The Instigator
Con (against)
9 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

It is morally permissible for Catholics to vote for Obama

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/28/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,800 times Debate No: 26667
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (3)




I will take the Con position. Opponent may begin in this first round.

The only definition I think is worth pursuing is "Catholic".

Catholics: Those baptized in and who affirm the totality of the teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The ordinary rules: no trolling, semantics or general douchebaggery.

I would like my opponent to be a pro-Obama Catholic. If not, then please assume Catholic viewpoint.


I'm not a Catholic but I have no problem assuming such a viewpoint. I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Socialpinko for taking part in this debate. I beg his pardon for taking so long to answer and will be quick with my opening arguments.

In making a decision as to which candidate to support in a general election there are a great many issues that must be examined. In order to help Catholics make a decision in line with Catholic teaching, His Holiness pope Benedict XVI offers a list of four principles with which we must judge any and all candidates for public office. These are:

1. Respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death,
2. The family built upon marriage between a man and a woman,
3. The freedom to educate one's children
4. The promotion of the common good in all its forms

He ends by saying "These values are not negotiable." (1)

Beyond that, it is up to a Catholics prudential judgement to see which candidate falls in line with the common good better than the other. On these issues, however, if a candidate does not fulfill the requirement, a Catholic cannot in conscience give this person his vote.

Some contend that, as neither candidate with chances of winning fulfills all five, one must make a prudential judgment about which is more important and who fulfills those. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith begs to differ:

"It must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility towards the common good." (2)

So, now that principles have been set out let's see how Obama fares on the four non-negotiable issues.

1. Respect for life from conception to natural death. I have not as of yet heard Obama's position on Euthanasia, however he has been the most aggressive advocate of abortion the White House has ever seen. He voted against the Born Alive Act, which would force doctors to provide health care to infants born alive in a botched abortion, he did away with the Mexico City policy and has advocated abortion consistently every time the issue has come up. Not to mention the inclusion of abortifacients in the HHS mandate.

2. The family built on marriage between a man and a woman. The president has recently changed his position on marriage and has decided his administration will no longer defend DOMA (defense of marriage act).

3. Freedom to educate ones children: Not as much of an issue in the US as in Europe as far as I can tell, so I guess we'll give him a pass on this one.

4. Promotion of the common good: The economy and promotion of civil society all fall into this category. It is the one that is most susceptible to prudential judgment. Although many are making the case against Obama almost exclusively from this point, it would be a matter of legitimate diversity of opinion amongst Catholics (if it weren't for the fact that both the life issues and marriage count as grave attacks on the Common Good).

Add to all of this the HHS mandate which his administration is being sued over by many Catholic diocese and organizations (3) This has been such a spectacular attack on the religious freedom of Catholics that every single diocese has spoken against the mandate (4). This is the greatest unanimity amongst Catholic bishops in the US since the first bishop of Baltimore decided to put jam rather than honey on his toast one morning. To vote for someone who enacts and supports objective evils, regardless of who his opponent is, is gravely sinful and not permissible for a Catholic.


(1) Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis

(2) Doctrinal note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in the Public Life

(3) Catholics sue Obama

(4) Bishops speak out against the Mandate



I'd like to thank Con for starting this interesting debate topic. I only hope that I don't embarrass myself, seeing as my opponent seems to be very well versed in Catholic theology. But enough of my awesome humbleness, on to Con's points.

Con's arguments pertain to a specific guideline of issues which any candidate ought to stick to as close as possible, dictated by the current Pope. Obviously per the setup by Con, I won't argue with the truth value of any of these tenets, but only with whether they legitimately invalidate a Catholic vote for Obama.

1. On to Con's first point on respect for human life (with an emphasis on foetus life), I don't plan on denying that Obama has certainly made it clear that he is pro-choice. However, Con fails to invoke any causality in Obama's opinion/pre-Presidential actions and the carrying out of abortions. In the United States, abortion has been legally legitimized by the Supreme Court (via Roe v. Wade for the most pat), not by the President. Furthermore, the President has no way to directly repeal this decision. There are two ways to do so: by another Supreme Court decision or by a Constitutional amendment.

Now one could counter that the President is charged with appointing Supreme Court Justices, and so could have influence (albeit indirectly) on the legal legitimisation of abortion. However, as past conservative and anti-abortion Presidents have show, even this is insufficient to repeal Roe v. Wade. There have been many instances since the famous decision where there has been a majority of conservative Judges on the bench (including at current) but never has the ruling been struck down. Out of the conservative Judges on the court at current, (Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito): only Scalia and Thomas have explicitly stated opposition and willingness to overturn it[1][2][3][4]. The other three have either been inconsistent and ambiguous or supportive of the decision.

