When debaters are informed that they must not debate on politics or religion, the more spirited and intelligent naturally retort that there is nothing else to debate about.G. K. Chesterton, The Well and the Shallows, “The Historic Moment” [1935, Sheed and Ward, London].

San Diego based lay organization Catholic Answers has done it again! Just in time for the 2008 political campaign season, it has reproduced its excellent Catholic Action Voters’ Guide. The DOCUMENT LINKS on the left of this page will take you directly to the Magisterial Documents cited in the guide — so that you can see for yourself that the guide wholly, accurately, and faithfully reflects the mind of the Church. In the opinion of legal counsel for Catholic Answers, IRC 501(c)(3) organizations may distribute the guide free of fear of legal reprisal. This is certainly comforting, given the recent beginning of a new IRS crackdown on churches.

Another excellent resource — by Father Stephen F. Toracco and available from the web site of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) — A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters.


This article is authored by Christopher Rees, who is solely responsible for its content. Catholic Answers and EWTN bear no responsibility whatsoever for the commentary that follows.

Persons of outstanding character and undeniably good will presently engage in a civil discourse about the war in Iraq, capital punishment, firearm regulation, the plight of the needy, business and economic policy, the employment situation, national health care policy, and myriad other issues impinging on the common good and the best way to achieve it. We have a right to discuss these matters in a civil manner, and the right to disagree respectfully and amicably concerning them, and the even more precious right to cast a vote — the right to have the last word — in the voting booth.

But rocks and the dead have no rights. These political rights — of open discussion, courteous disagreement, and voting — attach themselves only to LIVING human persons. So, the right to life is the right that trumps all other rights — and is the presupposition and precondition of all of them, including especially political rights.

These considerations give rise to the assertion of five certain non-negotiable issues during this year’s election season:

EMBRYONIC stem cell research
Human cloning
Homosexual “marriage”

The arguments buttressing the claim of non-negotiability with respect to these human life issues are not, as some suppose, sectarian and theological. No assertion of special or supernatural revelation is needed to support the claim, either. The arguments arise simply from common sense. Once again, the Church finds herself alone in affirming common sense against the prevailing uncommon nonsense of this election season.


Common sense is the kind of thinking that all people do spontaneously. It arises from our common experience — those experiences that we all acquire by daily living that require no special training or techniques in thinking (such as calculus, or the theory and methods of psychoanalysis). Common sense does not deny that there are other kinds of experience — like clairvoyance, serendipity, “sixth sense,” “second sight,” “third eye,” or telepathy. But, these uncommon experiences have in common that they are always and everywhere the subjects of assessment by common sense. The common human experience is “common” not because we all have many, or even some, identical experiences, but because we all learn about, and comprehend, the same world through a common human nature.

The principles of common sense thinking are self-evident. Self-evident means that it is impossible to gainsay them. Everybody knows and uses them every moment of every day, even if they do not know what their names are.

Principles of Common Sense Thinking

Contradiction. Something cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same manner. Put another way, two contraries cannot be true at the same time and in the same manner.

Causality. Nothing can give what it does not have. A thing can give if, and only if, it already has. Nothing changes itself. At the checkout counter, you inspect your hand and find you are a dollar short — and correctly conclude that the cashier miscounted. You shoot the cue ball at the eight ball at a particular angle. You expect to see the eight ball take off at a complementary angle. You do not expect to see the eight ball disappear, replaced by a raven that flies off the table and hovers in mid-air above the bar.

Sufficient reason. Everything contains the reason for its existence either in itself or else in another. This is the principle of causality viewed from the standpoint of intelligibility. To be intelligible means simply to have some relationship to a knowing mind. If you say things do not have a reason, then you deny intelligibility — and deny the basis for doing all the sciences at their root. Everything has an intelligible reason that can be known.

Finality. Every agent acts toward an end. This is obvious from human activity: we buy a house to live in, we drive the car to get somewhere. It is also obvious from the five senses: the eye receives light that we may see, the skin touches that we may feel. It is also obvious from the specialized sciences, the purpose of which is to predict an experimental outcome from specified initial conditions. Take away finality, and you — again — attack the sciences at their root. Everything has a reason for happening. Nothing happens except for a reason.

Making the human life issues non-negotiable follows from common sense, not theology. Life is the necessary precondition for exercising the political rights that are the foundation of our republican form of government — or any other form of government, for that matter.


