Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.
Do all Catholics vote their faith? We all know the answer to that. Lay faithful, deacons, priests, and bishops in the confines of the voting booth at times vote contrary to their faith. Sometimes it is due to an ignorance of one’s faith in regards to voting; sometimes it is a lack of faith in the Church’s teachings, or a rejection of intrinsically evil acts, or simply self-interest. We are all flawed and frail human beings on a journey.
In an ideal world, however, how should a Catholic vote? Hopefully, the following will be of help.
Catholics ideally should vote according to a hierarchy of values or rights. What does this mean? All rights and values are based upon life, on one’s existence! All governmental policies presuppose life. All acts of social justice such as those which relate to family life, universal healthcare, religious liberty, education, safety, shelter, job security, climate change, a sound immigration policy which combats human trafficking and the flow of illegal drugs etc., depend on the right to life—the first social justice right. All policies that affect the dignity of the person presuppose the existence of the person. To put it in another manner: We need healthcare because we have a life that becomes ill. We need a working wage because we have life in need of financial survival! We need social security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, etc., because we have a life in need. The protection of all forms of discrimination presuppose there is a life that can be discriminated against. Thus, protection of human life and threats to its protection are at the top of a hierarchy of values. Protection of life from conception to natural death is at the heart of all Catholic rights and values.
At the heart of the hierarchy of values is the belief in intrinsically evil acts—acts contrary to the natural law or in particular human nature. Thus, one cannot vote for a candidate who supports intrinsically evil acts such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, cloning, embyronic (vs. adult) stem cell research, hybridization, etc.
Given the above, what do we do when we are faced with candidates that promote intrinsically evil acts, even misinformed Catholic politicians? One must vote for the candidate, as the USCCB explains, according to “the art of the possible.” In the words of the USCCB, one must “vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance…morally flawed positions…” (cf. 14-16).
What does that mean in practice? In the United States, one must vote for a pro-life candidate over a pro-choice candidate, since all other rights and values depend upon life. Could there ever be a time when one could vote for a pro-choice candidate and against a pro-life candidate? Yes, however, the conditions necessary for such a vote—at least at this time in American history--do not exist in the United States. Given that between 3000 and 4000 children are aborted in the United States every day, and that one-third of women who have had an abortion suffer some form of PTSD, human life at its most innocent and fragile state is the number one social justice issue.
But what do you do if you have two pro-life individuals or two pro-abortion politicians? You go down to the next moral right or series of rights and values according to the hierarchy.
While I cannot give the complete list within the hierarchy of values—given the limitations of any article—I highly encourage Catholics to review the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. It is organized according to the following hierarchy of major moral issues facing our times: Human Life, Promoting Peace, Marriage and the Family, Religious Freedom, the Preferential Option for the Poor and Economic Justice, Healthcare, Migration, Catholic Education, Promoting Justice and Countering Violence, Combatting Unjust Discrimination, Care for Our Common Home, Communications, Media and Culture, and Global Solidarity.