Two flawed candidates? Catholics mull over voting options [CNA]

#1, R.I., Oct 24, 2014 / 01:55 pm (CNA).- In an election where all political candidates hold problematic positions, Catholic voters may choose “the lesser of two evils,” cast a protest vote, or simply not vote, one U.S. bishop has advised, with pro-life groups calling for prudence in making this decision.

“It’s a real problem that many faithful Catholics face these days – how to vote when all of the candidates are pro-abortion,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., acknowledged in an Oct. 16 column for The Rhode Island Catholic, his diocese’s official publication.

“I know, it’s a tough time to be a moral, pro-life voter. The field is narrow and the options are few. But, vote according to your conscience, pray for our state and nation, and sleep well. Remember, God’s still in charge!”

Bishop Tobin presented the three voting options as an answer to a member of the diocese who revealed that the candidate for whom she had intended to vote supported both abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

“I responded to my letter-writer that it wasn’t appropriate for me to suggest candidates for whom she should or shouldn’t vote, but that it was important for her to become well-informed about the candidates and their positions, pray about it, and then vote according to her conscience,” the bishop wrote, adding the importance of the virtue of prudence.

In such a scenario, “when no candidate presents an acceptable position, especially about critical moral issues like abortion,” one of three options would be, Bishop Tobin said, “to choose the candidate who, in traditional terms, is the lesser of two evils.”

Alternatively, a voter could cast a “protest” vote by choosing to “write-in the name of someone who represents pro-life values … Even though this person surely wouldn’t be elected to office, a vote in that direction would send a clear signal that at least some voters won’t settle for anything less than a pro-life candidate. Contrary to what critics will charge, it’s not a wasted vote; it’s a sincere expression of conscience that upholds moral truth. And that’s never a waste!”

Another legitimate option, Bishop Tobin said, is that a citizen “might well decide to skip this year’s election and not vote at all, or at least not vote for a particular office.”

“Although Catholics have a general moral obligation to participate in the life of our nation, there are many ways to do that, and there’s certainly no obligation to vote in each and every election, particularly when the options are repugnant to the well-informed conscientious Christian voter.”

In Rhode Island’s gubernatorial race, both the Democratic candidate, Gina Raimondo, and the Republican candidate, Allan Fung, support legal abortion. However, pro-life groups pointed out that the candidates differ on a number of policy points.

For instance, Fung opposes both taxpayer funding of abortions and late-term abortions, and supported the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby religious freedom decision. Raimondo was endorsed by Planned Parenthood, and opposed the Hobby Lobby decision.

Joshua Mercer of suggested that citizens follow Bishop Tobin’s first or second scenario – participate in the election, either to send a “protest vote” or to elect the candidate who one thinks will do the least amount of harm.

Mercer advised against the idea that one might choose not to vote for a particular office, saying to CNA that “staying at home doesn’t do any good at all,” and, “I still think every Catholic has an obligation to vote, because you’ve got to communicate some way that this is what it should be like.”

He did add that “a protest vote is definitely an option. And it’s one that Catholics in good conscience should consider (in some) circumstances, precisely because you have a very flawed candidate and then a very horrible candidate.”

“When pro-lifers are in a distinct minority, you have to make very difficult choices.”

“It would be wonderful to have both political parties fighting over each other to see which one is more pro-life,” Mercer commented.

“Unfortunately, we’re not faced with that situation. There is going to be a governor sworn into office in January of next year for Rhode Island. The question is, will that governor support taxpayer funding of abortion or not?”

Rhode Island Right to Life, meanwhile, urged citizens to follow Bishop Tobin’s first voting option: to vote for the candidate who will do the least amount of harm.

The group has drawn attention for their endorsement of Fung for governor, despite the pro-abortion elements of his record.

In September, Bishop Tobin responded to the group’s decision by telling GoLocalProv, “I know that RI Right to Life approaches these issues very carefully, and I can only presume that they have more information about Mayor Fung’s position than I do. I won’t second guess their endorsement.”

