Single Voting: Multiple Views

Oct. 28-Nov.3, 2004
Single Voting: Multiple Views
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Panelists at Le Moyne College Present Different Views on Abortion Issue

More than 200 people attended Le Moyne College’s presentation entitled “Catholics and the Complexities of Single-Issue Voting” held in Grewen Auditorium on Oct. 21. Father Thomas Massaro, SJ, and Dr. Susan Behuniak discussed their views on abortion and other single issues that Catholics must take into consideration before voting on Nov. 2.

Father Massaro is an associate professor of moral theology at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. and has written extensively on social ethics and Christian political thought. He is the author of Living Justice: Catholic Social Teaching in Auction, and co-author of Catholic Perspectives on Peace and War, with Thomas Shannon. Behuniak, a professor of political science at Le Moyne, was recently named recipient of the Francis J. Fallon Endowed Professorship. She specializes in constitutional law with a focus on end-of-life issues.

Father Massaro focused on social teachings and his love and admiration of the church’s teachings. He talked about President George Bush’s political stance as well as Senator Kerry’s and his discontent fueled by both candidates’ lack of respect for human dignity. “Common ground is disappearing and divisions are being hardened by the role of faith and politics,” said Father Massaro. He said that the press has given extensive coverage to recent controversial issues, namely abortion, which results in other issues fading from view. “Every other consideration recedes to the background,” he said.

Father Massaro also spoke about the secular media giving so much attention to the handful of bishops who are “meddling in communion politics,” with their all-or-nothing strategies. “I have a hard time imposing our beliefs on those who are sincere in their discernment.” While Father Massaro stood firm on his pro-life views, he urged the audience not to ignore other important issues such as euthanasia, pre-emptive war, poverty and the plight of the refugees. “Single issue voting is declaring these as inconsequential. Some bishops want Catholics to morph into single issue voters, even going so far as to threaten to withhold communion,” he said. “Church teachings should not dictate all of our decisions.” In response to Father Massaro’s presentation, Behuniak agreed that single issue voting is problematic, but suggested that voters should be aware that there are two types of issue voting –– easy single issue voting and hard single issue voting. She explained that easy issue voting is done on a moral level, from the gut. “It’s an easy issue to vote on. It’s a shortcut, hiding other values,” she said. Behuniak said that hard issue voting is when the way to vote is not clear. “Voters have to think about who will be affected if the vote passes.” She gave the example of war being a hard issue.

Behuniak said that she was even more dismayed that the discussion of single issue voting and abortion failed to address those who are objects of this particular form of politicking –– women. “Allow me to conclude on this note of what anti-abortion single issue voting means to pro-choice women. Single issue voting in the form of the pro-life stance crystallizes for pro-choice women the truth that there are some religious organizations and some voters who would go to any length, who would sacrifice any other public policy issue or any other cherished value in order to take from us the decision of what to do when we become pregnant,” said Behuniak. “This does not feel loving; it feels like a threat and an effort to control us.”

Behuniak said that it is chilling to watch what the Catholic Church is willing to sacrifice in the name of controlling human sexuality. “For example, as millions die on the African continent of AIDS, and the church continues to deny its followers the protection offered by condoms, we have to wonder who is being sacrificed and in the name of what. Is this an example of a loving policy?” “When we talk about single issue voting, why is it always about abortion?” asked one member of the audience. “What about cloning and euthanasia?” Father Massaro answered the question by saying that it all boils down to different views of fetal life and affording it dignity. “We need to dialogue more about fetal life,” he said. Another audience member asked how one can consider a Catholic priest being killed in a war being different from a fetus being killed. “How is that okay, yet we say we cannot do what we want with our bodies?” she asked.

Father Massaro answered that society shouldn’t engage in any kind of killing –– including war and capital punishment. Behuniak said that sex education is key in order to stop abortion. Women need to be educated on how their bodies work –– the gestation period, their fertile periods and contraceptives –– in order to avoid making wrenching decisions of abortion.

