Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Monday, September 20, 2004

The Vatican Replies 

Since I'm up to my ears in paperwork today, here's my post to CKW yesterday:

The postcript of the famous (or infamous) 'Ratzinger memo' sent this June by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of the CDF to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick has been the subject of endless media spin in the last two weeks, eventually plunging to the nadir of Fr. Andrew Greeley's "Catholics Can Vote for Kerry!" article in the New York Daily News. Catholic Kerry Watch has managed to keep up, more or less, with the train of events thus far.

A new wrinkle in the story occurred today, when the CDF itself - Ratzinger's office - made a statement on the letter and its media fallout. Fr. Augustine T. DiNoia, undersecretary to Cardinal Ratzinger, spoke to representatives of CNS news, in an article published this morning:

"The memo was certainly not intended to clear the way for Catholics to vote for candidates who are in favor of laws permitting abortion or euthanasia, but rather to clarify that the simple act of voting for such candidates might not per se justify one's exclusion from Holy Communion," said [DiNoia].

After a helpful discussion of the theological principles of cooperation with evil - material and formal - Fr. DiNoia spoke directly to the situation of 'proportionate reasons':

The recent doctrinal memo's mention of "proportionate reasons" has led some people to suggest a set of reasons that could justify voting for pro-abortion politicians -- or to argue that no "proportionate reason" can exist in such a case. Father DiNoia said one obvious proportionate reason would be when, as often occurs, Catholic voters must choose between two candidates who support legalized abortion but to widely differing degrees. In that situation, not to vote at all would seem to go against a Christian's responsibility to participate politically.

While this statement certainly does not allow an absolute prohibition against voting for 'pro-choice' politicians, neither does it grant unrestricted liberty to do so, with apologies to Father Greeley. DiNoia rightly points back to the contents of the memo itself, forbidding us to take its postscript in isolation. The memo clearly states that the issues of abortion and euthanasia carry greater 'weight' than other moral issues, and that there can be no 'legitimate diversity' regarding them. To unjustly 'flatten' the spectrum of moral issues involved, as Father Greely would have us do, does not do justice to the very question of proportionality which he would have us respect. It is telling, I think, that the only scenario Fr. DiNoia proposes is one in which a pro-choice politician is contrasted with another pro-choice politician. As Jimmy Akin proposes,

"[A] pro-abort president would be responsible for extending the abortion holocaust to include approximately nine million Americans. No other issue involves numbers that high. Nothing short of a full-scale nuclear or biological war between well-armed nation states would kill that many people, and we aren't in imminent danger of having one of those."

It is difficult to imagine another issue or scenario which could successfully stand up to the death of nine million Americans through legal abortion. Except, perhaps, the death of eight million Americans due to a slightly less pro-abort president. This is not to say, of course, that other scenarios, which might collectively carry this much 'weight' are de facto impossible. Even Fr. DiNoia admits defining these scenarios is 'extremely difficult.' is An active imagination could come up with plenty of scenarios, especially with some help from some hyper-paranoid documentaries in our theatres. But when it comes time to approach the polls, it's time to put a clamp on your imagination and deal with real life.

# posted by Jamie : 3:40 PM


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Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

"Augustine of Hippo Refuting Heretic"
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