deo__gratias (deo__gratias) wrote in catholic_heresy,

Pro-Choice Voting a Heresy?

The Catholic Church obviously has a strong stance against abortion, but my question is this--is voting for a Pro-Choice candidate considered heresy?

Previously I was under the understanding that a Catholic could in good conscience vote for a Pro-Choice candidate provided that their stance on abortion was not the primary reason for voting in that direction.

A few years ago, Detroit auxiliary bishop Thomas Gumbleton stated that any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and health care.

Bishop Gumbleton stated that he saw a great deal of hypocrisy in politicians like George W. Bush calling themselves pro-life when they embraced wars that have left many innocent people dead, when they have supported policies that have left people without health insurance, when they have defended a capital punishment system that has often executed those falsely accused.

However, some bishops state that a Catholic HAS TO vote for a politician that has a pro-life label and that other issues don't matter.

For example, recently Saginaw Bishop Robert Carlson, addressing a group on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade said: The argument that abortion rights is only one of the many pro-life issues and must be balanced with homelessness, spousal abuse and the environment is false.....I remind Catholic politicians of their sacred duty to oppose laws that favor abortion and euthanasia. And I state emphatically that your mantra 'that I am personally opposed but' disgusts me.

Is it heresy to say, as Bishop Gumbleton has, that there are many issues that have to be weighed into a Catholic's voting decision?

Or...on the other it heresy to say that abortion is the one issue and that all other issues are unimportant?

Or are these positions more or less personal opinions by these respective bishops and not binding on Catholics?

Just wondering about other peoples' thoughts.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic
    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
Well first, let's define heresy. Heresy is not disagreement with the Church. Heresy is teaching an error and saying that it is Church teaching. For example, if you were preaching from the pulpit that the Eucharist was merely symbolic, that would be heresy.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, Bishop Gumbleton is quite right. Pro-life means a whole package of things, including opposition to unjust war and the death penalty. However, you seldom see politicians who espouse the whole pro-life attitude.

One thing that is often pointed out by writers such as Fr. Andrew Greeley is that Catholic authorities usually fixate on abortion as THE pro-life issue. This is apparent in how the American bishops often say that pro-choice politicians, such as John Kerry, should not be allowed communion. At the same time, a politician who is a war hawk and favours capital punishment is not so censured. This is hypocrisy, pure and simple.

So there is no easy answer. I would suggest voting for whoever echoes your views mostly closely, bearing in mind that he or she probably won't be a perfect match. This is what democracy is supposed to be anyway.
"Or...on the other it heresy to say that abortion is the one issue and that all other issues are unimportant?"

On a third reading of what you said, I realize you used the term "heresy" in its correct context. The bishop is indeed being heretical because he's downplaying poverty, capital punishment, racism, etc. which the Church also strongly opposes.
You can't have a heresy on something that isn't a matter of faith. Voting practices are not infallibly taught by the Church and so the conscience of every person is free to disagree. If the bishop thinks abortion is the only issue, that is his right as a thinking being.
That isn't quite heresy. The Catechism defines heresy as "the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith." A position only becomes heretical when it's maintained despite being identified as an error by the Catholic Church; if someone believes that Jesus has only one nature, she's not a heretic if she changes her mind after referring to Church teaching, but only if she persists in the error.

Stating, as Bishop Carlson does, that abortion is the pre-eminent pro-life issue, doesn't really seem to contradict a "truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith." He may be incorrectly interpreting the teaching of the bishops' conference, but I don't think his interpretation rises (sinks?) to the level of heresy.
Pope Benedict XVI has stated that a politician and a person purposefully voting for a politician who is pro-choice should not take Communion. Whether this fits as heresy, I'm not sure, but I think it's a clear indication that doing so would have one fall out of good grace.

Pope Benedict XVI's comments on the issue:

"Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. There may be legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not... with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

"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."
You have to do whats in your heart. God gave you the freedom of will. If, in your mind, a persons stance on abortion is the SOLE reason they should lead a nation (as in GW), then thats your choice. As for what the Catholic church thinks...if they want to get involved in politics, they ought to loose their "tax free" status and join the 21st century. I know that sounds harsh...I AM a Catholic. Im sure you can tell from this post, Im not a GOOD one. have to weigh the good with the bad and decide what is best for you in ALL instances in life. The church is an excellent place to get your moral foundation to guide you through these choices..but the church cannot live your life for you.
The definition of heresy, according to the Catechism, is "the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same."

Based on that, I don't think any kind of vote could ever be described as heresy. In 2004, John Kerry was sued in a church court by a wingnut who claimed he was a heretic for being pro-choice, but the wingnut's case was that Kerry was obstinately insisting that it was okay to be Catholic and pro-choice; this, theoretically, could be a heretical position.

However, it's not at all clear that the Church's teaching on abortion, as important as it is, "must be believed with divine and catholic faith." The two natures of Jesus, yes. But abortion politics? I think it's much sketchier territory, especially considering legitimate debate about what constitutes a "pro-life" politician.