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October 20, 2000|
Pro-Life Voters and Election Day 2000|
Let An Informed Conscience Be Your Guide
Early voting has begun in some states including our home state of Texas, and election day, November 7, is just seventeen days away. The “debates” are over, George W. Bush is holding a very slim lead over Al Gore, and Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan are campaigning hard, realizing they can’t win but hoping they can secure at least 5% of the vote in order to keep the Green and Reform Parties eligible for federal funds in future election cycles.
Many pro-life voters have contacted us for advice on how to vote in the presidential race. The October 13th issue of Human Events features a column by editor Terry Jeffrey entitled “Can a Catholic Vote for Gore?” which should prove helpful to not only Catholics but every pro-life American who wishes to be guided by an informed conscience in the voting booth.
Mr. Jeffrey quotes Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae, or The Gospel of Life:
“Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being whether a foetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action.
“In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it.
“It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.”
The column reminds us that the philosophy of government the Pope recognizes as morally legitimate is rooted in God’s Truth, and is precisely the philosophy acknowledged by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence.
Mr. Jeffrey asked Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, for a clarification of Catholic moral teaching on this subject so that Catholic laymen can interpret declarations by the Pope and the Bishops in making their voting decisions in the November election. Father Pavone’s thoughts may prove helpful to all pro-lifers, no matter what their faith tradition.
“The fundamental point,” wrote Fr. Pavone, is that, “in the voting booth, a Catholic is obliged to advance the Culture of Life.” “It is therefore necessary for the voter to make an informed analysis of which candidate will best be able to advance the Culture of Life in the present circumstances. Voting for a candidate does not indicate that such a candidate agrees with us on everything, or agrees with the Catholic Church on everything. There is no obligation to find a perfect candidate.”
But, he said, “If an election provides us the opportunity to create in our nation a better climate in which the work of the coming years is more likely to bear fruit, then we are obliged to take steps to create that climate. Taking into consideration the hierarchy of issues, [abortion, fetal tissue trafficking, human embryo experimentation, genetic manipulation, the human genome project, assisted suicide, and euthanasia] we can say that it makes moral sense to vote for the candidate who will protect more lives than his or her opponent.”
“Because voting is not a canonization,” he continued, “we may morally vote for a less perfect candidate who is actually electable at the present moment, rather than a better candidate who does not have the base of support to actually get into office. Our vote is our way of participating in actually moving our society forward, rather than a forum for ‘making statements.’ Statements can be made in a thousand other ways. But there is only one way to elect people to offices in which they can make a difference.”
Fr. Pavone also warned that a Catholic may not seek to advance some other goal by means of voting for the candidate who also can be anticipated to cause the most damage to the Culture of Life if elected. “Even if one does not want to advance abortion rights,” he says, “one is obliged to examine the consequences of one’s vote. Will it in fact result in more killing of the innocent rather than less? To ignore this question is a profound moral omission.” “If both candidates support some abortion, it is not wrong to vote for the one who is less supportive of abortion.”
So, what are the moral choices?
In the case of Al Gore, Catholics, even if they have been life-long Democrats and approve of his views on certain issues, a vote for him is not a moral choice because he is committed to advancing the Culture of Death in America. The same applies to Ralph Nader. George W. Bush justifies abortion in certain instances and describes himself as “pro-life” without having made any commitments to the advancement of specific pro-life policies or laws. He says he wants to lead the country toward a Culture of Life. Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan and Howard Phillips, the nominee of the Constitution Party, are both solidly pro-life but have no chance of winning the presidency. Based on Fr. Pavone’s interpretation, George W. Bush, Pat Buchanan and Howard Phillips all represent moral choices under present circumstances.
Terry Jeffrey ended his column with this observation: “While good people may struggle between choosing the perfect or the imperfect, the viable or the nonviable, candidates in this campaign — seeking to understand which vote is truly more likely to lead to the consequence of most advancing the Culture of Life — there appears to be no argument at all for choosing perfectly wrong candidates, such as Gore, whose candid commitment to abortion-on-demand cannot but advance the Culture of Death.” (http://www.humaneventsonline.com/10-13-00/jeffrey.html)
The directive was not limited to politicians. It noted that “those who are pro-abortion or claim to be personally opposed to abortion but unwilling to integrate their moral principles with civic responsibilities are not to be given leadership positions in the diocese, parish, or other church agencies or organizations, nor to exercise any liturgical ministry.” He states further, “Parishes and other diocesan agencies or organizations should not bestow public honors or privileges of any type on such persons.” The directive also bans abortion supporters from speaking at graduation ceremonies, celebrated lectures, and from sitting as honorary chairmen of events such as fundraisers. (New York Post, 10/10/00)
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