As the 2006 midterm elections approach, a battle of the booklets is likely in many U.S. Catholic venues.
First into the lists was "Voting for the Common Good: A Practical Guide for Conscientious Catholics," published last month by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a group led by Alexia Kelley, an advisor to the Kerry campaign in 2004. While "Voting for the Common Good" acknowledges that not all issues are to be weighed equally in forming one's public conscience and in voting, the booklet's overall thrust is reminiscent of the now-badly-tattered "seamless garment" or "consistent ethic of life" approach to citizen responsibility promoted by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. It may also strike some as curious that the booklet's only recommended reference for voters wishing to learn the Church's social doctrine is the quadrennial publication of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Faithful Citizenship.
Now comes "Catholics in the Public Square," written by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix as part of the "Shepherd's Voice" series being launched by Basilica Press (www.basilicapress.com). Bishop Olmsted takes a question-and-answer approach to controverted issues of Catholic conscience and political responsibility, and he doesn't mince words. Thus, on the question of whether Catholics can ever differ with the settled teaching of the Church on moral questions that have become public policy issues, Olmsted writes that there can be legitimate prudential disagreements on the application of just war theory to a given conflict, or on whether capital punishment is justifiable in a particular circumstance. Yet he immediately goes on to add , "It should be emphasized, however, that, despite these examples, there are other [practices], such as abortion or euthanasia, that are always wrong and do not allow for the correct use of prudential judgment to justify them. It would never be proper for Catholics to be on the other side of these issues."
Which is a point not well-emphasized, shall we say, by "Voting for the Common Good."
Read the entire article on the Ethics and Public Policy website (new window will open).