Voting & Catholic Conscience

Father Thomas Morrow, STD, Suggests Obedience to Catholic Teachings

ENDICOTT –– Father Thomas Morrow, STD, was one of the keynote speakers at the “Living the Gospel Life” seminar held at Our Lady of Good Counsel on Oct. 23. Father Morrow talked to adults on the “Formation of a Correct Catholic Conscience” before moving on to speak to teens about “Preparing for Christian Courtship.” The day-long seminar, sponsored by the Commission on Women in the Church and Society and the Nazareth Marian Center, focused on abortion, sexual morality and obedience to the church.

Father Morrow is a graduate from St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia and was ordained a priest in 1982 for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. He has an STL in moral theology and received his doctorate in sacred theology from the Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He has produced several tape series, including “Christian Dating in an Oversexed World” and “Marriage and Family for God’s Sake,” and has appeared on EWTN as a guest on “Mother Angelica Live” and “The Abundant Life.” His book, “Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World,” was published in September 2003. He is currently parochial vicar at St. Catherine Laboure in Wheaton, Md.

During his presentation, Father Morrow quoted from several documents released by Pope John Paul II, as well as Scripture passages and the Ten Commandments, that give evidence to the teachings of the Catholic Church on fidelity. Forming one’s conscience according to God’s law begins with belief in God, what Jesus teaches through His church and how Scripture points to fidelity that extends beyond death –– to the end of time, explained Father Morrow. “Jesus gave his apostles guidance to live a moral life,” said Father Morrow. “‘He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me. And he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me,’” Father Morrow said, quoting from Luke 10:16. “The pope and the bishops are descendants of the apostles. God expects us to look to the church and the descendants for guidance,” he said.

Father Morrow also referred to the infallible teachings of the church based on the gift of divine truth. “God reveals the truth. It’s not a matter of understanding, it’s faith,” he said. “Belief comes first. Anything the church teaches is to be believed with divine faith.” His references to the Gospel and the teachings of the church about obedience were applied to the issues of sexual immorality and abortion. “These are grave errors. One cannot receive communion if one is guilty of these,” said Father Morrow. “Ignorance does not get you off. If you are not looking for the truth, you are still guilty of sin. The sense of morality guides some. But the power to decide good and evil belongs to God alone. The church is a messenger of God and instructs us on how to live –– how to please God,” he said.

Father Morrow then spoke specifically of pro-life issues. “Let’s analyze why we should vote pro-life,” he said. “Abortion kills over one million babies per year. Capital punishment kills 200 people a year. That’s not much of a comparison. And war is killing thousands of combatants. What’s happened is that we have heard so much about abortion that we have grown lax in the seriousness of the issue.” During a question and answer period, audience members brought up the issues of each presidential candidate and his stand on moral issues. One audience member asked why she had heard no outcry about Sen. John Kerry promoting embryonic stem cell research. “This is outrageous,” said Father Morrow. “It’s something that needs to be talked about. It’s also outrageous for Gov. Schwarzenegger to say he wants to spend millions of dollars on stem cell research when they [California] has no money to begin with.”

Another member of the audience asked about abortion and excommunication from the church. Father Morrow said that if a woman gets an abortion and knows that it’s a sin and knows that it is attached to an excommunication, she would be excommunicated from the church. “Why is that not more understood?” asked one woman. “Because it’s not talked about enough on the altar,” responded Father Morrow. “We need to teach seminarians how to preach diplomatically about controversial issues and offer hope.” “We [priests] have a lot of work to do to educate people. If we don’t educate people from the pulpit, many people won’t know the issues,” he said. “We have grown cold on this issue of abortion. People are tired of talking about it and hearing about it. I’m tired of talking about it. But I won’t stop. I won’t receive a favorable judgment from God if I do, so I will continue to talk about it until the day I die.”

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