This Tuesday, Nov. 6, is a day on which every voting Catholic must make an important choice. We face the civic duty to be faithful citizens and the moral summons to be faithful to our consciences. Of the two, the moral obligation to follow one’s conscience comes first. We may not, in fact, support in any way unjust, immoral law or policies, which are contrary to God’s law and good conscience. This then would even lead a voter to disqualify a candidate who actively promotes any laws and regulations that are immoral by their very nature – what we call “intrinsic” evils.
Laws and regulations that support intrinsic evils are, for example, any that tolerate or abet the unjust taking of human life (like abortion and euthanasia) or racism. Equally immoral are laws or regulations that deny people the right to choose not to pay for such evil practices, even indirectly, by coercing citizens or companies to fund abortion, contraception or sterilization. The HHS ruling, now being litigated by U.S. Bishops and others against the federal government, is a prime example.
Although one should consider a candidate’s position on many issues, the first level of scrutiny, so to speak, would be the disqualification of anyone who is supporting a practice that is by its nature evil. This is not to be taken lightly or “rationalized” away because of party loyalty, class identity or union intimidation or, even worse, special promises by a candidate. Our conscience is not for sale. To vote for evil, in fact, is to risk the very life of one’s soul!
We hear it said, “Yes, but I have no choice but to vote for the lesser of two evils.” That may seem so, but we are not just talking here about choosing between two or more imperfect or flawed candidates. This is not the choice between good and “evil” of which we speak. One candidate may well have what seems to be a better plan for the economy, or for tax, healthcare or immigration reform than another. Before even making this choice, however, it must be clear that none of the positions – even of that candidate with the “better plan” – includes support of something that is by nature evil.
We are all familiar with the words of Jesus, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s!” This passage has often been cited (incorrectly) as an endorsement from Jesus for paying taxes. Of course, Christians must pay taxes for the promotion of the common good. These words of Jesus, however, are neither an endorsement of Caesar nor a duty to pay him anything. In fact, Tiberius Caesar – who ruled at the time of Christ – was a man who, in his personal life, was a pedophile, a sexual deviant and a murderer who, as emperor, claimed to be a god and oppressed and enslaved millions of people, including Jesus’ own. Our loyalty to God comes first, even if it means we must disobey “Caesar’s” unjust laws and ordinances.
Fortunately, no one on the ballot this Tuesday appears to be so personally corrupt as was Caesar, but there are candidates and platforms actively promoting policies that endanger and, astonishingly, even promote the taking of the lives of innocent human beings and, what is more, would require us all to pay for this. To pull the lever or check off on the ballot next to the name of such a candidate is tantamount to sitting in the judgment seat of God and deciding who is to live and who is to die!
The U.S. Bishops summarize our choice this way: “As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”
May God give each of us the courage to place the care of our souls before our politics – by voting our conscience!