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Unfair to Mark Shea

Some in the combox on my previous post have accused me of being unfair to Mark Shea. Perhaps they are right. I really don't have any insight into why Mark is taking the position that he is and it was probably rude of me to speculate in this area. From everything I have seen, Mark is Catholic first and partisan is certainly further down on the list. So my apologies to Mark and our readers for this aspect of my post.

With that said, I stand by my opinion that were Catholics to follow Mark's lead and sit it out or to vote for a non-contending third party candidate increases the likelihood that the pro-death candidate and the pro-death party are victorious in November. The ramification of that victory could mean many more deaths over generations. To me that qualifies as cooperating with evil, even if unintentionally.

Again, apologies for the stupid speculation. But please, please don't sit this election out.

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Todd said...


I read both your blog and Mark's daily. I agree with you 100% and as a Catholic we have a right to vote for the lesser evil. In this election the contrast, while seemingly insignificant in principle, is enormous in reality. The simple fact is that electing McCain over Obama will probably save millions of lives. That being the case, in my opinion we have a duty to vote in this election.

dcs said...

What strikes me about this sort of post is that it's all opinion, very little support from Church teaching. If sitting out the election is cooperation with evil, then show it. You can't just say that someone is cooperating with evil and leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing the right thing in issuing an apology.

For the record, I expect to vote for a third party candidate because I believe conservatives in general and pro-lifers in particular have been played by the GOP, and I am ready to take a firmer line. If I lived in a swing state I might reconsider this; living in a state likely to vote for McCain only increases my confidence that the best way for my vote to count is to be with neither of the leading parties.

My wife intends to vote for McCain with a clear conscience. I respect her choice, and she respects mine.


Anonymous said...

I'm voting for the Catholic Magisterium Party's candidate this November! Oh, wait... There isn't such a thing.

John Hetman said...

Todd wrote:

"The simple fact is that electing McCain over Obama will probably save millions of lives. That being the case, in my opinion we have a duty to vote in this election."

Well stated, Todd. Thank you.

Unfortunately, there are some folks who seem to value the worth of their so-called high-minded principles over the seemingly insignificant worth of unborn infants. Voting Republican might make some people feel "unclean" like lepers among the progressive saints comprising their circle of friends.

No fingers are being pointed but by now most adults in this country should have a pretty clear idea of just whom they will vote for as President in November.

I hope that those who vote the wrong way even if "sincere" do not suffer from post-election insomnia.

dcs said...

The simple fact is that electing McCain over Obama will probably save millions of lives.

I very much doubt it.

crankycon said...

All of the third-party options, I am sorry to say, are horrid. Churck Baldwin, who on the surface has some great appeal, is also an individual who "doesn't know" the full story behind 9/11, and has called for further investigations. And he's the best of the third party lot. So anyone who wants to prove themselves as ritually pure by voting for some magical third party candidate, well, that route has its own problems as well.

Tito Edwards said...


Humility is rarely appreciated by those that have a shallow faith.

Keep up the great blogging.

Your brother in Christ,


Paul said...

"The simple fact is that electing McCain over Obama will... [at least contain the potential to] ...save millions of lives."

Nothing else in the election holds the weight that the abortion issue does. Social, economic, military issues, etc... are not on the same level. Whereas all of these issues can flux and ebb in life they still participate in life. However, life itself is not granted such freedom; it either is or is not. If we accept other issues over this great issue of abortion this election we are essentially placing a value on life itself. Once life is valued it is no longer invaluable or sacred. It exits the realm of universal objective sacredness and enters the realm of individual subjective judgment.

I think that Mark Shea is wrong (from what I have gathered from this blog). Votes like these are to be made in the primaries. Its kinda like running a training exercise while you are being attacked.

Deusdonat said...

Patrick, as a resident of California, I have often sat out elections. Why? Because there is rarely a pro-life candidate (let alone a pro-life Catholic candidate). Therefore, there have been elections where in all good conscience I could not vote for either the Republican or Democrat candidates, and I both resent and challenge the morality of those who would say this is somehow "allowing" a particular candidate to win.

