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“Ask a Priest: Could I Vote for a Pro-Abortion Candidate?”
Q: I am writing as a concerned Catholic over the upcoming U.S. presidential election. I understand that one of the primary issues regarding the election of any public officials is their stance on abortion. I know that abortion is inherently evil. However, I also know that there are other grave matters at stake as well. I have read through the U.S. bishops’ handout regarding the matters of how to vote as a Catholic. They make a rather ambiguous statement regarding extreme or extenuating circumstances that would allow one to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Is it or would it be a mortal sin to vote for a certain candidate considering his current stance on abortion? My pastor has told me it would not be, but I have also been told by family members and others that it would be. The lack of a clear-cut answer from the U.S. bishops’ pamphlet leaves room for interpretation. Reading responses to this question from Catholic priests online and other faith-centered websites did not produce a clear answer either. – D.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: The year 2020 might not be remembered as the golden age of presidential elections. It says a lot about the state of the country.
It’s no surprise that you aren’t finding “clear” answers from the bishops’ statements. It’s simply not the job of bishops to tell Catholics whom to vote for.
In fact, for bishops to come out and tell Catholics how to vote would set off major fireworks. Many lay Catholics would deeply resent being told by bishops to vote for one candidate or another.
In any case, the Church is not here to promote political parties or specific candidates. The Church teaches the moral principles that should be considered. It’s more the mission of the laity to influence the political arena.
So, it’s up to Catholics to research the candidates and to decide how to apply those moral principles when it comes to Election Day.
In practice, this means that picking a candidate is rarely an easy choice. Even candidates in recent decades who were generally considered pro-life were prone to support abortion in cases of rape and incest.
Rare is the candidate who is 100% in agreement with Church teaching.
All this means that voters often favor candidates who are less than perfect or at least less disagreeable than other candidates.
That said, a Catholic couldn’t licitly vote for someone because the candidate was pro-abortion. That would be a kind of formal cooperation in evil.
Beyond that, this is an issue that you would need to take to prayer.
Perhaps one factor to consider is the likely long-term effects of one presidency versus another. Sometimes the impact of a president continues long after he is gone from the scene.
It would be good to pray for political leaders, too. Their impact on society, for bad or for worse, can be enormous.
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