Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MacIntyre on voting

I just stumbled across an exerpt from Alasdair MacIntyre's "The Only Vote Worth Casting in November" in which he discusses how to approach a situation with two "politically intolerable" candidates.

MacIntyre writes:

When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives. These are propositions which in the abstract may seem to invite easy agreement. But, when they find application to the coming presidential election, they are likely to be rejected out of hand. For it has become an ingrained piece of received wisdom that voting is one mark of a good citizen, not voting a sign of irresponsibility. But the only vote worth casting in November is a vote that no one will be able to cast, a vote against a system that presents one with a choice between Bush’s conservatism and Kerry’s liberalism, those two partners in ideological debate, both of whom need the other as a target.

We note at this point that we have already broken with both parties and both candidates. Try to promote the pro-life case that we have described within the Democratic Party and you will at best go unheard and at worst be shouted down. Try to advance the case for economic justice as we have described it within the Republican Party and you will be laughed out of court. Above all, insist, as we are doing, that these two cases are inseparable, that each requires the other as its complement, and you will be met with blank incomprehension. For the recognition of this is precluded by the ideological assumptions in terms of which the political alternatives are framed. Yet at the same time neither party is wholeheartedly committed to the cause of which it is the ostensible defender. Republicans happily endorse pro-choice candidates, when it is to their advantage to do so. Democrats draw back from the demands of economic justice with alacrity, when it is to their advantage to do so. And in both cases rhetorical exaggeration disguises what is lacking in political commitment.

In this situation a vote cast is not only a vote for a particular candidate, it is also a vote case for a system that presents us only with unacceptable alternatives. The way to vote against the system is not to vote.

I tend to agree. What do you think?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Venting on Voting

Disclaimer: (1) If I had to vote today, my conscience would not allow me to vote for either McCain or Obama. In other words, I have no political horse in this race. What follows are not political frustrations, but frustration with an unacceptable Catholic approach. (2) This is not directed to any one person in particular, but is a response to a false narrowing of orthodoxy to a particular issue or political ideology. (3) This is very one-sided post, and intentionally so. I am writing directly in response to those Catholics who claim it is a sin to vote for Obama. If I were to come in contact with an abundance of Catholics making similar errors in reference to McCain, I would respond similarly.

I am sick and tired of hearing or reading that Catholics cannot vote for Obama. I do not mean to implicate your everyday Catholic who might be ignorant of the complexities of moral theology or the breadth of orthodoxy or a proper understanding of conscience. Rather, I am absolutely frustrated with Catholics who should know better - priests, deacons, theologians, intelligent and intentional Catholics - who insist upon focusing squarely and exclusively on the issue of abortion. They claim it is sinful to vote for a pro-choice candidate and implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) state that Catholics MUST vote for McCain. In doing so they obliterate the role of conscience in voting, which should be a personal prudential decision made with an informed conscience.

The Church’s teaching on this is clear. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated it in their document Faithful Citizenship:

A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity... There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil...In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching...As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

It really is that clear. A Catholic may, without committing sin, vote for Obama provided he is voting in spite of, not because of, Obama’s position on abortion. Period. Each Catholic, as an individual person, is responsible for informing himself on the Church’s teaching on the issues, on the candidates’ positions on the issues, on the integrity, qualification, etc. of the candidates. Once the person has informed himself, he should, in prayer, make a decision according to his conscience. No one should tell anyone that it is a sin to vote for either of these two candidates. (However, it would be a sin to vote for Obama because of his pro-choice position.)

Furthermore, these people reduce the Catholic consistent ethic of life to abortion, and in doing so, they brush aside the fact that McCain is simply not a pro-life candidate. 1) He is not against abortion in cases of rape, incest, etc. 2) As far as I can tell, his proposed policy is that the legality of abortion should be left up to the individual states. While this is an improvement over the current state of the law, it cannot be called a pro-life position in any sense of the term. 3) McCain is currently for embryonic stem cell research, which is basically abortion at an earlier stage and for the purpose of research. How can someone really make the claim that he is a “pro-life” candidate?