“Focusing on abortion, EMBRYONIC stem cell research, right-to-die/euthanasia, human cloning, homosexual ‘marriage’ and other human life issues represents just another case of Catholics forcing their morality down everybody else’s throats. Religion and politics don’t mix. And their separation in American life is guaranteed by the Constitution.”

This objection is actually two objections.

One objection is easily met. Laws are the natural objective of political activity. Every law is a product of human reason. Every law sets forth a determination about right and wrong, by human reason promoting the right and discouraging the wrong. To assert that laws ought not to consider morality is, therefore, silly! Every law embodies a consideration of morality.

The second objection is unworthy of a response. What is most certainly alive in American politics today is not at all a feigned indifference to religion. What is really at work in America today is Anti-Catholicism and nothing else. Old bigotries die hard — it is more than a century-and-a-half since the Know-Nothings dissolved. They are still here under new names.


“Well, I have the right to vote for any candidate — and a lot of times the anti-life candidate favors a lot of things that are good for everybody. A voter has to consider the whole picture and then cast a vote for the candidate that will cut the voter the best deal. Voters have to vote on the ‘pocketbook’ issues.”

Albert Einstein could make the most obscure aspects of his theory of relativity crystal clear by engaging his readers in “thought experiments.” Consider the following thought experiment.

Suppose you are watching the evening news. A commercial plays a political ad that runs like this:

A video of little boys and girls romping and playing in a schoolyard plays, while the announcer says, “Our candidate will tirelessly promote universal education even for the most remote and inaccessible places in the country. Safe, clean schools in peaceful neighborhoods are his goal.”

The video cuts to a scene in front of a major hospital. The announcer continues, “Too many of our citizens do not have adequate access to high quality health care. This must be corrected. He will guarantee the right to receive health care for every citizen, and guarantee that no citizen will ever fear again the loss of property and financial resources (acquired by a lifetime of hard work) because of a catastrophic medical emergency.”

The video finally shows a family enjoying a picnic in a wildflower carpeted meadow nestled between snowcapped mountain peaks. The announcer solemnly states, “The right to wholesome nutritious food is a right — not an attractive option. He will guarantee that right. He has done it before — and in your heart, you know he will do it for us, too.”

The last clip shows a smiling familiar face — the candidate speaks: “I am Osama bin Laden, and I approved this message.”

“Pocketbook issues” — do they really give a voter a right to vote for a terrorist? Would common sense lead you to vote for an anti-life politician who promises you the world and a fat pocketbook besides?

There are ideologies active today that empower their adherents to deliberately target for destruction innocent human life in pursuit of some perceived good. It should be clear, especially to Americans (after all that has happened here in our own country and to our armed forces abroad), that innocent human life is not in the same category as other goods. The tone and vocabulary of the political dialogue in our country must begin to change in order to reflect reality, sanity, and common sense.


“Focusing on abortion, EMBRYONIC stem cell research, right-to-die/euthanasia, human cloning, homosexual “marriage” and other human life issues represents a POLITICAL judgment about how best to translate the pro-life ethic of Catholicism into a decision about candidates and parties.”

But, the right to life is not a political issue, much less a sectarian religious issue. As shown above, the Catholic position on human life issues follows from common sense. As shown below, human life issues transcend every political category. It is erroneous (in philosophy, we would call it miscategorization — a “category” error) to lump human life issues with political issues or to give human life issues the same weight as political issues.

Support for abortion, for example, is not merely a minor misapplication of principle, as if one held an incorrect belief about some theory of the American business cycle, or an incorrect belief about how best to create jobs that stay at home here in the United States, or even an incorrect belief about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The issue of abortion is fundamental, and therefore an incorrect view of human life issues strikes at the very foundation of ALL other beliefs, not just those listed here.

The document that created the United States of America is the Declaration of Independence. In it the framers, the Founding Fathers, assert as a self-evident fact that all of us have an inalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The framers intended to show that these rights form a hierarchy. The hierarchy follows, again, not from sectarian theology or political ideology but from common sense. The Founding Fathers reason thus. What relevance is the Pursuit of Happiness to a slave or to a heroin addict? What relevance is Liberty to a corpse or to a stone? Common sense.

Most Americans believe, along with the Founding Fathers, that every individual has inalienable rights, among which are the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, in that precise order. Neither the state, nor any human person, can violate those rights without committing an injustice. But, just as important as the power falsely claimed by the state to decide what human rights we have, is the power falsely claimed by the state to decide which of us possess those human rights.

