In each election season, someone who professes to be a good Catholic writes an article to explain why a Catholic can be morally justified should he vote for a candidate who is unashamedly pro-abortion. The latest contribution to this misleading practice is one Charles Camosy, a Christian ethics professor at Fordham University. In an essay entitled “Yes, Catholics may vote for Bernie Sanders,” Camosy summons the ghost of the “Seamless Garment” argument, although he never calls it by name.
For those who may not be familiar with the Seamless Garment, the basic premise is that, although a candidate may support abortion, there are other “pro-life” issues that must be taken into consideration. For example, health care, immigration, or social service programs could all be labeled “pro-life” because they ostensibly help people live better lives. So, if a candidate has no problem with destroying babies in the womb but favors amnesty for illegal immigrants or Obamacare or expanded welfare programs, then he is “pro-life” and worthy of a Catholic voter’s support.
This is the tact that Camosy takes. His concerns are sharing of the wealth, living wages, health care, and being “on the side of the poor.” He uses a clever rationale for voting for Sanders, but before he does, he feels impelled to quote Cardinal Ratzinger:
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 (with evil), which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.
Now Camosy wonders what “proportionate reasons” means and how it may apply to Bernie Sanders, but he makes no attempt to find out. Instead, he turns to a voting guide from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In this document the bishops suggest that if all the candidates hold positions that are intrinsically evil, then voters may use their “prudential judgment” and consider a “candidate’s commitments, character, integrity and ability to influence a given issue.” So, a candidate who favors abortion, euthanasia, and other great evils might be a person of character and integrity? Such a notion would be laughable if it weren’t so deadly.
But the bishops have convinced Camosy, so he gives the following possible rationale for a Catholic vote for Sanders, which I summarize below:
Republicans rarely do anything to help prenatal children, and evidence of this is an unwillingness to spend taxpayer money on prenatal programs. Society pushes women into having abortions because there is no paid family leave, child care is too expensive, and women suffer from pay inequality, all the result of Republican insensitivity. Catholics must always put the needs of the poor first because Jesus warned that not caring for the poor leads to Damnation. Sanders “blows away any GOP candidate in this regard.”
Camosy draws this conclusion:
In voting for Sanders on the basis of the above reasons, such a person is strongly affirming the need to protect prenatal children while at the same time also giving due reverence to the other serious and non-negotiable values at stake in this election.
In case you’re wondering, for Camosy, “non-negotiable values” are those he lists in the third paragraph above. Camosy was willing to quote Cardinal Ratizinger when it suited his argument, but he fails to quote him when he was Pope Benedict. In 2006, Benedict saw other issues as “non-negotiable”:
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions is consciously drawing attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today; the protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception to natural death; recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family–as a union between one man and one woman based on marriage . . . ; and the protection of parents to educate their children.
Or Camosy could have quoted John Paul II in Christifideles Laici, written in 1988:
The common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights–for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture–it false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.
Thus, it should be obvious that the life issues easily trump all other issues in a campaign, and a Catholic voter should never support a candidate who cannot support the “most basic and fundamental right”–the right to life.
So, no, Mr. Camosy, true Catholics cannot vote for Bernie (or Hillary, for that matter), for to do so is to cooperate with intrinsic evil, and, by doing so, they place their eternal salvation in jeopardy.
(A final note: Strangely, Camosy admits that he could not vote for Sanders because abortion “denies equal protection of the law for the most vulnerable, thus subjecting them to horrific violence.” And yet he spends most of his article trying to convince other Catholics that it’s okay to do so. How is this different from “I wouldn’t own slaves, but it’s fine if you do”? For a man who teaches Christian ethics, Camosy seems to have a serious ethical problem.)