“Ask a Priest: Could I Vote for a Pro-Abortion Candidate?”

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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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3 Comments
  1. I could not disagree more with any of this. The church is responsible for the spiritual well being of their congregations and I think not only do our priests have an obligation to point out the truth and set a clear direction but most definitely from the Pope right down the line, ESPECIALLY in these times we live in. In no way should we be voting for any candidate that is pro-abortion in any way. I once heard a woman testify to her experience during the election between George Bush and Kerry. She was dead set on voting for kerry simply because she didn’t like Bush and what he did in the Middle East at that time. She was standing on the line to vote and basically had a voice in her head say you have to vote for bush and she is said absolutely not! there is no way I am voting for Bush! and the voice again said You must vote for Bush and again she said no and again the voice said if you want to follow me you will vote for Bush because he is against abortion alone and on this issue you WILL vote for Bush and she stood there in complete disbelief of what was happening and voted for Bush because she knew it was the lord and it was what he wanted. We as Catholics have got to stand up for what is right and if we do not we are not only going to lose our Country we are going to lose our churches because these same people that are against abortion are against Christianity in any form and we are fighting pure evil! WE MUST TAKE A STAND NOW!! and honestly the Catholic church needs to start speaking up. Maybe not telling people who to vote for but definitely setting a precedent. Our Priest has and I am extremely proud of him!!

  2. The Catholic sources of information are readily available . In print,read the diocese newspaper, in digital/apps,listen to relevant radio station, Vatican News, etc to learn where the Church stands. I enjoy listening to Relevant radio leity commentary on all subjects to draw down to the truth while I pray and discern the politics in my home, community, country.
    My parish priest is also available for guidance when I ask. We need to search out the truth instead asking for the answer to make a decision,much less a vote.

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