Thursday, December 29, 2011

Can You Refuse To Pay Taxes Because of Abortion?

Q - Since abortion is against the church teaching, as well as supporting abortion, can we justly refuse to pay taxes that will be used to fund abortion?

A - Thanks for the question.  We have competing principles here and I hope I can sort them out properly.

Principle #1 - We cannot directly support intrinsically evil actions.  Abortion is one of these actions.  Even if a legitimate authority, such as the government, tried to force a Christian to help with an abortion, one could not.  Within this principle we must make a distinction, which will be very useful to us:

*Material vs. formal cooperation with evil.  No matter how hard you might try, there are situations were good an evil are mixed up and sometimes we get caught being complicit in an evil act.

When we "cooperate" in an evil act our cooperation can be either "material" (meaning well-removed from it) or "formal" (close to the evil act).  An example should help understand - If you went shopping at a store because they had the best prices in town on books and while you were checking out you noticed that they also sell pornography, you could still licitly still shop at the store, if you don't intend to support the selling of porn.  But, you are still in material support of the evil. A good rule to follow is that while material cooperation may be licit, we want to be as far-removed from formal cooperation as possible.  So, if there is another option of shopping somewhere with similar prices and selection, which doesn't sell porn, we might shop there instead.  Remote cooperation is licit because we don't intend to cooperate in the evil act and if we did intend to coooperate with evil it is no longer a licit act.

There are times when we are not remote from the evil at all.  A clinic employee who assists in an abortion is formally cooperating in evil, and the act is not remote at all.

The less remote the cooperation, the more we should seek to do something different.  Once it is no longer remote from an evil, we ought never participate.  There are more distinctions we can make within this principle, but we will allow this short answer to suffice.

Principle #2 - We must pay our taxes  in support of the common good as an obligation to the legitimate authority of the state to take care of citizens.  Because we must "render unto Caesar" we must pay taxes to the government.  The Catechism says:
"Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country" - CCC, 2240
Conclusion - Based on both of these principles, paying taxes to a legitimate government (which the US qualifies for) is an obligation we must follow.  If the government uses taxes to help pay for abortion, we would not support such a policy (and actively seek to change it), we would be material cooperating in the evil and such an act is licit.  Thus, we should still pay our taxes. We can never intend to support abortion with our tax money for it to remain a licit act.

If this doesn't satisfy, then think of it this way - Jesus demanded that his followers pay taxes to Caesar and the Roman government was supporting evil acts during that time (e.g., torture, unjust war, worship of pagan gods, etc.).  The situation is almost identical to what we face in the question above.

I hope this helps.  Peace to you and good luck filling out your income tax forms next year.


Andrew Karl said...

I think you've written a good article here. The one point I have issue with, however, is the last one. Jesus did ask us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, but I do not see how that applies in our country. The United States is a unique situation in the sense that we have a government by the people. We are endowed by our Creator (not Caesar) with certain unalienable rights, among these being roughly that what is mine is not Caesar's.

The government is not entitled to my money to support morally objectionable acts such as abortion, as it is not within the realms of the constitution. Therefore, it is not within my duty to oblige.

As much as I am willing to compromise in order to keep the peace, there is something to be said for the power of the boycott. An assembly of people who refuse to shop at a store that sells porn can cause the store to cease participating in such morally objectionable acts, as it has in the past.

If tax dollars start being funneled into abortion clinics, that is already a major defeat for the Church as being the salt and light in our society. We need to keep fighting now before taxes grow into the monster of remote evil. AKA indirect murder.

Kurtis Wiedenfeld said...

However, even in a Republic, a representative Democracy, there is still a cooperation, a surrendering of our will to a hierarchy, for the sake of the common good. Since that cooperation is always one that involves frail human beings, there is always a material cooperation with evil. Our goods our never simply "our own," that is individualism which is opposed to the sensus communio that is at the heart of every democracy. We cannot eliminate our material cooperation with evil by eliminating our cooperation with society. The real question then becomes, what is the best way to bring about the end of evils within society while still being "in the world." This is a prudential decision which does not exclude boycotts, strikes, and even armed conflict keeping in mind that they are options of last resort and mark a failure of society and democrasy