Catholic voters must consider many issues on election day, including 5 non-negotiables . . .
When Catholics go to the polls on Nov. 6, they bring the power of a massive block of voters. Nearly a quarter of registered U.S. voters self-identity as Catholic. They may be registered as Democrats or Republicans, but once inside the voting booth, it will be time for Catholics to set aside party politics in favor of their faith.
Some Catholics have become confused in recent years in thinking that as long as they follow their “consciences,” they can vote as they please. Resources like the “Catholic Answers Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics,” however, make it clear that one’s conscience in itself does not determine right and wrong.
“For your conscience to work properly,” the guide says, “it must be properly informed — that is, you must inform yourself about what is right and what is wrong. Only then will your conscience be a trusted guide.”
A well-formed conscience, the guide says, will never contradict Church teaching. Catholics who are uncertain about what their consciences are saying concerning specific issues and candidates are advised to place their trust in the Church’s moral teachings as spelled out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warns against “misguided appeals to ‘conscience’ to ignore fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological or personal interests.”
When choosing candidates and deciding issues, Catholics are bound to consider non-negotiable moral principles and, as much as possible, avoid voting for candidates and issues that promote intrinsically evil actions like abortion. Intrinsic evils are acts that are in conflict with moral law and thus can never be performed, endorsed, or promoted without sinful consequences.
The Catholic Answers guide states that five issues are non-negotiable when it comes to voting on a candidate or ballot question. Besides abortion, they include the intentional and direct killing of a developing human being, including assisted suicide and euthanasia (often miscast as “mercy killing”); embryonic stem-cell research, which destroys embryonic human beings; human cloning, which separates procreation from the marital union; and homosexual “marriage,” a distortion of true marriage, which can only take place between one man and one woman.
To the greatest extent possible, Catholics are to avoid voting for candidates who endorse or promote policies that provide for any of these acts and to vote instead for those who promote policies in keeping with moral law.
This year, Catholics will face some of these questions as specific ballot issues in states like Massachusetts, where a measure providing for “assisted suicide” will be put to a vote, and in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, where measures either allowing same-sex “marriage” or defining marriage are on the ballot.
In addition, Catholics must examine the positions of individual candidates and party platforms on these important non-negotiables. For example, in the current presidential race, the Democratic candidate supports abortion on demand and same-sex “marriage,” as does his party platform.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., recently called attention to the Democratic Party platform, warning that it endorses intrinsic evils. “My job is not to tell you for whom you should vote,” he wrote in his Sept. 23 column in the Catholic Times, his diocesan newspaper. “But I do have a duty to speak out on moral issues. I would be abdicating this duty if I remained silent out of fear of sounding ‘political’ and didn’t say anything about the morality of these issues.”
Bishop Paprocki went on to caution that voting for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil makes a voter “morally complicit” and even places his or her eternal salvation in jeopardy.
The bishop said the Republican Party platform contains nothing that supports or promotes intrinsic evil.
Another issue facing Catholics as they go to the polls this year will be the question of religious liberty in the wake of the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services mandate requiring all health insurance plans, even those of church-based organizations and institutions, to provide coverage for contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization.
More than 100 plaintiffs — including Legatus and many of its members — have filed suit against the federal government over the HHS contraception mandate.
In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” U.S. bishops express concern about efforts to force Catholic employers to either violate their consciences or stop serving those in need.
Despite requests for conscience-protection provisions, the government’s exemption has been limited to groups and institutions that employ and serve only people of their own faith.
Besides abortion, euthanasia and efforts to redefine marriage, the bishops also have cited as concerns the current economic crisis, increasing deficits, failure to repair a broken immigration system, and the problems of war, terror and violence.
However, they make clear that although some of the issues raise serious moral questions, not all involve intrinsic evil.
Judy Roberts is Legatus magazine’s staff writer.
These five current issues concern actions that are intrinsically evil and must never be promoted by the law.
3. Embryonic stem-cell research
4. Human cloning
5. Homosexual “marriage”