Tag Archives: voting

Voting pro-life in a difficult election

As we approach another national election, the pro-life movement — based on logic, arithmetic and the evidence of experience — continues to proclaim that there is no issue more foundational in our choice of a candidate and a party than abortion.

Fr. Frank Pavone

From the declaration of Pope St. John Paul II that legalizing abortion turns the state into “a tyrant state,” to the assertion of St. Teresa of Calcutta that “the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion,” to the U.S. bishops’ teaching that the right to life is the foundation of the “house” of interrelated issues, to the sheer arithmetic showing that nothing takes more life than abortion, to the ongoing evidence that abortion — besides killing the child — harms mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, the whole family, friends, abortionists, and all society, the message is clear: If we don’t re-establish protection of the right to life, all our other efforts for the common good are built on quicksand.

No election gets us there in one step. But to keep moving toward that goal, all have to participate in each election. And in this one, many say they’re finding it hard to vote at all. Unless Jesus and the Blessed Mother are on the ballot, we are always going to be choosing imperfect candidates. In this life, everything is a messy mixture of good and evil.

At the same time, there are always differences between the candidates. We need to do our homework on the candidates’ positions, as well as the parties those candidates represent. Each party has its universe of philosophies and policy preferences. Each party is a whole army of people who are going to surround and advise the candidate, and fill many positions of influence if that candidate is elected.

For instance, what kind of people would a president nominate to serve on the Supreme Court and the other federal courts? In what direction do they and their party lean on the most fundamental issues of life, religious freedom, marriage and family? Remember, it’s not just that the candidate shapes the office — the office also shapes the candidate, as does the party. Who would this president, furthermore, appoint as surgeon general, attorney general, secretary of state, secretary of the department of Health and Human Services, and so many more?

We have to be patient with ourselves and with the process and carefully choose the person and party who are closest to our values, starting with the most important issues. Voting is a moral obligation; participation in the political process is a virtue. The U.S. bishops teach us that “every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts” (Living the Gospel of Life, #34).

If we conclude that no matter who wins, they will do damage, the analogy of the runaway train may help us. Imagine you’re at the controls of a runaway train and you cannot stop it. But you can change the track that it’s on. At the end of one track, the train will kill a large number of people, and at the end of the other track, a small number of people. What do you do?

Obviously, you don’t want it to kill anyone. But you cannot stop the train. You would, of course, change the train to the track where it’s going to do the least damage. In this case, you aren’t choosing evil; you are choosing to limit evil — and that choice is a good.

The guidance here is simple: It’s the difference between certainty and doubt. If you know one choice will definitely lead in the wrong direction and the other might lead in the right direction, you choose the possible good.

We have to remember, too, that our vote is not meant to make us feel good; it’s about advancing the common good. A vote is not an opinion poll about what we think about the candidate. It’s a transfer of power — and it’s a gamble.

The bottom line is that we must not skip an election; we should vote. Sometimes we may think that we’re doing wrong by voting for either candidate. But we have to consider the fact that we influence the election whether we like it or not. Skipping a vote also influences the election because it takes a vote away from the better of the two candidates.

So don’t sit out the election. Go and vote, and help change the train to the best available track!

FATHER FRANK PAVONE is Priests for Life’s national director.

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A freedom, a duty, a privilege

Some years ago I recall Warren Buffett confessing his gratitude for having been born in the United States in the 20th century. He acknowledged that mankind has never before enjoyed the level of cultural, scientific and physical advances Americans enjoy today.

John Hunt

John Hunt

During Legatus’ 2008 pro-life conference in Washington, D.C., we were privileged to have an audience with recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In the Q&A that followed the justice’s remarks, a question lamented the fact that the courts, and in particular the U.S. Supreme Court, too often fail to confirm the Christian virtues we treasure.

Scalia’s response reminded the questioner and all present that the citizenry would be better served if it elected representatives at the local, state and federal level who exemplify ethical and moral norms consistent with our Catholic Christian faith.

Of course, Justice Scalia was correct that we, in the first instance, elect those representatives who will infuse the culture with a Christian tone and conduct. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes [and] to exercise the right to vote” (# 2240). A moral obligation! But isn’t the exercise of the right to vote more than an obligation?

I’ve been privileged to vote in local, state and federal elections for more years than I care to remember. However, I have always been struck by the sense of privilege, if not downright joy, with which voting citizens address this responsibility.

I had this experience in March as I waited in line to cast my ballot in the Florida primary.

