Forming A Conscience For Voting

I recently attended an adult formation meeting where a presentation was made in light of the upcoming elections. We received the handout “The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, that is published by the USCCB and was approved by the full body of bishops in 2007.

The handout was a bit vague, but did comment on what the Church says about seven key topics:

  1. The Right to Life and the Dignity of the Human Person
  2. Call to Family, Community, and Participation
  3. Rights and Responsibilities
  4. Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
  5. Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
  6. Solidarity
  7. Caring for God’s Creation

Here is my question. The first item in the list is the “Right to Life”. Shouldn’t this be first on our list when deciding upon which candidate to vote for?

The way I see it, none of the other social concerns come into play if the person isn’t born in the first place.

In our discussions, a comment was made that it could be morally acceptable to vote for a candidate who is for abortion rights. To support this comment, the person rationalized that even if you were to vote for a candidate who is anti-abortion, that doesn’t mean that the person would really be able to do anything about it anyway.

Does rationalizing like this really make sense? You can “if” your way into any line of thought.

Do some social teachings trump others?


Here is an article that I think you’ll find helpful:

You’re right. A baby that is killed in the womb does not get to have any rights.



Not rationalizing like that. The only time it would be acceptable to vote for a prochoice person would be if a) the alternative is more prochoice b) on everything else (gay marriage, euthanasia, etc.) besides abortion they are against Catholicism, or c) what they are being elected to do has absolutely nothing to do with anything related to abortion. Because people who claim prolife politicians don’t do anything to stop abortions are just turning a blind eye to the obvious, especially for the president with the Mexico City policy.

No, it isn’t. The first item is “Right to Life and the Dignity of the Human Person.”

Shouldn’t this be first on our list when deciding upon which candidate to vote for?

It’s first on mine. I will vote for the candidate who is least likely to use my money to kill people who have a right to live their lives, who would hasten the deaths of the elderly and disabled through sub-standard medical care, who would strip the dignity from anyone and put the needs of the few above the welfare of the many.

In our discussions, a comment was made that it could be morally acceptable to vote for a candidate who is for abortion rights. To support this comment, the person rationalized that even if you were to vote for a candidate who is anti-abortion, that doesn’t mean that the person would really be able to do anything about it anyway.

I presume you mean me? I suggest leaving a link to the post or copy/pasting it here. I suggest that because you misquoted me. I never said they couldn’t do anything about it, I said they would not. That is a very large difference.

Does rationalizing like this really make sense? You can “if” your way into any line of thought.

It’s not an if, it’s a fact. And you can also decide that it doesn’t matter who starves or dies unnecessarily or suffers for the convenience of others as long as the unborn get born even though no one is going to step up and assure them of basic human dignity. You remember human dignity, it’s in the first thig we are to be concerned with.

Geez. You sure came into the thread with a defensive posture… Seem a bit angry too.

When I referred to comments during discussions, it was in the context of the adult formation meeting that I was in. Nothing to do with you.

Thanks for the link to the joint statement from the bishops. Here is a quote from their letter:

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, in paragraphs 34-37, addresses the question of whether it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil – even when the voter does not agree with the candidate’s position on that evil. The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following:

a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or “abortion rights,” a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,

b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no “truly grave moral” or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.

To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or “abortion rights” when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.

Thanks for the link, Ed.

I’ll paste in their statement…

…we at Priests for Life have written the following statement, which also reflects the thinking of numerous leaders in the Church. It is our hope that those who are inclined not to vote at all may think again, and use their vote to help accomplish the best possible progress at the moment.

Statement on Voting

Each election provides an opportunity for our fellow Catholics and all citizens of good will to use their vote to advance the cause of life, especially the most vulnerable in our society - preborn children in danger of abortion.

As Election Day draws near we are aware that some people are in a moral quandary and think that no candidate is worthy of their support. Some are even inclined not to vote at all. In our role as teachers of morality, we would like to clarify that while we can never choose between two evils, we can choose to do good to limit an evil. When one’s choice of candidates who have a viable opportunity to win is limited to two unfavorable candidates, to choose to limit evil by voting for the better of the two is to choose a good. To vote for an imperfect candidate is not to endorse that candidate’s position on every issue. Nor is it to compromise our ultimate goal which is the protection of all pre-born children.

We urge all citizens to fully participate in the political process and to use their vote to defend the most vulnerable in our society. By doing so we will move closer to that day when each and every human being is welcomed in life and protected in law.

I heard something on the radio the other day which totally “blew my mind” – apparently when our President was a state senator (I presume in Illinois a/c I think he came from the Chicago area) – a bill was proposed in the State that if an abortion wasn’t successful and the baby was alive the doctor could try to treat it and keep it alive instead of “killing” it – our President voted AGAINST this bill – how could anyone vote this way – I CAN’T understand it,and there is NO way I could vote for this man.

Fr Stephen Toricco’s guide to Catholic voting

Bishop Gracida’s voting guide

You should vote for the candidate who is most in line with Catholic teaching on the non negotiables Pope Benedict has spoken of: protection for the unborn from conception to natural death; recongition and protection of marriage between 1 woman and 1 man; protection for parents to educate their children

Thank you for the links, _Abyssinia.

