Pope Benedict XVI: Catholics Cannot Vote for Hillary Clinton-Truth! & Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

Pope Benedict XVI supposedly wrote in a “blistering” letter in 2004 that Catholics cannot in good conscience vote for pro-abortion candidates like Hillary Clinton.

The Truth:

It’s true that Pope Benedict XVI wrote about Catholics supporting pro-choice causes in  2004, but the church’s position isn’t that Catholics can’t morally support pro-choice candidates like Hillary Clinton.

rumor appears to have started with Tell Me Now, a website that publishes a combination of factual, fictional and opinion-based articles with an anti-liberal slant, with a story appearing under the headline, “Pope Benedict XVI Forbids Catholics from Voting for Hillary!”

The story cites a 2004 letter written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, titled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion.” The letter addresses whether those who support issues like abortion and euthanasia can receive Holy Communion.

The letter doesn’t name Hillary Clinton or any other candidate by name, and Tell Me Now selectively edited the letter to make it appear that Pope Benedict XVI was specifically talking about Cahtolics supporting political candidates:

The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a “grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. […] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’” (no. 73). Christians have a “grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. […] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it” (no. 74).

Pope Benedict XVI advised priests in the letter to meet with parishioners who support or vote in favor of laws permitting abortion or euthanasia and to instruct them about the church’s stance on these issue. The letter says priests should warn parishioners that they may be denied the Eucharist for continuing their support:

Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

Cardinal Mario Popedda, the retired head of the Apostolic Signature (known as the Vatican’s supreme court), said in 2005 that it would be “formal cooperation in evil” to vote for a candidate solely because of  their support of abortion or euthanasia — but that’s rarely, if ever, the case because decisions are far more nuanced than that, Fr. Charles Irvin wrote:

“I would be cautious in applying the word ‘sin,’ which implies intentionality. It would be more accurate to speak of risk or imprudence,” he said.

“Of course, whoever votes for a ‘pro-abortion’ candidate assumes a responsibility, but it does not necessarily involve sin as an immediate consequence,” he said.

The cardinal said a Catholic voter might choose such a pro-abortion candidate as a “lesser evil, when there are no candidates who respond more fully to his scale of values. He might choose him, let’s say, for other aspects of his (political) program that the voter supports.”

Catholics who do vote for such a politician might carry out their own pro-life responsibilities in other ways, for example, by working against abortion through political or cultural initiatives, he said.

“I think that rarely or never is there a candidate who presents himself solely on the basis of his support for abortion. And I think it’s very unlikely that a voter would vote for him solely for this reason,” he said.

For his part, Pope Francis declined to endorse either Clinton or Trump in the election. Rather, he advised Catholic voters to “study the issues, pray and then vote your conscience,” the Associated Press reports:

Francis was asked Sunday en route home from Azerbaijan how he would counsel the American faithful who are being asked to choose between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

Francis said he would never interfere in an election campaign, saying “the people are sovereign.”

“I’ll just say this: Study the proposals well, pray, and choose in conscience.”

So, while the Catholic church’s views on support for pro-choice candidates appears to be open for discussion, claims that church leaders have said Catholics cannot morally support pro-life candidates solely for that reason are false.

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Collected on: 10/21/2016

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