Therefore, the only way the President could side the bench enough so that it could have a chance of overturning Roe would be if three Judges retired. And this is unlikely given that Kagan, Roberts, Alito, and Sotomayor were only just appointed and Breyer and Ginsburg (two liberals) almost certainly wouldn't retire with a sitting President itching to overturn Roe. I'm afraid that only Kennedy (giving anti-abortionists only three seats at best) or one of the two anti-abortion Judges (Scalia and Thomas) are even possibilities in stepping down, meaning regardless of who the President is, abortion will remain legal in the U.S. Therefore, Obama has no way of altering the legality of abortion, even if he wanted to. The next President will have about as much effect on whether abortion is legal as my opponent.

2. Marriage as between a man and a woman will also not be threatened by the current President, seeing as his official position on marriage still grants that it be left to individual states to decide[6][7]. Obama could be pro- or anti-gay marriage, it still wouldn't mean he would attempt to invoke any reform measures. This means that as on the abortion issue, Obama is in just as much of a position to change these things as anyone else. So since these issues couldn't possibly impact his Presidency, I see no relevance here.

3. Conceded by Con.

4. Conceded, at the very least no argument and acknowledgement of even divide. In Con referencing abortion and marriage, see my points (1) and (2) for full refutation.

HHS Mandate.-- On the contraceptive mandate, there lies within the Act a clear exemption[8]. Religious employers are those which meet the following requirements:

(i)- has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose
(ii)- primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets
(iii)- primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and
(iv)- is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B)[8].

The claim that the HHS mandate infringes on the freedoms of Catholics has been drastically overstated. No religious institution is forced to provide contraceptives to their employees and the Catholic outcry has originated mostly as a result of not fully understanding what the Act.


[1] Scalia's dissent: (
[2] Thomas' dissent: (
[3] Robert's ambiguity: (
[4] Kennedy's affirmation: (
[5] Alito's ambiguity: (
[8] Ibid.
Debate Round No. 2


I am stricken with awe at Pro's superlative humility and am sure he will do a fine job defending his position.

Before moving on to Pro's arguments I will make the clarification that these issues are not dictated by the pope, but rather already part of our faith. These issues are non-negotiable whatever any individual pope says; our current pope simply underscores these particular issues rather than others because they are the ones that are currently in play worldwide. Perhaps in different circumstances we would include human sacrifice and state-funded devil worship.

1. No causality between the president's actions and the carrying out of abortions.

It is not an issue of abolition vs. permission, there are policies which can restrict access to abortion (thereby mitigating an intrinsic evil) and there are policies which expand both access to and the mentality behind abortion (thereby extending it).

To repeal the Mexico City Policy is to allow Federal money to promote abortion outside of the United States. To vote against the bill which would secure medical care for children born alive in botched abortions, even when defeated, is the defense of outright infanticide. This means that decisions taken by the president himself have (or would have had if they had been successful) a direct effect upon the issue of abortion.

As for the Supreme Court justices. The fact that Republicans have failed to appoint justices who would repeal Roe vs. Wade in no way exculpates Obama from appointing judges who would uphold the decision. At most it would be an argument against voting for the Republicans as well. The president has direct responsibility over his supreme court appointments. If he chooses to appoint someone in spite of (or, more probably due to) their support of legalized abortion imposed by the courts, then this is a candidate which a Catholic cannot support in good conscience.

2. The president will not affect Gay Marriage, as this is a State issue.

The president instructed his administration not to defend DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act). This is a direct action that helps those who would redefine marriage. Just as in the case of abortion, however, there is a greater issue than direct action. If the president supports something, this gives that issue public credence and is of tremendous effect even when out of his purview. This is why it is important for congressional candidates when they get the public support and endorsement of the president during their re-election. Electing them is not in his power, but his personal influence and the influence of his position is such that these issues are in no way negligible, and a Catholic in good conscience cannot support a candidate who will use his influence to support intrinsic evils.

3. No religious institution is forced to provide contraceptives under the HHS mandate due to the exemption.

This is patently false, as has been stated by many of the bishops in addressing this issue (see source 4 on round 2). The exemptions are so narrow as to exclude, Catholic Charities, Catholic hospitals, Universities including the University of Steubenville. Not all Catholic institutions have "the inculcation of religious values" as their purpose: hospitals, soup kitchens, universities, hospices etc. have as their objective the corporal acts of mercy (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, teaching the ignorant etc.). They do not all primarily employ "persons who share its religious tenets" because they wish to serve efficiently and hire those best fit for the job. Very few of them primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets because those very religious tenets would make the very idea of excluding non-Catholics from our services unconscionable. If a non-catholic wishes to go to a Catholic school, have care in a Catholic hospital or receive a warm meal in a Catholic soup kitchen, we will not ask for a baptismal certificate. This means that, with the exception of parishes, the vast majority of Catholic organizations and services do NOT fall under the exemptions to the HHS mandate. This and other claims of the white house have been amply debunked. (1)

