Voting and Intrinsic Evils

August 28, 2012

Archbishop Lori’s comments on voting for a politician who supports intrinsic evils have created quite a stir.  He stated:

For Catholic voters in November, Lori advises, “The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances? If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.”

Three thoughts on this matter.  First, that means that it was unacceptable for Catholics to vote for John McCain, since he supported embryonic stem-cell research.  And for that matter, Romney has said that he supports abortion in situations of rape and incest.  That is an intrinsic evil.  He has also been unclear on torture.  So it seems that we cannot vote for him, according to this logic. But this seems not to be the case according to then Cardinal Ratzinger’s memorandum in 2004 to Cardinal McCarrick:

“A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia…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.”

Second, one of the problems with using the category of intrinsic evil this way is that it conflates “intrinsic” with “grave social evil.” Read the rest of this entry »