Everyone should educate themselves on the issues and a Catholic understanding of them. Everyone should educate themselves on the candidates. After reading, learning, praying, and discerning, everyone should feel free to vote their conscience. It is not a sin to vote for either candidate provided you are not voting for them because of their support for an intrinsically evil act.

I may disagree with your prudential judgment. You may disagree with mine. We can talk about it. We can debate it. But we should never threaten anyone with the guilt of sin due to their prudential judgment as a Catholic voter.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Random thoughts, some intelligent, some... not much

1. Transcendence and sport

Man, as a being made in the image and likeness is a being open to transcendence. Animals are not open to transcendence. Plants are not open to transcendence. Only we have the ability to not only conceive, but to also to experience that which draws us entirely outside of ourselves and into contact with the absolute spiritual horizon of being.

I have certainly experience transcendence several times in my life in the face of love, self-sacrifice, the Mass, the Eucharist. However, many do not open themselves up to perceiving transcendence as such.

I was at the Saints - Vikings game Monday night. I was at the Monday night Saints home-opener against the Falcons after Katrina. Reggie's punt returns against the Vikings, Gleason's blocked punt against the Falcons -- these were events with the potential to jar to the most secular individual, those most numbed to their intrinsic transcendence, into awareness of the horizon of being. Man, woman, and child forgot about themselves, lost themselves in the euphoria, hugged random strangers. Against the Falcons, the city, a unity, as a body, experienced real hope for the first time since Katrina. A meaningless event, a spectator sport brought the body of man in New Orleans back from the edge of despair.

I don't intend to exaggerate the importance of such events. These are not deeply meaningful transcendent events as the birth of a child might be, but each time I experience them I am struck by the very real transcendence of the moment and of humanity. There cannot be transcendence without the Transcendent. These very experiences of losing ourselves in communion, in hope, are experiences which can remind us of He who emptied himself for us so that we might Hope in the face of death and despair.

2. Presidential Debates are pointless

I really don't have a lot more to say, and I really don't mean quite as broadly as I made it sound, but watching and listening last night to the two men who are vying to be "the most powerful man in the world" in a "town hall" setting nearly made me sick. The VP debates had more substance. I can get more honesty and integrity from a high school student caught cheating. I am not at all excited about either candidate.

3. When Voting Season rolls around Catholics forget about the Seamless garment

I am so tired of hearing whom I generally respect reduce the election or being "pro-life" down to one or two issues. I am so tired of hearing those Catholics tell other Catholics that they HAVE to vote for this candidate or that one, or else they will in sin. What frustrates me so is that people are often people who know Church teaching on this. They know it is morally legit to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsically evil act as long you are supporting him/her in spite of their position on said issue. Nevertheless, when it comes time to vote, it is a sin and a crime to vote for Obama in spite of his position on abortion and ESCR or McCain in spite of his position on war and ESCR. Everyone has the right and the duty to inform their own conscience on the Truth and on the candidates and to make a free and informed and prayerful decision according to their own conscience. No one has a right to say anyone must vote this way or that.

As I have said in my series on Being a Catholic in America, we are called to be pro-life, but this does not mean we are merely anti-abortion. It means we are in support of a consistent ethic of life, a seamless garment which upholds and respects and demands respect for human life at all stages. This is consistently talked about, but rarely lived out. Instead people focus only on abortion and only on the Republican platform to end abortion by legal and judicial means. However, the Republican platform does little to nothing to help those who are in difficult situations, situations which may make abortion seem like an attractive alternative. Furthermore, an unjust death is an unjust death. It should not matter whether a person is killed by an abortion, for ESCR, in an unjust war, by Capital punishment, etc. We should not and must stand for any of these. We should be outraged at all of them.

Where are the seamless garment Catholics?

