Disappointed with Bishop Barron’s Article on Catholic Voting

by Steve Ray on October 30, 2020

I just read Bishop Barron’s article/blog concerning voting, and frankly, I was very disappointed. Usually, I try to give the benefit of the doubt and avoid criticizing brothers in the Lord, especially bishops, but this was too much.

He contradicts or at least minimalizes what the United States Council of Catholic Bishops said concerning the priority of the abortion issue. They stated, “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.”

Instead of being clear on this issue, he blows smoke into the air and obfuscates, confusing uninformed Catholics. He leaves Catholics confused and uncertain as to their moral obligations without any practical direction or moral instruction.

As much as I appreciate most of what Bishop Barron writes, this piece was a huge disappointment. I consider it misrepresenting the Catholic position and confusing people in the process.

Bishop Strickland had a few things to say to Bishop Barron in this article “Bishop Strickland Schools Bishop Barron on the Truths of the Faith”. Also I have provided (below) the response of apologist John Martinoni to Bishop Barron’s article (used with his permission).

For a very clear assessment without the confusion and moral uncertainty, read this excellent article by Archbisop Lucas here.

Crisis Magazine weighs in HERE.

John Martignoni’s Response

I would take issue with Bishop Barron on a couple of points:

     1)  He seems to imply, and many other Catholics outright say it, that the Republican Party does not line up with Catholic social teaching on issues pertaining to “concern for the underprivileged, for the migrant and refugee, and for the environment, as well as opposition to capital punishment and to all forms of racism.”  I have to mostly disagree.  I would like for someone to tell me where the Republican platform, or President Trump, or any Republican senator or congressman has said they are not concerned about the underprivileged, or the migrant and refugee, or for the environment, or not that they are not opposed to racism? Outside of capital punishment, I don’t know of anything that Republicans advocate for that can be said to be intrinsically evil.  But, even with capital punishment, there are folks from both parties on either side of that debate. 

     Also, there is much debate as to whether or not capital punishment can even be said to be an intrinsic evil.  There are those who say, rather, it is a prudential judgment of recent popes that there is no need for capital punishment in our day and age.  Since the Church has indeed taught in the past that capital punishment was a legitimate means of punishment for the state to use, I would have to lean heavily towards the position that it is not an intrinsic evil, even though I am, personally, opposed to the death penalty.  Also, I would have to agree with Bishop Barron when he says in that same article: “…the number of those threatened by abortion and euthanasia is far greater than the number of those under threat of capital punishment. Sometimes people will say that all lives are equally sacred, but in this context, that observation is something of a red herring. For the relevant question is not which lives are more sacred—those of the unborn, the elderly, the poor, the migrant, [the incarcerated]—but which lives are more direly and directly threatened.”

     2) He seems to be saying that it’s okay for voters to put matters of prudential judgment on the same level as matters of intrinsic evils.  Yet, the two simply do not equate.  He says: “Each [voter] would have to say some version of ‘despite his unacceptable position, I will vote for him because, in prudence, I have determined that other commitments of his and/or his own character counter-balances his objectionable opinion.’   Does this lead us into somewhat murky waters? Frankly, yes, but that’s necessarily the case when we’re dealing not with matters of principle but matters of prudence.”

     He does not mention any difference here between matters of prudential judgment and matters of intrinsic evil, leaving the reader to also not make any such distinction.  So, “Hey, I disagree with Candidate A because he supports abortion, but I’m going to vote for him anyway because I disagree with Candidate’s B position on illegal immigration, even though he is opposed to abortion.”  Abortion is an intrinsic evil; one’s position on how to best deal with illegal immigration is a matter of prudential judgment – there is no moral equivalence between the two positions.

     And, he even seems to be saying that not liking a person’s character justifies one’s vote for a pro-abortion candidate over a pro-life candidate.  Let’s see…not liking Candidate A’s character on the one hand vs. Candidate B advocating, promoting, passing laws for, and profiting from (through campaign donations) the deaths of up to one million babies a year.  Uhhh…no.  

     When it comes to matters of prudential judgment vs. matters of intrinsic evil, that’s where those two questions I asked in my last newsletter come in to play:

     Let’s say that the candidate you are voting for, instead of being a staunch supporter of abortion, and a supporter of the laws that allow for the killing of more than one million unborn babies each year, let’s say that instead of supporting abortion, that candidate was a staunch supporter of laws that allowed for the lynching of one million black men a year.  Could you still vote for that candidate?  Would their position on healthcare or education or immigration outweigh their position on lynching?  

      Or, let’s say, instead of supporting abortion, that candidate was a staunch supporter of laws that allowed for the gassing of one million Jews a year.  Could you still vote for that candidate?  Would their position on healthcare or education or immigration outweigh their position on gassing Jews?  

      Let’s be honest…you answered a strong, resounding, “NO!!!” to each of those questions, didn’t you?  You could not and would not vote for a candidate who supported the lynching of even one black man, much less one million black men, no matter how “right” he or she was on the other issues.  You could not and would not vote for a candidate who supported the gassing of even one Jew, much less one million Jews, no matter how right he or she was on the other issues.  

