Voting with a Catholic conscience

In anticipation of presidential elections just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my obligation as a Catholic to vote.

Unfortunately, my choices aren’t quite ideal & my decision is hardly clear.

Looking to several Catholic groups, even pro-life organizations, many have given their full fledged support to the Romney ticket. But to a person who votes pro-life first (and everyone should), Romney’s indiscernible voting record on life issues and his bold denouncement of the Republican platform’s stance on life isn’t exactly a perfect alternative to pro-abortion Obama.

While it is heinous that President Obama believes in abortion on demand, it is terribly disheartening that his only opponent believes abortion is still okay in given circumstances. As Catholics, we cannot support abortion for any reason and yet we are faced with a limited decision on which pro-abortion candidate to elect to lead our country.

Both Obama & Romney stand for something that is intrinsically evil. That is, an act that is morally wrong no matter the circumstances or any good intentions.

Archbishop Lori of Baltimore recently said,“The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances? If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.”

So I’m confronted with the question of whether I should vote at all. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t let me off easily. CCC 2240: “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.”

And then I look to the Catholic Voter’s guide and read: “In some political races, each candidate takes a wrong position on [one or more non-negotiable issues]. In such a case you may vote for the candidate who takes the fewest such positions or who seems least likely to be able to advance immoral legislation, or you may choose to vote for no one.”

Now, this doesn’t lead me to question the hypocrisy of the one True Church, albeit my patience has certainly been tested. Instead, it reminds me of our God-given freedom to trust in the authority of the Magisterium and of our responsibility to educate our feelings with virtue to be in harmony with Truth. This Truth does not always reveal “yes” or “no” answers, or in this case, a “vote” or “don’t vote” resolution. But it gives us the tools to effectively & accurately discern right or wrong.

I continued digging… and Catholic Answers provided some light in the darkness. Tim Staples offered answer to a question on voting for the lesser of two evils. In his response, he quoted from Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae:

…when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

(My immediate reaction was to certainly count Romney out, considering he really has no personal opposition to procured abortion. This didn’t necessarily help my confusion.)

More helpful, however, was that Staples went on to enumerate several non-negotiables – acts which are always morally wrong and must never be promoted by law – which he explains are ranked (as best as they can be) in order of gravity.

1. Abortion
2. Euthanasia
3. Fetal Stem-cell research
4. Human cloning
5. Homosexual “marriage”

He explains that we may be faced with only two candidates to choose from who both promote one or more of these non-negotiables. And what this means is that we must use our prudential judgement to understand which candidate is promoting more grave intrinsic evil.

Aha! Getting back to that Catholic freedom. I must trust my Catholic conscience, which, if properly informed, never betrays Catholic moral teaching.

Could it be moral to elect Romney in hopes of rolling back policies which maintain abortion on demand (not to mention holding fast in the fight for true marriage)? I must conclude that I think so. Could it be equally moral to excuse oneself from the presidential vote to avoid cooperation with evil? I also conclude, yes.

And finally, could it be okay for a Catholic to vote for Obama? No. Absolutely not. 

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2 thoughts on “Voting with a Catholic conscience

    • I wasn’t sure whether you were pointing out a problem here… but given that I now recognize you are Pete & not Joe, I recognize you were trying to counter my point. It is a sad reality that so many Catholics are gravely misinformed about their faith and that triggers misinformed acts in the public square, such as voting. As a once-marginal Catholic myself who voted for Obama in the last election, I now recognize the scales that were once on my eyes. Simply put, it is sinful to vote for a politician who promotes any intrinsic evil. Catholics who willfully choose to do so with knowledge of the evils of issues a candidate supports will commit a mortal sin.

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