Very few priests have been willing to publicly oppose the champions of the unborn holocaust. Long gone are the days of St. Ambrose, who refused Emperor Theodosius Holy Communion and forced him to do penance for the massacre of the Thessalonians. In our day, the massacre is on the level of the Nazi holocaust multiplied beyond counting, yet still many priests and bishops do not imitate St. Ambrose, instead administering the Sacraments to the heralds of child murder. Indeed, as Italian journalist Sandro Magister observed a few years ago, even Pope John Paul II—otherwise a great defender of unborn children—publicly gave Holy Communion to Francesco Rutelli in 2001, who actively campaigned for laws permitting child murder before and after this.
Gone, too, are the days of Ven. Pius XII, who instructed Italians in 1948 that they must vote to oppose the Communists on pain of sin, understanding the real threat posed by the Marxist takeover. Now, so many priests think that they are betraying their priesthood if they simply identify Marxism as Marxism and child murder as child murder. Priests are afraid of politics, as if the thing itself is the pollution of sin.
Meanwhile, the laity, whose domain is to rule and govern in the realm of politics, are fighting other laity. Catholics who are pro-life and pro-family are locked in battle with other supposed Catholics who support child murder and other grave intrinsic evils. Meanwhile, it appears that the majority of priests give Holy Communion to all, essentially indiscriminately, deaf to the sins crying to heaven for vengeance. Yet we must not only blame the priests, as if they, too, were not raised in Catholic families whose fathers allowed Marxists and Feminists to gain more ground over the hearts of men.
The Memorandum from the Holy See
In 2004, the legacy of John F. Kennedy’s public betrayal of Catholicism came to the fore once again when the ostensibly Catholic John Kerry, a politician unwilling to oppose the murder of unborn children, was nominated for the presidency. Led by then-archbishop Raymond Burke, a minority of bishops sought to oppose Kerry in his support of child murder by rightly refusing him Holy Communion. To his great credit, Cardinal Ratzinger, then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, intervened with a doctrinally clear memorandum outlining the duties of priests in regard to the Blessed Sacrament and the Catholics who support grave evils: they are to be denied Holy Communion for the sake of their own soul and the public good of the faithful.
But in lock step with the long-conflicted legacy of American bishops, the evil McCarrick and his protégé Wilton Gregory (the current archbishop of Washington DC) engineered opposition to Ratzinger and his salutary measures on behalf of the faith. This effectively nullified any good effects for the Church in America and ensured that Catholic politicians who publicly opposed Catholicism would find no quarrel with priests.
Ratzinger’s intervention, however, summed up what the best of Moral theologians had already said about Catholics voting for politicians who support grave evils. It is a cooperation in evil. This cooperation can only be permitted under very strict conditions, that is, “in the presence of proportionate reasons.” Let’s break down this terminology, since it is rarely understood following the collapse of moral theology.
To illustrate using the Fifth Commandment, we know that murder is the deliberate killing of an innocent life, and hence the term “abortion” is a false euphemism. But does the Fifth Commandment prohibit killing per se as an intrinsic evil? Catholic moral theology for centuries has maintained that if there are “proportionate reasons,” taking a life is possible without any sin whatsoever. The three conditions most commonly understood where this is possible are self-defense, just war, and capital punishment.
In self-defense, an assailant threatens the life or property of another individual who kills him to avoid this grave loss. This is permitted only if the threat to his life is “proportionate” to the use of lethal force to defense one’s self (II-II q64 a7). In other words, if the assailant simply threatens a small injury or a small loss of property, lethal force in self-defense is sinful. This is because such a minor loss is not sufficiently proportionate to justify the death of the assailant. In such a case the just man should resist the assailant, but would break the Fifth Commandment if he were to kill him.
In a similar way the just war responds proportionately to a threat to national sovereignty and loss of life (II-II q40 a1). A war cannot be waged for anything but proportionate reasons—no trivial matter of aggrandizement of paltry earthly kingdoms will suffice. As Augustine notes, such reasons are not proportionate and thus are “rightly condemned.” Proportionate reasons must be truly grave evils threatening the common good, such as have been seen infamously from the evils of the 20th Century, the century of worldwide bloodshed.
Capital punishment, though it has recently become controversial within the Church, follows from the same basic moral principles as self-defense and just war. In the words, again, of Ven. Pope Pius XII, “Even in the case of the death penalty the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. Rather public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime, deprived himself of his own right to life.” (Address to the First International Congress of Histopathology of the Nervous System, 14 September 1952)
The Unborn Holocaust
But now we come to our current politics in 2020, and once again, a self-proclaimed Catholic is running for President of the most powerful country in the world. He has thrown his full support behind the holocaust of unborn children, and many Catholic laity and even priests have publicly given their support to him, even though a few priests and two bishops form a courageous minority opposition. Many Catholics — including priests — will dismiss their moral obligation altogether. But for those who wish to avoid sin by means of cooperation with evil, a vote for such a man would only be possible if proportionate reasons exist. If proportionate reasons do not exist, then such a vote is — and it is paramount to stress this — a sinful cooperation in evil.
Thus, the question is raised: what proportionate reasons could exist which could compare with millions of children murdered and dying without baptism? One searches the history books in vain for an era of blood that can ever compare to the gravity of this evil. Pius XII strenuously urged Catholics to vote against the Communists in Italy, and now, as Brian McCall observes, we face a much worse evil—the globalized commercial machine of death, killing children as frequently as sins of the flesh damn souls.
Ratzinger’s memorandum identified the parameters of proportionate reasons by showing how child murder is indeed “grave” in comparison with other issues where “a legitimate diversity of opinion” can exist. This is the key to understanding what proportionate reasons are: a debatable issue like immigration or tax policy is not proportionate to child murder. McCarrick’s legacy still haunts the American Church in more ways that the abuse crisis. His opposition to Ratzinger directly undermined the Church’s opposition to Kerry’s support of child murder, and it undermines the moral urgency of the Catholic vote again today.
Timothy S. Flanders is the author of Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics. In 2019 he founded The Meaning of Catholic, a lay apostolate. He holds a degree in classical languages from Grand Valley State University and has done graduate work with the Catholic University of Ukraine. He lives in the Midwest with his wife and four children.