No, you don’t have to vote

October 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

I’ve posted about the Catechism’s rather mild exhortation to vote before.   Quite a few people seem to interpret both the Catechism and Faithful Citizenship as if they constitute a categorical command to vote always and everywhere, no matter what historical cul-de-sac we happen to find ourselves in.  Sure Faithful Citizenship is just a USCCB paper of dubious Magisterial status, so we can ignore it; but the Catechism after all is a universal teaching document.  It applies to the citizens of Banana Republics, dictatorships with only one name on the ballot, the good old U S of A, and everywhere in between.  So golly, isn’t it dissent from the Magisterium to (gasp) exercise prudential judgement in deciding whether or not to vote for Saddam?

No, it is not.

As the papal encyclical Veritatis Splendour puts it:

In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent.

(Emphasis mine)

No, you cannot invoke Magisterial documents as a way of avoiding the question of whether or not to vote, and whom to vote for.  It is always our task to use right reason to verify that a positive precept – including the positive precept to vote as a derivative throwaway example of a civic act, a commonplace  example of the general precept to act for the common good which is not limited to the three examples that the Catechism places in the same sentence – applies right here and right now.

If you don’t agree, we can play the time-honored Catholic game of “my document has greater Magisterial authority than your document.”   But rather than playing ping-pong on a hermeneutic of discontinuity, I suggest that it would be wiser to interpret the lesser-authority Catechism in the light of the greater-authority Encyclical.

§ 3 Responses to No, you don’t have to vote

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