In November Colorado voters made a frequently repeated error in moral discernment: they intentionally placed a man who openly supports intrinsic evils into a position of power and influence over others.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
20 November 2018
On November 6th 2018, voters elected Jared Polis as governor of the state of Colorado, an American politician, entrepreneur and philanthropist reportedly worth nearly $400 million. Consequently, the “mile-high state” has raised the first actively and openly homosexual man to the highest political position available in any state. Jared Polis is a known proponent of legalized abortion and homosexual marriage. He lives a homosexual lifestyle with his partner, Marlon Reis, who he met online after ending a previous relationship. Polis introduced Reis as the state’s “first, first man” during his victory speech. Polis and Reis are raising two children, one boy and one girl, named Cora and Caspian.
Prior to his election as governor, Polis was a member of the U.S. Congress. When Reis was asked about the “thrills and challenges” he encountered as the homosexual partner of Polis, he responded:
“When I was told by Member Services that my lost ID should never have read “spouse,” that the government recognizes me only as a “designee,” I prepared to fight — but then found the original card. Doubtless, these are but the opening acts of a years-long play about justice and the steady march of progress.
Justice and the steady march of progress? The homosexual agenda behind those words is not at all about justice nor is it about humanity’s progress. It’s actually precisely the opposite.
It goes without saying that, as Christians, we should pray for these two men and intercede before Christ for their repentance, that they may come to the knowledge of the truth (see 1 Tim 2:4). It’s the charitable thing to do. The virtue of charity requires that we seek their true benefit, which must include concern for the eternal well-being of their souls before Christ. People who experience same-sex attractions are not “bad” people. But they are called, as is every person, to chastity, virtue, and holiness in Christ. The problem arises when people embrace temptations and disorders and act on them. When used incorrectly, human freedom has the power to cause extensive damage to oneself and others. It also has the terrifying ability to sever one’s relationship with God. Obviously, I do not and cannot condemn these men as persons, nor will I engage in unjust discrimination against them.
However, there are times when Christian duty requires just discrimination, which is why I refuse to cast my vote in favor of politicians like Polis. As a Christian, I can never condone Polis’ support of the intentional killing of innocent pre-born human children or his homosexual activism. Abortion and homosexual sex-acts are both intrinsic evils that directly attack the dignity of the human person, are extremely detrimental to society, and undermine the common good. As such, they are injustices of the gravest order. In the case of abortion, we’re talking about an unspeakable evil, as Pope St. John Paul II termed it. It’s difficult to imagine a greater human injustice in the present day. In fact, it seems clear to me that abortion is the most serious injustice we face in the contemporary world.
Intrinsically evil actions: a human act that by its very nature is incompatible with the true good and divine law. An intrinsic evil is an act that is always wrong, regardless of one’s intentions or the circumstances surrounding it.
The U.S. bishops write in Faithful Citizenship:
There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. (22).
Leaving Polis aside, my intention here is to briefly explore the moral virtue of justice in relation to the intrinsic evils of abortion and homosexual activity, and to try to show why it is a serious and blameworthy error in judgment—an act of grave injustice, in fact—to vote in favor of and therefore place political candidates who support intrinsic evils into positions of power.
What is justice all about, anyway?
An understanding of the virtue of justice is all but lost in our society today. When people think of justice, they often do so in relation to judicial power or the incarceration of criminals in the context of punishment for misbehavior. But the moral virtue of justice is about far more than those things. What is this virtue about? What does it mean to act with justice or, its opposite, to commit an injustice?
Justice is one of the four cardinal human virtues (along with prudence, temperance and fortitude) so-called because it is acquired by human effort and is central in assisting man in living a morally upright and virtuous life:
Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. (CCC 1804)
Note that Justice is called a moral virtue, which means it is inseparably tied to living a morally good, upright life in relation to God and one’s neighbors. When a person possesses the virtue of justice, his desires and activities are consistently disposed toward living in rightly ordered relationships. The just man considers what is due to God and others and ensures that proper due is given—always. Justice given to God is the virtue of religion and includes free and loving obedience to Divine Law and ordering one’s life to the natural law, through which man participates by virtue of reason in the Eternal Law God has woven into the fabric of the physical universe. The just man acts with justice toward others consistently—justice is habitually practiced, as opposed to sporadically.
Giving others their proper due can have both positive and negative aspects. For example, justice requires that every human person is afforded the right to life and respect for their human dignity. Justice requires that employers pay just compensation to workers in the form of a living wage. On the other hand, justice would require that an unstable neighbor who asks to borrow a hunting rifle not be granted that request. In this case, justice would require that the rifle be withheld. Justice requires that the due of punishment is given for criminal behavior, whatever its appropriate form may be, which often includes a period of incarceration. In other words, some level of freedom is intentionally and justly withheld from the guilty party. Justice governs all types of human relationships and activities, whether in economic, educational, financial, corporate, family or other settings.
