Voting: which intrinsic evils are the most important?


#1

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.


#2

[quote="Jeffgo, post:1, topic:322841"]
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.

[/quote]

Same Sex marriage and ESPECIALLY Abortion are the most intrinsic evil. Same Sex marriage destroys the idea of marriage and family, whilst abortion, being the most heinous crime humanity could ever have committed, is the destruction of an innocent child in the womb of his/her Mother. NOTHING is more intrinsically evil than these two...


#3

*Other issues such as : The death penalty, Drone assasination programs, wars (Whether just or unjust) are all important as well, but secondary. If you cannot respect an unborn child, you will never respect a grown human being. *


#4

A vote for any candidate who supports any activity or behavior that is intrinsically evil is "a wasted vote". We cannot judge as GOD does, so to prioritize evil is a mute point for humanity. The "write in" vote option is the best way to express total dissastisfaction with the choices presented, when both parties offer candidates that support the agenda of evil. And you write in JESUS which sends the message.

Just yesterday, a well known christian pastor has called for a financial ban against Republicans and the formation of a 3rd political party "if" the Republicans cave on same sex marriage. I think it is a foregone conclusion that we are headed into a 3rd party scenario. The "Red vs Blue" states are no longer a true measure of a conservative base as so many liberals are relocating from their debt ridden democratically controlled states to "save their money", but bringing their liberal ideas and thus changing the demographic of what was a previous conservative political district.

Until conservative christians can negotiate with leverage to ensure the conservative agenda is a plank within the Republican agenda, we will have no assurance that the
Republican party will stay the course


#5

If you do vote for a candidate, make sure he/she supports or is against vital issues from the heart.

If one suddenly, overnight, is against abortion because they saw pics of dead fetuses when they were for it before, for example, that's irrelevant - it's probably just a ploy for the media.

If one supports gay marriage because they know deep down that all Americans should have the right to marriage and a family, and it's a belief they've adhered to for a long time, that's different. That's sincerity and honesty, two qualities that should always be in a person.


#6

[quote="VanSensei, post:5, topic:322841"]
If you do vote for a candidate, make sure he/she supports or is against vital issues from the heart.

If one suddenly, overnight, is against abortion because they saw pics of dead fetuses when they were for it before, for example, that's irrelevant - it's probably just a ploy for the media.

If one supports gay marriage because they know deep down that all Americans should have the right to marriage and a family, and it's a belief they've adhered to for a long time, that's different. That's sincerity and honesty, two qualities that should always be in a person.

[/quote]

I would respectfully disagree. Actually seeing the tiny, mangled bodies might indeed cause one to change positions. Deciding whether the person is truly convinced would take further observation. The marriage issue is not whether the candidate is sincere, but whether marriage can even be defined as between two people of the same sex and whether others must be forced to accept such a possibility or face persecution in the form of lost jobs, for instance. People can and have been sincerely and disastrously wrong.
Addressing the primary question, I believe life issues, especially abortion, euthanasia, and ECSR, come first. Then would be the issues related to it: marriage, drones, etc.


#7

[quote="Jeffgo, post:1, topic:322841"]
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.

[/quote]

If you're voting for a candidate because they support abortion, torture, or some other intrinsically evil act, that's formal cooperation in evil. That is what the Church prohibits. If you're voting for a candidate who supports some intrinsically evil act in spite of the candidate's support for that act, such a vote is morally permissible in the presence of proportionate reasons. (You are not morally required to vote for anyone you do not want to vote for, however, even if that means abstaining from voting altogether!)

Imagine a scenario in which only two candidates are running for office. Candidate A supports both torture and euthanasia. Candidate B supports torture but opposes euthanasia. Imagine, further, that both torture and euthanasia are issues the candidates can really affect: that voting for one or the other candidate will probably have an actual effect on whether torture or euthanasia is practiced.

If I vote for either because they support torture, because I want someone in office who will support torture, my action is gravely immoral.

If, on the other hand, I vote for Candidate B in spite of her support for torture because she opposes euthanasia and her election will probably effect whether euthanasia is practiced (a proportionate reason), my action is morally permissible.

