Cardinal-designate Burke says Catholics can't vote for pro-choice pols

Archbishop Raymond Burke, soon-to-be Cardinal Burke, apparently hadn't read Cathy Kaveny et al -- or even Joseph Ratzinger -- when he gave an interview last week in Rome to Catholic Action for Faith and Family, a conservative advocacy group whom he advises.In the interview, which Catholic Action is pushing out ahead of Tuesday's elections, Burke was quite straightforward in saying that Catholics could notin good conscience vote for pro-choice pols (or those who vote in favor of same-sex marriage). From my write-up at PoliticsDaily:

[Catholic Action head Thomas J.] McKenna asks Burke, "Is it ever licit for a Catholic to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, a candidate who either in a platform or who has voted, has shown himself to support that. Is it ever valid?""No," Burke answers. "You can never vote for someone who favors absolutely the right to choice of a woman to destroy a human life in her womb or the right to a procured abortion."He adds that voters "may in some circumstances, where you don't have any candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion, choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country. But you could never justify voting for a candidate who not only does not want to limit abortion but believes that it should be available to everyone."The cardinal-designate's latest comments on Catholic voters also seem to diverge somewhat from the current policy of the U.S. hierarchy, as developed in 2004, and based in part on advice from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's chief doctrinal officer who a year later was elected pope on the death of John Paul II.

Burke also says:

"No matter what good I'm trying to achieve by voting for a candidate who favors that good, but at the same time favors the intrinsic evil, the grave evil of abortion, they can never justify that, voting for that candidate."

That struck me as as even harder line than Cardinal Ratzinger took in his letter to the American bishops meeting in 2004 to formulate their policy of Catholics in public life, Ratzinger noted that a Catholic voter would be unfit to receive communion "if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia."

Ratzinger added: "When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."

Such a variance with other bishops is not new for Burke, but his growing influence, and the timing of the remarks, seem to signal his agreement with efforts on the Catholic right to be the dominant voice both within and without the Church, as discussed in a much-debated thread here earlier.BTW, R.R. Reno has a post at First Things that seems very relevant here, in which he warns that "there is a danger when we theologize our political judgments."

Even the politics of the pro-life cause isnt always clear. The imperative to protect innocent life translates pretty directly into opposition to our current legal arrangements, which permit abortions. But what will move us forward? Here political judgment comes into play, which is a species of prudence. Should I vote for a pro-life Democrat on the theory that a lasting pro-life consensus will require bipartisan cooperation? Or is the next Supreme Court appointment so decisive that I ought to vote for the Republican candidate?

Reno adds that "Obviously, one cannot claim to be in accord with the magisterium of the Church will asserting the women have a right to abort the children in their wombs," so he'd probably be more in accord with Burke than not. But the point about prudential judgments seems to complicate black-and-white judgments.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads