We often hear that the Church should stay out of politics. The truth is that the Church should inspire politics and has a lot to say about it. The way the state and all of society are organized and the laws which rule them have a direct impact on the ability of the Church to realize its supernatural and human mission.
Is it morally obligatory to vote?
Without approving the modern system of democracy and its false principle of the sovereignty of the people, the Church nevertheless binds us to contribute towards the common good of society, by an obligation of legal justice.
The Church distinguishes between the source of authority in government – i.e. God Himself – and the mechanism by which officials come to hold their authority – e.g. an election like today, or by birthright in the time of kings. The Church has no objection to a democratic form of government where officials are voted into office for a limited-term, provided the authority and rights of God and His Church are respected.
In the case where there are informed Catholic candidates who publicly support the teaching of the Church, there is a strict moral obligation to vote, under pain of mortal sin. Where there is a clear gain possible from the correct use of a vote for some other candidate, it is recommended or counseled. When there is no clear advantage it would be better to abstain, so as not to contribute even to a material participation.
Pope Pius XII had clearly explained that it is precisely on account of the anti-Catholic and secular spirit that surrounds Catholics that they have the duty to defend the Church by the correct exercise of their right to vote. It is to prevent a greater evil. He had stated on March 16, 1946, to the parish priests of Rome:
The exercise of the right to vote is an act of grave moral responsibility, at least with respect to the electing of those who are called to give to a country its constitution and its laws, and in particular those that affect the sanctification of holy days of obligation, marriage, the family, schools and the just and equitable regulation of many social questions. It is the Church’s duty to explain to the faithful the moral duties that flow from this electoral right.
Can a Catholic vote for a candidate who condones initiatives not in accord with the moral law?
The Church teaches us that all our involvement in politics ought to be motivated, inspired, and directed by the Church’s social teachings, and in particular by the Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Voting, as well as involvement in political campaigns, must have as its ultimate motive these higher, supernatural principles, that the law of God, the Ten Commandments, and the rights of the one true Church be acknowledged publicly in society.
Manifestly, we are presently very far removed from achieving these aims. It does not mean that we should do nothing. It does mean, however, that whatever we do will necessarily involve the toleration of many evils, which we in no way desire or will. It can be permissible to tolerate the lesser of two evils for a proportionate reason, and such toleration can be for the common good, precisely because it is the lesser of two evils. Thus it is possible to vote or even campaign for a candidate whose platform contains evils with which we do not agree. Everything depends upon a hierarchy of the most important values and issues taking priority over lesser ones.
All issues do not have the same value.
For a Catholic, there can be no doubt that the issues that take the highest priority must be the moral issues, and not personal or economic issues. The whole continuation of society as we know it depends upon this, and those who deny the most basic principles of the natural order are bringing about an unheard-of perversion. Consequently, it is permissible and prudent to vote on the one single issue of proscribing abortion, or forbidding same-sex marriages, or putting an end to euthanasia, or freedom of the Catholic Church to run educational institutions. All of these issues are of the utmost importance. For that reason, Catholics can vote for a candidate who promotes an unjust war, or for a candidate who is known to be a Freemason – although Freemasonry is an evil society condemned by the Church and opposed to the Catholic Church – if the candidate maintains a more important principle of the natural law such as the evil of abortion.
Lesser issues are also of moral importance, such as the justice or injustice of a particular war, or the paying of a just wage to employees, maintaining the right to private property by limiting government intervention, and so on. All other things being equal, one could vote on the basis of such issues. It would be wrong, however, to vote for a candidate who has a correct position on one of these secondary issues but a perverse and wrong position on a more important issue.
Consequently, it would be manifestly immoral and sinful to vote for a candidate who pretends to be Catholic, but who in fact is pro-abortion, pro-gay, or pro-euthanasia.
The Current Field of Conflict
We recommend to our readers the excellent article to be published in the upcoming August issue of Catholic Family News, "What is a Catholic to Do in November?" Thanks to its author for allowing us to provide the article here (PDF).
(BTW, please consider supporting Catholic Family News by subscribing or donating. They suffered greatly from the Covid-19)
On page 24, Brian McCall discusses the particular case of the 2020 Presidential Election and answers the question of what has Donald Trump done to give us reason to believe he is working to advance the cause of the Church.
Rightly Brian McCall ends his article by reminding us that our first duty is praying for our country and our president. He recommends the prayer composed by Archbishop Vigano to be said in preparation for November 3rd.
Let us pray this prayer and pray for the President, that whatever grace is moving him to do the right thing in so many instances will continue to flow. We should also pray that his faithfulness to these critical Catholic causes will merit for him the grace of Faith so as to convert to the Catholic Faith and thus be able to receive the loving absolution of the Church for his past sins.