If I were to vote for a pro-abortion Republican candidate, I would essentially be saying "I don't support abortion, but I'm going to look the other way because I believe this is the lesser evil." This will OBVIOUSLY have the effect of emboldening the NEXT pro-abortion candidate or worse, create an atmosphere where the accepted politics means you MUST be pro-abortion (which is the case here in California).

There are several political means to make one's voice heard. And voting/abstaining is indeed one of them.

Anonymous said...

I agree that there are times when sitting it out IS the right thing to do, but as our Bishops wrote in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, this must be considered an "extraordinary step". (Similarly, the CCC considers it a moral obligation to vote.) I think Red Cardigan covers all this.

I want to add, though, that in Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II's amazing and powerful encyclical, he writes that "In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an 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 public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects." (n. 73)

I would argue that the very same logic can be applied to voting for candidates as for laws. In fact, FC (op cit) says so: "When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods." (n 36)

So I don't think that Mark Shea is right on this one. It is certainly not morally forbidden to vote for the candidate who is less evil.

livingsimplySFO said...

Maryland belongs to Obama. Dems are 10-1 over Repubs here. My wife and I recently decided to form a new political party the Faithful Catholic Social Justice Action Party. Our candidate, American born and bred, Catholic convert, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as a write-in candidate. If McCain had a chance here and MD were important to the outcome he would get our vote.

Trubador said...

To quote Mother Angelica, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Paolo said...

Dear American friends,

I am Italian and I'm following apprehensively the events leading to your next presidential election.
I can understand Mark Shea's dilemma but I urge all of you to consider the implications of Obama's election not only on a national ground, but worldwide.
I guess we in Europe have more experience than you with the culture supporting Obama (as you know, powerful elites here strongly back him); we know the bad consequences, not in theory but in practice.

Granted that McCain's position on embryonic stem cell research is wrong, but what do you think more probable: to convince McCain/Palin about the current mistake, or that Obama's party will support the culture of life in the future?
What policy about life issues (and others) do you think the USA will play in the international camp, given the two different outcomes? What the USA position at the ONU?

You should know very well WHAT CULTURES the two candidates support and represent: please ACT accordingly, the result is too important for you and for us!

God Bless

Scott said...

As I mentioned elsewhere, it's good that the camp that knows that McCain is the lesser evil (which includes Zippy and Shea) is having this fight. Recall when Rudy was the nominee--there were howls of protest, and even a Catholics against Rudy blog. Did you see anything even remotely like that from Catholics in the other camp? Hardly. They were too busy trying to cram the square peg of leftist entitlements into the round hole of life issues while Hillary and Obama fought over who was the more pro-abortion candidate.

RC2 said...

Let me put the matter more starkly. In this election we will decide whether Roe v.Wade finally falls or stands forever.

There are 4 anti-Roe votes.

The most vehement pro-Roe votes on the Court are elderly or in frail health. One and likely two of them will retire.

They can be replaced by young, healthy pro-Roe judges who will maintain status quo for 50 years.

Or they can be replaced by judges of the Alito/Roberts model.

By sitting out, pro-lifers will be undermining 30 years of pro-life progress in this country just when we are on the cusp of purging ourselves of Roe. Do we want it gone or don't we?

Anonymous said...


I think you are right in calling Mr.Shea to the discussion table. I too feel his reasoning is wrong even given McCain's support on stem cells.

Obama has told the nation his plans and closed the door to any dissent. McCain on the other hand is opening the door to discussion regarding stem cell research.

If Mr.Shea and other pro-life Catholics are comfortable with allowing Obama to be elected by not using their vote in an effective way then so be it. All it takes for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing. The Freedom of Choice Act will be passed and there will be no going back until the end of the republic.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of Revelation 3:16 ('So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.')

Any Catholic that does not vote against the evil of Barack Obama's agenda by voting for John McCain (especially since he has selected an enormously pro-life vice-president) is not working on the side of life. Woe to those Catholics who feel the need to "say" something this election, by sitting out or voting 3rd party. Do you think the unborn would do the same?