But his belies a larger issue. Even were the religious exemption large enough to cover all Catholic institutions, it would not cover the conscientiousness objection of Catholic businessmen. If a Catholic businessman cannot in conscience lend financial support to sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients, he will face fines which would put him out of business. This mandate will force many Catholics to choose between following their conscience and bankruptcy or jail (1). Voting for a man whose administration enacted this mandate is scandalous (in the Catholic sense of leading others to sin) and absolutely unacceptable.

The HHS mandate redefines what it means to be religious. A layman is no longer "Catholic enough" to be exempted due to his religious beliefs. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB, the body that represents all the bishops in the US) put out a letter (2), speaking broadly of the issue of religious freedom, including reference to the HHS mandate. They remind us there that freedom of religion is about more than freedom of worship. I take the liberty of quoting two paragraphs from that letter:

"Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here at home and overseas.

"(...) The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a statement about the administration's contraception and sterilization mandate that captured exactly the danger that we face:

Most troubling, is the Administration's underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its "religious" character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration's ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization's religious principles. This is deeply disappointing.

"This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue."


(1) Becket fund fact-check:
(2) USCCB "Our First, Most Cherished Freedom":


1. First, Con argues that the President could take actions to mitigate the use of abortions. However, he has not shown how so. He mentions the Mexico City Policy however this isn't enough to prove that it actually lessens the use of abortion. Statistics show that what the law says regarding abortion has little influence on the demand for such a procedure[1]. Therefore, restricting access to abortions doesn't actually mitigate their use, it simply makes it dangerous for the women who wish to procure the procedure. It would seem that a safe way to mitigate the use of abortions would be to influence popular opinion on the matter instead of through legal channels.

On the Supreme Court, Con has failed to defeat my point, which was that no matter the President's opinion on abortion, at best the President could appoint maybe a third anti-abortion Judge to the Supreme Court. It would be a different story if three or four Judges were going to retire soon but as I showed in the last round, this is unlikely. Con strawmans my argument by claiming I'm only relying on the past failure of conservative Presidents. This is false. I've shown that the President is almost completely powerless in regards to Roe v. Wade.

2. On the failure to defend DOMA, I don't see how this defends gay marriage. Many people who are personally against gay marriage don't see it as the Federal Government's job to decide so and Con has failed to show why one must go through Federal channels to stop it. Furthermore, DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional in several Federal Courts and is under review by the Supreme Court, making it an executive non-issue.

At the most, the Obama Adminstration could endorse it's repeal on the legislative side but even after almost four years in office and half of that time spent under a Democratic majority in both houses, the Act has not been repealed. Con can argue that Obama wants to repeal the Act but hasn't shown why he either can or will. Lastly, on the use of Obama's influence to to allow for same-sex marriage, Con has against failed to show causality. Not only has the President failed to successfully use his influence to repeal DOMA, but he's explicitly supported the idea that his own personal opinion on marriage should not dictate the view of others (the states).

3. On the meaning of religious, Con would say that these exemptions are not enough as they don't define "religious institution" in the way Con agrees with. But Con has failed to show why institutions not covered under the Act should be. In fact, the standards for exemption are by themselves sufficient. On religious purpose as necessary to be a religious organization, I don't see how one can not understand this. A retail business that just happens to be run by someone who's Catholic cannot be considered a religious organization and hence cannot be allowed the exemption.

Furthermore, I fail to see how Con calls something a Catholic charity when Catholic beliefs apparently play no role in the makeup or beliefs of that charity. An institution may call itself Catholic but if it's primary purpose is wholly secular, Con has shown no reason to legally call it a religious institution still. On primary employment, this has to do with the fact that an employee shouldn't have to follow their employer's religious values if they themselves are not Catholic. Con hasn't shown why Catholic doctrine justifies Catholic employers to use their power to necessitate the following of their own religious tenets by non-Catholics.


Debate Round No. 3


Allright, the elections are over and Obama recieved around 50% of the Catholic vote. I am left with the distasteful duty of saying that many of my fellow Catholics have done grave evil. Hopefuly they have done so unwittingly and therefore inculpably; although it is not very hard to truly form one's conscience, as information is readily available, and it is a moral obligation to do so.

