“Ask a Priest: Must I Vote for a Republican in 2016?”

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Q: I have a quick question about this year’s U.S. presidential election. My question is that since all the Democratic candidates that are talked about support abortion and same-sex “marriage,” it would be sinful for me to vote for a Democratic candidate. So really I would have to vote for a Republican candidate, correct? I just want to make sure I understand this correctly. -C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You raise a very good question. The answer is surprisingly complex.

First, the Church doesn’t endorse specific political candidates or parties. Its mission is pastoral, not political.

Second, while no one should support a candidate because of his or her pro-abortion or pro-homosexuality stance — that would amount to formal cooperation in evil — it is possible to support a candidate who has some bad opinions, if the alternative is worse and if by your vote you don’t intend to support the candidate’s bad positions.

Third, you want to be wary of backing one candidate or another, thinking that he or she will be pro-life once in office. Pro-lifers have been disappointed more than a few times by supposedly sympathetic politicians.

Fourth, there is the tricky business of three-way races. Let’s say there is one candidate who is very pro-life, another who is moderately pro-abortion, and the third who is very pro-abortion.

The pro-lifer has virtually no chance of winning the race, and a vote for him will likely tilt the election in favor of the extremely pro-abortion candidate. So how do you vote? This is not an easy question. Good Christians have come to different answers.

In general, we should look to vote for candidates who will be pro-life and pro-family. Beyond that, the details can be difficult to navigate — which is why it helps to pray before an election.

For more reading, see the U.S. bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship“. I hope this helps.

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