This is something that I've been struggling with for a while. The Church clearly (and rightly) states that we should base our voting decisions on whether the candidate in question supports and/or promotes intrinsically evil acts. If a politician is promoting a grave offense against human dignity, such as abortion, then we should not vote for them when there is a better alternative out there.
That being said, in many elections, there are only two candidates that have any realistic chance of winning, and both of them support one or more intrinsic evils. In that situation, it is my understanding that we are to pick the candidate that supports the least amount of evil. For example, if candidate A supported abortion but opposed same-sex marriage, while Candidate B opposed abortion but supported same-sex marriage, then we should vote for candidate B, since abortion is a far greater evil than same-sex marriage.
So, it's obvious that intrinsic evils involving issues of human life trump all else, and that abortion, which kills more people than anything, should trump everything else. It would also follow that other intrinsic evils that involve directly, intentionally killing innocent people (aka murder) would also trump same-sex marriage. It also seems logical that intrinsic evils which inflict grave physical harm or abuse on people would also trump same-sex marriage. Don't get me wrong, same sex marriage is an intrinsic evil, and legally recognizing it would do immeasurable harm to society. But, it seems that other intrinsic evils that involve directly harming or killing innocent people are more severe than same-sex marriage.
This is often reflected in Catholic voter guides, which rank euthanasia and ESCR (which involve killing people) as being more important than same-sex marriage.
My question is this: what about other intrinsically evil actions that involve human life? Would these also trump same-sex marriage? In particular, I'm thinking of the following:
Assassinating people via drones: the drone strike program, as it's being carried out under the Obama administration, involves assassinating people without any due process of law or public judicial oversight--basically, the president can target and kill people in various countries overseas, at his own discretion and without being held accountable, and with no way for us to determine whether the people he is killing are really combatants. Read about it here: nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 As the article states, there was at least one incident (the assassination of Baitullah Mehsud) where the strike was carried out with full knowledge that the target's wife and daughter (civilians) would be killed in the process.
Torture: this is something that is viewed as an intrinsic evil by the Church. Pope Benedict XVI clearly stated that torture is never permissible under any circumstances (see the fifth paragraph in this document: vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2007/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20070906_pastorale-carceraria_en.html
It seems to me that either of these two things would trump same-sex marriage. If a candidate supports the drone strike program as it's currently being practiced, and it could be clearly demonstrated that the program involved willfully killing civilians, then would that not be a greater evil than same-sex marriage? And, since torture involves inflicting abuse against someone's bodily integrity, would that not also be a greater evil than same sex marriage?
The reason I'm asking these things is that, in the future (and in particular during the 2016 Republican presidential primary), we may well be given the choice between two or more candidates who are all solidly against abortion, ESCR, euthanasia, etc, but who differ on their views regarding same-sex marriage, torture, and assassinating civilians. In this circumstance, who do we vote for? Do we choose to support a candidate who opposes same-sex marriage and supports torturing prisoners of war and/or assassinating civilians, or do we vote for a candidate who supports/tolerates same-sex marriage and opposes torture and assassinating civilians?
Again, let me reiterate: I fully accept that abortion trumps all else, as do other methods of killing unborn children. It's certainly graver than torture, drone strikes, or anything else currently facing Americans public policy decisions. I'm certainly not trying to argue that it's ok to vote for pro-choice democrats, and I'm certainly not saying that same-sex marriage isn't important (legally recognizing it would be a social disaster). I absolutely want to vote in accordance with Church teaching. I'm simply trying to figure out which issues, according to Church teaching, are of graver importance than others.