He added, however: “Personally, though, I can’t vote for any candidate for any office, who claims to be pro-choice, which to me translates to being pro-abortion.”

Rhode Island Right to Life spokesman Barth Bracy explained that Fung still matches up with the group on a number of legislative issues such as supporting both “incremental pro-life legislation” and a health care plan option in the state’s insurance exchange that doesn’t cover abortion.

Full article…


Vote for a third party!


Even if they had a chance to win (which they don’t, at least not for POTUS) they aren’t perfect either.

The Pro-Life ethic is to save every baby that we can while fighting against the culture of death. And that often means that we have to do it in incremental steps in the right direction. Utilizing faith and reason, the Catholic position in the case of the USA and other countries that currently have no limits on abortion we should use the following principle when we go to vote:
“A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.” - Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

I also recommend watching the following Pro-Life video which addresses this quesiton:
Top 5 Pro-Life Pet Peeves with Steven Ertelt (Part 2) - YouTube


**A reminder about our endorsements:
We are occasionally confronted with a situation in which all of the viable candidates for a particular, important office fall short of the standards we normally apply in General Assembly races. In cases where the difference between these candidates’ positions on the life issues is very minor, we may choose to take no position in the race for this particular, important office. Other times, however, the difference between candidates for this particular, important office is so great that we may approach the most favorable candidate to determine whether there is enough basis, in terms of substantial assurances on specific actions appropriate for the office sought, for us to support that candidate. If such dialogue proves fruitful, we may make an endorsement for that candidate based upon the following reasoning:

1.    Our engagement in the legislative and political world is directed towards opposing laws and policies that endanger innocent human life and proposing laws and policies that protect innocent human life. Our endorsements are made in view of the specific pieces of legislation we foresee proposing, or having to oppose, during the upcoming legislative session(s).

2.    While we prefer "perfect" candidates, it is often the case that "Mother Teresa" may not be one of the candidates for the particular, important office under consideration -- please note carefully that during the "off-season," outside of the election cycles, we diligently attempt to identify and recruit viable candidates for public office, but very few people are willing to step forward.

3.    Thus we must make the choice of whether (a) to sit on the sidelines and allow an abortion extremist to win that particular, important office uncontested, subsequently making very predictable and significant gains for the abortion industry and stifling every pro-life effort, or (b) support the viable candidate who, while not perfect and potentially flawed, will not wield the power appropriate to the particular, important office to block our pro-life agenda or, as importantly, to aggressively pursue an extreme abortion agenda.

4.    If the rules of formal logic are valid in Rhode Island politics, which, more than most people, we know is sometimes questionable, it is clear that the pro-life choice is the choice for the only viable candidate who will not wield the power appropriate to the particular, important office to block our pro-life agenda or, as importantly, to aggressively pursue an extreme abortion agenda.

 The long and the short of it is that every endorsement is a prudential judgment made in the specific here and now of (1) the viable candidates in the race and (2) the legislation we can reasonably hope to successfully propose, or foresee having to oppose, during the upcoming legislative session.

 And please note very carefully that promoting life-saving, pro-life legislation and opposing life-endangering, anti-life legislation is a specific and concrete good. In other words, our endorsements, even in the afore-described hypothetical case of an imperfect and potentially flawed candidate, are made in view of a specific and concrete good, both intended and reasonably attainable -- a limited good, but a very precious good nonetheless. This is a critical distinction since right reason dictates that evil, even what is popularly known as a lesser evil, can never be the object of a morally good act, and thus, in our way of thinking, could not serve as a proper basis for an endorsement.

 This modest, reasonable, incremental approach, while perhaps not as "glorious" as Pickett's charge, has proven itself successful over the past 20 years in (1) stopping the advances of the abortion industry, (2) in limiting the evil effects of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton, and (3) in saving precious, unborn lives by reducing the number of abortions. Until the churches and church-affiliated schools, a larger and far more potent force in society than our tiny and chronically underfunded organization, are able to form the hearts and minds of enough members of our state and nation to launch more ambitious efforts, this is the reasonable course of action, and the best we can do. The alternative is to "take our marbles and go home" allowing more babies to be slaughtered without putting up a fight.

