Do Not Be Deceived
I recently learned of a political campaign initiative called “Catholics for Biden” that had its official online launch on Thursday, September 3, 2020. As a long-time Catholic and deacon in the Catholic Church, I was worried about what arguments are being used by this initiative to draw Catholics away from the central tenets of their faith.
As a member of the Catholic clergy, I cannot support or oppose a particular candidate or political party. Consequently, I am addressing here the moral issue at stake in this initiative, not the candidate or the candidate’s party. I seek to speak here in a way that is clear but does not disparage those who feel that, after careful consideration of the facts, their voting position will remain unchanged.
“’Catholics for Biden’ claims Democratic candidate shares pope’s priorities.’
My “worrying” was addressed in an article from the following day, Sept. 4, in Catholic News Agency (CNA), titled “’Catholics for Biden’ claims Democratic candidate shares pope’s priorities’ (see link below for the full article). The author of the article noted that the initiative’s main speakers (themselves Catholics) urge Catholics “not to be single-issue voters on abortion.” This statement, of course, implies that there is a moral equivalence between the issue of protecting human life in the womb and the other, albeit important, social justice issues of our times.
All principles of social justice derive from the foundation principle that human life is sacred.
The implication in that statement does not square with the long-standing Catholic teaching that all principles of social justice derive from the foundation principle that human life is sacred. (2) Consequently, the issue of protecting human life must take precedence over other social justice issues because the moral standing of those other issues rests on the sacredness of human life, from conception to natural death. That’s a fact; there should be no confusion over this. And, attempts to obscure this foundation principle should be greeted with suspicion.
The campaign initiative went on to assert that their candidate “shares the Catholic priorities of Pope Francis.” To support this claim, they cited a particular phrase, “equally sacred” from Pope Francis’ 2018 apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, implying that Pope Francis regards the plight of the poor, the elderly, migrants and those impacted by racism as morally on a par with the issue of taking innocent lives in the womb.
The pope actually wrote in his apostolic exhortation that “defense of the innocent unborn must be clear, firm and passionate.”
I’d like to give the author of the CNA article, Matt Hadro, credit, he rightly pointed out that the pope actually wrote in his apostolic exhortation that “defense of the innocent unborn must be clear, firm and passionate” adding that “equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned [and others]” (3)
Notice that the pope’s words “equally sacred” referred to the lives of the poor, the already born, etc. Pope Francis clearly did not claim that the protection of the life of the unborn is on a par with other social issues. That’s a fact; there should be no confusion over this.
There is general agreement among most Americans concerning the seriousness of the social issues facing us; we differ on how best to alleviate them.
Certainly, there are many very serious social issues in our times that deserve, indeed demand, our attention and efforts to alleviate them. And, there is general agreement among most Americans concerning the seriousness of the social issues facing us; we differ on how best to alleviate them. These are referred to as matters of prudential judgement [see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1806]. Prudential judgment involves choosing between different methods of helping the poor or the aged or migrants, and so on.
Matters of prudential judgement do not supersede protecting human life in the womb.
But in our zeal to alleviate social issues of our times, we must remember St Paul’s words to his friends in Ephesus centuries ago, “Let no one deceive you with false words” [Eph 5:6]. Matters of prudential judgement do not supersede protecting human life in the womb.
There is no moral equivalence between the issue of protecting human life and the other, albeit important, social issues of our times. And, Pope Francis clearly did not claim that the protection of the life of the unborn is on a par with other social issues. Catholics, and all others of faith, please don’t be deceived by those arguments that seek to draw you away from the central tenets of your faith.
As St Paul wrote, but do not be deceived! People will rebel against God [2 Thess 2:3]. So, see to it that no one takes you captive through deceptive philosophy [Col 2:8].
‘Till next time,
Dcn.. Bob Evans
September 8, 2020
2. See for example: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 2015, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions, USCCB, 1998 and Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, USCCB, 2003.
3. Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, March 19, 2018, #101.
Ephesians 5:6, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Colossians 2:8