Certain political issues place a special claim upon the Catholic conscience. These issues, where matters of intrinsic evil directly intersect with public policy, require unity from the Catholic faithful. Something is understood to be intrinsically evil if it is evil in and of itself, regardless of our motives or the circumstances. The Catholic faith requires Catholics to oppose abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the redefinition of marriage. These matters are not negotiable, for they contradict the natural law, available to everyone through human reasoning, and they violate unchanging and unchangeable Catholic moral principles.
The Catholic faith requires Catholics to oppose abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the redefinition of marriage.
While these issues are often adjudicated in the political arena, they are not, strictly speaking, “political issues.” Instead, they are fundamentally moral questions involving core Catholic teachings on what is right and what is wrong. Catholics who depart from Church teaching on these issues separate themselves from full communion with the Church.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput O.F.M. Cap. of Philadelphia:
I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion. I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat. I’m registered as an independent, because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another. As an individual and voter I have deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage, supports abortion in all circumstances, wants to restrict the traditional understanding of religious freedom. Those kinds of issues cause me a great deal of uneasiness.
I think many of the Democrats have [taken] Democrat Catholic votes for granted because they’ll go with them no matter what the Party position might be on abortion. That’s why the position of the Democrat Party has gotten worse, and worse, and worse as time goes on because Catholics haven’t abandoned them as they’ve moved in that direction. So we just have to be insistent on that Catholic identity takes precedence over everything.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL:
Video statement that should be watched first:
Catholics should avoid voting for candidates that would involve them in cooperation with the wrongdoing of politicians. Voting for a candidate who promotes public funding for abortion makes you morally complicit in the grave evil of killing some of our fellow human beings. Not every case of material cooperation with evil is unjustifiable, but every case requires us to think about whether it is justified, and this is acutely important with a widespread grave injustice such as abortion. As indicated earlier, it is not a simple analysis.
Some who try to navigate this labyrinth of moral analysis simply rationalize their way to a desired conclusion, for example, by saying that voting for a pro-choice candidate is justified by their support for other “social justice” causes. But such people should apply the Golden Rule by placing themselves in the shoes of the people who are going to be killed by abortions. Would these voters really think it is more “just” to vote for the “pro-choice” candidate if they or their own children or their brothers and sisters were going to be deliberately killed — along with 1.3 million others? Not very likely, is it?
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore:
The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances? If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.
Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine, FL:
I would not tell you how to vote or who to vote for, but it is my responsibility to remind you that, for us Catholics, some issues are simply never morally acceptable. The taking of an innocent human life, whether inside the womb or not, and up until natural death, is always and everywhere intrinsically evil. Such issues as embryonic stem cell research and attempts at human cloning are also direct attacks against the dignity and uniqueness of human life made in the image of God. Finally, preserving the dignity of traditional marriage is of central importance and must never be undermined because marriage is a cornerstone of any stable society. Any attempts to re-define marriage as something other than between a man and a woman, should be vigorously opposed by a Catholic as contrary to reason, the natural law, and the divinely revealed truths of the Bible. Beyond these fundamental issues, and closely related to them is the issue of religious liberty – our ability as Catholics to live our lives publically according to our faith and morals at all levels of society.
As Catholics we must first consider the various candidates and party platforms in light of those immutable issues I have mentioned above. Then, in good conscience, we must give preference to the candidate who does not oppose our God given moral principles.
The Illinois Bishops:
The moral imperative to respond to the basic needs of our neighbors – such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work – is universally binding on our conscience, but may be legitimately fulfilled through a variety of means. Catholics should seek the best methods to respond to these needs. However, candidates who promise ways to address these important needs, yet at the same time gloss over their support for “intrinsically evil” actions such as abortion, will not receive the support of a person with a conscience well-formed by the Catholic faith or human reason.
Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay:
Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these [intrinsic evils - abortion, gay marriage, etc.] as their party’s or their personal political platform. To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally “complicit” with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn:
It is inconceivable to me how Catholics could support such policies. Indeed, Roman Catholics who support abortion rights and vote for a candidate because of those policies, place him/herself outside of the life of the Church. In so doing, they also place themselves in moral danger.
Is it possible to vote for somebody despite their support for these policies? To my mind, it stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option. The dignity and sanctity of human life are the foundational values upon which all other policies are built. Concern for the poor, the stranger in our midst, they are all predicated upon our belief in the dignity and sanctity of human life.
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, IL:
Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present. Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community’s grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception. This assault upon our religious freedom is simply without precedent in the American political and legal system. Contrary to the guarantees embedded in the First Amendment, the HHS mandates attempt to now narrowly define and thereby drastically limit our traditional religious works. They grossly and intentionally intrude upon the deeply held moral convictions that have always guided our Catholic schools, hospitals, and other apostolic ministries.
Nearly two thousand years ago, after our Savior had been bound, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, a pagan Roman Procurator displayed Jesus to a hostile crowd by sarcastically declaring: “Behold your King.” The mob roared back: “We have no king but Caesar.” Today, Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord. They are objectively guilty of grave sin. For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God’s great mercy in time will give way to God’s perfect judgment in eternity.
I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith. May God guide and protect His Holy Church, and may God bless America.
The U.S. Bishops on the attack on religious liberty in the United States:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Corrects Vice President Joseph Biden:
Pope Benedict XVI on the attack on religious liberty in the United States:
Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you [bishops] have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.
Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.
Pope Benedict XVI on weighing moral issues when voting: