. In the 1980's on a trip to France I visted Lisieux with my Catholic wife. We saw the Basilica, the Carmelite convent, and her home childhood home at Lisieux in Normandy. I didn't really know anything about her back then other than her picture. Now she is one of my favorite RC saints. Not far from where I live today is a convent of cloistered Carmelite Nuns. Amazingly this strict order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns have no problem with vocations unlike most other RC religious orders that went belly up after Vatican II when they went trendy and lost vocations and withered away.


Would you classify me as Morse Code, AM, FM, Short wave, satellite radio, impossible to tune in to or a pesky static?

You are correct. Strip away the trappings, red tape, and prejudices and it will be revealed that in today's crazy secular world with Jihad at our all our front doors traditional Roman Catholics, conservative Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians all share (we should have know this all along) basic Christians beliefs and values based on the same Gospels we all read at home or hear in church each Sunday. Fighting over Biblical quotes and details really is tiresome when we have so much in common which is summed up in the Golden Rule.

Even so, our religious differences are important and make us who we are as individuals. History also defines who and what we are in relation to the culture we live in and all the stuff we inherited from our parents which usually dominates our opinions and views as adults.

14 October 2012 at 01:37  
Blogger OldJim said...

John Magee,
I am actually British, and so most likely have both a less precise understanding of the economic situation in the US and of the contextual historic US argument.

I think that regardless of this, we could still have a productive discussion about ends and means in the US economy, but this current thread (at least as it stands..) might well not be the best place to have it.

The important thing I wished to emphasise here, at least in my view, was that we could disagree in good faith on economic grounds, whilst we necessarily had to stand together as Catholics on morally basic social issues, so that whilst I was temperamentally and morally an economic leftist, I would be an honorary Republican in the upcoming US elections.

I am happy to continue the economic debate later in this thread if you wish. I just wanted to emphasise that, unlike His Grace's basic "equal and opposite" approach, there was every reason in the world to regard Obama's socially liberal platform as ultimately more contrary to a Catholic position than that of Romney's (unpalatable to me, if not you) fiscally conservative platform.

Non mouse,
I am sorry if I have contributed in any way to your current view. I think my co-religionists have invoked quite good reasons why Catholics would be more eager to post in this thread than other Christians, but it was certainly not my intention to drown out discussion, nor to imply that Catholics have pressing motives to attempt to hijack reasoned contributions from either Christian, or more widely, all human society. I hope you do not think badly of me.

I one day aspire to get a mention in your potted summary of Catholic contributors. Of all the Calvinists, you are my favourite, and it would make my week.

14 October 2012 at 01:43  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

John Magee

Would you classify me as Morse Code, AM, FM, Short wave, satellite radio, impossible to tune in to or a pesky static?

It was actually a filtering analogy. Once an Engineer...

Btw. This is the Bestest Theology Joke ever.

"How do you produce optimal theology?

With a Kalvin Filter!" :D

I'm a comedic genius.


14 October 2012 at 01:57  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Old Jim

Yes, but you see you have only recently been included on my list of "Enemies of the Faith: Roman Catholic" and so your dossier is rather thin. Fear not. Surveillance continues.

For what it is worth, I thought your post of 12 October 2012 21:48 was excellent, if perhaps a touch too liberal in places. (Neither rape nor incest constitute valid grounds for an abortion.) But you correctly parsed out the difference between Biden and Ryan. A Christian who is a political conservative can be tempered by a Christian who is a political liberal, and vice versa. But there is no legitimate Christian position for the kind of morality that Biden pushes in the public square.

I must say, however, that I would quite frankly be just as concerned about a politician who held respect for Ayn Rand as a thinker. I don't see how a Christian could do that. All of her economic ideas proceeded from the wooden Materialism at the center of her world view. How could a Christian overlook that?


14 October 2012 at 02:22  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Oh, and just so you Brits might receive some education on real sport. Two goals in stoppage time is nothing compared to this.

St Louis Cardinals win!

Notice the complete lack of any breaks for tea.