The right to life is at once the primordial right, precisely because it is the necessary precondition of all the other human rights. Rights and dignity attach to LIVING human persons, not to stones, not to the dead. LIVING human persons are the natural subjects of all the human rights.

Moreover, the human person precedes all its human associations, including the state and its instruments (e. g., Supreme Courts and political parties) in time, logic, and in law. For example, the Declaration of Independence, and not the Constitution, created and constituted us a nation. In turn, the human persons who wrote the Declaration, and those who then and later accepted and ratified it, also precede it, and are the necessary precondition for its very existence. For these reasons, the Declaration of Independence rightly gives preëminence to Life, before, over, and against Liberty and even the Pursuit of Happiness. The right to life virtually contains all the other human rights within itself.

Human persons create these human associations (including states) and in fact constitute and define them, for the common good. Human rights, therefore, exist before any state, and no state can ACTUALLY deprive human persons of their human rights. The state can protect or subvert, but never void, much less revoke, human rights. States do not create human persons — human persons create states. So, it is not the prerogative of the state to define 'human person.' A state doing so would be usurping the very human persons who create, constitute, and define the state. That is why it is a grave violation of right order and justice when the state (or its instruments) thus usurps or reverses the natural order by imposing its own qualifications for being recognized by it as a human person. The state has no such power, much less the prerogative.

Yet a state instrument, the United States Supreme Court, unreasonably, unnaturally, and repeatedly has appropriated the prerogative of defining the term 'human person' in such a way as to deprive the poorest and neediest members of American society of the right to life. More than forty-six million American babies are dead as a result. Four-thousand more babies die by abortion in the United States every single day.

No individual human person, no human association, not even the Supreme Court, has such a right. No person, or collection of persons, can assign to the state such a right. Therefore, such a law is no law at all. This is the ultimate state tyranny — the state simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not 'human persons', and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law. The state protects the “right” of some people to murder others, just as the United States Supreme Court also protected the “rights” of slave masters over and against the human rights of their slaves. Civil war was the result.

Persons of outstanding character and undeniably good will presently engage in a civil discourse about the war in Iraq, capital punishment, firearm regulation, the plight of the needy, business and economic policy, the employment situation, national health care policy, and myriad other issues impinging on the common good and the best way to achieve it. We have a right to discuss these matters in a civil manner, and the right to disagree respectfully and amicably concerning them, and the even more precious right to cast a vote — the right to have the last word — in the voting booth. But rocks and the dead have no rights. These political rights — of open discussion, courteous disagreement, and voting — attach themselves only to LIVING human persons. So, the right to life is the right that trumps all other rights — and is the presupposition and precondition of all of them, including especially political rights.

Hence, the right to life transcends political rights and their related political issues. Therefore, casting one’s vote with the single objective of overturning the culture of death that has too long determined, pervaded, perverted, and corrupted the course of American politics, law, and jurisprudence is just and right-minded, and (as has been shown above) naturally and reasonably so — it’s simply common sense.

As can be seen, the argument for the right to life — even for the unborn — is not a political or even a sectarian religious argument — God and the Bible, or the Koran, or the Baghavad Gita, or any kind of religious system does not buttress the argument in any way. If ours were a Nazi or Fascist or Socialist or Communist or Jihadist or any other form of political arrangement, the argument would remain true, any provisions or perversions of law notwithstanding. It does not matter if NO political party endorses it. It would be a great good if all political parties did.

So read the 2008 Democratic Party Platform. It describes the party’s goals and objectives through 2012 — its very plans and goals for the next session of Congress. Indeed, its very plans and goals for your city council, mayor, governor, state legislature.

Pay special attention to page 12:

Over the past eight years, the current Administration has not only failed to promote . . . [embryonic] stem cell research, it has actively stood in the way of that research. We cannot tolerate any further inaction or obstruction. We need to invest in . . . [embryonic] stem cell research, so that we are at the leading edge of prevention and treatment. This includes adequate funding for [embryonic stem cell] research into diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, diabetes, autism and other common and rare diseases, and disorders.

and to page 23:

We will lift the current Administration’s ban on using federal funding for embryonic stem cell [research].

and to page 52:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose . . . abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

and to page 54:

We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections. We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act. We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us.

Know what is at stake if the Party of Death prevails. Then vote pro-life. Reassert and reëstablish the culture of life.


