Catholics Must Understand Their Voting Priorities

I was not going to write a commentary on this subject because, as you probably have guessed by now, I cannot talk about candidates due to the tax status of American Life League and our focus on principle, not politics. It has always been my view that any man or woman who occupies the White House or is elected to any other public office will not end abortion until the majority of Americans recognize the child in the womb as a person, rather than a political issue.
However, there have been far too many Catholics who have e-mailed me privately, who are awash in sorrow, dejection and fear. The reason is best exemplified by the following message from a strong Catholic, who is currently feeling like a beaten-up wrestler:
I am a practicing Catholic in California and have been saddened to learn that practically all the other Catholics I attend church with each Sunday are voting for pro-choice candidates, voting against a ban on same sex marriage, and justifying it along the way, as are the pastors in many of the surrounding churches… I have been made to feel judgmental for my conservative view. What is going on?????
I answered this particular person the same way I have been answering everyone: We are living in times of moral relativism, and thus, regardless of religious affiliation, faithful people are paying a painful price because we are constantly made to feel like we are either out of step with reality or politically naïve. 
It is not so easy to explain why this is so. But I think the crux of the problem is simply that those who have chosen to avoid Christ's truths find it easier to condemn those who are not willing to succumb to this evil rather than admit that their choices are wrong.
Either way, it is imperative to keep our eye on the truth. Pope John Paul II's legacy includes some of the most fundamental teaching on this matter that anyone could ever hope to read, and yet few appear willing to quote him in context. Such is not the case with me. As he so brilliantly wrote in Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life),
Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good… It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.
Yet, I have seen so many misrepresentations of this simple message in the media, from the pulpit and in conversation that it boggles my mind. There seems to be an absolute disconnect when it comes to the intrinsic evil of abortion, euthanasia, infanticide and human embryonic stem cell research versus the moral obligation a Catholic has to vote according to God's law.
This is the crux of the problem in our culture today. It seems that many are being misled into thinking that all "issues" carry the same weight, by using the rationale that abortion should not be our only concern. It is my humble opinion that the reason for this is twofold:
  • silence from the pulpits regarding the fact that every abortion is an act of murder, and 
  • rejection of Church teaching when that teaching does not conform to the lifestyle of the Catholic in question.
In addition to this problem, I cannot tell you how frequently I have seen quotes from either Pope John Paul II or Cardinal John O'Connor used to defend the position that the "lesser of two evils" is actually the "greater good." While I cannot find that in any of my moral theology textbooks, all of which predate 1964, I am sure such thinking is rampant in our culture and is the crux of why people like the above-quoted California Catholic feel so downtrodden and rejected.
I have to wonder how many of those responsible for the salvation of souls have ever really thought about these profound words, also written by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor, #52: 
What must be done in any given situation depends on the circumstances, not all of which can be foreseen; on the other hand there are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response [ – ] a response which is in conformity with the dignity of the person. Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil. 
The Church has always taught that one may never choose kinds of behaviour prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments. As we have seen, Jesus himself reaffirms that these prohibitions allow no exceptions: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments . . . You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness" (Mt 19: 17-18) .
Clearly, a vote cast with complete knowledge of the reality described by the Holy Father should be a vote cast as if Christ were standing there with you at the time.
Frankly, the more we excuse a little abortion as being better than a lot of abortion, the more confusing it becomes for those who must vote or, more importantly, for those for whom votes are being cast. Politicians always gravitate toward the lowest common denominator, even when that means supporting abortion in certain cases. And we, by our applause and accolades, enable this.
To my mind, this is a sign of despair, which is the opposite of hope. It is as if we have given up on personhood and decided to settle for some killing and label it as better than nothing. It is not a far stretch from that perspective to the idea that abortion is just a political issue and not all that important in the first place.
As we at American Life League have pointed out in our "Voter Guide," there are four non-negotiable questions upon which there cannot be compromise: abortion, euthanasia, human embryonic stem cell research and cloning. We state,
If a candidate respects the dignity of human beings in some circumstances but not in others, he cannot hold the belief that every human being's life is sacred and inviolable. That candidate, no matter how right he is on other topics, should not receive your vote.
In an increasing number of cases, elections feature two major party candidates, neither of whom is in total agreement with the Church. Some say it is "throwing away your vote" to choose an independent or third-party candidate whose position is consistent with Catholic teachings. But our obligation as Catholics is to vote for the person who reflects Catholic teaching. None of us can control the outcome of an election; each of us can vote for the solidly pro-life candidate.
Section 73 of Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae, which speaks of limiting the harm, is frequently used to justify the "lesser of two evils." But Pope John Paul II did not say it is permissible to vote for a candidate who violates one of the four non-negotiables.
Why not vote for a candidate who promises to do his best to eliminate the harm? That is, the candidate who promises to do his best to make abortion illegal? The goal, after all, is not to limit abortion; the goal is to do away with it altogether. If your well-formed Catholic conscience tells you the independent or third-party candidate is the best choice for the babies, then that's a pretty good indication of what you should do in the voting booth on Election Day.
The bottom line is that, regardless of what the popular thought or philosophy may be among the so-called Catholics like Nancy Pelosi, Father Michael Pfleger , Douglas Kmiec and others, the truth is unchangeable. As pro-life Americans and as people of faith, we are called to do that which is in harmony with God's laws, and if we do that, then our conscience will be clear and our action will be correct. To do anything other than that is to succumb to the despairing attitudes of those who have chosen to set aside the truth for the sake of popular trends.