It is also morally permissible to refuse to vote for either candidate.

(Going back to that "can affect" thing: this is not true of all issues, no matter how much we might personally care about them. A candidate can say he's in favor of banning all tobacco use, for example, but it's dreadfully unlikely that we will actually get such a ban even he is elected. No matter how great it may sound to many of us, this not really a live issue right here and now. He will not be able to bring it about: there are not enough people who currently support a total tobacco ban, he will not have sufficient legislative allies, the tobacco lobby is still too strong, other pressing issues will take priority, etc. No matter how enthusiastic he is when he talks about it, no matter how thoroughly sincere he is about wanting a ban, it's just not probable that this will actually happen even if he is elected. If we really want that tobacco ban, we will have to lay a lot more groundwork; just electing this guy won't cut it.)

[quote="Jeffgo, post:1, topic:322841"]
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.

[/quote]

It's not necessarily that simple.

You may choose Candidate B, in spite of her support for same-sex marriage, on grounds such the ones you outlined above. I do think it would be a morally permissible choice. But I do not think you must vote for Candidate B.

In a scenario in which there's a strong probability that a candidate can actually affect whether same-sex marriage is practiced but there is a very low probability that a candidate can actually affect whether abortion is practiced, you might come to the opposite conclusion: that it would be better to vote for Candidate A, in spite of his views on abortion, because he actually has a chance of preventing same-sex marriage while Candidate B has very little chance of putting an end to abortion. This, I think, would also be a morally permissible choice.

In reality, of course, things may not turn out as you intended. After voting for Candidate A, you may learn you were quite wrong to think Candidate A had a strong chance to prevent same-sex marriage, and same-sex marriage happened anyway. This unfortunate turn of events would not change the fact that your vote for Candidate A was morally permissible, however. It just means you made a mistake. The Church does not expect you to know the future, but to exercise your best judgment given what you are personally able to know in the present. :)

Of course, it would also be morally permissible to vote for a third candidate, even if he did not have a good chance of winning, or to refrain from voting for any of the candidates.


#8

[quote="Jeffgo, post:1, topic:322841"]
...it seems that other intrinsic evils that involve directly harming or killing innocent people are more severe than same-sex marriage...

[/quote]

While I understand your reasoning here, and I think many of us would be inclined to agree, this is the abstract element (for want of a better word?). In a particular election there will also be concrete circumstances in play.

[quote="Jeffgo, post:1, topic:322841"]
My question is this: what about other intrinsically evil actions that involve human life? ...In particular, I'm thinking of the following:
Assassinating people via drones....
Torture

[/quote]

The latter is certainly intrinsically evil, and the former is (if not intrinsically evil) frequently practiced in gravely evil ways (under both Bush and Obama, at least).

[quote="Jeffgo, post:1, topic:322841"]
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?

[/quote]

I don't think the answer to such a question will be simple. I think each of us will have to do our best to understand the Church's teaching and form our consciences accordingly, apply the teaching to the circumstances according to our best judgment, vote or not vote according to our consciences, and strive to do better in the future. And I would not be eager to condemn my brother if he, acting in good faith, comes to a different conclusion than I do. :o


#9

I appreciate the responses to my initial questions.

I realize that there are going to be a lot of abstract factors whenever one is deciding between two or more candidates (ie: their ability to make an impact on different issues, their sincerity, whether to vote 3rd party, etc.), so I guess I'd like to simply ask, all other things being held equal, which intrinsic evils are graver in and of themselves when it comes to voting? Does same-sex "marriage" outweigh the two other intrinsic evils I've listed (assassinating civilians via drones or other means, and torture), or are these two more important than same-sex "marriage"?

The reason I ask is that a lot of the Catholic voting guides I see list same sex "marriage" as the next most important after abortion, ESCR, etc., with no mention of the other two I've brought up (assassinations and torture). To me, it seems logically sound to assert that assassinations and torture would be graver evils than same-sex "marriage". But, if that's the case, why aren't many of the Catholic voting guides out there reflecting that?

