9 Voting Points for the Catholic Conscience

Father John Lankeit, Rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, explains how voters are to differentiate between issues that require prudential judgement and those that are intrinsically evil, specifically regarding abortion.

(photo: YouTube.com)

On Oct. 2, the Very Rev. John Lankeit, the Rector of Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral of Phoenix, presented a powerful homily about voting. He applied a wonderful Catholic perspective with great courage, discussing the “intersection of the practice of our faith with the exercise of our civil duty.”

Below, I have listed some of the key points Fr. Lankeit presented in his homily. Everything in quotations are his direct words.


1. “Let’s first acknowledge that there has never been a political party in the United States that is perfectly aligned with Catholic teaching on every issue, but that does not mean that we are automatically free to vote for any party we want, because one party can be much further from Catholic principles on the most important issues than the other party.”

“As a result of that, we are often faced with the task of discerning which party and which policies are most in line with Catholic teaching and which ones are not.”

2. Prudential Judgment vs. Intrinsic Evil

Prudential judgment: “It means that Catholics can legitimately disagree with each other, and even with their priest, on the best way to address issues such as racial injustice, education, the economy, immigration, and health care, and still remain in good standing with the Church.”

Intrinsic Evil: “Actions that can never, at any time, under any circumstance be committed, promoted, or even enabled by a faithful Catholic.” One primary example of an intrinsic evil is abortion.

Fr. Lankeit delivers “some of the more common issues for which Catholics can legitimately exercise prudential judgement.” He provided the example of affirmative action. “This program aims to eliminate perceived disadvantages that minorities face when competing, for example, for entry into college. In our nation, one party favors affirmative action to bring justice and balance in our multi-racial society. The other party holds that it penalizes high achievers by giving limited spots in the college classroom to less-qualified students, while denying more qualified students access. One party sees affirmative action as a matter of justice, other sees it as a matter of injustice.”

“Suppose a candidate for president promoted a policy that would it legal for someone to kill a black person if that black person created a hardship for them getting the education they desired. How many of you would be comfortable voting for that candidate?” 

“Another issue that falls under the category of prudential judgement is immigration. One of the major political parties seeks to allow immigration with very little restriction. The other party is concerned that unrestricted immigration leads to, among other things, non-citizens taking jobs that could be worked by citizens. One party favors open boarders; the other party favors law and order. Now, suppose a candidate for president promoted a policy that would make it legal to kill a Hispanic person if the presence of that Hispanic person made it more difficult to pursue one’s career of choice. How many of you would be comfortable voting for that candidate?... Nobody in their right mind would say such a thing—that we can kill blacks or Hispanics or anyone else just for the sake of protecting personal, economic, or educational interests.”

3. “There is a candidate in this 2016 race for president, who along with that candidate’s political party, does in fact sanction the killing of blacks and Hispanics in the situation previously described under one condition: that that black person, or that Hispanic person is still in his or her mother’s womb.” 

“This candidate and party certainly won’t say it that way—not publicly anyway. Instead, they use words like choice, or reproductive health, women’s rights, or other sanitized statements in order to cover up what abortion is and what abortion does.”

“When we consider that a woman can walk into a Planned Parenthood and have her baby put to death because she doesn’t want to jeopardize her education or career, we must acknowledge that those shocking scenarios described previously are not only possible, not only real, but are among the most common reasons for abortion in America. Even the word abortion has been drained of its meaning. We treat it like nothing more than a term that starts a heated debate, rather than a procedure that stops a baby’s heartbeat.”

4. “Many want to treat abortion merely as one issue among many. With that requires a person to pretend not to know what abortion is and what abortion does. Let’s stop beating around the bush with regard to the current presidential race.”

“Do you know which candidate promotes abortion and even intends to expand its availability, both at home and abroad?”

“Do you know that this candidate and party intend to make you and me pay for other people’s abortions with our tax dollars, even though that has always been illegal in our country?”

“Are you aware that this candidate and party, which until recently, said that abortions should be safe, legal and rare, no longer even bothers to say that it should be rare, but rather should be available anytime, anyplace, and up to the last moment that that fully-formed, full-term baby remains in the womb?”