McCain/Palin 2008


dcs said...

Let me put the matter more starkly. In this election we will decide whether Roe v.Wade finally falls or stands forever.

Possibly but probably not.

There are 4 anti-Roe votes.

There are two: Thomas and Scalia. We don't really know whether Roberts and Alito are anti-Roe. As far as Roberts is concerned his statements during his confirmation hearings tend to make one think that he is not anti-Roe.

Or they can be replaced by judges of the Alito/Roberts model.

We don't even know for certain what that model means for the pro-life cause.

By sitting out, pro-lifers will be undermining 30 years of pro-life progress in this country just when we are on the cusp of purging ourselves of Roe. Do we want it gone or don't we?

What progress? 35 years of Roe v. Wade, 23 years of GOP Presidents (soon to be 24), and abortion is still the law of the land.

Scott said...

Any Catholic that does not vote against the evil of Barack Obama's agenda by voting for John McCain (especially since he has selected an enormously pro-life vice-president) is not working on the side of life.

So let me get this straight:

Someone who doesn't vote for McCain, but starts a Project Gabriel in his town is not working on the side of life.

Someone who doesn't vote for McCain, but adopts children with disabilities is not working on the side of life.

And on and on. See, I am highly inclined to vote for McCain, but when I read stuff like this--which is essentially equivalent to "If you don't vote Obama, you are a racist."-- it makes me realize Shea and Zippy are on to something.

Marie Duchesne said...

"Any Catholic that does not vote against the evil of Barack Obama's agenda by voting for John McCain (especially since he has selected an enormously pro-life vice-president) is not working on the side of life."

This is absolutely absurd and untrue. There is absolutely NOTHING that says a Catholic MUST vote the lesser of two evils to prevent a greater evil from happening. We MAY vote for John McCain, but we MAY also vote for a 3rd party candidate. If, and that's a big if, one could guarantee that John McCain would appoint pro-life judges and one could guarantee that those pro-life judges would send Roe back to the states, then perhaps we'd be talking something different. But we are not. There are ZERO guarantees in any election--this year is no different.

Anonymous said...

Really appreciate your apology. Obviously there are strong feelings on this issue. Let's all try to be aware that even IF we are right we can still push people the wrong way by our lack of charity. And how much worse if we are wrong.

I want to address a couple of issues that came up in earlier comments.

1) Have we made progress on abortion?
Answer: Yes we have! No space here for all the details, but here's a quick synopsis.
Abortions are down 25% from their peak in ~1990 -- that's 400,000 fewer dead babies every year.
The abortion rate and abortion ratio have also been falling, and the latest figures (2005) show levels at their lowest since 1974.

Having looked into it in a lot of detail, I would say that major factors in the decline are:
* pro-life education
* state level laws such as: parental notification, stopping public funding (both these have been shown in peer-reviewed publications to reduce abortion rates), women's right to know (such a law recently led to the closure of South Dakota's only remaining abortuary)
* a supreme court that has upheld these restrictions

2) Would an Obama victory lead to many more deaths, perhaps millions over his term(s)?
A. Yes, extremely likely. As the USCCB pro-life media campaign on FOCA notes,
"You Can't Reduce Abortions by Promoting Abortions ...
Radical abortion rights groups and their allies in Congress are promoting the extreme pro-abortion agenda of the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA). If they have their way, reasonable, widely supported and constitutionally sound abortion regulations will be knocked down nationwide. Unlimited abortion-on-demand will become our national policy.
And the abortion rate will go up, not down."

Obama has pledged to sign FOCA. As I noted earlier, abortion rates have been declining. Even if McCain takes no major actions on the life issues, it seems likely that the decline will continue. However, with Obama it is virtually certain that the decline will reverse.

This doesn't even take into account funding for organizations such as UNFPA and IPPF that promote and perform abortions overseas. Under the Mexico City policy, Republican presidents from Reagan to GW Bush have cut off funding to such agencies. In at least one case, a UN agency (UNESCO) changed its policy as a result and stopped promoting abortion. It's difficult to estimate exactly how many lives have been saved by this but it's certain that many have. Of course, Obama (like Clinton) would reverse this policy.

Then there are embryonic stem cells. It is true that McCain did vote for funding of ESCR; however, he has never supported the creation of embryos by cloning or other methods for this purpose. In fact, he has voted against "fetal farming" and would outlaw cloning (which is currently legal but not federally funded). As against Obama who is all for creating such embryos as well as cloning, only to kill them for their stem cells. Even on this sub-issue, and even if McCain doesn't reconsider (as he is reportedly doing), McCain's policy is much more pro-life than his opponents and would result in far fewer deaths of tiny humans.

3) Does "not voting" send a strong message that we want more pro-life leaders?
A: I would say not. There are too many other reasons for not voting, ranging from apathy to illness to disillusionment with the democratic process. There is also no way for them to figure out from a missing vote which particular issue the voter was upset about. i.e. you could have not voted McCain because you liked his pro-life position but not his position on Iraq or it could be the other way around. I believe it would be much more productive to directly contact the candidates -- info to do this is readily available online -- and tell them where you stand and what you expect.

I also hope that the CA voter has not been totally "sitting out" the elections because several issues have come up in the last few years that deserve his say, such as: ESCR funding, definition of marriage, and parental notification for minors considering abortion.

4) What about the Supreme Court?
A: Well, it is true that there is no guarantee that the judges McCain nominates will be solid constitutionalists. But there is a fighting chance of it. I wouldn't say there are zero guarantees, though, -- with Obama, the opposite is guaranteed.

Heartfelt thanks to all who are working to rebuild the culture of life in so many different ways!

Please also consider: If we are not able to end an evil, aren't we called to limit it? If we can reasonably expect that one candidate's policies will result in significantly more deaths of innocents than another's, and if our vote can help keep the worse candidate out of office, isn't that a good thing to do?

RC2 said...

I agree with Marie about what Catholics MAY do, but here's something else to put in the mix as people are deciding what to do.

Many of the real pro-life battles are won or lost not in Congress but in the regulations written by agencies, which are in turn drafted by political appointees of the administration --of which there are about 10,000, drawn from the activists and campaign workers of the President's party.

During the Clinton administration (during which I was a pro-life lobbyist) that meant facing the opposition on a daily basis not just of the President and Congress, but of thousands of bureaucrats with an entrenched anti-life, anti-family and anti-church agenda. There were antagonistic regulations against pro-life organizations and crisis pregnancy centers, there was the banning of Boy Scouts from using Federal Parks because they wouldn't have homosexual troop leaders, the list was lengthy, I assure you.

If you are working for a crisis pregnancy center or any grassroots, pro-life, pro-family group, you need to understand that the difference between being able to continue working and facing constant regulatory harrassment aimed at shutting you down is also riding on who wins the election --and whose activists fill those 10,000 posts.

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah. It's the same thing I hear every four years. "You MUST vote for the Republican because the Democrat is Satan and the Republican will appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices and we will have fewer abortions and blah blah blah." And then we get a Republican president and we get "Sandy baby" O'Connor, Anthony "Ted" Kennedy, David "dimwit" Souter, etc, etc, etc. Don't you people get it. The Republican Party will never, NEVER be responsible for ending abortion, because it would mean the end of the Party, and the Party is the only thing that matters. Sure, they'll give us Clarence Thomas once in a while (to appease the stupid pro-life voters who keep voting for them with no results), but they will make sure that we never NEVER get the majority needed on the Supreme Court to end abortion. Abortion in this country is legal until birth, and sometimes after birth if the bellybutton is not out yet (according to our great pro-life Supreme Court Justices) and 20 years of Republican Presidents has not changed that one iota. Even when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress we couldn't get one measly hearing on the Human Life Amendment, but we get hearings all the time on stupid issues like major league baseball and why their gluteus maximus muscles appear so large. Our great Republican pro-life Presidents won't use their bully pulpit to lift one finger to advance the pro-life message. Sure, they'll send a recording over to the March for Life every year, but they don't even have the guts to show up in person. So, no, I won't be voting for the Republican or the Democrat and no, I'm not waiting for the perfect candidate. I only vote for good candidates and I don't consider John McCain a good candidate. I'll probably write-in a vote, which will be tossed in the trash uncounted. So much for "democracy". I go to the grocery store and I get to choose from 50 kinds of noodles, but I vote for President and am given the choice of two dimwits. No thanks. See you in four years and we can replay this whole conversation again just like we did in the last 5 elections.

