Hypothetical Nuke Negates Actual Abortion?

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 12, 2020   

Fr. Rocky blurs moral lines for voters

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A prominent theologian is fabricating a hypothetical moral case that would seemingly justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate.

Patrick Madrid

On Tuesday's installment of Relevant Radio hosted by Patrick Madrid, Fr. Francis "Rocky" Hoffman invented a confusing example of when allegedly "proportionate reasons" might allow a Catholic to vote for a pro-abortion candidate over a pro-life one.

Hoffman asked Madrid, "What if a candidate, who was pro-life — let's say against abortion — was in favor of dropping a nuclear bomb on a city with 20 million people?"

Madrid responded that such a moral case did not constitute a proportionate reason that would justify a voter picking a pro-abortion politician.

But Hoffman questioned Madrid's negative response: "That's not proportionate?"

Madrid repeated his response: "No."

But Hoffman persisted: "I mean you're going to wipe out 20 million innocent people versus one million innocent people? The way I approach it is quantitatively. You could approach it qualitatively. You could make the case where people in the city ... can defend themselves."

Hoffman concluded, "I'm just a simple guy: I'm a numbers guy."

Hoffman seemingly misses the mark when saying U.S. bishops listed the issue of abortion as preeminent 'because of the number of children' killed.

The exchange was directed at unpacking a phrase written by Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger in 2004 (then-head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) just one year before becoming pope. In a letter to U.S. bishops, Ratzinger wrote: "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."

Hoffman seemingly misses the mark when saying U.S. bishops listed the issue of abortion as preeminent "because of the number of children" killed.

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He was referencing the U.S. bishops' official voters guidelines titled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. During its November assembly in 2019, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) updated its guidance with an introductory letter that listed abortion as the "preeminent priority" for U.S. voters.

Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger

But in their explanation, the bishops say it's not merely about the number of people killed.

"The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family and because of the number of lives destroyed," the letter reads.

In the same letter from Ratzinger, which Hoffman quotes on air and writes of in his voter guide, the Church does allow Catholics to disagree even with the Holy Father's prudential judgment on "waging war" even after the pope expresses his opinion. Ratzinger writes:

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

But the phrase "proportionate reasons" that would "permit" a Catholic to vote for a pro-death candidate was what Hoffman was addressing. That's why he invented the far-fetched moral case in which an otherwise pro-life politician would somehow decide to nuke a city of 20 million innocent people and thus place himself morally on par with a pro-abortion candidate.

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.

His example is seemingly less applicable to Trump, who has been called the "most anti-war president" of a lifetime.

Asked in June about Trump's foreign policy, former defense secretary Robert Gates responded, "First of all, unlike his three predecessors ... at least he hasn't started any new wars."

Hoffman did then bring up the difficulty in fabricating a moral example that allows any Catholic to vote in good conscience for a pro-death politician over someone like Trump, who is widely considered to be the most pro-life president in U.S. history.

"So ... what are proportionate reasons you might ask? Someone asked that question to the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' pro-life activities," continued Hoffman. "And he couldn't think of any."

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