“Even if we grant the personhood of the unborn, pregnant women are justified in evicting them from their bodies by virtue of their right to control their own bodies.”

But, as a matter of biology, the unborn are separate, individual human beings. They are not a part of their mother’s body, despite their dependence upon her. The biological role of any animal’s mother is passive in the growth of her baby. The mother’s body passively supplies nutrition and proper environment.

Furthermore, the unborn aren’t intruders. They are brought into existence by forces outside of their control. Their parents, however, seldom can plead this defense. Whether on purpose or out of negligence, their actions are responsible for the creation of their unborn child. And having brought these developing human beings into existence, under principles of individual liberty, they are responsible for their care and provision for the duration of their dependency.

Against the objection, it must be asserted that it is not a question of rights at all if the matter of obligation is left out of the discussion. Every right carries at least one corollary obligation. The right to life, for example, carries a corollary obligation to work for the sustenance of that life. IMPORTANT: failure to faithfully execute the obligation does not forfeit the right. But it does diminish justice, and thus peace.

The unborn child has two rights against its mother: the right to life, that is, the right not to be killed, and the right to parental care. And the mother has two obligations: her obligation not to kill the child and the obligation to provide parental care for her child.

As shown above, the right to life virtually contains every other human right. Therefore, every other right proceeds from it. Life is the primordial right. A woman’s rights over her own body may not be asserted against it.


“The fetus is not even a human being. The most one can say is that a fetus is a potential human being. Personhood (the state of being by which we have rights, including the right not to be killed) is acquired along the way. It is best to leave it to the Supreme Court to determine when this happens.”

The underlying premise in this objection against the unborn’s personhood is that non-persons can change into persons. The objection asserts that a living being can undergo a radical, essential change in its nature during its lifetime. The human being came from something that was inhuman.

But there is a problem here. If the change was biologically inevitable from conception, given time, then this change is not a change in essential nature. This follows from the common sense principle of causality — nothing can give what it does not have. All animals begin life as a zygote. If the zygote is not already an animal, it cannot become an animal — causality again.

I see the man in the mirror. I begin to reflect. The life in me is the same as when I was eight months old — my earliest conscious recollections begin from that age. It is the same life in me that I will have when I am eighty. In fact, it is the same life in me that I had at the moment of my conception. My life is my zygote’s same life. Why? Life is the principle of organization in an organism — the principle that makes the organism be “one.” PROOF: take away life, and you see the organism rapidly lose organization. Its atoms gradually dissipate diffusely into the surrounding environment. My life unites my whole organism not only in the present moment, but my past as well as my future. My life is one whole thing — my personal integrity.

My life is my “I.” Without my “I” the law of entropy sets in and prevails.

Let us look at the objection again in the light of this common sense reflection. The objection states that a non-person becomes a person. In other words, a non-life becomes a life. What I am not becomes what I am. Against the unity we know is there, the objection asserts a duality. The objection asserts that I am not one thing, but two. The objection is met by reality. The objection must yield.

Organisms change immanently — from within themselves. If I change through the course of a lifetime, it is because of something coming from inside me — not my mother, not a judge, not even an entire nation of people who are out to kill me. My power of immanent change — my life — therefore precedes in time and in logic any power from outside of me. It is silly — but deadly — nonsense for my mother and a judge to assert that they can change me from a person into a non-person. They have not the power.

This means that if we are persons with the right to be free from aggression later in life, we are persons from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.


“Why lump the issue of homosexual ‘marriage’ with the right to life issues? Why should homosexual ‘marriage’ be a non-negotiable issue for voters?”

It goes to the heart of what it means in law to be a nation. “Nation” means the place of your birth. More particularly, it means the whole group of people born into common customs, origins, history, place, and language. Persons may become members of a nation even if they were not born into it — a process referred to as “naturalization” — which means to become a “native” even though your birth nation is foreign. The blessing of becoming a “naturalized” citizen is that the nation that adopts you accords you all the rights and benefits inuring to somebody who was actually born there. Non-naturalized persons living in a nation that is not the nation of their birth are called foreign “nationals.”

No births — no nation. Homosexual unions issue in no progeny.

Then what about “marriage?”

