After thoroughly demolishing the pro-life case for Obama, George Weigel goes on to explain why abortion is an a priori issue for Catholic voters:
As Cardinal George’s letter indicated, the Catholic Church’s teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion involves a first principle of justice that can be known by reason, that’s one of the building blocks of a just society, and that ought never be compromised—which is why, for example, Catholic legislators were morally obliged to oppose legal segregation (another practice once upheld by a Supreme Court decision that denied human beings the full protection of the laws). Questions of war and peace, social-welfare policy, environmental policy and economic policy, on the other hand, are matters of prudential judgment on which people who affirm the same principles of Catholic social doctrine can reasonably differ. The pro-life, pro-Obama Catholics are thus putting the full weigh of their moral argument on contingent prudential judgments that, by definition, cannot bear that weight.
This paragraph is a remarkably lucid account of how a Catholic should vote. I have a few quibbles, however:
- The Church has unambiguously condemned the Iraq War. The initiation and implementation of that war are profoundly indicative of our society’s stance towards the protection of human life. Granted, I’m unfamiliar with the nuances of Catholic theology, but the implications of abortion and a bloody, unjust war seem to operate on the same moral level.
- The Administration’s decision to systematically torture detainee combatants is another issue that implicates the sanctity of human life. Again, the Church’s position on this issue is quite unambiguous. It should also be noted that McCain’s opposition to detainee mistreatment has diminished significantly of late.
I do agree with Weigel that issues of social justice and the economy are subject to good-faith disagreements. But the Church’s teachings on torture and war are as clear as its condemnation of state-sanctioned abortion. Furthermore, one might argue that an Obama Administration is more likely to withdraw from Iraq and end our mistreatment of detainees than a McCain Administration is to outlaw abortion. You may quibble with my interpretation of the candidates’ respective approaches to each issue, but I’m left wondering why Weigel erects an artificial barrier between abortion and other moral questions. Isn’t a more holistic assessment of the candidates’ positions called for?