In the political sphere, justice requires that a political office should be withheld from vicious (vice-filled) or morally corrupt candidates who support intrinsic evils. Those who support such objective evils cannot be said to be virtuous or possess moral integrity. Why? To put it briefly, a person who supports intentionally killing innocent children, whatever kind of excuse he may give for such a position, lacks all the moral virtues: he lacks prudence because he is not exercising practical reason in a wise manner; he lacks justice because he believes it is acceptable to inflict grave injustices on children; he lacks fortitude because he is unable to resist these evils which are obstacles to the good; and he lacks temperance (especially in the case of homosexual behavior) because he is intemperate in his sexual desires. A position of political leadership is not something due to these individuals, given their adherence to gravely immoral activities. In fact, raising them to such a position is itself an act of injustice because it introduces disorder into the relationships between individuals in society and undercuts the common good. Additionally, it introduces disorder and confusion into the very way people understand virtue itself.
Today, it’s often the case that people equate justice with false tolerance, with approving of nearly any attitude or behavior in the name of “fairness,” especially as these behaviors relate to human sexuality. But that ideology is entirely incompatible with the virtue of justice. Justice is not about doing what some people insist others ought to do in order to comply with their own personal agendas, sexual ideologies bereft of moral norms or power-plays that set what is evil over and against what is good. Justice is not found in assenting to the emotionalism we find today played out in the shameless insistence that people have a “right” in “fairness” to experience sexual pleasure in any way they wish. Such attitudes and behaviors inflict grave injustices on the human community by encouraging destructive immoral behavior for the sake of satisfying an instinctual craving. The use of our intellect to determine what is right and good, and the engagement of the will to freely choose and pursue what is truly good, is one of the more important qualities that sets the human person apart from mere animals. Raising the passions (emotions) above reason and arguing from that position makes us more irrational than rational. It’s a step backward for humankind. It contributes to the spread of injustice.
The moral virtue of justice disposes people to live in right and morally good human relationships. It includes a “constant and firm will” to give the proper due to God and neighbor (CCC 1807). Opposing God’s plan for human life and sexuality (as in abortion and/or homosexual acts) can never be said to be just because doing so is destructive of one’s relationship with God and others. Each of these behaviors are objectively, always and everywhere, opposed to the true good. They can never be morally permissible under any circumstances. They damage individuals and society, undermine human dignity, and destroy human life. As such, they are grave injustices. Rather than giving others what is their proper due, such as the right to life and the respect due the person in accord with human dignity through rightly ordered sexual relationships, these immoral activities withhold from others their proper due by extinguishing the lives of innocent children and encouraging sexual practices that have the power to destroy one’s relationship with God and, consequently, end in eternal damnation.
Justice guides men in promoting and respecting the rights of others, and establishing peaceful and harmonious relationships in society; justice “promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good” (CCC 1807). Equity does not equate to false tolerance, as in dismissing injustices under the guise of “fairness” and depraved notions of “inclusivity.” It is not possible to be equitable and, at the same time, encourage activities that are themselves marked by inequity.
The Dismantling of Authentic Marriage
Society today, having been in many ways indoctrinated into the homosexual agenda through media propaganda directives, often teaches that, in the name of “justice,” people should treat homosexual partnerships (i.e., same-sex sex-acts) in the same way as a marriage between one man and one woman. Is it a matter of justice to erase the distinctions between the two, as if there were no essential differences? Is it in keeping with justice to insist that a man’s male partner be called a “spouse” as if their sexual arrangement and activities constitute a real marriage?
The issue here is that marriage is a specific and definite reality; whereas homosexual “marriages” are a woefully lacking forgery—not a reflection—of this reality. Marriage is the lifelong bond, declared publicly before men and God, between a man and a woman and is ordered toward a twofold end: the unity of the spouses and the transmission of new human life. Homosexual partnerships totally lack not only the lifelong bond between one man and one woman but also the ability to bring about the end of procreation, one of the goods of marriage. Additionally, whatever pleasure they may derive from their homosexual partnership, they cannot engage in an authentic sexual union because they lack the sexual complementarity (or differences, if you will) to do so. The word spouse has always referred to a husband or wife in relation to their partner in the context of marriage. Why? Because one is married to his or her opposite-sex spouse, not to his or her same-sex “spouse.” It would be unjust to refer to a homosexual partner as a “spouse” because that is not a term that is rightfully due such a relationship.