 We hope and pray that pro-life voters will understand and vote pro-life: [](


This is interesting.

But what if there is a close election between the two major party candidates and the pro-life/“pro-family” candidate is pulling something like 0.4% of the vote?

A vote for the third candidate would mean missing out on the chance to vote for one of the other two, who might differ tremendously on other issues, and a 0.4% showing wouldn’t be interpreted for the future as a big mandate.


Signit, please see my post about endorsements. Keep in mind that while moral-ethical principles are perfect and immutable, actual moral-ethical choices are often made in very complex and imperfect environments – a veritable valle lacrimarum – especially when it comes to politics. The virtue of prudence helps us to apply moral principles in the the concrete here and now. Every specific here and now requires a separate analysis, often requiring specialized, sometimes confidential, knowledge of the particulars. Believe it or not, right to life organizations generally do a very thorough job of this.


Welcome to CAF! Anyone who works Pickets charge into their second post has got to have a lot to offer!


I certainly would not vote for any candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood, that would be the tie breaker for me!


Here in Illinois it’s tough to tell. The theme seems all too common. In a debate the Republican (or Independent) will say he supports Roe vs Wade but the Democrat says not so, you don’t support women’s rights.

What to do, what to do.


Thanks for the reply.

After checking with my local pro-life group I’m going with candidate #2 of the two front-runners instead of candidate #1 (the Planned Parenthood-endorsed candidate) or the 0.4% fringe candidate.


IMO pro-life and PP money could be better spent than endorsing candidates for office, especially when the candidates are so close to each other in rhetoric and position.


Respectfully, ProVobis. I do not know about every state, but I know as much about the pro-life movement in Rhode Island as anybody does. What I can tell you is that the amount of pro-life money spent on electioneering activities is between 1% to 3% of annual statewide pro-life giving. Direct lobbying at the state house for pro-life legislation, together with grassroots lobbying expenditures, accounts for between 7% and 10%. And, mind you, these numbers do not even take into account the budget of the diocesan respect life office, which does not engage in electioneering activities or lobbying. Thus 85%-90% of annual pro-life giving (much more if you include diocesan efforts) goes to pregnancy resource centers and educational efforts. This is a remarkably small percentage when you consider that the result of the elections determines the success or failure of things like taxpayer funding for abortion-on-demand, late-term abortion bans (including partial birth abortions), abortion mandates in insurance policies, assisted suicide bills, ultrasound bills, informed consent bills, parental consent bills, crackdowns on crisis pregnancy centers and sidewalk counselors (buffer zone bills), and choose life plates etc. all hang in the balance. Elections have very real consequences. The abortion industry outspends the pro-life movement by a factor of 10 or 100 to one on electioneering and lobbying. When PP endorses a candidate, you can be certain they are making an investment that they fully expect will reap dividends in terms of more blood and more profit.


I expect the amount of spending done varies from state to state. I’ve donated money to pro-life but they keep bombarding me with requests for more money as they are constantly in the red, supporting politicians. But when I hear a politician saying he supports Roe vs Wade, women’s rights, etc. I’ll take him at his word. I don’t know why my money should be going to further his political career just because his opponent takes a “worse” position, whatever that means.

I reside in Illinois, btw.


Just to make it clear, the pro-life group didn’t explicitly endorse anyone this time.

They did mention that candidate 3 is solidly pro-life and also mentioned that there are differences between the other two (e.g., age/parental consent requirements) and that candidate 1 is the one emphatically endorsed by PP.

That alone makes me feel good about voting for candidate 2; at least I won’t be counted as a “strong” abortion rights voter.


Right. Note that I didn’t mention those who are solidly pro-life and don’t hesitate to mention that in their campaigns. Those do happen, even in Illinois. :wink:


Since I posted, I checked the local PP website, where they had the endorsement of candidate 1 and the candidate’s response (gushing over the endorsement and how wonderful PP is).

Confirmed my decision to vote for candidate 2.


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