Saturday, July 30, 2016

Quick Quips: Election Errors Edition

Now that we finished the conventions, Catholics on social media are…pretty much doing the same thing they’ve been doing since January. That is to say, fighting over what is the best way to deal with a bleak field of candidates to choose from. The problem with that is we get to hear the same arguments we’ve heard for another four months. When they’re wrong, that gets annoying.

As I’ve said elsewhere, my policy is not putting my personal political decisions on my blog. I do this so people won’t confuse my opinions with Church teaching. Instead I try to talk about Church teaching and what follows from that. So, what I plan to do is analyze a few errors in hopes that people will stop using them.

Arguments of Third Party Voting—and the forgotten Catholic obligation

In my circles, I’m hearing more Catholics debate voting for a Third Party than I heard before (my first election was 1988). That alarms people who believe one of the major parties supports evil and that the other major party opposes it. The argument is that a Third Party vote (I’m lumping in write-in candidates and declining to vote as well) will benefit the other party. 

In 2016, there are three groups who will vote Third Party:

  1. The voter who normally votes Republican but votes Third Party out of disgust for Trump.
  2. The voter who normally votes Democrat but votes Third Party out of disgust for Hillary.
  3. The voter who never votes for a major party.

1) The voter who normally votes for the Republicans but votes for a Third Party this time does subtract one vote from the Republicans but does not affect the votes for the Democrats. That means the Republicans have one less vote while the Democrats’ tally stays unchanged. So yes, in that case, the change of support does impact the election by harming the Republicans but not the Democrats.

2) But, this cuts both ways. If Republicans disgusted with the Republican party leads to voting Third Party and harming the Republicans, the same principle applies for the Democrats who vote Third Party out of disgust for Hillary. Each Democrat who votes this way impacts the Democratic Party in the same way that it affected Republicans in the first case.

3) The voter who has never voted for a third party to begin with does not affect the Democrat vs. Republican ratio unless they decide to vote for a major party.

So, to discover how the third party vote affects the election, we have to discover how many of each major party defects to the minor parties and how that impacts their totals in each state. Sometimes it doesn’t impact much. Sometimes it has a major impact.

Take Florida 2000. Whether or not you think it was fair (in other words, no arguments in the comments), George W. Bush won the state by about 500 votes. But 97,000 voters chose Ralph Nader from the Green Party. 12,000 voters chose Pat Buchanan from the Reform Party. If the 97,000 Greens supported Al Gore and the 12,000 Reform party voters supported George W. Bush, then Al Gore would have won Florida by ~84,500 votes. Or if the Buchanan voters would have voted for Bush while the Green votes stayed unchanged, Bush would have won by ~11,500. In one scenario, the election results would have changed. In both cases, nobody would have contested the Florida vote. So yes, a third party vote can impact the election.

But before anyone starts bashing the third party supporters, let’s not forget one crucial thing: conscience. Catholics have the obligation to properly form their conscience and may never do what they believe to be evil. So, if a person’s conscience condemns a vote for both major parties, he cannot ignore his conscience. We cannot do evil so good may come of it. So, as frustrating as it may be for the champions of a major party, one Catholic can’t accuse a second Catholic with a properly formed conscience of enabling evil just because they vote differently.

So people should stop sniping and have a civil dialogue on what voting means in terms of Catholics seeking to promote good and limit evil. Our task should be to find a greater understanding of our obligations, not to defeat “the other side."

Misinterpretation of "Proportionate Reasons"

Another problem is Catholics arguing over whether one may vote for a pro-abortion rights candidate. Back in 2004, then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a memorandum on politicians, voting and the Eucharist. The part that involved non-politicians read as follows:

[N.B. 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 favour 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.] 

Catholics argue about what a proportionate reason is every four years. But most don’t seem to know that the terms are technical. “Remote material cooperation” and “proportionate reasons” have specific meaning in moral theology which discover guilt or innocence (see HERE for my explanation). Briefly, remote material cooperation means an action which is doesn’t directly cause the evil but does help bring it about. Proportionate reason is not something the individual decides. We don’t say X+Y+Z > abortion. What it means is, if our action allows an evil, the reason for the action had better outweigh the evil. So, if America kills 1 million unborn children a year, the evil we’re trying to stop had better outweigh those 1 million killings we think we need to tolerate so we can oppose it.

The problem is, none of the other issues in 2016 outweighs the evil of abortion. Yes, both parties support intrinsic evil. But, in limiting evil, we must never allow a greater evil in the name of stopping one which does less harm. Does that mean we let other intrinsic evils go? No, it does not. It means we oppose the President on them. But we need to understand which act does greater harm when deciding how we vote to limit evil.

The Execrable Term “Pope Francis Catholic” 

Popefrancis catholic

The secular media has taken to calling Catholics who dissent from Church teaching, “Pope Francis Catholics.” By this, they mean Catholics who put social justice in contrast to opposing abortion and other moral evils. The problem is, this is not what Pope Francis understands by Catholicism. The Pope has condemned the same things his predecessors condemned and promoted the same mercy they promoted. He neither changed teaching nor condoned what the Church has always called evil. A Catholic who supports Social Justice while rejecting Church teaching on abortion, contraception, same sex “marriage” is not a “Pope Francis Catholic. He is a dissenting Catholic.

Perhaps, not coincidentally, this week is the third anniversary of the media and Papal critics grossly distorted the words “Who am I to judge,” portraying his statement that he would not judge the past of a priest who repented as if he supported changing Church teaching. Never mind that the transcript clearly pointed out that he considered himself “a son of the Church” and in accord with the Church on these issues.

Let’s remember that what the Pope says and does is vastly different than what he is falsely portrayed as being. If you study the writings of Pope Francis and his writings before he became Pope, it is clear his beliefs and practices are entirely in keeping with his predecessors. You can only find “changed teaching” if you start with the unproven assumption that he plans on changing Church teaching (begging the question).


I wrote this Quick Quips edition because some Catholics make false statements, either condemning Catholics who do no wrong or defending Catholics who do wrong. Of course no blog has magisterial authority and I don’t pretend to bind and loose. Nor do I pretend to know which Catholics are simply mistaken or which are acting dishonestly. All I can do is describe what seems wrong and encourage people to reflect on these things.

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