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How should Catholics vote?

With just a few weeks left until the presidential election, we in the United States have heard much discussion and vehement debate over various opinions of the “right” way to vote this November 3rd.

As Catholics, we believe that we have the responsibility to exercise our right to vote, and that the way we vote is a moral decision. The Church is much greater than any one political system on earth and as such, does not have the typical practice of endorsing particular candidates. However, through Sacred Tradition, we have a wealth of wisdom and general principles to inform us as we discern our decision on how to vote.

While acknowledging that there are many issues at stake in any election, and in particular in the 2020 presidential election, the Church tells us that some issues are of greater importance and should therefore be given higher priority when it comes to deciding to support a particular candidate.

As EWTN mentions in their Guide to Moral Duties Concerning Voting [1] some issues, such as the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, the dignity of marriage and family, and the right of parents to educate their children, are non-negotiable since they involve “respect [for the] fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1907). A faithful Catholic cannot oppose these critical issues.

Other issues regarding the common good are more complex and involve multiple principles of morality (war and peace, economy, health care, immigration, etc.) In these matters, the Church leaves some room for prudential judgment among faithful Catholics about the best way to achieve an outcome that is most beneficial for the common good. [2]

Then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in a letter to U.S. Bishops in 2004, stated “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion… There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in it’s document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship [3]  says, “Prudential judgment is also needed in applying moral principles to specific policy choices in areas such as armed conflict, housing, health care, immigration, and others… The judgments and recommendations that we make as bishops on such specific issues do not carry the same moral authority as statements of universal moral teachings” (paragraph 33).

 

In summary, while there is room for discussion among faithful Catholics on how to best promote the common good on topics such as immigration, war/peace, health care, housing, and more, there is no room whatsoever for discussion on the following issues:

Right to life: Every human being is made in God’s image and likeness and should be valued from conception to natural death. Among these we value the right to life at conception as pre-eminent. It’s an intrinsic evil to end a life in the womb. This area of life also includes “euthanasia, human embryonic research and manipulation, whether to obtain embryonic stem cells or for artificial reproduction technologies, and any other intentional killing of the innocent in peace or war.”[4]

This right is the right upon which all other rights depends. As St. Pope John Paul II stated, “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, No. 38)

Sacredness of the human family: “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. The dignity of marriage and family, upon which the good of every society and the human race itself depends. This dignity excludes same-sex or other forms of ‘marriage’ or sexual union which undermine the true nature of marriage and family, from which both children and the society of the future derives,” (Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 50.)

Right of parents to educate children: “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2229). 

 

Of particular importance is the right to life, since it is the right upon which all other human rights depend. It is also the issue which impacts a vast number of human beings, with more than 800,000 abortions taking place in the U.S. each year.

In the introductory letter to the USCCB’s document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the US bishops state “the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family and because of the number of lives destroyed.”

Individual bishops have also written to the faithful in their diocese, urging them to prioritize the right to life when they vote. Bishop Edward Malesic wrote in his letter [5] to the faithful in the Diocese of Cleveland, “But, to be clear, although there are many causes our Church stands for and is vocal about, the right to life itself must be given our paramount consideration so that people can have the chance to secure all the other benefits that life can afford.”

Bishop David Zubik wrote in a letter[6] to the faithful of the Diocese of Pittsburgh  “it is imperative that I turn your attention to the issues of abortion and infanticide. When we take a look at the important litany of ‘life issues,’ one of the realities that sometimes escapes notice is the hierarchy of these issues that needs to be recognized… some might argue for or against the matter at hand as being a ‘single issue.’ Both are correct. Respect for life IS the issue. But it is a continuum of other issues, many issues, that flow from the beginning of life at the moment of conception. Again, every other iteration of life flows from the preeminent moment of conception.”

In light of these issues, it is also important to note that the USCCB warns that “Those who knowingly, willingly, and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil“ (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, paragraph 31).

When you vote, we at Gospa Missions urge you to form your conscience in keeping with the unchanging teachings of our Church and to prioritize the issues of utmost importance, especially the right to life. Look carefully at the platforms of each candidate and each party and ask yourself which most supports these non-negotiable, fundamental issues of the right to life, (especially for the most vulnerable among us – unborn children), the sacredness of marriage and the family, and the right of parents to educate their children.

For the sake of our country, and for the sake of your soul, take care in how you vote this November and always.

 

[1] https://www.ewtn.com/vote/download/moralguide.pdf

[2] https://www.ewtn.com/vote/negotiables.asp

[3] https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship-part-one

[4] https://www.ewtn.com/vote/human-life.asp

[5] https://www.dioceseofcleveland.org/news/2020/09/30/a-message-on-the-upcoming-election-from-bishop-edward-malesic

[6] https://d2y1pz2y630308.cloudfront.net/16469/documents/2020/9/Letter%20to%20Faithful%20Regarding%20Election-2.pdf