Fr. Toricco’s guide contained a lot of great information and explanations. I recommend that everyone read it in its entirety. Here is a small exert:

  1. Is it a mortal sin to vote for a pro-abortion candidate?

Except in the case in which a voter is faced with all pro-abortion candidates (in which case, as explained in question 8 above, he or she strives to determine which of them would cause the let damage in this regard), a candidate that is pro-abortion disqualifies himself from receiving a Catholic’s vote. This is because being pro-abortion cannot simply be placed alongside the candidate’s other positions on Medicare and unemployment, for example; and this is because abortion is intrinsically evil and cannot be morally justified for any reason or set of circumstances. To vote for such a candidate even with the knowledge that the candidate is pro-abortion is to become an accomplice in the moral evil of abortion. If the voter also knows this, then the voter sins mortally.

I understand,but could you specifically say how…in defense of human dignity… the defenseless baby in the womb fits into your priority/logic…I am confused by your statement. Clarity? And…How do you know “they” …“would not do anything about it”?

Pax Christi

Of course none of us know the future, but I do KNOW that abortion brings people to the polls to vote. I also KNOW what has happened since 1973, I’m old enough to remember.

People will overlook everything else about a candidate if he/she can convince them that they are “truly” pro-life. When you take the emotion out of it and look at it the way a political consultant does, it’s really obvious. There is no way anyone in politics is going to allow all those single issue voters to be lost by solving that single issue. It may sound cynical, but IMHO it’s realism.

There have been some real opportunities, especially during the early years after Roe to get something done, but now that an entire generation has grown up with legal abortion I just can’t see any political solution coming out of Washington-either from the legislative or judicial branches.

Another excerpt from the above link:

As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror. As Catholics we must be concerned about these issues and work to see that just solutions are brought about. There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of “prudential judgment.” But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate’s unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of “abortion rights.”

Hi, NovusCatholic,

These have been really informative posts! :thumbsup:

I was recently on a thread where certain individuals who identified themselves as Catholic, declared that because they thought both major candidates were supporters of evil - that they would not vote in this November’s election. They declared that because the Church has not declared not voting as sinful - then they would take the non voting option.

This was personally very discouraging for me to read - and not once but repeatedly. They had no obligation to fight evil by voting for the lesser of two evils because there was no obligation to vote if one did not agree with any of the candidates. The issue, of course is the quote from Burke that the only way evil succeeds is for good men to do nothing.

Here’s a scenario that might help those considering not voting to come to their senses.

Suppose that there is a house full of babies. There are some people agitating for these children to be killed. The fate of this children depends on who comes into power. Both candidates are flawed and sinfull. One candidate sides with those who think it is okay to kill this children and will enact laws that will ensure that killing of children will no longer be deemed wrong. The other candidate disagrees with the agitators and opposes the legalization of killing.

If you can influence the outcome by your vote, is it moral to abstain?

Is it moral to abstain when the choice is a thumbs up or a thumbs down for this children?

Depending on the situation, non moral acts become imbued with a moral valence.

It is not immoral to fumigate a house. However it becomes immoral if there is the slightest possibility that there are children in that house.

Ultimately, we will all stand before God and be accountable for how we vote in this Presidential election. Our obligation is clear - we are to do good and avoid evil.

In my life, I have participated in every Presidential election beginning with Nixon v Humphrey (1968). In that time - and since that time - I considered the major candidates to be honorable, decent and ethical men. My choice was for the one I thought could lead our country in a positive direction. This November election is quite different for all of the others: here we have one who can not tolerate the unborn - even if they survive an abortion! and another who, while having a history of accepting abortion and siding with those who wish to have an abortion - has not actively advocated for such wholesale death. It could be said that both have blood on their hands. So, I guess the issue is to measure a sea of blood against a pond. This is the heart of voting for the lesser of two evils.

God bless

Again, I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against, but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.

~ Bishop Thomas Paprocki~

Hi Tom,

Thanks for your insight.

Like you, I believe that there is a clear choice between candidates when considering this issue.

I’d also like to add that I believe that it is possible for a person to change and grow. Even though one may have been OK with something before doesn’t mean that he can’t be genuinley against it now. Yes, there is a chance that it could only be politics, but there is also the reality that by the grace of God, people’s hearts and minds can change to better align with his will.

For example, Saul did become Paul, right? Then there’s the rest of us…

There are intrinsic wrongs in this world that need to be combated.

If an issue of concern with you(who is first the ambassador to the Church) is not one and the same with the candidate, then you can ignore him, or you can ask him what he intends to do about it. If the answer is not satisfactory or understood seek clarification. If you get an answer that you are not certain of take it up with the Church.

Your choice is to not vote for him but to someone who will do the right thing,or, not voting at all if there are no choices. But you never have the option to vote for someone who will do many small goods, but will do nothing about an intrinsic evil. There’s a balance there. He may be someone who can do a lousy job mending state roads, but is steadfast in wiping out immoral laws.

You can always determine what the end goal is for him, whether he’s a quitter, and fence jumper when the going get’s tough on a moral issue. Check his track record,etc.

The first rule is to determine if a candidate will do the moral thing even if politically incorrect. If unclear, talk it over with a priest.

The end conclusion by the state who cannot determine why no one shows up for voting is that the state should have ensured the candidates share the Church’s opinion in the first place. So the lesson should come full circle, and our job is to do our part to ensure this happens. Maybe finally the nation will “get it”.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit