Here’s a simple Catholic voters guide.
It’s abbreviated from a booklet by Father Frank Pavone, MEV, at PriestsforLife.org.
1. Vote. The General Election Day for 2006 is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Mark it on your calendar, or vote early. You can use an absentee ballot if you are homebound or have difficulty being absent from your duties on Election Day. Also, some states allow early voting without an absentee ballot. You never know when illness, unexpected duties, car trouble or bad weather will keep you home.
2. Know the candidates. Candidates have websites you can visit, campaign headquarters you can call and literature you can read. Also, candidates who already hold elected office in which they have voted on legislation have a voting record. That record is public information, some of which can be found at PriestsforLife.org/legislation.
3. Reject the disqualified. Suppose a candidate came forward and said, “I support terrorism.” Would you say, “I disagree with you on terrorism, but what’s your health-care plan?” Of course not. So it is with abortion. Any candidate who says some people don’t have a right to life has disqualified himself or herself from public service.
4. Distinguish policy from principle. Most disagreements between candidates and political platforms do not have to do with principle, but rather with policy. For example, we don’t see candidates campaigning on platforms of “Fight Crime” vs. “The Right to Crime.” Instead, their disagreement is over the best policies to implement a principle they share. But when a policy dispute involves questioning whether people deserve that protection in the first place, the policy is the principle. These include:
— killing the tiniest humans through destructive embryonic stem-cell research;
— killing infants already partially born (through partial-birth abortion);
— killing the disabled and the advocacy of euthanasia and assisted suicide;
— denying religious freedom, such as the freedom of doctors and institutions to refrain from actions they hold to be immoral;
— denying the nature of marriage as between one man and one woman; and
— denying the right to self-government, when candidates view judges and courts as lawmakers, rather than the people, acting through their duly elected legislators.
Candidates who advocate these errors in fact oppose fundamental principles of American democracy.
5. Weigh other issues properly. First, voters should disqualify those candidates who violate fundamental principles. Only then should they look at the wider spectrum of issues affecting the proper care of human life and the promotion of human dignity.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who is now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote in a letter in July 2004: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. … While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. 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” (Letter to Cardinal McCarrick, No. 3).
6. Keep your loyalty focused on Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being loyal to a candidate or to a political party. But there is something very wrong if your loyalty to either is stronger than your loyalty to Jesus Christ. If a party contradicts the platform of the Gospel and the moral law, you need to have the inner freedom to depart from personal, family or community tradition and vote instead for the candidate and party that best reflect God’s law.
7. Remember, the party matters. Elections not only put individual candidates into power; they put political parties into power. This means we can’t just look at whether the candidate is pro-life. Consider whether or not, if he or she wins, the pro-abortion party will come into power.
8. Distinguish “choosing evil” from “limiting evil.” What happens if two opposing candidates both support abortion? Then we have to ask another question: Which of the two candidates will do less harm to unborn children if elected? Which would ban partial-birth abortion? Which would require parental notification?
In this case, it is morally acceptable to vote for the candidate who will do less harm. This is not “choosing the lesser of two evils.” We may never choose evil. But in choosing to limit an evil, you are choosing a good.
Last year, two pro-life Supreme Court justices were seated. Others may follow soon. There is an urgent need to pray for the upcoming elections — and an urgent need to vote.