4. Who are prophets?

The OT prophets were, generally speaking, neither of the priestly class nor of the ruling class. They were set apart. They preached the Word and Will of God, called for repentance and purity. Each and every Christian is baptized priest, prophet, and king. We, as Church, as the Body of Christ, are called to be set apart, to be a prophetic witness to the Truth and Hope and Life we've found in Christ. Why then do we turn to the media for truth? to Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin for hope? to money and consumerism for life? Too many of us remain more American than Catholic. This is not acceptable. Dare we witness to Christ? Dare we take up our crosses and follow Him?

5. Interesting stuff...

Katerina wrote a great post entitled "Knowledge, Freedom, Conscience and the Politics of Incompetence:
my Case Against Obama… and McCain."
I strongly suggest you read it. It was part of the inspiration for point 3, above.

A synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church is currently taking place. Stay tuned. We won't won't see anything groundbreaking, but, when you are talking about the Word of God, its always good stuff.

This blogger is also doing some interesting and related writing on peace, war, non-violence in the OT. Check him out.

6. Thesis...

I am currently researching and will be writing my thesis for my MA in Theology. I will be exploring how non-Christians might be saved. Specifically I will be looking at the dispute between Rahner and Balthasar on this issue. Although it probably will not specifically play into my research or writing, this is connected to my thought on non-violence. The Body of Christ has ascended into heaven and into eternity. The Church is the Body of Christ. The Church conists of the Church militant (those (explicitly ?) within the Church on earth), the Church suffering (those in purgatory), and the Church victorious (those in the Heaven). Vatican II asserts that non-Christians can be saved, thus even if a person is not part of the Church militant explicitly, he may become part of the Body of Christ in purgatory and eventually in heaven. [This is not entirely precise, but it is sufficient here.] We must not wish or commit violence against the Body of Christ or anyone who is or may be part of the Body of Christ. We do not know who will become part of the Body of Christ. Therefore we must not wish or commit violence against any one.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kudos Supreme Court; Shame, shame Jindal - Death Penalty for Rapists

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, said that imposing the death penalty in child rape cases violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Around the same time, Louisiana's "Catholic" governor, Bobby Jindal, signed Louisiana bill, SB 144 into law. "It gives the court the option of castration on a first conviction of aggravated rape, forcible rape, second degree sexual battery, aggravated incest, molestation of a juvenile when the victim is under the age of 13, or an aggravated crime against nature. Castration is required on a second conviction of the listed crimes."

Recently, Jindal and Louisiana (and the Bush administration) challenged the Supreme Court decision and ask the SC to revisit their ruling. The Supreme Court declined to change their opinion, amending it only slightly to account for a military law. In response, Jindal fired back:

“The Supreme Court was dead wrong in their ruling," Governor Bobby Jindal said. "It is disappointing that they did not take this opportunity to move quickly to rehear this case and examine their legally improper and absurd decision to remove death as a penalty for the horrific crime of raping a child. The fact that they based their ruling on their own perception of a ‘national trend’ against the death penalty is outrageous and harms the credibility of the entire Court. We will continue to work to evaluate ways to amend our statute to maintain death as a penalty for the incredibly brutal crime of raping a child.”

Our bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for 20 years. Jindal response and actions are not acceptable for a Catholic. (For more on these read USCCB link or this from Archbishop Chaput.)

I voted for Jindal, and depending on his opponent would consider voting for him again, but this is very disheartening. I understand why abortion is considered a "bigger" issue. I understand why it gets more attention. I don't have a problem with that. Nevertheless, Jindal's blatant slamming of Church teaching on Catholic punishment is very problematic, in ways similar to Biden's and Pelosi's stance on abortion.

Will Archbishop Hughes or Bishop Muench make a statement? I'm not even sure one should be made (publicly), but it is frustrating to see Catholics (of both political parties) consistently showing they are more American or Republican or Democrat than they are Catholic.

Shame on you Bobby Jindal