      How, then, can one vote for a candidate who supports abortion “rights” and who supports laws that allow for the killing of over one million unborn children a year?!  The only way you can do that is if you do not believe the unborn child is a human being deserving of full protection under the law.  The only way you can do that is by devaluing the life of the unborn child.  The only way you can do that is by worshipping at the altar of the god of choice, rather than the altar of the God of Life.

Please visit John Martignoni‘s site here and consider contributing to him.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas M Govern November 1, 2020 at 3:56 PM

I get Bishop Barron's commentaries on the Gospels every day. There has been a change in his comments over the last half year or so. I cannot describe it well but, I have a difficult time following some of his commentaries.

STEVE RAY HERE: You’re not the only one Tom. When he champions LGBT priest Fr. James Martin, and lauds the pope‘s choice of Archbishop Gregory to be a Cardinal, he has become suspect to a lot of people. His article about the election seems to me to be written to give cover to never-Trumpers who want a clear conscience is clear to vote Democrat with an popular bishop’s approval.

PATRICK KELLY November 2, 2020 at 6:12 AM

When I read Bishop Barron’s comments I thought almost exactly the same as you, He seems to be coming from a biased position and is getting his facts from media and the Democrat talking points that conform with that bias, I want to go to war with my Bishop (Nothing said on the abortion issue) read Bishop Barron’s comments then to your link.
I think you are not completing the full picture of where our country is heading, Cardinal Francis George said, “I expect to die in my bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die in the public square”
Do you think Cardinal George was concerned about the Republican/Conservative radical position on prayer in school, or keeping our motto of “In God WeTrust'”
I love Tibet and its people and have been there often I have collected artifacts from destroyed monasteries that were burned and looted and collected pieces of statues that were torn down by the “Young Guard.” They were encouraged by their government and they knew it was necessary to build a better society in its place they were happy to do it; there were many martyred in the public square. We are headed that way, why is only a few of the religious speaking out? Especially people like Bishop Barron; as Catholics we look forward for the opportunity to die for our faith, to be a Martyr – actually that appears to a logical option what are the other options?

Steve Ray November 2, 2020 at 8:05 AM

A friend wrote and I post anonymously:
Regarding Bishop Barron, I , too had a lot of trouble with his article. Seemed like he was trying to coddle up to whomever wins with just enough to say ” Hey, I was with you all the way”. Very disappointing to me personally because I jumped on the Barron bandwagon in a big way. But lately I’ve come to the conclusion that I like him as an historian more than I like him as a theologian. But then I think, if I can’t trust him as a theologian, can I trust him as an historian? Anyway, it’s both gratifying and disappointing to see my head scratching doubts borne out by the likes of you and others. I’m gratified that smart people perceive things in the same way as I. But I’m disappointed that Bishop Barron seems to have left the reservation. Alas and alack!

Frank November 2, 2020 at 8:17 AM

How much money does the USCCB receive from the government for aiding immigrants? I recall watching USCCB meeting a few years back where Archbishop Schnurr gave a report on this very topic as he was leading that sub-committee. Tighter borders equal less money. No president Republican or Democrat has closed the borders to stop immigration. Republicans focus on using and reforming the current legal process while Democrats focus on open borders. That is the difference. I would think the bishops would be fine with a legal process that ensures not only immigration but care for those immigrants. Sadly, it seems money is the motivation

Dan Mooney November 2, 2020 at 11:16 AM

Bishop Barren wants to be a Cardinal someday. He won’t get there if he appears rigid. Thanks for the great articles!

John November 3, 2020 at 9:39 AM

When the question at stake is the very survival of Democracy and Democratic norms, it is equally valid to say that voting to maintain Democracy itself is a morally defendable position. Loss of Democracy is what led to the extermination of Jews in Europe and the enslavement and lynching of Blacks in the US, not abortion.

STEVE RAY HERE: Bravo! Well said…

Leslie November 4, 2020 at 11:53 AM

This isn't really relevant to this article and doesn't need to be posted, but – I am sitting here being very distressed about the election and of the probable cheating that is going on. I just read that a county in Michigan, Antrim, posted results of 60% or so for Biden; but that it is a deep red county and went 60% for Trump last time, and the numbers may have been "transposed." And also in Michigan over 100,000 votes were posted and absolutely every one of them was for Biden.

I've been praying, and praying; and trying to remember that the Church has survived worse times. But the babies who will lose what little protection President Trump was able to give them; and the attacks on our freedom of religion—it is horrifying that so many people in our country (and so many Catholics) are willing to vote for someone who sees no wrong in killing babies and in forcing people to violate their consciences.

STEVE RAY HERE: You are so correct. Dems are dumping ballots and skewing the election. Trump is silenced on Twitter. We are watching an attempt to take over our country. Scary times. BUT, there are good people fighting this and we still have a clear road to victory, but it is hard to fight dishonestly and cheating.

Pete November 9, 2020 at 1:15 PM

If my voting for Life is a big disappointment to Bishop Barron then all I can say is I’m proud to be a disappointment.

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