Again, I'd like to reiterate that I fully understand that abortion, ESCR, and other issues that involve killing unborn children come first, before torture, same-sex marriage, or anything else. Nothing is more evil than killing babies. I'd also like to reiterate that I wish to be in full obedience to Church teaching.


#10

The only voting guide I’ve found personally worthwhile is the one published by the USCCB. The one-page bulletin insert was also quite good.

It seems very irresponsible, in today’s political climate, for a voting guide not to mention such an egregious evil as torture.


#11

Thank you for posting the USCCB article. After reading it, it seems that my argument is in line with what the bishops have written:

1)When we vote, life issues come first.

2)The most important life issues are abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, etc. These trump all else, because they take the most life.

3)There are other life issues, such as torture, killing civilians, racism, etc. that are affronts to human dignity and therefore also take precedence over other, non-life issues.

4)There are other issues, such as same-sex marriage, that are crucially important and should play a key role in shaping our voting decisions. However, these issues, important as they are, are not as important as life issues.

If my understanding is wrong, I hope someone will be kind enough to correct me. Again, I just want to believe what the Church believes.


#12

Jeffgo, I think you've got a pretty good understanding of this and I mostly agree with your hierarchy of issues. And I concur with everything (or just about, I think) that aspirant has said.

The only thing I'd perhaps differ on is the morality around drone strikes in which civilians are killed. It may be morally acceptable to allow the unintended bad effect of civilian death if the good effect (eg killing al qaeda leaders) is considered proportionally greater and is justifiable in itself. Just war theory and the principle of double effect would certainly allow for such.

I'm not saying all drone strikes are justifiable, but where they are, some collateral damage is allowable.


#13

"But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?" Blessed Mother Teresa

Peace, Mark


#14

This doesn’t apply to many drone strikes as they are actually carried out, however. If a few people who are not even actively engaged in conflict are targeted in the middle of a civilian crowd, and it is known that a strike will certainly harm or even kill many of the civilians, it becomes quite difficult to plausibly argue that no more force than necessary is being used, killing is being minimized, and that one is sincerely discriminating between combatants and civilians. In the case of “signature” strikes, the United States kills people whose identities aren’t even confirmed, further eroding distinction distinction between combatants and civilians. And if there is any viable alternative that would result in less damage to civilians, foreseeable harm to civilians is already unjustified. :frowning:


#15

[quote="aspirant, post:14, topic:322841"]
This doesn't apply to many drone strikes as they are actually carried out, however. If a few people who are not even actively engaged in conflict are targeted in the middle of a civilian crowd, and it is known that a strike will certainly harm or even kill many of the civilians, it becomes quite difficult to plausibly argue that no more force than necessary is being used, killing is being minimized, and that one is sincerely discriminating between combatants and civilians. In the case of "signature" strikes, the United States kills people whose identities aren't even confirmed, further eroding distinction distinction between combatants and civilians. And if there is any viable alternative that would result in less damage to civilians, foreseeable harm to civilians is already unjustified. :(

[/quote]

Indeed, there seem to be great concerns with the way drones are being used. I'm not in the US so not as up to date with this issue as others.

I was merely commenting with regard to the OP's suggestion that:

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

I'm merely commenting on the allowance for some collateral damage, if the drone strike (or other method) is justifiable to begin with. And note that I said "may"...I'm speaking purely hypothetically here...

[quote="underacloud, post:12, topic:322841"]
It *may *be morally acceptable to allow the unintended bad effect of civilian death if the good effect (eg killing al qaeda leaders) is considered proportionally greater and is justifiable in itself. Just war theory and the principle of double effect would certainly allow for such.

[/quote]


#16

All intrinsic evils are important to be watched. The light of Christ and His Church is more powerful than all the evils. We should watch and pray.

"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."


#17

I don’t think people are understanding that drone strikes on innocent civilians are just as bad as any other form of murder including abortion and euthanasia. Just as horrible*

We cannot vote for a president or any elected official that doesn’t support abortion only to blow them up with a ATS Hellfire missile. We have to vote out all murders.


#18

[quote="andy92, post:17, topic:322841"]
drone strikes on innocent civilians are just as bad as any other form of murder

[/quote]

I agree.


#19

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