Tito Edwards said...


Yeah, but if you do that, you eliminate any issue for Mark to write about so as to drive traffic to his site!

Anonymous said...

Scott -- I'd like to see a list of those that are starting Project Gabriels and adopting disabled kids and are also sitting this election out. I can't imagine that list to be too long. No, McCain isn't perfect, but remember, they did adopt a child that was handed to them from the arms of Mother Teresa. That's got to count for something.


Anonymous said...

Marie Duchesne -- If Catholics do not help keep "The One" from being elected President of the United States, then who will?

I've got an aborted baby in heaven that is working a double shift with her "young friends" making sure the evil agenda of Barack Obama does not come into fruition upon this earth. And I ask her constantly, through prayer, what I can do to keep that from happening, and she tells me to "speak up." I'm sorry if I came across too harshly. :)


Anonymous said...

I want to confirm what RC2 said. Our state legislature went Democrat at the 2006 elections, making all 3 branches of government Democrat controlled.

Within a month, no more, multiple bills were introduced by the new leadership:
* attacking pregnancy resource / crisis pregnancy centers
* creating funding for ESCR / cloning
* increasing burdens for homeschoolers
* creating "gay" marriage in all but name
* preventing "discrimination" based on sexual orientation, meaning you cannot refuse to hire a practicing homosexual even if you run a Christian bookstore (or choir?)

With a lot of hard work, pro-life and pro-family citizens were able to stop the first three, but the last two passed. At which point the court system stepped in and blocked initiatives which would have returned the issues to the people.

We expect the anti-life bills to reappear at the next legislative session.

None of these items even got to the stage of being a problem while the Republicans controlled the legislature. This is simply reality, not a partisan diatribe.


Tony said...

Therefore, there have been elections where in all good conscience I could not vote for either the Republican or Democrat candidates, and I both resent and challenge the morality of those who would say this is somehow "allowing" a particular candidate to win.

I'm sorry you feel that way. I don't want to make the perfect the enemy of the good. If I have two major candidates, my goal is to minimize evil. If you don't vote, or vote for a vanity third party candidate, then you effectively cast a half a vote foe each of the major party candidates. If you are not using your vote to minimize evil, then you are making it more likely that the maximum evil will be elected.

This sounds like formal cooperation with evil to me.

I thought about this quite a bit, and I had subscribed to Mark Shea's suggestion not to vote for either. I thought that I would be able to help send a message to the Republican party that their pro-life base was not to be trifled with.

Then I looked at it critically. Now is not the time to be making a statement. There is too much at stake. What would I say to all those aborted babies when I met them at my final judgment? "Both candidates were evil"?

Deusdonat said...

Anonymous (one of the many) said: This reminds me of Revelation 3:16 ('So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.')

Hmmm. You don't think this could also be interpreted as "whoever is lukewarm about supporting ALL Catholic teaching, and not just the ones we find convenient during election time, will be spat out by God"? I absolutely agree with Scott and Mary on this one. Voting for candidate a or b just because one may do x and the other might do y is simply NOT a lithmus test to one's commitment to any particular issue, let alone to Catholicism. Anonymous who is obviously too cowardly to put a name to his errant ramblings is most certainly wrong here.

dcs said...

This sounds like formal cooperation with evil to me.

It isn't.

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