Abortion isn’t the only issue: the argument for moral equivalence
By Phil Lawler | October 13, 2012
In an America magazine commentary—with the curious title, “Don’t Vote for the ‘Better Catholic’”—Father James Martin, SJ, comments on the Biden-Ryan debate. His argument is a familiar one: that abortion is not the only moral issue for Catholic voters. But he makes the argument in a way that exposes its weakness.
Let me quote the key paragraph in full. This is, again, a reaction to the vice-presidential debate:
Their commentary last night (and beforehand) also points out that no one party fully embraces the entirety of Catholic teaching. And for those of you who would say that abortion is the only “intrinsic evil” that is at issue in this campaign, I would point you to Blessed John Paul II’s great encyclical Veritatis Splendor, in which he speaks of a great many intrinsic evils, many of them often overlooked today, including “whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit.”
Perfectly true. Subhuman living conditions, slavery, prostitution, etc. are intrinsically evil. If you find a politician who openly advocates subhuman living conditions, who calls for arbitrary imprisonments, who attends fundraisers for the human-trafficking industry, who endorses government subsidies for prostitution, who demands legal protection for slavery, you cannot in good conscience vote for him. That would be as bad as voting for a politician who supports legal, government-funded abortion.
So there’s a valid argument for moral equivalence. The politicians who favor unrestricted abortion are no worse than the politicians who favor slavery and human trafficking. Except in this one respect: the latter don’t pose much of a threat to contemporary America, because they don’t exist.