Bp. McElroy Goes Soft on Intrinsic Evil

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 11, 2016   

San Diego bishop says intrinsic evils don't automatically prioritize issues for voters

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SAN DIEGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Robert McElroy recently took exception to voter guides that "propose that the concept of intrinsic evil provides an automatic process for prioritizing" issues for Catholic voters.

The San Diego bishop, in his recent article for America magazine, writes that "the argument is simplistic and thus misleading" which states that "Catholic teaching demands that political opposition to intrinsically evil acts, like abortion, euthanasia and embryonic experimentation, must be given automatic priority over all other issues for the purposes of voting."

In the article, McElroy reasons:

The list of intrinsic evils specified by Catholic teaching includes not only abortion, physician-assisted suicide and embryonic experimentation but also actions that exploit workers, create or perpetuate inhuman living conditions or advance racism. It is extremely difficult, and often completely impossible, to find candidates whose policies will not advance several of these evils in American life.

The bishop personally lists the issues of poverty and caring for the environment as more grave than assisted suicide.

ChurchMilitant.com reported last week how Los Angeles archbishop Jose Gomez clarified that social justice issues like unemployment and immigration are not morally equivalent to life issues like abortion and euthanasia.

But McElroy offers as evidence the document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," updated last year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The document is meant to be a moral guide for U.S. voters, but of itself carries no magisterial weight and is therefore not considered infallible.

It should be noted that McElroy strenuously objected to a draft of the document the day before final changes were made on the grounds that it excluded certain social justice issues from the list of intrinsic evils of grave importance.

Section 34 of "Faithful Citizenship" in its final draft as passed states:

A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.

Some speculate based on McElroy's objections the day before the final changes were made that such phrases as "deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions" and "racist behavior" were added after the fact to reach a consensus with liberal bishops.

After protesting at the USCCB meeting last November when this document was updated, McElroy now claims that the USCCB document, which was revised the day before it passed, backs up his views on voting.

In section 37 of the same document, the USCCB writes:

In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose policies promoting intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.

Some prelates disagree with McElroy's morality, including Abp. Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, who affirms, "There are no 'truly grave moral' or 'proportionate' reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion."

And Bp. Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, Oregon has declared:

The conditions under which an individual may be able to vote for a pro-abortion candidate would apply only if all the candidates are equally pro-abortion. And then you begin screening for the other issues. When we have someone who has that stand on a disqualifying issue, then the other issues, in many ways, do not matter because they are already wrong on that absolutely fundamental issue.

To learn more about the morality of Catholic voting, watch"The Download—The Lesser of Two Evils."


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