"If you do not know which candidate and party I’m referring to, then you should not even consider voting until you do. Ignorance in this area is unacceptable, because ignorance costs millions of babies their lives and jeopardizes the souls of many Catholic voters. On the other hand, if you do know which candidate and party want to promote and expand abortion and you still intend to enable them to continue their war on the unborn with your vote, then it is my duty as a priest to tell you that your soul will be in grave danger, especially if you present yourself for Holy Communion after casting such a vote with the full knowledge of what you are doing.”



5. What about capital punishment, war, etc.? 

"If you bring up abortion, some people say, well I’m against capital punishment, and if you are against abortion, than you should be against capital punishment.”

"Fair enough. What is the biggest objection to capital punishment? That innocent people might mistakenly be put to death, and it must be acknowledged that innocent people very well could be unjustly executed in our country due to the many flaws in our legal system. This very reason for opposing capital punishment is precisely the reason that Catholics must never willingly support or enable abortion with their vote, Because while some people, no doubt have been put to death mistakenly through capital punishment, in abortion, an innocent person is always put to death, and never by mistake. It is always chosen. Always intended. If a person is against capital punishment, then they necessarily must be against abortion, because the intention of abortion is to knowingly and deliberately kill an innocent boy or girl." 

"People who vigorously oppose the wars in the Middle East, for example, often quote statistics on the great number of innocent people accidentally killed in the crossfire—collateral damage. The innocent people killed in war is perhaps the greatest tragedy of war. But if a person opposes the accidental killing of innocent people in war, while enabling with their vote the intentional killing of the most innocent human beings on the planet, well this is hypocrisy of the most extreme kind. If a person opposes war because of the accidental, unintended deaths of innocent people, they necessarily must oppose abortion because the killing in abortion is never accidental or unintended, but always directly willed."

6. Abortion is not caused by economic or social conditions. 

"Sometimes we hear the stupendously deceptive claim that a candidate or party will reduce abortions by improving economic or social conditions, while simultaneously promoting abortion as a right worth protecting...Economic and social factors are, no doubt, circumstances that affect a mother’s decision in some cases, but they are not causes. After all, if eliminating abortion were merely a matter of economics or access to healthcare, or other socio-economic factors, then why do wealthy mothers also abort their children?"

7. "If a priest doesn’t speak up for the most vulnerable in our society, and if the Catholic faithful don’t actively protect the most vulnerable in our society by refusing to enable their deliberate destruction with their vote, then such Catholics, the priests and the laity are condoning the killing by their cowardice."

"A priest is not only protected by the First Amendment, (at least for now) he is also bound by the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill...”

"What did St. Paul write to Timothy...about cowardice?"

“God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” (2 Tm. 1:7-8)

"Part of every Catholic’s share in the hardship of the Gospel, including your priests, is that we must repent of our actions that are offensive to our God and destructive to our brothers and sisters, and we must oppose the threats to innocent life that are the most real and the most urgent."

8. "Make no mistake--there is no single issue that threatens innocent human life more directly, consistently, imminently, and urgently than the deliberate killing of baby boys and baby girls in their mother’s womb." 

"We have a serious obligation to protect human life, and especially the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable among us." 

9. "Whoever fails [to protect human life] when otherwise able to do so, commits a serious sin of omission. They jeopardize their own spiritual well-being and are a source of scandal for others. Should they be Catholics, they should not receive Holy Communion." (words from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix)

"I hope you realize that it takes a lot of courage for a priest to communicate such challenging words as these, reminding his people that some actions are so gravely sinful that they render a Catholic unworthy of Holy Communion until there is complete repentance. A priest who is more concerned about the state of his people’s souls than they are themselves, deserves the esteem of his people for his willingness to speak such difficult truth with genuine love. To put the welfare of his people’s souls ahead of his own reputation, popularity, or comfort. Such a priest should receive respect, admiration, and support, rather than resistance or criticism. So please pray for, thank, and encourage the spiritual Father that God has appointed for you, and who loves you enough to tell you the truth with those challenging words."