Back to the debate:

1. Abortion: Statistic bythe pro-abortion Guttmacher institute are suspect, particularly after the rather scandalous use of the "98% of Catholic womenuse birth control" study, which excluded, among others, women who stated they were not attempting to avoid pregnancy (and therefore all women who are faithful to Catholic teaching against contraceptives). I strongly recommend reading the article "How to lie with statistics" which debunks the study, and generally casts doubt on the Guttmacher institute's credibility as an objective source on these matters. (1)(2) I present to you the statistics in Spain given by the ministry of health during three different governments (both by the socialist and center-right parties) which show an increase in abortion as time went on from the moment of legalization to today. (3) The data shows roughly a 10% increase per year. Legal abortion means more abortion. The Mexico City policy prevented federal money from going to programs which would fund abortionor call for its legalization in Latin American countries. This was repealled and now money is indeed going to such programs which would increase the number of abortions, as well as spread the ideology which justifies it.

My opponent also misunderstands my argument as to the Supreme Court. It is difficult to argue that immediate success being impossible on this issue it is moraly permissible to allow for counterproductive measures to be taken. There are only 3 justices according to Pro who are likely to rule against Roe vs Wade, how exactly does this make it permissible for a Catholic to vote for a man who will put in even more justices who will rule for it?

2. DOMA: Seeing the current results on marriage referendums (the first in which marriage is actually redefined by popular vote) in which analysts and campaigners alike attribute much of the success to the support given by the President, this is a moot point. In any case, as with marriage, even if it is not under the purview of the presidency, the fact that it is an "executive non-issue" does not mean it is a moral non-issue. Catholics may not vote for a candidate that SUPPORTS intrinsic evils, even if he is unable to enact them. (see round 2 sources)

3. Religious Freedom: Religious freedom and freedom of conscience are not merely institutional rights, they are human rights. People have the right to attempt to live in accordance with their conscience and faith, regardless of whether or no they are wearing a clerical collar. If I were to open a book store and hired a 20 year old wikkan, it would be an infringement upon this freedom of conscience for the law to compell me to buy my employee contraception against my deep moral and religious conviction against contraception. In not buying it I am not infringing upon my wikkan friends own ability to buy it with the money I pay her, but I cannot be a direct collaborator in something my faith regards morally unacceptable. This is the excersize of religious freedom, emphatically not the imposition of one's own religious values.

Even if we were to limit ourself to institutions, however. We can go into terminology and ask if anything is Catholic enough, or we could look at what is actually happening. The current definition means that all Catholic Schools, Hospitals and Charities do not count as religious institutions. Parroquial and otherwise religious Catholic educational institutions, who educate over 2 million americans and do not ask for baptismal certificates in order to enroll would be fined 100$ per employee per day if they were to refuse to violate their own conscience. The same fate faces Catholic hospitals, which serve one out of every six hospitalized americans, would follow the same fate. Despite being founded by Catholics and with a Catholic identity (including having bishops on the board of trustees) do not ask for their patients to prove they have done their first communion, nor a qualified doctor whether or not he has been Confirmed to hire him. They ask if they are compitent and if they are willing to adhere to the institution's rules. Even the wide arrange of Catholic Charities, which serve 7 million poor people in the United States face the same three choices: violate their conscience, be forced to close by massive fines, or stop providing services to the needy. This is unconscionable, and a Catholic cannot morally support this. (4)

Conclusion: The doctrine of the Church is clear. If a Catholic is to live in accordance to their faith, they cannot vote for a candidate who supports intrinsic evils. Obama does this in his extention and defense of abortion at home and abroad, in his support of the redefinition of marriage and most directly in his assault on the free excersize of religious freedom by Catholics. Therefore it is not morally permissible for a faithful Catholic to vote (have voted) for Obama.


(1) Guttmacher Institute on contraception:

(2) How to lie with statistics:

(3) Ministry of Health Abortion Statistics:

(4) USCCB legal memo on the HHS mandate:


socialpinko forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by AlwaysMoreThanYou 5 years ago
This was an interesting debate topic, and while I begun fully siding with Con, Pro actually had some pretty good arguments in favor of an almost indefensible side.

Anyhow, clearly a win for Con because Pro forfeited and consequentially dropped all arguments, which was quite unfortunate for him as Con's last round seemed to negate every one of Pro's points. Good debate from both sides.
Posted by TrasguTravieso 5 years ago
And yet a significant percentage of Catholics say they will be voting for Obama.
Posted by jmansporting 5 years ago
Hmm... Obama is for abortion. The Catholic Church is against abortion. There's your answer.
Posted by AlwaysMoreThanYou 5 years ago
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Nur-Ab-Sal 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's forfeiture gives Con the victory.
Vote Placed by Magic8000 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by AlwaysMoreThanYou 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I was pretty sure Con was going to win, even before Pro forfeited.