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Kid In A Candy Store

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October 2008

Just across the street from St. Luke grade school sat a dimly lit, rundown old store.  Pearl’s Dry Goods carried ladies’ notions — ribbons, buttons, and stuff like that.  No self-respecting kid was likely to venture into that place on a dare.  But every school year, hundreds did.  You see, the widow Pearl sold penny candies, lots of them.  So five days a week, St. Luke’s dismissal bell sounded the starting gun for our race to the goods, no, goodies.  The line formed quickly, and it often ran the length of Pearl’s shop.

In the 50’s and 60’s, kids carried little money.  If you had a quarter, you were lucky; if you had 50 cents, you were rich.  If you had a buck, you were a thief.  But it didn’t matter because in those days penny candy really did cost a penny.  Any kid with just one cent was a Pearl customer, one we hated to see in line.  His choice took the longest.  With only a penny, he had to get it right.

Life is full of choices, and not all as sweet as candy. Some have huge moral implications for others and us.  Thankfully, there are rules that will guide us in making morally sound ones.  These rules will help us as we consider the issues and candidates over the next month.  Like it or not, the time to choose has come.

When our choice is between one good or another, we can choose either without moral concern.  Supporting a soup kitchen or a crisis pregnancy center is a matter of personal option.  Either choice is morally good.  When the choice is one between good and evil, we must always choose the good, never the evil. We are never permitted to cheat, lie or steal.  Honesty must always prevail.

We run into problems when we try to find good reasons for bad choices. Robbing a bank is morally wrong even if we give the loot to a mission.  Owning slaves is morally evil even though we may give slaves a place to live and three squares a day.  We may not do evil to accomplish good.  The end does not justify the means.

And this leads to the related problem we often face in considering candidates.  We may not balance goods against evils.  We may not separately count a candidate’s morally good and bad positions, and then compare figures. Sound moral decision-making not a matter of scorekeeping.  If a candidate supports one moral evil but also supports ten morally good positions, we may not conclude that the candidate is acceptable.  That one evil position is enough to outweigh the good ones.

Want proof?  Consider a real live elected official from not long ago—Adolph Hitler.  Assume that you’re a German voter. He did some pretty impressive stuff.  While the American economy was in the tank, he brought unemployment down to one percent, even less.  He built roads and improved cities.  He loved architecture.  The kids were being educated.  The culture was hopping.  He restored national pride. He had a record of accomplishment.  But to Hitler, the only good Jew was a dead Jew.  And under his leadership, six million people were slaughtered, mostly Jews.  Would it matter to your vote if we added many more “goods” to his scorecard?  What if we lowered that kill-figure to one million? How about just 1,000?

Legal abortion has not killed just 1000 or just six million.  The kill-figure now approaches 50 million unborn babies.  And that doesn’t count the killed and badly wounded women, the destroyed relationships, and all other related harms.  So, if a candidate supports legal abortion, what possible “good” position balances off that evil?  Universal health care?  Include immigration.  Add unemployment and education for good measure.  Heck, throw ’em all in the mix.  May a candidate’s positions on other issues ever excuse our voting for the continuation of a legal evil?  It didn’t in Hitler’s time.  It didn’t when Americans owned slaves.  It doesn’t now.

But what if we must choose between alternatives, both seemingly evil?  The old saying is the right one: we must choose the lesser of two evils.  Not all evils have the same moral weight.  Killing a person is worse than lying about him.  Our choices must be the ones that will do the least harm.  This rule must guide us when considering candidates who, for example, oppose the war or capital punishment yet favor legal abortion.  Question: which is the worse, or worst, evil?  How many people were killed last year in the war or by capital punishment? Do those figures even come close to the about 1.2 million or so killed by abortion each year — all of whom were absolutely innocent and completely defenseless.

Finally, don’t believe those who may say that a pro-life vote is a single-issue vote.  Those who voted against Hitler or American slavery were not single-issue voters. They were voters who soundly prioritized the issues.  If more people had voted like them, millions of lives would have been saved.

This year’s election is a bad news-good news thing.  The bad news is that like the kid with only a penny, each of us has only one vote.  But the good news is that by voting together, we can buy the store!  It comes down to just that.  If we vote as a block in support of life, we can end legalized abortion.

And, oh, how sweet it will be!

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2008.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us on the web at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/

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