A Time to Vote
You might have voted by the time you read this bulletin, since I know that a number of my Augustinian brothers have already voted. Myself, I have not cast my ballot yet, as of writing this article. I am reading a number of articles and documents, including Faithful Citizenship, which our nation’s bishops updated to help us form our conscience.
“As Catholics we are called to participate in public life in a manner consistent with the mission of our Lord,” the document states. Given that the two major political parties fail to uphold Catholic teaching in different ways, voting becomes a heavy moral duty with no easy answer. If voting seems easy, then you might be overlooking Church teaching.
Fr Sam Sawyer, SJ from America magazine explains the difficulty it: “Democrats almost universally support access to abortion, but are at least persuadable on a range of other critical issues the church focuses on. Many Republicans are pro-life, but are significantly opposed to Catholic priorities on a number of other issues, such as immigration, climate change and care for the poor.”
The document Faithful Citizenship, written by the Bishops of this country states that:
“The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore otherseriousthreatsto human life and dignity such asracism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”
Catholic prominent media and a number of theologians interpret the preeminent priority of abortion by saying that Catholics ought not to vote for candidates that approve of abortion. On the other hand, our own Bishop, Robert McElroy takes issue at labeling abortion as preeminent, while acknowledging that it is an intrinsic evil. He explains:
“The problem with this approach is that while the criterion of intrinsic evil identifies specific human acts that can never be justified, this criterion is not a measure of the relative gravity of the evil in particular human or political actions. Telling a lie is intrinsically evil, while escalating a nuclear arms race is not. But it is wrongheaded to propose that telling a lie to constituents should count more in the calculus of faithful voting than a candidate’s plans to initiate a destabilizing nuclear weapons program. Similarly, contraception is intrinsically evil in Catholic moral theology, while actions which destroy the environment generally are not. But it is a far greater moral evil for our country to abandon the Paris Climate Accord than to provide contraceptives in federal health centers. What these examples point out is that Catholic social teaching cannot be reduced to a deductivist model when it comes to voting to safeguard the life and dignity of the human person.”
Bishop McElroy adds: “The pathway from these crosscutting moral claims to decisions on particular candidates is not a direct and singular one in Catholic teaching, rooted in one issue. For this reason, the drive to label a single issue preeminent distorts the call to authentic discipleship in voting rather than advancing it.”
Underlying the critique of preeminence by Bishop McElroy might be a consequentialist ethic that looks at the total impact and moral consequences of a given action. He seems to appeal to the logic that the effects of climate change might be worse for the total number of lives of people, than the number of lives affected by the election of a pro-life candidate. Bishop McElroy is careful however, not to advo-cate for the consequalist position, since as Catholics we are guided by our Lord who specified right acts in and of themselves, and therefore our morality cannot be reduced to merely engaging in a calculus to maximize the best of different possibilities for our world. However, our Bishop does makes a good point in highlighting the gravity of the decision we make when we vote because consequences do matter even if acts matter as well.
Since when looking at all moral issues, there is no morally satisfying candidate or political party, we can only pray for the best option while paying attention to the entire moral landscape. I will vote with a heavy heart, since no candidate truly upholds the mission of Christ in its entirety.
Once you vote, SJ from America Magazine writes that our job is not over: “If our best option is to vote for a candidate who supports abortion, let us be that much more zealous in speaking up for the humanity of the unborn.” And if our best option is to vote for a candidate whose environmental policies are detrimental to the earth, let us read once again the encyclical Laudato Si and take action where we can.
God bless, Fr. Carlos Medina, OSA