CommunityFDL Main Blog

Late Night: Intrinsic Evil

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”300″ height=”225″ align=”right” !}

Illinois bishop Thomas Paprocki, formerly an auxiliary bishop of Chicago and generally somebody I would not have expected to be this obtuse: 

There are many positive and beneficial planks in the Democratic Party Platform, but I am pointing out those that explicitly endorse intrinsic evils. My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote. But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues. I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding “political” and didn’t say anything about the morality of these issues. People of faith object to these platform positions that promote serious sins. I know that the Democratic Party’s official “unequivocal” support for abortion is deeply troubling to pro-life Democrats.

So what about the Republicans? I have read the Republican Party Platform and there is nothing in it that supports or promotes an intrinsic evil or a serious sin. The Republican Party Platform does say that courts “should have the option of imposing the death penalty in capital murder cases.” But the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (in paragraph 2267), “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm — without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself — the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

One might argue for different methods in the platform to address the needs of the poor, to feed the hungry and to solve the challenges of immigration, but these are prudential judgments about the most effective means of achieving morally desirable ends, not intrinsic evils.

Certainly there are “pro-choice” Republicans who support abortion rights and “Log Cabin Republicans” who promote same-sex marriage, and they are equally as wrong as their Democratic counterparts. But these positions do not have the official support of their party.

Again, I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.

None of this is new, of course, and part of what’s got my back up here is just the passive-aggressiveness of it, as if Paprocki is God’s Perpetually Angry Receptionist, saying he’s not ACCUSING you of taking all the paper clips out of His drawer, but maybe you should think VERY CAREFULLY about what kind of employee you want to be. For your own sake. And clean out the damn fridge already; it smells like something died in there.

US Catholic magazine, which is really warming my black little heart with its borderline-blasphemy these days, fixates on the tax exemption issue that always pops up when some purported servant of God shoots off his mouth:

So, I could be jeopardizing my salvation if I vote for a candidate who supports the Democratic platform (but not if I vote GOP), regardless of what a particular official actually does when elected. This is sketchy moral logic to say the least, but my real question is: Does it constitute an endorsement, which would jeopardize the Springfield diocese’s tax-exempt status? Paprocki writes that he feels duty-bound to speak, even if he sounds “political,” but wouldn’t be easier just to abandon tax exemption and jump into poliics with both feet?

But I’d like to talk about Paprocki’s seemingly endless fixation on words, because that’s where his argument falls down.

He spends the first few grafs of this piece boring on about the word God being in or out of the document, and then segues into this comparison of what is written in both parties’ platforms. Nowhere does he talk about what each party practices. He makes a deliberate equivalence between Democrats’ support for abortion rights (or, putting it in terms a pro-life Catholic Democrat might, their opposition to empowering the state to force a woman to bear a child against her will) and Republicans’ support for the death penalty. Both are things that might make voting for either party morally objecitonable.

Then he goes on to be all EXCEPT NOT REALLY on the death penalty, ignoring the fact that in practice, Republicans are far more eager to impose the death penalty upon the unwilling than Democrats are to impose abortion.

In practice is where his argument falls apart. What happens when a particular party’s will is imposed? Forget what a man says; what does he DO? What consequences do his actions produce? What aim does he have in pursuing his goals? What kind of world does he want? If we follow him, what kind of world do we get? Paul Ryan spells it out pretty clearly. Mitt Romney isn’t making much of a mystery these days of what he really thinks of everybody. Paprocki’s focus is on the words. On the rules. On the platforms and what they say. On the lines of code in the box and not what that code looks like spun out to its logical end.

Time was, a decent fellow and fair to middling carpenter set out on the road to tell people that the rules don’t matter if people don’t matter. If the system of laws and words doesn’t serve people, then you burn that whole thing down. Results are what matters. Not what the code in the box says, what it looks like when spun out to its logical end.

Yet here’s Paprocki back again, saying we should prize a platform that does not promote “intrinsic evil” over a party that, more often that not, lately, produces it in spades.


Previous post

Why Living in MI-11 Makes Me Want to Guzzle Antifreeze

Next post

Speaking of Paul Ryan: Meet His Opponent, Rob Zerban

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.