Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

9/5/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It is in the area of intrinsic evils where the comparison of Ryan and Biden as a 'tale of two Catholics', falls apart.

Given Joe Biden's support for what his Church has identified as intrinsic evils - and thereby persistently against the common good - and given Paul Ryan's position consistent with the indisputable and unchangeable teachings of his Church on these issues, it seems that what is involved is not a "Tale of Two Catholics" but rather a tale of one Catholic and one . . . well, whatever we call him, it is something considerably less than Catholic. An intrinsic evil is always against the common good, regardless of the circumstances.  No Catholic politician can advance an intrinsic evil.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/5/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Paul Ryan, Joe Biden, abortion, homosexual, marriage, gay, right to life, pro-choice, intrinsic evil, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - This election season we are presented with some fundamental contrasts on a whole series of levels, politics, economy, health care, and so forth.  But perhaps no contrast is more interesting than the contrast between two supposedly Catholic vice presidential candidates, the Republican Representative Paul Ryan and the current Vice President, the Democrat Joe Biden. 

Numerous articles have been written on the face-off between these two under the title, "A Tale of Two Catholics," for example, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the Underground, and CBN News.

Now political differences are political differences, and they ordinarily do not touch on fundamental matters of faith and morals.  This is because politics, which has classically been defined as the art of the possible, is, in the main, involved in prudential decisions. 

There simply is no "one right answer," much less "one right Catholic answer," when it comes to issues relating to elements of social welfare, the budget, health care and assuring access to it, and similar matters that relate to the common good.  People can have all sorts of opinions--all of them very probably valid--regarding the proper application of Catholic Social Doctrine's main principles such as solidarity, subsidiarity, the preferential option for the poor, and so forth.

Ordinarily, therefore, it is in bad faith to demonize your political opponent by suggesting he is being untrue to Catholic social or doctrinal principles merely because he has a political opinion different than yours.  Where prudential decisions are involved, I would go so far as to say that it is always in bad faith to suggest your opponent is untrue or unfaithful at the level of doctrine.  Here, the saying often erroneously attributed to St. Augustine, but actually stemming from the 16th century Archbishop of Split, Marco Antonio de Dominis, applies: "In necessary things unity; in doubtful things liberty; in all things charity."

In matters of prudence, we truly can have a tale of two Catholics.

But the general rule does not always apply, and we might say it is subject to an exception when there is an intrinsic evil involved.  No Catholic politician can advance an intrinsic evil, for the simple reason that no person can, in the exercise of prudence, advance an intrinsic evil as something that is in the common good. 

An intrinsic evil is always against the common good, regardless of the circumstances.  At best, they ought to be worked against.  At worst, one may have to tolerate an intrinsic evil because to extirpate it would cost more good than good gained through its suppression, or cause more evil than the evil reduced by its suppression. 

For this reason, St. Thomas Aquinas famously stated that prostitution--an intrinsic evil if there ever was one--may have to be tolerated, since "in human government," there may be instances where "those who are in authority rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain evils be incurred: thus Augustine says: 'If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.'"

Whether an intrinsic evil ought, in a given civil society, be suppressed or tolerated is generally a prudential decision which would depend upon the evil involved, the virtue of the population, its legal traditions, its homogeneity, and other pertinent circumstances. 

Some intrinsic evils, however, cannot be tolerated without an abrogation of the government's legitimacy.  A government that tolerates rape, incest, torture, murder, or genocide, for example--and one must here include abortion--for example, has serious questions as to its continued legitimacy. Failure to support the natural institution of marriage is another such abrogation which puts into question a government's legitimacy.

But toleration of an intrinsic evil in those circumstances where it may be warranted is something altogether different than promotion or support of an intrinsic evil.

And it is in the area of intrinsic evils where the comparison of Ryan and Biden as a "tale of two Catholics," falls apart. 

This is because there are some areas where Biden promotes (and does not merely advocate toleration of) things the Church considers to be intrinsic evils, something no Catholic can in any circumstances do.  And he tolerates things no government ought ever to tolerate without the loss of legitimacy.  Ryan, on the other hand, has never, so far as I know, advanced or promoted something the Church considers an intrinsic evil.

There are two such areas that might be pointed out: abortion and homosexual "marriage."

First, indisputably and without doubt, the Church teaches that abortion is an intrinsic evil.  The Church also teaches that homosexual sexual acts, which are legitimized in homosexual "marriage," are indisputably and without doubt intrinsic evils.  Therefore, Catholic lawmakers are morally compelled to express opposition to any laws that legitimate abortion and homosexual "marriage," and publicly to vote against laws that would promote in any way abortion or homosexual "marriage." 

What are Biden's views regarding these two intrinsic evils? 

Well, we might just let him speak:

Biden on abortion: "My position is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don't think I have a right to impose my view on the rest of society.  I've thought a lot about it, and my position probably doesn't please anyone.  I think the government should stay out completely.  I will not vote to overturn the Court's decision [in Roe v. Wade].  I will not vote to curtain a woman's right to choose an abortion." 

