Catholic votes should reflect the non-negotiables of life

30 Apr 2008

By The Record

VERONA, Italy ( – When a Catholic goes to vote, he should take into account that there are "non-negotiable principles," affirmed the director of the Verona-based Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory for the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Stefano Fontana, in an Italian-language statement, affirmed that among these non-negotiables are the values of life, family, and freedom of education and religion.
The observatory collaborates with bishops’ conferences and other ecclesiastical organs, as well as educational centers and international agencies, in promoting social doctrine. It shares the aims of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Fontana asked if Catholics, either as politicians or as voters, are willing to compromise these principles, noting that they "express fundamental values of reason and faith to build a society respectful of the dignity of the human person" and thus "cannot be the subject of negotiation."
But in every election year, Fontana lamented, these principles are questioned, because some see "politics as the art of the possible."
How should this situation be dealt with, Fontana asked. And he responded that there are certain issues that "do not leave room for compromises."
"The right to life, to be conceived and not produced, to be born in a family," he said, "it is not understandable in these cases what a compromise could consist in."
Speaking then about the "values of the others," Fontana explained, "The ‘values’ that do not respect the fundamental principles of natural moral law are not values."
Regarding the affirmation that if politicians all affirmed absolute values, there would be no room for negotiation, the scholar affirmed that "it is not true that by referring to absolute values, a clash necessarily arises."
In first place, he explained, because many questions are not absolute. And secondly, "because subscribing to absolute values does not mean wanting to forcefully impose them."
On the contrary, Fontana continued, "precisely the absolute value of the dignity of the person guarantees a peaceful and respectful dialogue."
"Clashes are born from renouncing absolute values so that everything becomes possible, even violence," he added.
Many distinguish between personal and public life, and justify compromises in this way, Fontana noted. But, he said, "the distinction between personal convictions and their public expression" does not count for everything. "When we’re dealing with actions that deeply wound the dignity of the human person there can be no distinction between personal conviction and political action."
Thus, Fontana affirmed, public officials should not silence their consciences and recalled how Pope John Paul II proposed St. Thomas More as patron of politicians, "Conscientious objection has — and will have more and more — a great political significance, and in certain cases, conscientious objection demands even leaving posts."
Responding to the idea that conscientious objection will bring Catholics to leave politics to those without values, Fontana affirmed that "it is not licit to do good by way of evil, and actions that are absolutely evil should never be carried out."
Moreover, he affirmed, applying religious convictions in the public realm is not a false blurring of separate realities, since the principles in question are based in natural moral law, "precepts of reason, afterward reinforced, if you like, by faith."
Fontana thus concluded that "it corresponds to the laypeople involved in politics to work to permit the political application of non-negotiable principles, freeing themselves from the destiny of the compromise."
If these principles don’t exist, he added, "The common good is not possible because nothing would impede the discrimination of man against man."
"The common good is not the least common evil," Fontana said. "He who aims to impose a democracy of compromise toward decline, sustaining that every absolute value is in itself violent, applies the same reactionary terrorism that he wants to combat.
"New laypeople and new Catholics are urgently needed, capable of dialoguing not to limit themselves but to enrich, not to adapt themselves to what exists, but to propose ambitious goals."