October 9, 2016

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on Catholics Who Support Pro-Choice and/or Pro-Euthanasia Politicians

Pope Benedict XVI

A year before becoming Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a confidential memorandum to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick entitled Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles that became public shortly thereafter. His Eminence Cardinal Ratzinger, explaining the norms for reception of the Eucharist, states in part:
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. 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.
At issue was whether Catholics who vote for pro-choice and/or pro-euthanasia politicians are complicit in supporting activities that the Church holds are gravely and implicitly immoral. Catholic moral theology discusses various types of cooperation when weighting culpability. In his memorandum, Cardinal Ratzinger alludes to two of them; formal cooperation and remote material cooperation.

Formal cooperation is agreeing with/supporting any activity that is sinful. Father Stephen Torraco describes it thusly: "In what circumstances is cooperation morally justified and in what circumstances is it not? Of course, every situation in life, every moment in which an act is done, has its own set of circumstances. However, there are some principles which can guide us. These principles distinguish between degrees or kinds of cooperation. Formal cooperation takes place whenever one takes part in the immoral action of another, while at the same time adopting the evil intention of his associate. ... Formal cooperation in an immoral act is always wrong and the cooperator is equally as guilty as the principal agent. With formal cooperation, we call the cooperator an accomplice."

Hence, one needn't perform an abortion to be guilty of formally cooperating with evil. Those who in any way aid and abet the "pro-choice" cause, including in its political dimension, are also complicit. Ratzinger says clearly that a Catholic who votes in favor of abortion and euthanasia is "guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion." Since abortion and euthanasia are the taking of innocent life, an affront to the dignity of persons and to God himself, supporting pro-choice/"right to die" candidates because they hold these positions would constitute formal cooperation in sin.

Next, Cardinal Ratzinger observes, "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." Remote material cooperation can be defined as making a contribution to the [illicit] act that does not lead to the commission of the act. Therefore, one is not guilty when there is a proportionately serious reason to do so. Catholic moral theology permits remote material cooperation with an evil action in certain situations. Cardinal Ratzinger affirms it "can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."

What are proportionate reasons? Archbishop Charles J. Chaput defines them in Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life: "One of the pillars of Catholic thought is this: Don’t deliberately kill the innocent, and don’t collude in allowing it. We sin if we support candidates because they support a false 'right' to abortion. We sin if we support 'pro-choice' candidates without a truly proportionate reason for doing so — that is, a reason grave enough to outweigh our obligation to end the killing of the unborn. And what would such a 'proportionate' reason look like? It would be a reason we could, with an honest heart, expect the unborn victims of abortion to accept when we meet them and need to explain our actions — as we someday will."

Prayer for the Faithful Witness of Catholics in the United States

(By Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke)

O Lord Jesus Christ, You alone are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Your Church You show us the Way, You teach us the Truth, and You give us Your Life. Grant, we humbly beg You, that, always and in all things, we may be faithful to You in Your Holy Church, and to Your Vicar on Earth, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis. Grant also, we beg You, that, in these times of decision, all who profess to be Catholic and who are entrusted with the sacred duty to participate in public life, may, by the strength of Your grace, unwaveringly follow Your Way and faithfully adhere to Your Truth, living in You with all their mind and heart, for Your greater glory, the salvation of souls, and the good of our nation. Amen.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, Pray for us.

Saint Thomas More, Patron of Religious Freedom, Pray for us.

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