Who will upon request elaborate on the long established Glory of the StL Cardinals.

14 October 2012 at 02:33  
Blogger John Magee said...

carl jacobs

Biden is no different than any other so called Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or Mormon liberal who constantly betray what little is left of their moral integrity and religious heritage which they abandoned to support a left wing liberal agenda that hates Christian values and beliefs. Their precious "trinity" of liberalism must be advanced and preserved at all cost: abortion, Gay "marriage", and radical feminism.

Here is what Caroline Kennedy said at the Democratic Convention:

"As a Catholic woman, I take reproductive health seriously, and today, it is under attack. This year alone, more than a dozen states have passed more than 40 restrictions on women’s access to reproductive health care. That’s not the kind of future I want for my daughters or your daughters. Now isn’t the time to roll back the rights we were winning when my father was president. Now is the time to move this country forward."

"Reproductive health" is a euphemism used by dainty liberals for abortion. She didn't have the guts to use that word.

Obviously Ms Kennedy, the daughter of the USA's first RC President, forgets that her Church condemns abortion as the murder of an unborn baby.

14 October 2012 at 03:33  
Blogger OldJim said...


I quite understand :)

With regard to the the abortion issue, please bear in mind that the words "extreme liberal" were used advisedly. I do not mean that this is the moral position that I would favour.

What I do mean is that when electing a candidate, two equally worthy though rationally separable thought processes run through a person's mind: first, do this candidate's policies run close enough to my own conscience to be morally supportable? Second, does this candidate's conscience seem well informed and inviolable enough to be morally supportable?

Whilst a candidate who supported the offering of legal abortion in the circumstances I provided would not meet the first criterion, I feel that he or she may still meet the second criterion.

In other words, whilst I would absolutely refuse to vote for a candidate who supported abortion on demand on the basis that they failed both criteria, if they could meet the second criterion, then, like any other politician, they would rate as capable of being evaluated on the question of whether their policies in sum total met the first criterion better than their rivals'.

To put it in concrete terms, I mean, for example, that if a Catholic Democratic nominee for Vice President (whose having a well-informed conscience I would therefore hold to an appropriately higher standard than that of, say, an atheist, giving him a natural advantage in my mind, except if his policies as a consequence of their being held to a higher standard seemed to offer serious concerns about his conscience's inviolability...) were to run under this platform, then, if he was male and may therefore have reasonably absorbed the idea that only women were privy to the complete emotional information necessary to process this decision, or other related sentimental considerations, in that circumstance I might on balance be willing to grant him the benefit of the doubt and regard him as morally being "in good faith" even if not "morally correct" as a Christian.

Like all Catholics receptive of the interpretation of Christian Tradition propagated by the Catholic Church, I regard all abortion as a sin against human life. I just think that there are less strict limits when it comes to determining whether a particular politician may be acting in good conscience as opposed to whether his policies as such morally accord to Christianity.

14 October 2012 at 04:00  
Blogger OldJim said...

To give you an example of what I mean in a more conservative context, there is currently a debate raging in the UK Catholic blogosphere about what Catholic politicians ought to do if a bill comes in positing stricter term limits for abortion. The question hinges on whether voting for "abortion within tougher term limits" supports and legitimises abortion within those term limits by the proxy, insufficient rationale of "you can't support the abortion of 24/22/20 month old foetuses, they're viable/look like humans/have the ability to feel pain" with the implication "if they're younger, that's fine..." (in which case Catholics must abstain from voting) or whether it does not mean assenting to the existence of abortion, but merely circumscribing the evil the existing legislation is currently doing (in which case vote in favour).

Because this argument has apparently not been answered clearly enough to compel rational assent by Catholics, I would in some circumstances be capable of supporting candidates on both side of the divide without absolute reference to my personal views, on the basis that both groups could be still be supposed to be acting reasonably according to an informed conscience.

My view would be that even some proposals that are explicitly prohibited by the Church, when closely examined, may yet both run closely enough against the popular grain and be close enough to the Catholic position that the politician might still be reasonably supposed to be acting in good conscience, and therefore be worthy of the broader evaluation offered by the first criterion, rather than a blanket refusal on the basis of the second.

