Tuesday, October 28, 2008

K of C with New Ad Campaign

The Knights of Columbus (find the Council nearest you) have a new ad campaign, featuring the heartbeat of a ten week-old nasciturn. Supreme Knight, H.E. Carl A. Anderson, in launching the radio spot, states:
"We believe that it is vital that America’s pro-life community make it clear that they will reserve their votes for candidates of either party who are committed to protecting life from conception to natural death."
Let me preface this by saying that I am a lifelong admirer of the K of C, and am fully supportive of the ad: it ought to be played as often as possible on as many different stations as possible. I also agree with what seems to be the sentiment behind S.K. Anderson's statement, i.e. that pro-life voters are committed to supporting candidates who advocate policies and make laws that tend to lead to the flourishing of life, rather than its destruction.

That said, I am concerned with one aspect of this, something I have sensed in several recent statements, most especially in the letter from the bishops of Dallas and Fort Worth. I mean the implications of language such as , "pro-life voters will reserve [emphasis mine] their votes, etc.," or "No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these [opinable] issues, it does not outweigh a candidate's unacceptable position, etc." This sounds like Knights and Bishops either telling people how to vote, or going beyond the teaching of the principles of moral reasoning according the the Faith of the Church of Christ, and imposing a specific application of those principles.

While it is true that error in basic things is in principle gravior, I can also countenance a situation in which voting for, say, Rudy Giuliani would be preferable to voting for his staunchly pro-life opponent - if, for example, his opponent's staunchly pro-life positions were to stem from the candidate's commitment to the imposition of Shar'i'a. We are called to build a civilization of love, and our commitment to life is within the context of this vocation: there are basic civilizational issues that are paramount to life issues, for without a certain kind of civilization, the bases for our commitment to the dignity of all life, the transcendent ground of the order of being in God, if you will, are darkened to our view.

In the zealous pursuit of forceful witness, certain prominent Catholics have created the appearance of having forgotten that, while the essence of government is appropriate knowledge of how the common good is informed and perfected in the divine, the essence of governance is prudence, and there are so many infinte varieties of experience and combinations of circumstances under heaven, that words like "never" and sweeping generalizations like "...will reserve their votes..." will meet with at least conceivable circumstances in which they do not obtain or cannot be applied. When this happens, the moral authority of the offices held by those who make such pronouncements is more or less diminished.

NB, I say, "sounds like." I do not think that this is what is going on. I am also anxious to make it superabundantly clear that I agree with the substance of S.K. Anderson's position and am in substantial agreement with the bishops of Dallas and Forth Worth, as well.

It is precisely in light of these substantial agreements that I invite Catholics in leadership positions within the civil and ecclesial communities to take care in their formulations: do not seek to be merely forceful; be cogent.

For the story, a tip of my hat to Fr. Zuhlsdorf at WDTPRS.

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