Catholic bishops have published pamphlets on making moral choices in voting. They are readily available in churches and Catholic publications. These statements disappoint some Catholics. The bishops bring out several truths of Catholic moral theology and point out that some legislation, such as permission for abortion, is immoral. But they do not tell us how to vote. The bishops tell us that we must form our conscience in light of the statements and then vote in accordance with our conscience. How do we form our conscience?
Pope Francis has said that the confessional should not be a torture chamber. Our conscience during an examination of conscience is and ought to be a torture chamber.
Let me outline an examination of conscience focusing on the issue of abortion only. I won’t focus solely on the act of voting because political activity involves much more than voting. For instance, there is contributing to campaigns and putting up yard signs.
To start, search yourself on whether or not you actually condemn abortion as intrinsically immoral, viz., immoral regardless of the circumstances and consequences. Perhaps you simply do not care whether or not abortions are performed. You might want abortion to be legally available if a family member has an unwanted pregnancy or a diagnosis of a defective child? Or worse, might you not implicitly support pro-choice to reduce the population of certain kinds of people? An examination of conscience can be ugly.
In any event, as a Catholic you have an obligation to act as if you think abortion is intrinsically evil because you have an obligation to form your conscience in conformity with Church teaching. A long term project is working to align your sentiments in accordance with Catholic teaching.
Can you make a contribution to the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton National Committee? The morally safe answer is” No.” These committees represent the Democratic platform as a whole or Ms. Clinton’s views as a whole outlook. As a total outlook these views explicitly endorse the permissibility of abortion. Because you have accepted abortion as an intrinsic evil it cannot be offset by any other part of the programs regardless of how laudable they may be. There is no way to designate your contribution as simply to the laudable planks of the platform.
A “yes” answer would require doing something to mitigate the possible harm by supporting pro-choice programs. Perhaps, it would help if you would donate an equal amount of money to pro-life organizations or women’s centers for alternatives to abortion. Or you could become dues paying member of a caucus of pro-life Democrats called “Democrats for Life.”
The same kind of alternatives present themselves when you consider working in Clinton’s campaign , putting up yard signs or simply trying to persuade family and friends to vote for Clinton. In these cases, though, you have to worry whether or not you are showing other people that an allegedly good Catholic is indifferent to Catholic teaching. Here you should admit to others that you are at least uncomfortable about being in apparent conflict with Catholic teaching. You should not say “I can vote for Clinton with a clear conscience.” You should be visibly conflicted!
Before coming to the last step of voting, we have to consider whether or not it is permissible to compensate supporting a pro-abortion policy by performances of pro-life activities. Is not supporting a pro-abortion policy cooperating in the acts of abortion? It is intrinsically wrong to cooperate in the performance an abortion. I do not think that simply supporting practices under which abortions may, and certainly will, be performed is materially cooperating in the completion of any of those abortions. There can be no specifiable abortion of which it can be said “but for my support that abortion would not have occurred.”
Now we come to the voting booth. If throughout the campaign you have been tormenting yourself with the above kind of examination of conscience, you have not been an enthusiastic participant in this presidential election. I think that in the voting booth, you are entitled to ask yourself the very narrow question: Which of the two serious candidates is most likely to administer the national government most effectively? To me the answer to the narrow question is “Clinton.” That is how I will vote; but not with a clear conscience after I have let my conscience be my guide.
I have plenty of compensatory work to do.
Readers of this post may be interested in my book on sexual morality.
My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.
To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $16.70 per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
45 W. Kenworth Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43214
Include your shipping address.