On the same grounds, whilst it's easy to associate Ryan's thinking with Rand's, my question would be, can you come to his economic policy decisions without invoking Rand? And is it reasonable to suppose that he sees that Rand is at best an incomplete answer and at times a complete non-answer to the question of fiscal morality? Seeing as my answer to the first is, mostly, yes, and my answer to the second is "it would be reasonable to imagine he could, yes", Ryan meets the second criterion in a way the current Democratic ticket simply cannot.

Therefore, I could morally vote Rebublican and I could not morally vote Democrat. and for the foreseeable future, it unfortunately looks like the first criterion will not even come into play.

Does that make sense to you, or do I seem mad? Genuine question.

14 October 2012 at 04:01  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Old Jim

I fall rather on the practical of the debate to which you refer. Since I believe I have a civic responsibility to exercise the choice presented to me under the Providence of God, I will at least always choose him who I consider the lesser of two evils. In terms of abortion, that means I would support the candidate that seeks greater restrictions. Any reduction is a victory. In general I don't think we should make the perfect the enemy of the good (or in this case the better.) It would take a rather extreme choice before I would refuse to vote.

In 1991, the Louisiana state electorate was presented with a choice for Governor between Klansman David Duke and corrupt politician Edwin Edwards. The campaign prompted the best political slogan of all time: "Vote for the Crook. Not the Racist." The crook won. Even in such a race, it is still important to exercise the franchise. Especially in such a race, it is important to exercise the franchise.


14 October 2012 at 04:40  
Blogger OldJim said...


Well, the relative merits of each side of the argument weren't really my point; really, all I was getting at was that each side could be supposed to be acting accord to conscience and therefore be supportable.

Having said that, I would be quite happy to properly expound the terms of the debate, because I find it interesting and it might illuminate both Catholic v Protestant differences and British v American differences in some interesting ways.

On the face of it, having heard of the argument, I would have been broadly in agreement with you, and I think I still am, though I did have to think twice at some points. We have both a duty to minimise harm and a rational expectation that this war must be fought incrementally and not all at once. Nonetheless, the broad Catholic consensus in this argument rapidly became that reference to specific encyclical texts bore more weight than individual opinions, much as sound scriptural ones would have done, could they be found, for either Catholics or Protestants.

The encyclical in question was Evangelium Vitae 73, Paras 2 and 3, which run as follows:

"In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it.

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."

So far, this would broadly seem to bear the interpretation that you and I would put on it. But, the opposing Catholics argued, paragraph two forbids the support of ANY abortion law, even one offering abortion within restricted limits, whilst paragraph three, far from supporting us, only offers moral exemption to laws that never legislate for abortion at all explicitly, but only narrow the current law implicitly whilst not banning the whole practice. In other words, Catholic politicians are allowed to avoid outright banning where circumstances are unfavourable and consequently vote for bills that cause reductions, but not to vote for laws which explicitly vote for abortion WITHIN reduced circumstances. So it goes.

14 October 2012 at 05:54  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

14 October 2012 at 05:54  
Blogger OldJim said...

“When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, “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”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided. This DOES NOT MEAN that a MORE RESTRICTIVE LAW in this area could be considered JUST OR EVEN ACCEPTABLE; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment.”

The reading given to this, then, is that it directly sets up an analogy and equivalence with the encyclical, and then directs Catholics more explicitly as follows: a Catholic politician cannot vote for a law that is not “just of even acceptable” at all. Only partial repeals and other, non-legitimising legislation can be voted for in good conscience. Broadly, the point it all hinges on is this: Christ identifies Himself with the last and the least. Whatsoever we do for them, we do for Him. Any law that saves some at the expense of reinforcing the culpable loss or disadvantage of the last and the least is therefore unjust. We could not, in hyperbolic terms, vote in Nazi Germany for some differentiation of classes of wealthier Jew to be saved from the gas chamber if the legislation tacitly condoned the murder of the more impoverished.

