Paul Ryan and Joe Biden: A Tale of Two Catholics?
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.
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.
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