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October 31, 2004

How and Why Catholics Should Vote

NRO has afforded me the privilege of sharing with its readers my answers to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' guiding questions for Catholic voters.

Even as a relatively long opinion column, my piece is obviously not complete; it's just an overview. Each question alone requires — deserves — not just an essay, but an entire extended discussion (such as St. Blogs has from time to time on various topics). To be honest, some of that effort will have to be expended reorganizing the questions. They seem organized according to political categories, which cut across the essentials of faith and practicality that must be addressed.

Well, let's get the conversation started. We've got two days...

(More realistically: two years.)

Some discussion has begun at Amy Welborn's blog.

Posted by Justin Katz at October 31, 2004 1:09 PM

Catholics should vote because John Kerry is a hypocrit wherever he goes. He says he's a true catholic, (this may be up for debate), but he supports gay marriage, and then abortion.

Plus you should vote on your gut instinct. Which candidate do you think will be firm for another 4 years, not sway his opinion like the currents of the wind, and be strong

Posted by: Kevin at October 31, 2004 2:36 PM

Congratulations, Justin. I found (and enjoyed) your piece on NRO.

Catholics still wrestling with Tuesday's decision might determine which candidate is in conformity with section 23 of the USCCB's "Living the Gospel of Life":

"But being 'right' in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community."

Posted by: Rich Leonardi at October 31, 2004 5:24 PM

There's much in your piece that's to be agreed with - especially the conclusion that, especially in light of the abortion issue, one should vote for Bush.

But there are some problems, especially in #10. The Church teaches (#81) that - as a matter of principle - a certain kind of international authority is ultimately necessary.

Posted by: Kevin Miller at October 31, 2004 6:40 PM


You'd know better than I what the thinking preceding and flowing from your citation has been, and to what degree Catholics are supposed accept it or take it under advisement. Even were this a dictated truth, however, I'm not so sure that the relevant paragraph indicates, specifically, a "consolidated world government":

It is our clear duty, therefore, to strain every muscle in working for the time when all war can be completely outlawed by international consent. This goal undoubtedly requires the establishment of some universal public authority acknowledged as such by all and endowed with the power to safeguard on the behalf of all, security, regard for justice, and respect for rights. But before this hoped for authority can be set up, the highest existing international centers must devote themselves vigorously to the pursuit of better means for obtaining common security. Since peace must be born of mutual trust between nations and not be imposed on them through a fear of the available weapons, everyone must labor to put an end at last to the arms race, and to make a true beginning of disarmament, not unilaterally indeed, but proceeding at an equal pace according to agreement, and backed up by true and workable safeguards.

In the context of war and the arms race, this sounds more like a Security Council–style authority. Moreover, I would suggest that it is within the bounds of finding "better means for obtaining common security" to say that what is needed prior to such an authority is the spread of freedom. Part of the problem, in the U.N., is that it clearly is not acknowledged as an authority by the likes of Saddam Hussein.

An honest question: is there something of which I'm ignorant that makes this "undoubtedly require[d]" authority a principle rather than practicality? What if we discerned, for example, that it is best to conceptualize this "authority" not as a constructed body, but as a more abstract force (for lack of a better word) — as the culmination of various nations' acting in their own interests? In other words, we would ensure that the various nations are all constituted in such a way that their interests (e.g., economic and political) jointly suggest a response when one nation becomes hostile. Rather than investing each nation's authority in a representative at a Security Council, the nation would hold its authority in its own democratically elected government.

(Sorry to ramble... thinking as I type.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 31, 2004 9:12 PM


I hadn't read the questionnaire before. Funny, isn't it, how the questions themselves tend to imply that a political solution exists to every problem, especially at the federal level.

Posted by: ELC at November 1, 2004 9:36 AM