So the interesting question is this: regardless of the scrutiny that we think this argument bears, what does it say that this argument occurs? Is it a matter of Catholic scrupulosity, where we would rather greater evil happen passively than actively involve ourselves in lesser evil? Or a matter of admirable Catholic clarity of conscience? Or is it more about American values as opposed to British than Catholic as opposed to Protestant? If you’re American, then perhaps trust in democracy comes with an understanding that you involve yourself in imperfect utilitarian wranglings without being yourself utilitarian about them. Whilst perhaps, if you’re British, democracy is still less trusted and consequently British people view their votes more as about personal moral decisions than as the ultimate outcome of collective judgements. In any case, I find it interesting and illuminating.

14 October 2012 at 05:55  
Blogger John Magee said...

Old Jim

In the real world American Roman Catholics are conservative people like you who also love our families, our country, have traditional values, are anti abortion, do NOT want Gays to be "married", and get up in the morning after we shower and put on our socks and go to work and pay our taxes just like the rest of the human race. Life is NOT a cake walk for anyone is it?.

We are fed up with liberals and all they do to try to wreck the beautiful society our ancestors handed down to us!

14 October 2012 at 06:10  
Blogger non mouse said...

Ummm... On reflection, Your Grace: I do injustice to one RC, to whom I apologise even in his absence. The exception who proves the rule, he is brilliant, generous in spirit, and immensely knowlegeable, upholding the highest standards in his field. He doesn't impose his RC views on anyone -- he simply incorporates his knowledge appropriately (and helpfully) into issues under discussion. He also respects others for expressing views which are germane to a discussion: whether or not he agrees with them. He welcomes independent thought.

He neither carts coals to Newcastle nor presumes to teach people what they already know. Neither does he deliberately misinterpret and misrepresent the views of others.

All this may be why I forgot he is RC.


Inspector ... mayhap I hear you. As mentioned before, I too received early RC education. Well before the age of 7, truly, it began. They taught me my first prayer, and I initially recited it as: "Our farthing, which art in Heaven..." Fortunately, my (originally RC) grandmother sorted that one.

Thereafter, a nominally atheist father ensured my thorough grounding in both education and Christianity ... at a Franciscan convent run by New York nuns within the jurisdiction of the then British .W.I.

The school still exists, but its website reveals considerable changes, which run deeper than colour. There's no more boarding, there's scarcely a nun in sight, and Junior School is gone-- along with early presentation of grammar in Latin and English. Sad, perhaps; still, they're not yet derelict because, at the enlarged secondary school, they teach Eng. Lang. and Lit. in parallel with Spanish, though they've added froggish to the pattern. Nevertheless, because of earlier curricula (and textbooks to prove it), one sees how intellectually deprived modern children have become.**

On arrival at English Grammar School, my RI continued--but without sectarian indoctrination. There were no more diurnal news/instructions from rome, or catechism by rote, or daily Mass with people fainting because they hadn't broken fast, etc. The Marian prayers and reverence of saints (and Huck Finn) ceased, but scrupulous textual study of Scripture would furnish a foundation for inter-disciplinary reference and understanding.

Around then, I also knew I would never be a nun.*** One is fortunate to have grown up with exemplary women; perhaps that's why all-girls' schools (of any denomination) rendered incarceration among the other types out of the question. Overall, I thought men had to be better people! The real insight would be that not all men are well-motivated either: it dawned on me that the world and its parents are six of one, etc.

My school motto, Quarere Verum, and non-sectarian higher education continued their work. Soon, another basic principle revealed itself: the more I know, the more I know I don't know.

And so it continues... one hopes to some avail. After all, I now delight in this:

Fæder ure
þu þe eart on heofonum,
si þin nama gehalgod.
To becume þin rice.
Gewurþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.
Urne gedæg hwamlican hlaf syle us to dæg.
And forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltemdum.
And ne gelaed þu us on costnunge,
ac alys us of yfele.


{And if the pols could say that, figure it out, and mean it... :) }
**[Nowadays, I frequently meet people in their 20s and 30s who can't identify a verb, let alone string a sentence together. Though some of them profess Christianity, it hasn't helped them on this front. Oh, and I have occasionally met barely literate RCs: two of them ex-priests. So failure and success of educational policies do not necessarily depend from creed.]

*** Which reminds me of The Nun's Story. Hmm. That might reward re-consideration, especially in light of Heart of Darkness!

14 October 2012 at 07:01  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

John. What a fascinating subject that would be to research and write a book on, if it has not already been done. “The Damaging Effect Vatican II had on the Religious Orders”.

The Carmelites made it very clear that they were stand alone people and nothing to do with the episcopal Roman Catholic Church. Like the other orders, they recognised the pope as St Peters successor and considered him Christ’s highest representative on earth. That they were affected by Vatican II is not disputed, but has anyone really assessed the damage they voluntarily self inflicted on themselves. And how much of it has been rolled back...

14 October 2012 at 13:39  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

mouse. You really should consider another name change. You were at one time ‘not a mouse’ one suspects. You must fly under a truer flag. “Mighty Mouse” no less (note use of capitals).

14 October 2012 at 13:48  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Old Jim

really, all I was getting at was that each side could be supposed to be acting accord to conscience and therefore be supportable.

I do not find this argument persuasive. The fact that a man considers in his heart that he is doing something right is not dispositive. It substitutes intention for objectivity. The conscience can be trained to accept almost anything after all.

We could not, in hyperbolic terms, vote in Nazi Germany for some differentiation of classes of wealthier Jew to be saved from the gas chamber if the legislation tacitly condoned the murder of the more impoverished.

Now, this is an interesting challenge to my position. My initial reaction was to agree on the grounds that the law would assign different value to different victims. Suppose instead, however, that the issue was Abortion to select gender. There is broad (if crassly hypocritical) agreement that such a practice should be outlawed. Would you vote to outlaw such a practice? This seems the correct analogy.

Nonetheless, the broad Catholic consensus in this argument rapidly became that reference to specific encyclical texts bore more weight than individual opinions, much as sound scriptural ones would have done, could they be found, for either Catholics or Protestants.

The problem with RCism summarized concisely.

If you’re American, then perhaps trust in democracy comes with an understanding that you involve yourself in imperfect utilitarian wranglings without being yourself utilitarian about them.

I actually have very little faith in democracy because I understand it is a fragile form of gov't predicated upon the prior existence of a virtuous population. Man is by nature a pagan who finds himself ruled by a king. The modern western democracies seem hell-bent on restoring that default reality by means of self-indulgent degeneracy.


14 October 2012 at 15:31  
Blogger len said...

' For Ryan, freedom is to be exercised in accordance with the Magisterium of the Church, while for Biden, it extends to abortion and same-sex marriage, irrespective of the teachings of the Church'.(end of quote)

I would have thought that from some of the comments of our 'resident Catholics' that all Catholics' sang from the same hymn sheet'......(unlike those nasty Protestants) seems not?.

14 October 2012 at 20:53  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


If you were capable of following the discussion you would have arrived at a different conclusion.

As I#ve previously observed - dim, ignorant or both on matters pertaining to the Church.

15 October 2012 at 00:51  
Blogger len said...

Dodo I bow to your superior wisdom (and attitude)........Not!.

You seem to have resorted to mud slinging (the last resort of the desperate!

I truly pity you because you are stuck with your religion which cannot change you and too pig headed to admit it!.

15 October 2012 at 08:15  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Do read the discussion again - slowly and try to digest the content. You might just learn something.

And "pig headed" isn't an insult?

15 October 2012 at 23:41  
Blogger John Magee said...

carl jacobs

You said: I actually have very little faith in democracy because I understand it is a fragile form of gov't predicated upon the prior existence of a virtuous population. Man is by nature a pagan who finds himself ruled by a king. The modern western democracies seem hell-bent on restoring that default reality by means of self-indulgent degeneracy.

How can you say this and condemn me for my views on rioting in the USA?

