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CATHOLICS-VOTING Sep-21-2004 (840 words) Roundup. With photo posted Sept. 20. xxxn

More bishops speak out on issues surrounding Catholics and voting

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Continuing the debate that began last spring, bishops in various parts of the United States weighed in with advice for Catholics on how they should decide for whom to vote in November.

Writing Sept. 17 in The Wall Street Journal, Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., said a candidate's stand in favor of abortion cannot be outweighed by any other issue.

In Atlanta, Archbishop John F. Donoghue said a vote intended to "restrict insofar as possible the evil that another candidate might do if elected" could have "a good purpose." Earlier, he had issued a joint letter with two other bishops telling Catholics "whose beliefs and conduct do not correspond to the Gospel and to church teaching" not to come to Communion.

In the September edition of his diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, Bishop Gregory M. Aymond of Austin, Texas, outlined seven issues that Catholic voters should consider and said "there is no one candidate that would 'fit the bill' on all of these issues."

His fellow Texan, Bishop John W. Yanta of Amarillo, said in a column for The West Texas Catholic newspaper that any Catholic politician who continued to support keeping abortion legal after pastoral counseling should be denied Communion.

Much of the discussion in mid-September focused on two sentences from a June memo from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, who heads the U.S. bishops' Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians.

A Catholic who deliberately voted for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's support for abortion or euthanasia would be guilty of "formal cooperation in evil" and should exclude himself from receiving Communion, the memo said.

When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion but votes for that candidate for other reasons, the cardinal added, it is considered "remote material cooperation," which is "permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."

But Archbishop Myers said in his column for The Wall Street Journal that he found no issue to be proportionate with the 1.3 million abortions performed yearly in the United States "plus the killing that would take place if public funds were made available for embryo-destructive research."

"What evil could be so grave and widespread as to constitute a 'proportionate reason' to support candidates who would preserve and protect the abortion license and even extend it to publicly funded embryo killing in our nation's labs?" the archbishop wrote.

"Certainly policies on welfare, national security, the war in Iraq, Social Security or taxes, taken singly or in any combination, do not provide a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate," he added.

On the war in Iraq, Archbishop Myers said, Pope John Paul II "did not bind the conscience of Catholics to agree with his judgment on the matter, nor did he say that it would be morally wrong for Catholic soldiers to participate in the war."

"Catholics may, in good conscience, support the use of force in Iraq or oppose it," he said. "Abortion and embryo-destructive research are different. They are intrinsic and grave evils; no Catholic may legitimately support them."

Archbishop Donoghue, in a Sept. 16 letter "on conscientious voting," said the Catholic Church "holds her members to acceptance, complete acceptance of her teaching on matters of faith and morals."

"To vote for a candidate because he favors abortion is formal cooperation in his evil political acts," he said. "However, to vote for someone in order to limit a greater evil, that is, to restrict insofar as possible the evil that another candidate might do if elected, is to have a good purpose in voting."

The Atlanta leader said his letter was not intended to tell Catholics how to vote but to give them "a foothold in which to begin your preparations for the upcoming election."

In Austin Bishop Aymond named seven "major issues that we ask the members of our church to think about in voting for candidates" -- the life and dignity of the human person, the call to family and community, the rights and responsibilities of people and institutions, an option for the poor and vulnerable, the dignity of work and rights of workers, global solidarity and care for God's creation.

"It is the responsibility of each voter to carefully study the platform of candidates and to know where they stand on these issues," he said. "The issues and the candidate must be weighed in prayer and with an enlightened conscience."

Bishop Aymond also criticized the tone of electoral politics in both local and national races, saying that the typical campaign now involves "a candidate not standing on his or her own merits but standing in opposition to their opponent."

"Today's atmosphere of open, hostile criticism is very damaging to the political system, to our society and a terrible example to our children," he added. "Let us not wonder why children grow up thinking that violence, criticism and revenge are acceptable."


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