Well, being born means being born into something that precedes a national existence. That something is called a “family.” Before there were nations, there were families. By “before,” I mean not only in time, but in common sense. That is especially true of the United States. Our nation did not exist before the Declaration of Independence. But families of those brave framers did. Moreover, each person who participated in the drafting and ratification of this foundation document was already a member of a family — again, each one’s family was the necessary precondition and presupposition of the Declaration. So, every nation consists not only of the individual persons born to it — every nation consists of the families of those individual persons, too. Now, nations do not bear children — families do. In fact, the individual person is necessarily born to a family as a precondition and presupposition of being born into a nation. A nation is indeed a “family of families.” Families constitute nations — not parchment documents, not especially the interpreters of those parchment documents. Common sense again.

So, families and the children they bear are the common sense precondition of a nation. But how does familyhood come about? Well, two sexes are required for a child to be born. Two people of opposite sexes, by mutual consent create a family. They marry. Marriage, of course, is a profoundly rich subject for us to explore. It carries many personal and subjective signs and meanings that have exhausted volumes of writing by the world’s most famous (and not a few infamous) authors since time immemorial. Marriage has even been the subject of divine revelation. The point here, though, is the essential characteristics of marriage: one man, one woman, and mutual consent. Marriage bears a relationship to nationhood: namely, marriage is the precondition for the existence of a nation. Nations do not actually define marriage because marriage preëxists nationhood. On the contrary, families define what nationhood means.

Do you think that saying “families define what nationhood means” is too theoretical, not concrete? Well, witness our present situation in the United States. Because our marriages and family life are a mess, so is our whole nation. “Families define what nationhood means” is the statement of a hard concrete fact.

Marriage, therefore, precedes, and is the necessary precondition of, the nation. Similar to what I said before, the nation can protect or subvert, but never void, much less revoke, marriage and the family. Nations do not create families — families constitute and create nations. So, it is not the prerogative of the nation to redefine 'marriage.' A nation doing so would be usurping the very families who create, constitute, and define the nation. That is why it is a grave violation of right order and justice when the nation (or its instruments, such as a judge) thus usurps or reverses the natural order by imposing its own definitions for being recognized by it as a marriage. A nation has no such power, much less the prerogative. Again, the nation can only protect or subvert marriage.

So marriage, and the new life that issues from it, are inextricably bound. That is why the right to life and the defense of marriage are correctly presented together as non-negotiable issues for voters. It’s just common sense.


“That’s a narrow minded Catholic dogma from a bygone age. This is the twenty-first century. The old idea of marriage is passé. It must expand to include homosexual unions.”

But, giving non-marital relationships the same status as marriage does not expand the definition of marriage — it destroys it. For example, if you declare that, because it has superficially similar properties, wine should be labeled identically to grape juice, you have destroyed the definitions of both “wine” and “grape juice.”

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which of us is to be master — that’s all.”

— From Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

What concept of marriage did the Founding Fathers share? The earliest American English dictionary, authored in 1828 by Noah Webster, defines marriage thus:

The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and a woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God Himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.

Little more than a generation later, the United States Supreme Court in 1885 unanimously defined marriage as being

formed on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony . . . Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15, 45 (1885)

Hence, the redefinition of marriage that homosexual activists seek would leave us at a considerable distance from where our nation started. In fact, it would create an unbridgeable chasm. The common sense arguments against homosexual “marriage” do not, of course, rely only on the historical understanding of the term “marriage.” But the historical understanding of the term does put us in direct contact with the the source and origin of the nation. Homosexual activists seek to overthrow our common sense understanding. For example, there is the the Lambda Legal organization, which supports same-sex marriage “so that marriage will lose some of its luster.” Read for yourself this excerpt from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a 2001 case:

Lambda wants to knock marriage off its perch by requiring the board of education to treat unmarried heterosexual couples as well as it treats married ones, so that marriage will lose some of its luster. Irizarry v. Chicago Board of Education, No. 00-3216, (7th Cir., 2001).

I restate several things that I said before. The arguments presented here are common sense, not sectarian and theological. The conclusions reached follow from the four principles of common sense — not from the robust and profound teachings of the Catholic Church. What the objection really proves is that once again — to Her great credit — the Catholic Church finds Herself alone in affirming common sense against the prevailing uncommon nonsense of this election season.

What homosexual activists seek actually is a special right. Homosexuals already have the same right to marry that the rest of us have — the right to marry a person of the opposite sex. Limiting marriage to one man and one woman doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. But homosexual union does deny the self-evident truth of nature that male and female bodies are designed for and complement each other. Marriage is the natural means by which the human race reproduces. And nations — not babies alone — are born of marriage.

