From a reader…
If Biden is rabidly pro-abortion (he is), and if Trump is not completely pro-life (he supports abortion in cases of rape, incest, health of mother), and if both candidates support homosexual “marriage” (they do), then even if one votes for “the lesser of two evils”, does it stand to reason that one is still voting for evil?
Let me preface this with what Pius XII said, back when Communists were threatening to take over in post-WWII Italy. When important issues press, Catholics have an obligation to vote.
Pius said this to priests in 1946:
The exercise of the right to vote is an act of grave moral responsibility, at least with respect to the electing of those who are called to give to a country its constitution and its laws, and in particular those that affect the sanctification of holy days of obligation, marriage, the family, schools and the just and equitable regulation of many social questions. It is the Church’s duty to explain to the faithful the moral duties that flow from this electoral right.
He said this to priests in 1948, and I write this on the October Feast of Christ the King, which stressed the social Kingship of Christ:
The Catholic Church does not tell Catholics to avoid all involvement in politics simply because there is injustice, greed, ambition, just to mention some of the evils involved. The Church teaches us that all our involvement in politics ought to be motivated, inspired, and directed by the Church’s social teachings, and in particular by the Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Voting, as well as involvement in political campaigns, must have as its ultimate motive these higher, supernatural principles, that the law of God, the Ten Commandments, and the rights of the one true Church be acknowledged publicly in society.
These are critical times and this election is the most important of our lifetime. Our common responsibility toward each other for the common good points to a strong obligation to vote if at all possible.
And yet some will say, voting for the lesser of two evil candidates is still a vote for evil, lesser though it may be.
The Church’s teaching and moral distinctions help us with this problem.
There are times when we must act but, in acting, means that we have to tolerate evils which we do not will. It is permissible to tolerate the lesser of two evils for the common good. It is permissible to vote or campaign for a candidate whose party platform contains evils with which we do not agree. However, this toleration depends upon a hierarchy of issues, certain things having preeminence over others. For example, if a candidate is solidly pro-life and against abortion, and the other is solidly pro-abortion, the choice is obvious, because of the preeminence of the right to life. At the same time, if one candidate is in the main against abortion but would permit it in cases of incest, etc. etc., and the other candidate is for abortion up to the moment of birth, the choice is obvious, because one can tolerate the lesser of two evils.
Many people vote only about their own prosperity and personal good. However, we have to think about the common good. Hence, candidates who would promote things that tear at the very fabric of society, such as homosexual “marriage” must be excluded. However, in the case that one candidate is solidly in favor of same-sex unions and the other merely accepts settled law (such as Obergefell), the choice is obvious. Of course their position on the right to be born is even more important than this issue. There is a hierarchy of values.
Say a candidate is better than another on some really important issue, such as the right to be born, but he is not great when it comes to other issues, provided that he is better than the other candidate, it is permissible to vote for him even through his pro-life position is not perfect.
Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
As a voter you have a set of principles for choosing how to vote as elected legislators do. Think about it this way. Legislators have to vote on laws. Some laws are flawed, forbidding some things, but still permitting others that are evil. However, passing that law is a step in the right direction. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that we can act to limit possible evil. In that case, the object of the will is a possible good, not an impossible good (STh I-II q. 13, a5). St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium vitae that it is legitimate for a legislator to vote for a more restrictive law regarding abortion if the alternative is a less restrictive law.
“This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects, in order to prevent worse legislation from being adopted” (EV 73)
It is not an absolute moral obligation to vote, especially if there is no perfect candidate. However, in times of serious crisis, I think the obligation is even stronger than in times of relative stability and peace.
St. Augustine teaches correctly that only in heaven will there be vera iustitia… true justice. He teaches that government is a necessary evil because of the fall of mankind in Original Sin. Government is a kind of necessary evil. Most of our social structures are a result of sin. The fact that they are are inflictions, in a sense, does not dispense us from participation in society. We must be involved precisely as Catholics striving to live as if we already are citizens of the City of God. It is our work here to bring Christ to all the corners we are able to influence. Voting is a way to do that, even though the whole thing is sub-optimal in light of what awaits us in heaven.
We cannot simply opt out.
BTW.. on the issue of homosexual civil unions, I think Pres. Trump’s position is that now we have settled law. On the other hand, look at the rabid resistance to Trump on the part of the homosexualists. They don’t like him, which is significant.