HOW THIS VOTER'S GUIDE HELPS YOU
This voter's guide helps you cast your vote in an informed manner consistent with Catholic moral teaching.
It helps you eliminate from consideration candidates who endorse policies that cannot be reconciled with moral norms that used to be held by all Christians.
On most issues that come before voters or legislators, a Catholic can take one side or the other and not act contrary to his faith. Most matters do not have a "Catholic position."
But some issues are so key, so elemental, that only one position accords with the teaching of the Christian gospel.
No one endorsing the wrong side of these subjects can be said to act in accord with the Church's moral norms.
This voter's guide identifies five "non-negotiable" issues and helps you narrow down the list of acceptable candidates, whether they are running for national, state, or local offices.
Candidates who endorse or promote any of the five non-negotiables should be considered to have disqualified themselves from holding public office, and you should not vote for them. You should make your choice from among the remaining candidates.
YOUR ROLE AS A CATHOLIC VOTER
Catholics have a moral obligation to promote the common good through the exercise of their voting privileges (cf. CCC 2240).
It is not just civil authorities who have responsibility for a country. "Service of the common good require[s] citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community" (CCC 2239).
This means citizens should participate in the political process at the ballot box.
But voting cannot be arbitrary. "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law that contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals" (CPL 4).
Some things always are wrong, and no one may vote in favor of them, directly or indirectly. Citizens vote in favor of these evils if they vote in favor of candidates who propose to advance them.
Thus, Catholics should not vote for anyone who intends to push programs or laws that are intrinsically evil.
THE FIVE NON-NEGOTIABLE ISSUES
These five issues are called non-negotiable because they concern actions that are always morally wrong and must never be promoted by the law. It is a serious sin to endorse or promote any of these actions, and no candidate who really wants to advance the common good will support any of the five non-negotiables.
The Church teaches that, regarding a law permitting abortions, it is "never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it" (EV 73). Abortion is the intentional and direct killing of an innocent human being, and therefore it is a form of homicide.
The child is always an innocent party, and no law may permit the taking of his life. Even when a child is conceived through rape or incest, the fault is not the child's, who should not suffer death for others' sins.
Often disguised by the name "mercy killing," euthanasia also is a form of homicide. No one has a right to take his own life (suicide), and no one has the right to take the life of any innocent person.
In euthanasia, the ill or elderly are killed out of a misplaced sense of compassion, but true compassion cannot include doing something intrinsically evil to another person (cf. EV 73).
3. Fetal Stem Cell Research
Human embryos are human beings. "Respect for the dignity of the human being excludes all experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo" (CRF 4b).
Recent scientific advances show that any medical cure that might arise from experimentation on fetal stem cells can be developed by using adult stem cells instead. Adult stem cells can be obtained without doing harm to the adults from whom they come. Thus there no longer is a medical argument in favor of using fetal stem cells.
4. Human Cloning
"Attempts . . . for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through 'twin fission,' cloning, or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union" (RHL I:6).
Human cloning also ends up being a form of homicide because the "rejected" or "unsuccessful" clones are destroyed, yet each clone is a human being.
5. Homosexual "Marriage"
True marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Legal recognition of any other form of "marriage" undermines true marriage, and legal recognition of homosexual unions actually does homosexual persons a disfavor by encouraging them to persist in what is an objectively immoral arrangement.
"When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral" (UHP 10).
Laws are passed by the legislature, enforced by the executive branch, and interpreted by the judiciary.
This means you should scrutinize any candidate for the legislature, anyone running for an executive office, and anyone nominated for the bench. This is true not only at the national level but also at the state and local levels.
True, the lesser the office, the less likely the office holder will take up certain issues. Your city council, for example, perhaps never will take up the issue of human cloning.
But it is important that you evaluate every candidate, no matter what office is being sought.
Few people achieve high office without first holding low office. Some people become congressional representatives, senators, or presidents without having been elected to a lesser office.
But most representatives, senators, and presidents started their political careers at the local level. The same is true for state lawmakers. Most of them began on city councils and school boards and worked their way up the political ladder.
