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On Tuesday August 31, Catholic Answers ran a full-page ad in USA Today in several major markets advising Catholics how to vote, in light of Church teaching, on five key, non-negotiable issues. The ad contained the text of the "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics," created and produced by Catholic Answers.

Although entirely legal (the Voter's Guide does not promote or advocate any party or candidate), the ad and the Voter's Guide have been considered controversial, especially to some Catholics opposed to the Magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church.

On September 20, 2004, Francis Kissling, President of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), filed a "complaint" with the IRS, claiming that Voter's Guide produced by Catholic Answers violates tax rules governing non-profit charitable organizations.

In a statement, Catholic Answers' founder and president Karl Keating said:

"In a brazen attempt to silence anyone who opposes legalized child-killing in America, the nation's leading pro-abortion Catholic-Frances Kissling of Catholics For a Free Choice-has launched a full-scale attack on Catholic Answers for publishing the Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics. ...

In fact, our Voter's Guide does not violate any tax rules. We had it thoroughly checked out by legal experts, and we're well within the law. In the Voter's Guide, we don't mention any candidates, any specific election, or any party, and we don't endorse or oppose anyone. We merely state the principles that real Catholics are obligated to abide by when voting."

On Thursday, September 23, IgnatiusInsight.com interviewed Jimmy Akin, Catholic Answers Director of Apologetics and Evangelization, about the controversy, the attacks by Catholics for a Free Choice, and the Voter's Guide.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Why do you think Catholics for a Free Choice is trying to get the IRS to go after Catholic Answers?

Jimmy Akin: Frances Kissling's complaint is completely frivolous. It therefore appears that the reason she is doing this is intimidation. It's an attempt to get us to back down. But she doesn't know who she's messing with. Catholic Answers will not be intimidated.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What is Catholic Answers' goal in writing and distributing its Voter's Guide?

Akin: The purpose is to educate Catholics on Church teaching regarding their moral obligations when involved in the political process, an educational goal that has been neglected for far too long, leaving Catholics vulnerable to manipulation regarding what their faith requires.

IgnatiusInsight.com: How do you respond to the charge that Catholic Answers' Voter Guide is partisan?

Akin: The Voter's Guide endorses no party or candidate. In fact, it explicitly makes the point that one must not just vote based on party affiliation but must consider the Church's teachings regarding vital moral issues. By definition, it can't be partisan if it's telling people not to vote based on party.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Thus far, how has the Catholic response been to the Voter's Guide?

Akin: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Since we first introduced the Voter's Guide earlier this year, we have sold over two million copies, with approximately a hundred and fifty thousand moving each week now. People are incredibly excited to see a dynamic presentation of the importance of the five non-negotiables that the guide covers.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What are the five non-negotiables? How were they selected?

Akin: The guide identifies five issues on which Church teaching has been adamant: No Catholic can in principle support abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, or homosexual "marriage." These issues were selected because there are currently under discussion in American politics and there are clear Magisterial statements indicating that Catholics can never support these issues.

IgnatiusInsight.com: Are these the only such issues?

Akin: Those are the issues in American politics in our day that the Holy See has indicated are non-negotiable. Had the guide been written in a different age, when different issues were under discussion or different Magisterial statements were available, a different set of non-negotiables would emerge. For example, if U.S. leaders were presently advocating the targeting of innocent civilians--as happened at places like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden--then the guide would cover the fact that you can never deliberately target civilians and must seek to minimize civilian casualties. But government leaders today aren't advocating the targeting of civilians.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What if there is no candidate who is "right" on all the issues?

Akin: The guide covers this. It points out that there are situations where one must seek to limit the damage done to society by voting for "the lesser of two evils" when there is no perfect candidate.

IgnatiusInsight.com: You're a Catholic apologist and the author of articles and books on apologetics. Catholic Answers is an apologetics apostolate. How would you respond to claims that publishing a Voter's Guide is outside the purview of your organization's mission?

Akin: I would say someone making such a claim does not understand what Catholic apologetics is: It is the defense of Catholic teaching and practice. To make a defense of these, you have to explain clearly what they are. I can't defend the doctrine of the Trinity against Mormon misrepresentation if I don't clearly articulate the doctrine of the Trinity. Today Catholic moral teaching has come under attack, both by individuals outside the Church and even by some within it, who want to confuse and mislead Catholics about what their faith requires. It is my job as an apologist to defend the Church's teaching, including its moral teachings regarding political involvement, by clearly articulating what those teachings are and by answering challenges to them.

IgnatiusInsight.com: How is the Voter's Guide being disseminated?

Akin: Catholic Answers is distributing the Voter's Guide in a variety of ways. We are giving away individual copies, selling copies in bulk, making it available for reading on our web site, publishing it in newspapers and enabling others who contact us to do so. Any way we can get the Church's teachings out, we want to.

IgnatiusInsight.com: How can people find out more about Catholic Answers' efforts?

Akin: One of the easiest ways is by visiting our web site, www.catholic.com. They also can call us at 888-291-8000 to get basic information about the ministry.


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