Recently, my wife and I went to visit some relatives of hers who are generally Catholic, and some of those are seriously practicing Catholics. One of the latter said that she was in favor of Obama, the radically pro-abortion candidate; the one who also voted against the prohibition of partial-birth abortion, perhaps the most barbaric procedure done in the recent West.
So, how can this relative, and so many other rank-and-file Catholics, support radically pro-abortion candidates. Well, excuses abound. One of the most commonly heard is the one about not being a one-issue voter. But abortion is different than whether we should put this million dollars into road construction or into Medicare. This is because those kinds of issues are prudential, and different people can have differing views on these, both of which are moral.
When I was in Catholic grammar school, I learned, and again many more times, that one is not permitted to perform an evil act, even if it would save the whole world. The fact that abortion is clearly evil has been explained in countless Church pronouncements and written about by numerous theologians. The bishops themselves have issued statements and booklets like Faithful Citizenship, which explain the moral obligations of Catholic citizens rather well. But much of this presumes that the faithful actually read. The people in my true example read only regular newspapers. To my knowledge, they never have even brought home a diocesan newspaper. The only books in the house are on the subject of music. This means that the teaching of the Church on abortion must come from the pulpit. Ordinary Catholics must be told what to do, because the do not read!
In many dioceses, however, this subject, and many other controversial subjects with moral implications, are never mentioned from the pulpit. It is easy for priests in liberal areas to tell people to love God, or help the poor, or pray. But if a priest tells them that they can’t support a pro-abortion candidate, or that they should not use artificial birth control, or have pre-marital sex, or if they are divorced and remarried outside the Church, they cannot receive communion, there would be a rebellion.
(Here’s the economics part)
Many diocesan priests see their assignments as a sinecure. They will do anything required of them—give sacraments; explain the gospel, which after all, does not discuss many of the 21st Century controversial issues; run a soup kitchen, etc. All of these are good and part of their calling. But rocking the boat; fulfilling a prophetic function when the congregation might complain to the bishop, give the priest a hard time, or, God forbid, decrease the collection money; out of the question. They are making a cost-benefit analysis: what is the benefit to me if I go over the line and preach what the parishioners refuse to hear? The cost will surely be greater that the benefit to me. One of the reasons for this is that the priest is not sure of the support of the overly-sensitive-to-bad-publicity bishop, who would punish the loyal priest by ending the sinecure. While priests are not usually “fired,” they can be demoted in a way by being sent to parishes in bad neighborhoods, or dying parishes, or very rural ones. A St. John Vianney would welcome such a thing, but many diocesan priests would not. I am not picking on diocesan priests, but order priests, Dominicans, Franciscans and the like, can be transferred anywhere at any time, and are somewhat used to this. Being a priest requires courage. Standing up for the truth, though in a prudent way, requires the desire to preach truth even when it is not popular, and be ready to take the losses. A follower of Christ can do no less.
The remedy for the rank-and-file Catholic support for pro-abortion candidates is for the bishops to insist that the subject be preached frequently from the pulpit, according to a paradigm issued by the bishop, and an assurance from the bishop that he will not listen to the complaints that come from angered parishioners. The cost-benefit analysis then will be that the benefit to the priest will be a commendation from the bishop for the courage of the priest, even if the parishioners complain and the collections decline. Priests cannot be judged on the amount of money they bring in, or on the level of complaints due to their orthodoxy.
As a last example, a friend of mine was a new principle at a Catholic grammar school. He insisted that the teachers teach the Catholic Faith in its entirety. The pastor was encouraging but timid. When the subject of divorce and re-marriage outside the Church came up in religion classes, all the parents who were in this very condition were furious at the nerve of the teachers (with the principle’s support) who taught the truth. The pastor kept his mouth shut and my friend was fired by the diocese. I rest my case.