The six non-negotiables of Catholic voting

Leo Brian Schafer

Catholic Values Columnist

After a long, grueling year-and-a-half, the current election season is finally drawing to a close. Soon it will be time, if you have not done so already, to cast your votes for the candidates you believe to be the best for the positions that are being contested. In some cases, especially with this year’s presidential contest, the choice is harder than it should be.

The Church offers, through her teachings, some basic guidelines of things that faithful Catholics are compelled to oppose through their political involvement or else risk automatic self-excommunication, called “latae sententiae,” according to the general understanding of Canon 1398 of the Code of Canon Law.

It is absolutely imperative that Catholics oppose the following: abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and genetic editing and communism and socialism.

Abortion ends a unique life. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide do the same. Same-sex marriage violates God’s plan for our sexuality and degrades the sacrament of marriage. Embryonic stem cell research fundamentally involves abortion. Human cloning and genetic editing remove God as divine author. Communism and socialism deny the inherent dignity of labor and work.

The notion of a “seamless garment,” where there are dozens of issues that are as important as these is, frankly, preposterous. The above issues are by far the most pressing issues that face the faithful because they all in some way severely degrade human dignity.

To say, “Well yes, candidate A supports abortion, but his immigration policy is incredible” is the same to say, “Well yes, Mussolini is an avowed fascist and warmonger, but he makes the trains run on time.”

In many ways, I wish I had the luxury to worry about tax policy, immigration or health care, but when children are being dragged from their mothers’ wombs, when we are abandoning our elderly and terminally ill, when we are taking a utilitarian view of the human person, all other issues are insignificant.

What all of this means is, put bluntly, that there are some candidates that Catholics cannot both vote for and remain a Catholic in good standing. This is true in every election, but has become more pressing in the current climate. There are clear delineations between the Catholic candidates, even if they are not Catholics, and the anti-Catholic candidates, even if they profess to be Catholics.

Specifically, the modern Democrat Party has set itself as the party that exemplifies anti-Catholic values. The official party platform advocates unequivocal support for abortion. The platform advocates unequivocal support for same-sex marriage, federal funding for stem-cell research and gene editing and social programs that move the country towards socialism.

Yes, their platform promotes compassion for the poor and increased aid to those who cannot help themselves, but this is wholly worthless in the light of a party culture that disrespects the dignity of the most disadvantaged among us, the unborn, disabled and terminally ill.

It is easier to advocate for compassion when these principles are already recognized, rather than arguing for basic principles that are being denied.

While I would argue that it is generally illicit to vote for the Democrat Party, I would not say that Catholics must vote for the Republican Party. Their platform is much more open to interpretation. There are pro-life Republicans and there are pro-choice Republicans. There are Republicans that are open to embryonic stem cell research and there are those who are adamantly against the idea.

In every case it is important to think carefully about your options before you vote. It is important to examine what each candidate believes, and what their record says they will do if elected. And above all, it is important to vote like a Catholic.

1 Comment

  1. I find the presentation here to be very narrow, overly restrictive, and not doing sufficient justice to the topic at hand. We certainly must affirm and uphold church teaching, but within a non-Catholic context like the United States of 2020, the faithful are entitled to a wide, flexible berth in considering a host of issues in making their voting decisions.

    Let’s talk about the unborn – the issue is the unborn, not ‘abortion’, which seems to limit and distort the topic. No Republican at the national level is truly pro-life. All of them, to my knowledge, support some legalized destruction of the unborn, through support for the continued legalization of contraceptive abortifacients, continued legalization of fertility clinic destruction of embroyoes, continued legalization of Plan B, and, I think if I am not mistaken, continued privately funded embroyonic stem cell research.

    So when you vote for most any Republican, you voted for somebody who supported certain intrinsic evils against the life of the unborn, for their continued destruction.

    The Trump presidency has stood for a boatload of intrinsic evils, from the unborn, as I described above, to contraception, from same-sex marriage to no-fault divorce, and from Palestine to Iran. Let’s be clear that when one voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to do so again in 2020, you supported a raft of intrinsic evils such as these.

    And there is one more evil, a grave one even greater than abridging the right to life: truth itself. You cannot have right to life until you have truth. President Trump has stated over 20,000 lies, falsehoods, and misleading comments since becoming president, a wholesale war, a crusade, against elemental metaphysical reality.

    So while Biden certainly stands for a host of intrinsic evils, so does President Trump, and the president arguably stands for the worst one, one that Biden does not: wholesale war against everyday truth itself.

    We have every right to consider ALL intrinsic evils when making a decision, not just some of them. Yes, prudential judgment issues should be accorded less importance.

    You can’t have it both ways: if we are not permitted to vote for somebody who supports serious intrinsic evils, in the service of making a prudential judgment at the ballot box, you cannot vote for Trump. If you can support such a person, you can vote for Biden.

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