In the context of human sexual-union, right human relationships occur between one man and one woman within the bond of matrimony—not between two men or two women. The natural law, recognizable by human reason, informs us of such a fact. Homosexual sex-acts are incompatible with the design of the human reproductive system; they are out-of-sync with the reality of the way things are and out-of-phase with the Eternal Law God himself has ordained. They are therefore a disordered human act that is incompatible with human nature and the true good. We can know this through reason because it is obvious that the male-female sexual complementarity is ordered toward union of the spouses and the procreation of children as its end.
The institution of marriage becomes increasingly devalued as people give more and more approval to homosexual activities and same-sex unions. This has the effect of dismantling marriage and society itself, since marriage is the founding cell of family and family is the first society. The more frequently homosexual activist politicians are elected, the more pronounced the negative effects on marriage and society become. Giving approval to these kinds of politicians and behaviors creates disorder in society, contributing to a breakdown in human relationships, and is therefore an act of injustice.
Justice is not about approving of disordered sexual acts, which damage society and dismantle the institution of marriage, nor is it about pushing for an equality that recognizes no essential and legitimate differences between what is right and just and what is disordered and, as such, a deprivation of the good.
The Injustice In False Justice
Today we live in an age in which good is exchanged for evil. Society today often teaches that we must tolerate nearly every form of sexual behavior and every kind of personal choice people make as a “right” (such as to abort a child) and that “justice” demands we treat what is immoral as moral. But doing so is not justice at all. It’s a counterfeit justice that results in a loss of justice. With this loss also goes peace.
It’s destructive and, therefore, blameworthy for people to act immorally and then insist what they’re doing is actually “moral” or “normal” or “good” or is simply an “alternative lifestyle” among many other equally acceptable lifestyles. Doing so is, in reality, a rejection of justice. It’s an act of injustice because it’s based on a rejection of what is authentically good, right and true. It’s the injustice of false justice.
Moral Culpability In Voting
When politicians are elected who support and promote intrinsic evils, it tends to perpetuate them, broadening their acceptance and practice in society. This is the case for a number of reasons: politicians often tend to move up in the ranks, affording them greater opportunity to spread and solidify the issues at hand; electing these kinds of politicians has the effect of providing a kind of “moral teaching” in the descriptive sense, in other words, it communicates the idea that their views are acceptable. Giving the nod to such politicians is a sign of giving direct approval to gravely disordered attitudes and behaviors. It teaches young people that these kinds of practices can be embraced and, what’s worse, even praiseworthy. This gets to the heart of the serious nature and far-reaching consequences involved in one’s duty to vote.
It’s often the case that Catholics and other Christians are under the impression that it is morally permissible to vote for candidates who support intrinsic evils, provided they do so for other reasons, such as in supporting a particular candidate’s stance on traffic density, school funding, state health care programs, economics, etc. That idea is false, however. Nowhere is that practice approved by official Church teaching. What we do find is that intrinsic evils must always be opposed:
The U.S. bishops warn against a “moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed” (FC 28).
Pope St. John Paul II wrote:
The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. (Christifideles Laici 38).
The only way Catholics or other Christians can vote in a morally legitimate way for politicians who support an intrinsic evil is if the voter has a proportionate reason for doing so, as Cardinal Ratzinger noted in a memorandum he sent to then Cardinal McCarrick in 2004, prior to his election as Pope Benedict XVI. Matters of prudential judgment in which a diversity of opinion is allowed, such as taxation policies, would not qualify as a proportionate reason in consideration of an intrinsic evil because the gravity of the former is much less than that of the latter. The former is a matter of prudential judgment and thus is not itself an intrinsic evil, whereas the latter is. If a proportionate reason does not exist, then Christians who vote for politicians who support intrinsic evils run the risk of formal cooperation in evil, which could make them culpable before God for promoting these intrinsic evils and thus place their souls in jeopardy.
Contrary to the reigning opinion of the day, it is gravely unjust to place political candidates who support and promote intrinsic evils, such as abortion and homosexual sex-acts, into positions of leadership in our nation when other candidates who oppose these same evils are available as a voting option. Electing candidates to public office who support intrinsic evils often results in a perpetuation of these evils and thus devaluation of human dignity, damage to society and human relationships, loss of life, and an undermining of the common good. The virtue of justice requires that we give proper due to God and neighbor through living a morally upright life in accord with what is true and exercising the virtue of religion, which is justice toward God. The just man lives in right relationship with God, his neighbor and society, which must include giving maximum protection to innocent pre-born children as well as sexual rectitude in combination with the virtue of chastity.
Justice requires that we vote for candidates who display the greatest level of virtue, not morally corrupted ones, who are most in-line with the faith and moral teaching of the Church and who can, through their public office, promote authentic peace, human flourishing and equitable relationships among all.
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Photo Credit: screen shot of CNN video showing Jared Polis and Marlon Reis.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.