instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Judgments defying credibility

Fr. Rob Johansen is hosting a discussion on the question of whether it is permissible according to Catholic doctrine to vote for John Kerry. I think he overstates his case, though to be fair he is understandably distracted by some very poor counterarguments from those who disagree with him.

I think Fr. Johansen's fundamental mistake is to insist that what he sees as self-evident fact is self-evident fact, instead of a well-founded prudential judgment. For example, he writes:
Some have argued that on abortion, "the Kerry v. Bush debate [is] close to a draw, with Bush only very slightly favorable - and still ultimately pro-choice."

This statement is a fiction of such staggering proportions as to defy credibility.
Believing, in good conscience, that Bush and Kerry are nearly at a draw regarding abortion might be wrong judgment, but it's not immoral, and in fact that judgment can form the basis of a vote for Kerry based on sound Catholic principles.

Fr. Johansen goes on to make this argument:
On issues like care for the poor, Kerry comes out ahead only if you accept that his rather doctrinaire leftist proposals on these matters are actually the best solutions. That is a debatable proposition, on which you have made a prudential judgment. You could be wrong. And if you are wrong, then you will have substituted your private erroneous judgment for the clear teaching of the Church on a matter which is not susceptible to error or reformation. And you will be culpable for that error, because the Church gave you unambiguous guidance in the matter.
For me, anything less than, "Voting for John Kerry is a grave sin," is ambiguous guidance, or at least guidance requiring prudential application to the circumstances I face.

In fact, among the unambiguous guidance Fr. Johansen cites is Evangelium Vitae, but that only proscribes voting for a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, unless
a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on.
That's a matter of prudential judgment for the legislator, not those who vote him into office, but I think it's reasonable to presume an analogous situation for the voter judging which of two candidates would better serve the common good in the light of the Gospel of Life.

Even if reaching a particular judgment is strong evidence of stupidity.