The tone of the conversation among my fellow voters was one of shared responsibility for the task at hand — to elect representatives who will be responsible for serving the common good. It was clear that my fellow voters considered it an honor to have a role in the future of this great country. After all, the right to vote is an extension of all the freedoms we enjoy.

While the process of campaigning is often arcane, cumbersome and inefficient and while the public officials to whom we entrust our well-being are all too often found lacking, the freedoms we enjoy — including the right to vote our conscience — should be treasured as gifts worthy of our appreciation to God for continually blessing us. Truly, God has blessed America.

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Catholic conscience in the voting booth

FR. JOHN LOVE: Catholics are called to vote with a formed and informed conscience . . .

Fr. John Love

Fr. John Love

A fellow California pastor made national news a few years ago when he spoke out strongly to parishioners from the pulpit about voting for politicians who support abortion.

Naturally the pastor’s sentiments were misconstrued when the story hit the papers, but he did make some good points, even if his message ultimately proved to be a bit provocative. He stated: “If you are one of the 54% of Catholics who voted for a pro-abortion candidate, you were clear on his position, and you knew the gravity of the question, I urge you to go to Confession before receiving Communion.”

While I might hesitate to assign a formal act of sin to a voting choice, many bishops and pastors are frustrated as large pools of Catholic politicians continue boldly to proclaim themselves good Catholics, while at the same time hold voting records which are clearly opposed to the Church’s non-negotiable moral positions. Abortion is one of these non-negotiable issues.

More than ever, Catholic lay faithful must not cower or absent themselves from the public square, but as Sen. Rick Santorum proclaims, we should engage and challenge candidates’ abortion stance with renewed vigor and unity. I am disheartened that although we comprise the single largest voting bloc in the country, our Catholic pro-life voice is muted principally by prominent Catholic politicians who have fallen prey to what I call the Cuomo Effect. Then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo proposed in 1984 that politicians can be good Catholics while taking positions that are contrary to the Magisterium — even on abortion.

“With regard to abortion,” he said, “the American bishops have had to weigh Catholic moral teaching against the fact of a pluralistic country where our view is in the minority, acknowledging that what is ideally desirable isn’t always feasible, that there can be different political approaches to abortion besides unyielding adherence to an absolute prohibition.”

In my view, this single statement did more to harm Catholic influence in political life than any other speech since the founding of our nation. Many candidates on both sides of the aisle are now pro-abortion because (1) Cuomo gave them tacit permission, and (2) they have been told by their consultants that they are unelectable if they shift to a pro-life stance. It’s now up to the American episcopacy (and you and me) to prove these consultants wrong and to nullify the Cuomo Effect.

Instead of fretting about Cuomo’s sophistry, I would like to lay down a framework or “Catholic conscience guide” for your consideration in this year’s mid-term elections:

• Understand the word “conscience.” It literally means “with understanding.” Pray that the Holy Spirit might enlighten all your decisions. Don’t just pray that the Holy Spirit will be with you in the voting booth, but pray that you might make the right decisions in life whenever it counts. “Do not quench the Spirit … test everything and retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil” (1 Thes 5:19-22). Being pro-life is not just about voting; it’s about an enlightened view of human life from cradle to grave.

• When there is doubt, or when the secular and sacred are at odds on a particular issue, stand with the Catholic Church. I know this may sound patronizing or clerical to some, but we do well to consider the teaching office (munus) of our Church as vital to our faith. I cannot pretend to alone have all the answers to life’s questions. In the same way we consult in medicine, business, and law, we need to consult our trusted experts in ethics and morality.

• Related to the above, reacquaint yourself with the teachings of the Church and do not rely on media reports and editorials about Church teaching. The news media are always looking for story and sound bite over substance. The U.S. bishops wrote a letter in 2007 entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. I suggest accessing and carefully reading the document.

• Avoid becoming a “single issue” voter in favor of becoming a “foundational voter.” I agree 100% with my ardently pro-life friends who consider this issue to be of paramount importance to our nation’s future. However, I prefer to look at my opposition to legal abortion not as a single issue, but as the foundational concern upon which all other moral teaching will be built. That is, if I know that a politician can get the pro-life issues correct, he or she will probably also get the other life issues correct as well — including things like protecting the family, the poor, the terminally ill, and the elderly.

Now get out there and vote on Nov. 4!

FR. JOHN LOVE is pastor of St. Mark’s University Parish in Isla Vista, Calif., and chaplain of Legatus’ Santa Barbara Chapter.