Is There a Choice?

I think that everybody knows that I vote pro-life. No issue could be more grave than the protection by law of the innocent, defenseless unborn. I will vote pro-life until Roe v. Wade is overturned, until the day when, as the director of Vitae Caring Foundation Carl Landwehr put it in a speech I heard him give the other night, “abortion becomes unthinkable.”

As someone who shares in the shepherding ministry which the Lord entrusted to the Bishops of the Church, I hold myself responsible for clearly teaching not only that abortion is an evil of enormous gravity, but also that the right to life of the innocent unborn must be a part of the fundamental plan of any truly just society.

Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, formerly of Washington
Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, formerly of Washington
Considering all this, you would think that I would applaud the recent letter of our former Auxiliary Bishop Kevin Farrell, now Bishop of Dallas, and his brother Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth. These bishops spell out the morality of voting with admirable clarity.

They assert something, however, that I am afraid to say I do not think is true.

The Bishops carefully explain that the right to life of the innocent unborn is not a matter of prudential judgement, not something that can be weighed against other considerations. It MUST be decisive. Yes. I applaud the making of this crucial point. Thank God. This takes courage.

Then the Bishops go on to write that: “To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or ‘abortion rights’ when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil—and, therefore, morally impermissible.”

Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth
Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth
Now, morally impermissible means what it says it means. We cannot do morally impermissible things. If we do morally impermissible things knowingly and freely, our souls are in danger of damnation.

One can cooperate in evil in one of two ways, either materially or formally. Someone who vacuums the carpets in a medical office building where a doctor performs abortions participates materially in those abortions. But unless he intends to support the work of doing abortions by vacuuming the carpet, he does not formally cooperate. He might just be trying to earn a living, and this is the only job he could find. It is not a good situation, but at the same time it is not ipso facto a sin on his part.

If someone’s material cooperation in evil is “remote,” that is, not closely connected to the evil, then they do not bear moral responsibility for the evil.

Remote participation is permissible provided the person does not intend to be a part of the evil business. I could sin by intending to cooperate with something evil even if had practically nothing to do with it. An absurd example: If I planned to take a trip to a particular city BECAUSE they allowed same-sex “marriage” in that city, that would be a sin. But it is not a sin to go to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Anyone who votes for a pro-“abortion rights” candidate participates materially in the evil. But if the voter does not vote for the candidate for this reason, but rather votes for the candidate for another reason, he or she does not formally co-operate with abortion. I would think that the material cooperation of a voter in an election for the President of the United States is certainly far enough removed from actual abortions themselves to qualify as “remote.”

Therefore, it is morally impermissible to vote for a pro-abortion candidate BECAUSE he is pro-abortion. Likewise, it is negligent to vote without considering the gravity of the right to life of the innocent, defenseless unborn. But I think that it is incorrect to say that anyone who votes for Obama commits a sin.

It is clearly a sin to vote for him because he supports legal abortion. But there are other reasons why people might choose to vote for him. I do not claim to sympathize with those reasons; I would be delighted to argue them calmly.

I think people ought to vote for the more pro-life candidate.

But I am NOT telling anyone how to vote. My point is exactly the opposite. We HAVE to avoid committing serious sins. But we do not HAVE TO vote for one candidate or the other. What we have to do is to stand before God and do what we believe is right.

Logic and Voting Pro-life

When it comes to abortion, some people have the idea that the Church tries to tell Catholics how to vote.  The truth is, though, that voting pro-life is not a matter of submitting to Church authority.  It is not a matter of “balancing theological and scientific perspectives.”  It is a matter of simple logic.  The moral logic involved is basic and clear, with no sophistries and no unsupported claims.  Each step of the argument is absolutely airtight.


All reasonable people agree that killing innocent human beings must be illegal.  Only a very confused person (or a wicked person) could question this.


Some people think that abortion does not always involve killing, because perhaps the resident of the womb is not yet human when an abortion takes place.  Again, everyone can agree that pregnancy is shrouded in great mystery, even though science has learned a lot about it in the past few decades.  With all these advances, no one has found a moment in the process when the unborn child “becomes human”—other than at the very beginning, at conception itself.  Obviously, scientists should continue to investigate the process of pregnancy, so long as nothing immoral is done in the course of research.


So, while there are many unanswered questions about human development in the womb, there is no question whatsoever about this:  Lacking a definitive proof one way or the other about when human life begins, a just society must prohibit abortion.  Why?  Because we must always come down on the side of caution when it comes to innocent human life.  If a gunner in a military training exercise is not sure whether the plane in his gunsights is a drone sent up for the exercise or a manned aircraft that has inadvertently entered his airspace, he will not shoot.  He has to be certain that he is shooting what he is supposed to shoot.  Even if there is only a 1% chance that he might accidentally kill an innocent bystander, he will not shoot.


When it comes to unborn life, there would seem to be more than a 1% chance that the casualty of abortion is an innocent human being.  Birth always produces a baby—never a blender or a Volkswagen or even a cat.  Therefore, the benefit of the doubt must go to the baby.  Under the law, the pre-born must be considered fully human.  If they are not, our society runs the risk of allowing innocent people to be killed.  No self-respecting citizen could accept such a risk.  The first duty of the rule of law is to protect the innocent from being killed.


In the rare instances when a pregnancy endangers a mother’s life, it cannot be right to sacrifice one life for another arbitrarily.  Rather, everything medically possible must be done to save one, if not both, lives.  If it is not possible to save both, we know at least that it would be wrong to kill one intentionally.  If saving the mother means that the baby dies, so be it.  But intentionally killing the baby is wrong.  This might sound like sophistry, but in the nitty-gritty of medical decision-making, it is a crucial distinction.


We see, then, that simple logic confronts us with this fact:  We live in a country in which something that certainly must be illegal actually is allowed, and it happens all the time, thousands of times every day.  A reasonable person can have only one response:  “I love my country, and I want it to be a land of justice.  When it comes to abortion, I am living under an unjust regime.  I cannot just stand by, as if there were nothing wrong.”


Let’s note that we reach this conclusion without referring even once to religion, God, or the Church.  It is the conclusion that any reasonable person comes to when thinking the matter through.  In other words, it is NOT a “religious issue”; it is a matter of logic and justice.  One more conclusion of course follows:  “As a decent human being, I must do something about this.  I must do something to change the abortion regime of the United States.  As an upstanding citizen committed to human rights, I cannot in good conscience consider this to be merely one political issue among many.  This is a matter of life or death for thousands of innocent unborn children every day.”


This is where airtight logic takes us.  All people of truth and good will reach the same conclusion if they take the trouble to think the whole thing through.  There is no logic on the other side; the ‘pro-choice’ position is simply a matter of might makes right, without any reference to truth.  “Minimizing the number of abortions” is not a satisfactory goal for anyone who cares about justice.


Now, the next step of the argument is the point at which good people can and do disagree with each other.  What is the best political strategy for bringing the Roe v. Wade abortion regime to an end?  What should we do as good, law-abiding American citizens to protect the innocent and defenseless unborn?  There is no one clear, logical answer to these questions.  We need to discuss them calmly and carefully.


Perhaps someone detects a flaw in the logic outlined here.  If you do, please respond.  It would be good to have a clear-headed debate about the logic of the pro-life position.  On the other hand, if you don’t see a flaw in the reasoning, then why aren’t you taking a clear and public stand against legal abortion?  What excuse could there possibly be?