Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus, is undeniably a polarizing figure. Directing what he calls “the strong right arm” of the Church, he is a champion for many conservative Catholics for many of the same reasons the Catholic left considers him deeply problematic.
One major, longstanding reason for such polarization is his prioritization of abortion as a uniquely important political issue. At the Knights’ international convention last week he suggested no other issue could outweigh abortion in our political considerations, given that it is “killing on a massive scale.”
Anderson also appeared to claim that Catholics may not vote for a pro-choice politician.
“It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing,” he said. “It is time to stop creating excuses for voting for pro-abortion politicians.”
His statements have drawn the ire of left-leaning Catholics such as Anthony Annett at DotCommonweal. Annett asks “Why is abortion such a unique category?” and expertly demonstrates problems with appeals to concepts like non-negotiability and intrinsic evil.
But Anderson make his reasoning quite clear as to why he thinks abortion deserves unique consideration: millions and millions and millions of horrific killings. One million every year.
On this score, Anderson is surely correct. No other issue comes close to the importance of abortion because no other issue is dealing with the actual, real-life slaughter of the most vulnerable on this scale. These are children who, Pope Francis reminds us, have the face of Christ as the paradigmatic example of the least among us.
Though Anderson didn’t mention it, another reason abortion deserves unique standing is because of how many millions of women are explicitly and structurally coerced into it. Abortion on demand was created by men to serve the interests of men. Feminists for Life reminds us that another important evil of abortion is that it violently exploits women as well.
Speaking frankly, the Catholic left (with Annett being a happy exception) has been grossly negligent when it comes to taking the gravity of massive abortion violence seriously.
It’s one thing to acknowledge the complexity of the issues and reject GOP solutions to the problem. But it is quite another to simply sit by in silence as the Democratic party is taken over by what I call “abortion-is-awesome” extremism.
Though Anderson is absolutely correct about the unique status of abortion, he is absolutely incorrect if he is claiming Catholics have a moral obligation to avoid voting for a pro-choice candidate.
Back in February I wrote a piece arguing that Catholics may vote for Bernie Sanders, and much of that argument applies to Hillary Clinton as well. This is not “making excuses,” but simply following the reasoning of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who in his previous role as head of the CDF, said:
“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 [with evil], which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”
I won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton, but my disagreement with a pro-life Catholic who does won’t be over whether a faithful Catholic has a duty to refuse to vote for her. No such duty exists. Our disagreement is about whether proportionate reasons exist for voting for her.
Here are just a few possible arguments that a reasonable person could easily believe serve as proportionate reasons:
- Donald Trump is a ridiculously dangerous, child-like egomaniac who cannot be trusted with the presidency, and voting Hillary Clinton is the best way to stop him.
- Donald Trump is a fake pro-lifer who cannot be trusted to appoint pro-life justices or to make protecting prenatal children a priority.
- The Republican party is a fake pro-life party which, at least at the federal level, has proven over decades that it cannot be trusted to appoint pro-life justices or to make protecting prenatal children a priority.
- The Republican strategy of banning abortion won’t stop people from getting abortions any more than prohibition’s strategy of banning alcohol stopped people from drinking alcohol.
- Given the options before us, the candidate which will save the most prenatal human lives is Hillary Clinton given her support for social programs (paid family leave, help with child care, etc.) which make it easier for women to choose to keep their children.
Again, I disagree with this line of argument. I think Clinton’s capitulation to the “abortion-is-awesome” crowd is so fundamentally heinous and dangerous that supporting her election and that of her party is fundamentally at odds with those of us who see the face of Christ in abortion’s millions of victims.
I instead support the creation of a new pro-life party, a matter about which I’ll be writing later this month in light of Crux readers’ feedback.
But a reasonable person—and a faithful Catholic—may certainly disagree.