(The biggest problem we have in getting people, especially younger ones, to understand why marriage is devalued by the existence of a counterfeit is that much of the public does not value marriage at all. Artificial contraception is ubiquitous. Abortion is neither safe nor rare — but it is legal. Adultery is no big deal. No-fault divorce is the law of the land. Absentee fathers and mothers devalue marriage. Unmarried pregnancies are common. Fornication is “normal.” When we make the case against homosexual marriage, we need to speak against these other problems that devalue, subvert, and corrupt marriage, too. As we acknowledge these problems we can emphasize that legalizing homosexual marriage will compound the problems, not solve them. We have a lot of work to do.)


“The present law prevents a homosexual from visiting a loved one in the hospital. It bars homosexuals from inheriting one another’s property. In fact, all the advantages of marriage that inure to heterosexuals are denied to homosexuals. We need to broaden the definition of marriage to put an end to this kind of discrimination.”

Hospitals leave visitation up to the patient except in very rare instances. Using legal instruments such as a joint tenancy title, a power of attorney, a will, a trust, etc., homosexuals can share property and other kinds of assets, designate heirs, dictate hospital visitors and give authority for medical decisions. As a matter of fact, these are the identical legal instruments used by sensible married couples. This can hardly be called “discrimination.” Homosexuals share the same right to create these legal instruments as married couples enjoy.

This “issue” is a smokescreen and whitewash. As I said above, what homosexual activists seek actually is a special right. Homosexuals already have the same right to marry that the rest of us have — the right to marry a person of the opposite sex. Limiting marriage to one man and one woman doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. But homosexual union does deny the self-evident truth of nature that male and female bodies are designed for and complement each other. Marriage is the natural means by which the human race reproduces. And every social institution — not babies alone — are born of marriage.


“A homosexual ‘marriage’ is as good and life giving to the couple as any heterosexual marriage. Homosexuality is healthy and normal. Why do you so hatefully reject it?”

I do not hate homosexuals at all! Many are my friends. We have been through many difficult times together, through thick and thin. Assertion of a lie with the intent to hurt them would be, indeed hateful. But what I suspect is, many hate not some lie they falsely aver in what I have said, but the undeniable truth of what common sense asserts.

As stated earlier, every human law embodies human reasoning about right and wrong — that is, every human law is about morality. But morality is not a matter of human opinion. Far from it. It’s hold on us is as easy to assess using the principles of common sense as is the building of a bridge — or a nation.

If you ask why homosexual activity is wrong, many Christians answer, “Because the Bible forbids it.” Gay activists can then argue that efforts to limit their lifestyle and its promotion in schools are an unconstitutional attempt to impose religion.

But the immorality of same-sex relations is not just a religious issue. Homosexual activity is wrong not because the Bible forbids it. Rather, the Bible forbids it because it is wrong. Why is it wrong? Because it violates common sense — reason — not faith.

Common sense applied to morality has to do with the fundamental goods we humans naturally incline to and the principles that govern our pursuit of them. These goods, which are essential to our happiness, include life, truth, community and creativity. By engaging in them, we fulfill our human mandate. Both civil and religious authorities endorse common sense when they rule against murder — which attacks life — or perjury — which attacks truth. They also endorse common sense when they rule against sexual irregularities, which attack truth, community, creativity, and life.

Civic Morality

Chastity has long been treated as both a moral and a civic virtue. In different times and places, leaders of the State have recognized that chastity supports the family and contributes to the common good. For example, Caesar Augustus — a pagan — attempted to restore chastity in a decadent Roman society to strengthen his newly founded empire. He outlawed adultery and sodomy and encouraged marriage and procreation.

At the basis of every human law is a recognition of the difference between good and evil. Good conveys a sense of what ought to be. Evil conveys the opposite. The notion of what ought to be arises from our awareness of completeness versus incompleteness.

When, for example, we appreciate that we can see, that we are visually complete, we recognize that this is as it ought to be, because seeing is what humans are naturally able to do. If, however, we are blind, visually incomplete, we recognize that this is not as it ought to be, because it negates what humans are naturally able to do. To be sighted, then, is good, physically, not morally. To be blind is evil, also physically, not morally.

Evil is not the mere absence of good. Evil is deficiency, the absence of good that is required. We do not consider it evil when we cannot fly. Although flight is good, flying is not something humans are naturally able to do. Our lack of flight is not the absence of a good that is required. It is not a deficiency and therefore is not physically evil.

Morality is about duties and rights. When these are at stake, good and evil become right and wrong. “Ought” becomes a moral, not a mere physical, imperative.

Ethically speaking, our first duty is to do good and shun evil. This is what we call a self-evident principle. No common sense person holds that we should do evil and shun good.

Vision, to return to our example, is not only a human faculty but, in a sense, it is the object of a right. We claim a right to see because vision affects significantly our ability to complete our human mandate. Consequently, for someone to deliberately blind us would not only be physically evil but also morally wrong — it violates our human rights.

There is such a thing as public morality, including the civic virtue of chastity. Emperor Augustus saw this, but it was too late to overcome the sexual license of the late Roman Republic. That was the real reason why it collapsed.


What has this got to do with homosexual “marriage”? Well, as I indicated, the goods fundamental to marriage are community and life. In its very nature and meaning, human sexuality is both relational (community) and procreative (life). Only the heterosexual marriage, however, is capable of affirming both the relational and procreative goods.

The homosexual union, on the other hand, is not open to the procreative good. Although it engages procreative organs, it does so in a context that is alien to procreation. Not only particular homosexual acts but the entire relationship denies this fundamental human good. In doing so, it renders human sexuality incomplete.

But as we saw, incompleteness, the absence of a required good, is the definition of evil. When fundamental human goods are at stake, evil is something we ought never to choose.


Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Misconstrued by Father Richard John Neuhaus

You may read what Fr. Neuhaus actually wrote in the August/September 2004 edition of First Things, Fr. Neuhaus’ wonderful journal chronicling the relationship of the things of God and — well, everything else.

The Catechism [available as the link “CCC” under DOCUMENT LINKS on the left side of this page] in paragraph 2269, uses the term proportionate in respect of the fifth commandment:

2269 . . . Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s final nota bene, in his confidential June, 2004 letter [available as the link “WRHC” under DOCUMENT LINKS on the left side of this page] to Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Gregory, refers to, and directly quotes, this very paragraph 2269 from the Catechism:

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 coöperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

Notice that Cardinal Ratzinger does not say (much less suggest or even hint) that remote material coöperation is always inculpable. In fact, one must infer from the grammatical construction that remote material coöperation is in fact always culpable, except when proportionate reasons are present. The Catechism agrees.

Piecing together what paragraph 2269 says with Cardinal Ratzinger’s take on the same paragraph, one readily sees in what respect the Catholic mind must rebel against what Fr. Richard John Neuhaus says on page 89 of the August/September [2004] edition of First Things:

One bishop [Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs] has said that not only pro-abortion politicians but also anyone who votes for a pro-abortion politician should refrain from communion. This is highly problematic. It would seem to ignore the distinction between an act and the intention behind the act — what in traditional language is called the difference between material and formal coöperation in a wrong. It is not hard to imagine a circumstance in which an unquestionably pro-life voter might vote for a pro-abortion politician despite that politician’s being pro-abortion. In fact, one does not have to imagine. Just this spring [2004], pro-lifers President Bush and Senator Rick Santorum successfully urged support in the Pennsylvania primary for the pro-abortion Senator Arlen Specter in order to maintain control of the Senate — and the possibility of advancing pro-life legislation. It would be an obtuse indifference to political and moral realities to suggest that Catholics who voted for Specter with that intention in mind impaired their communio with the Church.

The espoused notion is absurd, for the following five reasons:

(1.) The idea of “throwing your vote away” is an invention of both the major political parties. It does not exist in actual fact. It is a scare tactic, the intention of which is to intimidate voters who are not “party faithful” into selecting the candidate who is most closely aligned with a voter’s perceived best interest. PROBLEM: anti-life politics always goes against the best interest of the voter, perceived or not.

Back in the real world — both major political parties pay close attention to every vote cast — including votes cast for “fringe candidates.” Every vote is important and counts in our American system of government — including the principled vote for a “write in” who in fact perfectly aligns with a voter’s perceived best interest. Fr. Neuhaus is the one who is politically naïve if he thinks that even a three percent “fringe” write-in candidacy would not raise eyebrows and get desirable attention and results from both parties — witness the Democrats’ angst over Ralph Nader this [2004] election season.

I used to canvas votes for a prominent Denver politician. We used to worry at length over the abstainers — those who cast votes for mayor and city council, but cast no vote for auditor or the charter amendments, for example. My point is that every voter sends a message to the powers-that-be, and believe me, they pay VERY close attention.

(2.) The idea of “throwing your vote away” does not exist in Catholic doctrine. But the following doctrine (not to be confused and mistaken for the idea espoused by “party regulars”) is taken from Evangelium Vitæ 73 [available as the link “EV” under DOCUMENT LINKS on the left side of this page]:

73 . . . when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an [already] elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit coöperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects . . .

This is not the same idea that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus is talking about. Here, the official is already elected and has a well known opposition to abortion, presumably constituting one basis for his election in the first place. The doctrine, by no means, even so much as suggests that you may licitly vote for a pro-abortion candidate. On the contrary, if construal is necessary, the sense of this doctrine presumes that a pro-life candidate is already in office. The construal is that the pro-abortion candidate was voted down by conscientious voters precisely because of his pro-abortion stands on the issues.

Apart from grammatical construction, it follows logically that a voter might licitly vote for a candidate who is not perfectly pro-life, but whose policies hold greater promise of lessening or mitigating the moral damage and death toll of an anti-life law. President Bush, for example, is not perfectly pro-life. He permits the export of contraceptive technology as an adjunct of American foreign policy. He did not ban all federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. On the other hand, President Bush bears favorable contrast with Senator Kerry, who would reinstate abortion as an instrument of American foreign policy, and remove all barriers to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

(3.) While I greatly admire both President Bush and and Senator Santorum, I recognize at once the merely partisan basis for their endorsement of fellow Republican Arlen Specter. But abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and other right-to-life issues are not partisan issues. In fact, they are not even sectarian issues. They are the most fundamental of all the moral issues. The murder of innocents [Genesis 4:10] is the first and foremost of the four crimes that cry to heaven for vengeance in the Old Testament (the other three: depriving the laborer of his just due [Deuteronomy 24:14-15], the oppression and exploitation of widows and orphans [Exodus 22:22-23], and sodomy [Genesis 18:21-22]).

(4.) And the reasoning is absurd for Republican Arlen Specter’s endorsement by Bush and Santorum. A pro-abortion Republican will side with pro-abortion Democrats against Bush and Santorum in an up and down vote on abortion, anyway. [As subsequent history has proven time and time again.] Who are they and Fr. Neuhaus trying to kid, huh? Bush needs Specter for his support on other Republican issues — for which Bush feels he can sacrifice the praiseworthy pro-life stance that has been the hallmark of his presidency. Bush can forget about “the possibility of advancing pro-life legislation” if he must rely on Specter’s help, be assured!

(5.) Finally, the statement that “. . . it would seem to ignore the distinction between an act and the intention behind the act — what in traditional language is called the difference between material and formal coöperation in a wrong . . . ” is itself obtuse. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus seems unaware that often the intention behind an act is itself culpable, and can even make an otherwise holy act culpable. Intention is not only used in moral theology to distinguish material and formal coöperation in a wrong. Intention is predicated upon knowledge. If a soldier fires a high delivery shell into a densely forested jungle just for the fun of it, but knowing that unarmed civilians might be present there, the very act itself is damnable and he should be court-martialed. But to do so with full knowledge that unarmed civilians are in fact present is rightly proscribed as a crime against humanity and prosecutable as a war crime. Now, the point is that every Catholic knows that abortion murders an innocent human being — no Catholic is ignorant of the fact. The distinction between material and formal coöperation of a Catholic voter is therefore, utterly irrelevant. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus would like to justify an excuse for firing in cold blood a high delivery shell at unarmed civilians, and — by God! — there is none!! Nor is there an excuse for voters to vote for pro-abortion politicians. See (1.) above.

I also greatly admire and respect Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. But, for the purposes of doing good moral theology, he has set up a “straw man.” The partisan interests of both major political parties is not, and should not be, a line of argument in reasoning out just what precisely constitute “proportionate reasons” for voting for a pro-abortion candidate. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Bush’s and Santorum’s endorsement of Arlen Specter is — partisan. In the vision of Cardinal Ratzinger, “proportionate reasons” must be moral, not partisan.

The foregoing was a letter, prophetic as it turned out, that I wrote to a friend on September 7, 2004. He had expressed dismay — beyond his powers of expression — at the referenced article authored by Fr. Neuhaus.

Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, 10/23/1909.

To God and to His Christ, Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come, be all glory, praise, honor, and thanksgiving, now and forever. Amen!