Catholics are called to take an active role in the political process, as citizens of their country. But, Catholics are also called to be not partisan voters, but moral
voters. This means that in voting, one must look at the moral intentions
behind the vote (do I intend to vote for someone/something that is immoral, because I choose the immorality) as well as the moral outcome
of the vote (do I foresee that my vote, while not intending to vote for their immorality, will lead to the support of something immoral that is more evil than any other good that would come out of it?).
This second issue is officially called "proportionate means" -- this states that something that is objectively immoral cannot be tolerated
(much less supported) unless
there is an equal or greater evil that will be prevented. In other words, the only way that someone can morally vote for someone who is pro-abortion is if the person is doing so 1.
without the intention of voting for the person because of their pro-abortion position and 2.
because there exists a greater evil than the pro-abortion position (The "Doctrine of Double Effect"
Let's see, 4400 babies aborted every day in the United States alone, millions and millions of children killed since 1973 when abortion was legalized in the United States. Can there possibly be any
issue that is a greater moral evil than this? No. Even Hitler didn't kill that many. Even Stalin didn't go that far. There can be no modern "proportionate means" to allow for a Catholic to vote for a pro-abortion politician today (apart from there being no pro-life alternative, see below).
The five non-negotiable
moral issues for Catholic voters to be aware of are:
2. Euthanasia (assisted suicide)
3. Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Adult SCR is fine)
4. Human Cloning
5. Homosexual "Marriage"
"But what about war and capital punishment?", you ask. "Shouldn't they be non-negotiables as well? Isn't the Pope against war and capital punishment?"
War and capital punishment are not
non-negotiable issues. Catholics are free to support or oppose
the objective possibility of there being a justified war or justified capital punishment. The Church does not consider war or capital punishment as a whole
to be intrinsically (inherently, always) immoral. The Catechism (see below) states this clearly.
This does not mean that the Church is pro-war or pro-capital punishment, it just means that the Church acknowledges that the Church does not have the authority to tell or command
a state whether or not to go to war, or when to defend its country from criminal behavior by the death sentence. Even the Pope only has a personal opinion
regarding war and capital punishment -- his opinion, however, is just that, an opinion. One that should be respected of course, but not a teaching that falls under the "faith and morals" category, and therefore not an infallible statement of the Pope's that must be agreed with. The Pope, however, does not run a state, other than Vatican City. He is not in a position where he has all the necessary information to evaluate the morality of another country's decision to defend itself. The Church does not command that each country consult Her before defending themselves. The state has the authority on earth for the protection of its people - what is Caeser's belongs to Caeser.
wars or death row executions be immoral? Of course. Does the Church support these instances too? No. The Church only supports the objective responsibility of the state for the matters of the state's defense, this does not mean that every single action of an individual state is supported by the Church, but does mean that the Church says that She does not have the earthly authority to do so, above and over the state's own authority.
Should these unjust wars/executions be knowingly supported? No. But -- because the issues
of "just war" and capital punishment are not inherently evil in and of themselves, they are not to be considered on the same level as the non-negotiable issues
. Non-negotiable issues are considered first
, then all other moral issues are used to determine the vote from among the remaining candidates.
This does not mean that you have
to vote for someone who is pro-just war/pro-life over someone who is anti-war/pro-abortion.
What it means is that, using Catholic voting guidelines, the pro-abortion candidate will be removed entirely from the picture, disqualified because of their pro-abortion stance. To knowingly vote for them, with the understanding that there are no proportionate means to justify the vote, is sinful
. The other candidate can be later disqualified as well by the individual voter, on the basis of their pro-just war stance, but this is based on the voter's own decision - it is not always
objectively sinful (according to Church teaching) for a person to vote for them.
If the election is taking place during wartime, the current war may be evaluated on the basis of the just war criteria by the individual voter to determine if they should or should not vote for them, but just because a candidate supports a defensive war does not automatically
disqualify them. War in and of itself is not intrinsically evil, no matter how much someone may want to believe it. There is the possibility
of the existence of a just war (look at WWII for instance), therefore you cannot disqualify everyone who is pro-war just
because they are pro-just war in general. (Unlike pro-abortion candidates -- they must always be disqualified outright.)
On the other hand, if the candidate is supporting a war that the voter determines is unjust, then the candidate can also
be disqualified (after the candidates who are supporting the non-negotiables are disqualified).
If both candidates are pro-abortion, then
there exists proportionate means to vote for one or the other of them -- whichever one will limit the evil the most. If they are equal in all pro-abortion aspects, then whichever of them will do the most good on other issues can be voted for. All moral positions being equal among the candidates (ie, all
candidates hold positions that violate the non-negotiables), the Church teaches that we are to vote for the candidate that will limit the most evil/do the most good.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church lays out the moral differences in the issues of Abortion (#2270-2275), Just War (#2302-2317), and Capital Punishment (#2266-2267) click here
to read these sections.
Please check out Catholic Answers' Voters Guide
for a more in-depth overview of Catholic voting practices and the 5 non-negotiable issues.