16 October 2012 at 05:25  
Blogger len said...

Dodo pig headed(in your case) is a statement of fact.

16 October 2012 at 07:53  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

I prefer hardheaded and immovable on matters pertaining to faith.

I'm certainly not responsive receptive or accepting of your ... er ... *flexible* ... creed.

As I said, " .., dim, ignorant, or both, on matters pertaining to the Church."

Let's also throw in prejudiced and intolerant, shall we?

16 October 2012 at 19:16  
Blogger len said...

Throw in what you like Dodo it will make no difference.

Perhaps you should take the Apostle Paul`s advice(I know this will be difficult you being so knowledgeable and all and me being a (don`t know which insult to use you have given me so many)
Anyway......'Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise.'( 1Corinthians 3:18)

Also,“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good life his works with humility of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above but is earthly, sensual, demoniacal; for where envying and strife are there is confusion in every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by them that make peace.”(James 3 13:18)

16 October 2012 at 19:33  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...


Perfect advice for you to follow. It's you who is on here constantly telling those who follow a 'religion' we have it all wrong and that you're the one who understands scripture having been "born again".

The man who has no need of a faith community or a shared body of faith - apart from the virulent websites you frequent when in need of a *spiritual* top-up or some fantasy history to support your latest theory.

16 October 2012 at 21:56  
Blogger len said...

Dodo, I spend a lot of time on 'fantasy sites.'...Catholic ones.

I cannot image any sane person picking up a new Testament and thinking " I must become a member of the Catholic Religion".Just wouldn`t happen!.You have to be indoctrinated into Catholicism much as Islam.

19 October 2012 at 22:28  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...


Do you recall the Holy Spirit asking you to cease dialogue with me? Must be a year or so ago now, around the time you informed me of your suspicions about Saint Paul.

Why are you ignoring the Holy Spirit's instructions with this constant and petty minded sniping at my comments?

20 October 2012 at 00:26  
Blogger len said...

Dodo why do you keep reading my comments?.If my comments are' petty' why don`t you just ignore them?.

How do you know the Holy Spirit hasn`t instructed me to resume contact....He doesn`t give up easily............. even with Catholics.

20 October 2012 at 18:38  
Blogger John Magee said...


21 October 2012 at 06:25  
Blogger len said...

Anyone who sets themselves up as a 'Christian' should expect to be challenged on what they base their belief system on.I expect to be challenged and so should others.
Although these 'debates' can(and do) get a bit heated at times I believe they can bring about positive results.The Bible encourages us to challenge our belief systems. 'Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.'(1Thessalonians 5:21)

Also', Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?'(2Corinthians 13:5)

As I have said before I have no argument with individual Catholics I do not 'hate Catholics'but if Catholics are following a 'false religious system' should this not this system be challenged?.

21 October 2012 at 10:13  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Anyone who sets themselves up as a Christian has to go through Len it seems. Don’t expect a religion which will spread throughout this earthly creation, because his pass rate is a mere 0.001%

21 October 2012 at 17:25  
Blogger len said...

If your religion will not stand up to examination is it really worth having?.
All your' bluster' doesn`t count for much at all Inspector just make it seem like you have something to hide?.

21 October 2012 at 19:37  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Len, you have unilaterally set yourself up as Christ’s arbiter. Those that wish to reach the messiah have to go through you. Damn astonishing !

21 October 2012 at 20:03  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

len said ...

"How do you know the Holy Spirit hasn`t instructed me to resume contact....He doesn`t give up easily............."

Maybe its so you learn something more orthodox and loose the pride that evidently drives you!

The trouble is you don't make "contact".

21 October 2012 at 22:38  
Blogger len said...

Inspector you could learn a lot from the' Bereans'.

OK Dodo
what do you wish to teach me?I am listening.

22 October 2012 at 00:35  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

The Holy Spirit does the teaching len. You should know that. Your part is to be receptive to His promptings.

22 October 2012 at 00:44  
Blogger len said...

Dodo at last something we can agree upon!.

22 October 2012 at 20:15  

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