Friday, April 22, 2005

Ratzinger's abortion politics

Just for giggles, I went over to this site to find out what some people were saying about the Ratzinger role in last year's Presidential election (unsurprisingly, the conclusion was "he reined in the hard-liners!").

For those not familiar, a hubbub was raised last year when bishops around the US began refusing communion to pro-abortion politicians. Kerry was the obvious target. Locally, one disgusted politician from Hoboken renounced his faith.

The question then becomes, what guidance did the Vatican provide on the matter? It's a rather interesting one. Ratzinger, Mr. Standards and Inquisitions, was the guy in charge of the matter, and he issued a letter last summer.

This article fairly clearly lays out the double game Ratzinger was playing:
Cardinal Ratzinger's note underlined the principles involved for the Catholic voter.

"A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia," Cardinal 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," he said.

In other words, if a Catholic thinks a candidate's positions on other issues outweigh the difference on abortion, a vote for that candidate would not be considered sinful.

Anyone can see that such a "ruling" is silly on its face. By characterizing the politician as "evil" and a vote for that person based on aborition as a "cooperation" in that evil, the matter is closed. Also note that the ruling directs that you must flatly disagree with the politician's stance on abortion, not vote "for other reasons," as the article suggests. But the capper, the real zinger that is not mentioned by Ratzinger apologists is this line:
After discussing the issue in Colorado, U.S. bishops overwhelmingly passed a statement that sharply criticized Catholic politicians who support legal abortion. The bishops also said denying Communion to those politicians is a complex question involving "prudential judgment" in each case.

The report in L'Espresso and some other media have characterized that as a rejection of Cardinal Ratzinger's advice. But Vatican sources said the Vatican was generally pleased with the U.S. bishops' statement, and that Cardinal Ratzinger was not trying to dictate a policy to the bishops.

"It is right to leave a margin for prudential judgment in these cases," said one Vatican source. "Cardinal Ratzinger's point was not that bishops have to use (denial of Communion) in every circumstance, but that there are principles that would allow for this to happen," the source said.

So, to sum up: 1) Abortion is evil. 2) Politicians who endorse abortion are evil 3) The Vatican says people who vote for politicians based on abortion alone are evil 3) The Vatican says it is up to the discretion of local bishops whether to deny communion to the evil politicians. 4) Apologists interepret this action as 'reining in' US hard-liners.

And, finally. Let's be real here. Anyone who's spent the smallest amount of time reading about Ratzinger's beliefs should not be surprised by this. I'm not sure what some apologists are hoping to achieve by arguing Ratzinger is really a reasonable guy in all this. He's a shrewd politician who covered his butt -- giving a nod and a wink to the hardliners while at the same time keeping his hands clean of the whole matter, and plausibile deniability for anyone trying to argue he was meddling in US politics.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 8:29 AM

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