(N.B. Of course, if a woman has a "right," then the state must enforce that right, so for him to stay that the "government should stay out completely" is a falsehood or at least absolutely inconsistent with his prior statements.)

Biden on same-sex "marriage":  "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.  And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction--beyond that."

Now compare Ryan:

Ryan on abortion: "I cannot believe any official or citizen can still defend the notion that an unborn human being has no rights that an older person is bound to respect."  "How long can we sustain our commitment to freedom if we continue to deny the very foundation of freedom--life--for the most vulnerable human beings?"

Ryan on same-sex "marriage":  "I believe that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and I have heard from many of the people I represent who are concerned about activist judges abusing their power and rewriting our society's definition of marriage."

Given Joe Biden's support for what his Church has identified as intrinsic evils persistently against the common good, and given Paul Ryan's position consistent with the indisputable and unchangeable teachings of his Church on these issues, it seems that what is involved is not a "Tale of Two Catholics," but rather a tale of one Catholic and one . . . well, something considerably less than Catholic.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

Why does Obama want doctors overworked and underpaid? Watch

Image of An astounding 25% of all active physicians in America are refusing to participate in Obamacare.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An incredible number of doctors nationwide are refusing to participate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama's largest and most decisive act while in the White House. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - More than 214,000 doctors nationwide will not ... continue reading


Democrats are expected to hurt as Republicans sweep through Congress and local legislatures Watch

Image of Republicans are expected to cement their majority in the House of Representatives, while in the Senate they are expected to gain a majority.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The 2014 Midterm election may give Republicans a historic opportunity to take control of a record number of state legislatures across the country, made possible by America's increasing dissatisfaction with President Obama and Democrats-who have been eager to ... continue reading


THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC IS DEAD - The new way politicians take bribes and cut you out of politics Watch

Image of The American Republic has been destroyed after decades of apathy and corruption.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Political corruption in the United States has never been worse. Although members of Congress are not allowed to accept bribes or gifts, they have found a loophole in their own laws they exploit to cash in. Instead of being bought directly, members of Congress, as ... continue reading


Children in world's most affluent countries plunged into poverty after crisis Watch

Image of Budget cuts have had a negative impact on children, particularly in Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Greece and Portugal.

By Karrie Kehoe, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The global economic crisis has plunged 2.6 million children into poverty in the world's most affluent countries, with children in Ireland, Latvia and Greece among the hardest hit, a new UNICEF report showed. LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Increases in child ... continue reading


Black Democrats turn against Obama in powerful video. It's not the Republicans or the Tea Party -- it's predatory blacks Watch

Image of Blacks are tired of promises and corruption. The problem is black leadership.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Black Chicago activists have criticized Obama and other black leaders, saying that every black community across the country is being used by Democrats. "Folks are in an abusive black leadership relationship," one angry man said in the clip. "My life has been hurt by ... continue reading


Another six states now recognize same-sex marriage after Supreme Court ruling Watch

Image of The U.S. government has recognized same-sex

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The federal government has continued to increase its recognition of same-sex marriage, granting protected status and extending federal benefits to couples in six more states. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Attorney General Eric Holder announced the news on ... continue reading


Pew Research reveals Latinos growing as a group, but political power is low Watch

Image of A Pew Report shows that Latinos are weakly represented in the current midterm.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

When viewed by the numbers, Latinos are becoming an important demographic in American politics. While Latinos have always been an important group in the American cultural tapestry, only recently have their collective numbers risen to make them a substantial political ... continue reading


Will the Bush legacy live on with Jeb? Or will painful memories haunt the family and the GOP? Watch

Image of While many may be wary of another Bush candidacy, it appears the whole Bush clan is behind a Jeb Bush 2016 bid.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The 2014 midterm is right around the corner, but already rumors are rumbling about the roster of potential 2016 presidential candidates. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While many Republicans want, or have thought highly of, Mitt Romney running for a third time, ... continue reading


Comrade Hillary Clinton astounds - says businesses don't create jobs Watch

Image of Clinton's claim was delivered during a speech for Martha Coakley.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hillary Clinton has stunned listeners with the amazing proclamation that corporations and businesses don't create jobs. This leaves many Americans to wonder where their jobs came from instead. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At a rally in Boston, Hillary Clinton ... continue reading


More people than ever before renouncing their United States citizenship Watch

Image of The growing number of renunciations by U.S. citizens and permanent residents is linked to a five-year enforcement campaign against U.S. taxpayers who have undeclared offshore accounts.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With 776 names on the Treasury Department list published last week for the third quarter of 2014, more people than ever before have renounced their citizenship in the United States. There are substantial numbers of people to renounce their U.S. citizenship or end ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Philippians 1:1-11
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 Alleluia! I give thanks to Yahweh with all my ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 14:1-6
1 Now it happened that on a Sabbath day he had gone ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 31st, 2014 Image

St. Wolfgang
October 31: Wolfgang (d. 994) + Bishop and reformer. Born in Swabia, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter