We need talented and principled Catholic men and women to seek elective office. Public life requires enormous sacrifices on the part of those who do it for the right reasons and motives. I have the highest admiration for the dedication and integrity of many Catholics who serve at the national, state, and local levels in government.
At the same time, it saddens me to see the many Catholics in public life who abandon the moral teachings of the Church on fundamental human-rights issues in order to appease the leadership of their party or because they believe it necessary to get elected. We do not need Catholics serving in public office who are willing to check their principles at the doorway of the legislative chamber. A Catholic in public life must allow the moral values of his faith to inform his positions.
Certainly, a Catholic elected to public office must make prudential judgments on how to best advance the rights and the dignity of the human person. There are many issues, in fact most issues, where Catholic politicians may disagree and adopt different policy positions—a just immigration policy, for example, or public-assistance programs for the poor, or health-care policy, or military engagement, or taxation policies.
He then gets to the heart of the matter:
Then he knocks it out of the park:
The issue of the scandal caused by Catholic politicians who persistently act contrary to Catholic moral teaching on matters of intrinsic evil has become a significant problem. Catholics and others are confused about the teaching and the seriousness of the teaching of the Church on fundamental human-rights issues, such as the sanctity of human life, when Catholics in public life contradict this church teaching while still claiming to be faithful Catholics.The bishop must have pastoral concern for the Catholic politician as a member of his flock. He must attempt through pastoral dialogue to enlighten the Catholic politician about the moral seriousness of his or her position. At the same time, he must protect his flock from being misled.
Every Catholic should be concerned about a wide range of issues, as noted above. But we must realize that those issues that involve intrinsic evils—direct attacks on human life, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, or direct attacks on the institution of the family (for example, a redefinition of marriage to equate with same-sex unions or cohabitation)—must assume a moral priority. While all issues are important, all are not equally important from a moral analysis.
Even if we have our priorities correctly ordered, we may or probably will not find a perfect candidate. Sometimes we must choose between a candidate who opposes legal abortion in most instances but not all and one who supports the legalization of abortion without restriction. Or we may be presented with a choice of a candidate who supports all abortions but opposes funding of abortion and one who supports legal abortion and tax-funding of abortions.
In such cases, we must choose the lesser of two evils or, conversely, the choice that will yield the greater good. We should not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. In other words, it is not prudent not to vote because we have no perfect choice rather than attempt to elect someone who is imperfect but is significantly better than the alternative.
In a 2004 memo, addressed to inquiries by American bishops about the responsibilities of Catholic politicians and voters, then Cardinal Ratzinger stated: “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”
This inevitably leads to the question: What could be a proportionate reason for more than forty-five million children killed by abortion during the past thirty-five years and the much greater number of adult men and women spiritually and emotionally scarred by their participation in abortion?
The Catholic community needs to find its voice on the abortion issue. This is not about supporting a particular party. There are heroic members of both parties who defend the sanctity of human life. Unfortunately, at this moment, one party has adopted a position that faithful Catholics and others that share their view about abortion are not to be permitted roles of leadership within the party.
Our ultimate goal cannot be to capture just one political party and keep them in power. Our goal must be to build such a broad consensus that neither the Democratic nor the Republican party will tolerate someone who advocates legal abortion to represent them, just as today neither party allows an anti-Semite or racist to speak for their party.
Jean Garton, for many years the leader of Lutherans for Life, uses a wonderful biblical image for the attitude of the Christian pro-lifer in the face of the apparent insurmountable strength of the pro-abortion forces in our time. She invites those engaged in the struggle to protect life to remember the fear of the adult soldiers of Israel when confronted with the Philistine warrior giant Goliath. They looked at his size and strength and concluded he was impossible to defeat. The boy, David, on the other hand, armed only with his slingshot and a few pebbles, looked at the immenseness of Goliath and thought: How can I miss?
As Christians, we know that the victory of life has already been won and we are just privileged to take part in its unfolding in this particular moment of human history. We have to spend our time in this world doing something. To what greater enterprise could we devote our time and energy than defending the sanctity of innocent human life?
I recommend reading the whole thing.