I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most enthusiastic voter. Politics sucks and it seems like no one can be trusted. But, voting is our duty and a sacred honor and we can’t really complain about the outcome if we don’t at least try to influence it with our own vote.
I have heard from many people who are frustrated when it seems like there is absolutely no acceptable candidate that a pro-life Christian can vote for in good conscience. For this, Archbishop Chaput has some helpful advice in his book “Render Unto Caesar”:
What if Catholics face an election where both major candidates are “pro choice”? What should they do then? Here’s the answer: They should remember that the “perfect” can easily become the enemy of the “good.”
The fact that no ideal or even normally acceptable candidate exists in an election does not absolve us from taking part in it. As Catholic citizens, we need to work for the greatest good. The purpose of cultivating a life of prayer, a relationship with Jesus Christ, and a love for the church is to grow as a Christian disciple – to become the kind of Catholic adult who can properly exercise conscience and good sense in exactly such circumstances. There isn’t one “right” answer here. Committed Catholics can make very different but equally valid choices: to vote for the major candidate who most closely fits the moral ideal, to vote for an acceptable third-party candidate who is unlikely to win, or to not vote at all. All these choices can be legitimate. This is a matter for personal decision, not church policy.
The point we must never forget is this: We need to keep fighting for the sanctity of the human person, starting with the unborn child and extending throughout life. We abandon our vocation as Catholics if we give up; if we either drop out of political issues altogether or knuckle under to America’s growing callousness toward human dignity.
We need to keep fighting. Otherwise we become what the Word of God has such a disgust for: salt that has lost its flavor (Render Unto Caesar, p. 230-231)
While it can be debated whether pro-life Christians should or should not vote for the “lesser of two evils” in some races, it is never permissible for one to vote for a politician who would certainly and in almost all circumstances decriminalize – even provide funding for – attacks on human dignity (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, etc…). The Pope reiterated this last week as did Cardinal-elect Raymond Burke.
For those looking for the best, authentically “Catholic” voters guide, Archbishop Chaput says in Render Unto Caesar that the USCCB’s document “Living the Gospel of Life” is the “best tool anywhere for understanding the American Catholic political vocation.” Unfortunately it has gotten overshadowed by the slightly more ambiguous “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which has been used by some Catholics to rationalize their support for pro-abortion candidates in recent elections. See “Weighing the Issues” for more from Archbishop Chaput on the priority of right to life issues when voting and check out Why Abortion Is A Live Issue This Election, for a good summary of what’s at stake, at least on a federal level, in this regard.
I’m fortunate to be represented in the House by Frank Wolf, a pro-life Christian who walks the talk. Even though he always wins easily, I enjoy voting for him every two years.