Tomorrow's candidates for higher offices will come mainly from today's candidates for lower offices. It is therefore prudent to apply the same standards to local candidates as to state and national ones.
If candidates who are wrong on non-negotiable issues fail to be elected to lower offices, they might not become candidates for higher offices. This would make it easier to elect good candidates for the more influential offices at the state and national levels.
TO DETERMINE A
1. The higher the office, the easier this will be. Congressional representatives and senators, for example, repeatedly have seen these issues come before them and so have taken positions on them.
Often the same can be said at the state level. In either case, learning a candidate's position can be as easy as reading newspaper or magazine articles, looking up his views on the Internet, or studying one of the many printed candidate surveys that are distributed at election time.
2. It often is more difficult to learn the views of candidates for local offices because few of them have an opportunity to consider legislation on such things as abortion, cloning, and the sanctity of marriage.
But these candidates, being local, often can be contacted directly or have local campaign offices that will explain their positions.
3. If you cannot determine a candidate's views by other means, do not hesitate to write directly to him and ask how he stands on each of the non-negotiables.
HOW NOT TO VOTE
1. Do not base your vote on your political party affiliation, your earlier voting habits, or your family's voting tradition.
Years ago, these may have been trustworthy ways to determine whom to vote for, but today they are not reliable.
You need to look at each candidate as an individual. This means that you may end up casting votes for candidates from more than one party.
2. Do not cast your vote based on candidates' appearance, personality, or "media savvy." Some attractive, engaging, and "sound- bite-capable" candidates endorse intrinsic evils and so should be opposed, while other candidates, who may be plain-looking, uninspiring, and ill at ease in front of cameras, endorse legislation in accord with basic Christian principles.
3. Do not vote for candidates simply because they declare themselves to be Catholic. Unfortunately, many self-described Catholic candidates reject basic Catholic moral teaching. They are "Catholic" only when seeking votes from Catholics.
4. Do not choose among candidates based on "What's in it for me?" Make your decision based on which candidates seem most likely to promote the common good, even if you will not benefit directly or immediately from the legislation they propose.
5. Do not reward with your vote candidates who are right on lesser issues but who are wrong on key moral issues.
One candidate may have a record of voting exactly as you wish, aside from voting also in favor of, say, euthanasia. Such a candidate should not get your vote.
Candidates need to learn that being wrong on even one of the non-negotiable issues is enough to exclude them from consideration.
|HOW TO VOTE
1. For each office, first determine how each candidate stands on each of the five non-negotiable issues.
2. Eliminate from consideration candidates who are wrong on any of the non-negotiable issues. No matter how right they may be on other issues, they should be considered disqualified if they are wrong on even one of the non-negotiables.
3. Choose from among the remaining candidates, based on your assessment of each candidate's views on other, lesser issues.
WHEN THERE IS NO
In some political races, each candidate takes a wrong position on one or more of the five non-negotiables. In such a case you may vote for the candidate who takes the fewest such positions or who seems least likely to be able to advance immoral legislation, or you may choose to vote for no one.
THE ROLE OF YOUR
Conscience is like an alarm. It warns you when you are about to do something wrong. It does not itself determine what is right or wrong.
For your conscience to work properly, it must be properly informed-that is, you must inform yourself about what is right and what is wrong. Only then will your conscience be a trusted guide.
Unfortunately, today many Catholics have not formed their consciences adequately regarding key moral issues. The result is that their consciences do not "sound off" at appropriate times, including on election day.
A well-formed conscience never will contradict Catholic moral teaching. For that reason, if you are unsure where your conscience is leading you when at the ballot box, place your trust in the unwavering moral teachings of the Church.
(The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent source of authentic moral teaching.)
WHEN YOU ARE DONE WITH
THIS VOTER'S GUIDE
Please do not keep this voter's guide to yourself. Read it, learn from it, and prepare your selection of candidates based on it.
Then give this voter's guide to a friend, and ask your friend to read it and pass it on to others. The more people who vote in accord with basic moral principles, the better off our country will be.