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“Ask a Priest: What If a Pro-life Candidate Doesn’t Seem Apt?”
Q: My question is about voting. I am pro-life, and I know that as Catholics we are not supposed to vote for a presidential candidate who is not pro-life. However, what should we do if we do not believe the pro-life candidate is fit for office? I disagree with so much of what one politician stands for. He is disrespectful to women, minorities, immigrants, and anyone who disagrees with him. I could go on, but I’ll just get to the point: I dread the thought of him winning a second term. I will not vote for him. The problem is, I know that most (if not all) of the opposing candidates will be pro-choice. So my question is, is it ever OK to vote for a pro-choice candidate for office (and obviously continue to fight for rights for the unborn), or do we simply just not vote (which also seems wrong)? Any advice you can give on this matter would be greatly appreciated! – M.R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: A more precise way of stating Catholic teaching would be to say that we couldn’t vote for candidates because of their pro-choice stance. That could count as formal cooperation with evil.
Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of candidates nowadays who reflect Christian values across the board. Sometimes the decision comes down to picking the lesser of two evils, so to speak. (Technically, we should never choose evil, per se; rather, we could choose something to avoid a greater evil.)
So where does this leave you?
This is something you will need to take to prayer. Included in that prayer could be a petition for more palatable candidates in the election.
If neither major-party candidate suits you, you could also write in a pro-life candidate. Or just skip that contest and vote in other races that have more-appealing candidates.
There are no easy choices here. Ours is a culture that has drifted far from its Christian moorings. A major turnaround is unlikely to occur anytime soon.
If you want to learn more about the basic principles underlying a healthy society from a Catholic point of view, you might want to look at our online course called Spirituality and Society: A Practical Overview of Catholic Social Teaching.
Perhaps for your own peace of mind, you might want to look for ways to become more active in the pro-life cause.
By helping with pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, for instance, you can make a difference and help to save lives here and now. For more ideas, see https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/ByIssue/Article/TabId/735/ArtMID/13636/ArticleID/418/15-ways-to-promote-the-sanctity-of-life.aspx.
Channeling our energy in these areas will help us avoid a sense of discouragement and helplessness with the larger political culture. This includes prayer and fasting. Ultimately, we want to focus on a goal far greater than any political office.
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