You Cannot Vote For Evil

I haven’t written in the past about Catholic morality and voting.

Because candidates and political parties are not perfect, you are morally permitted to vote for someone who may not uphold Catholic morals well. For example, if one candidate supports abortion but the other candidate supports the use of torture, bot candidates support intrinsic evil. You are permitted to vote for one over the other if you believe the greater evil will be avoided. However, there is a very important condition placed on this:

You cannot vote FOR the evil.

Let me put it another way. I’ve spoken with Catholics who vote for pro-abortion candidates for public office. Sometimes they say to me that the reason for the vote is that the overall greater good will be achieved. This person may believe that creating a more stable economy (for example) would lead to an overall decrease in abortions. While I find this thinking flawed, there is moral elbow-room in Catholic teaching for this way of thinking. A person may vote this way and still not incur sin upon themselves.

However, if the Catholic says, “I am voting for this candidate because he or she is pro-abortion,” then this is a different case.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of faith made this point very clear:

It must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a
political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and
morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some
particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment
to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility
toward the common good.(Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of
Catholics in Political Life

In other words, while you can vote for flawed candidates in spite of their flaws, you cannot vote for them because of those flaws.

If you vote for a candidate because they promote a moral evil like abortion, then you incur sin upon yourself.

This goes beyond the candidates and goes towards direct voting. In my home state, we are preparing to vote on a constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortion as a fundamental right. This would make the killing of the unborn legal at all stages of development without restriction.

Every Catholic is obligated to not vote for this in our state. If a Catholic were to vote for this amendment, then they would be incurring sin.

If the law was a way to mitigate an already existing evil, it would be morally permissible. For example, if abortion was already fully legal for any reason and a proposed amendment would make it legal only in the first trimester, then this would be morally acceptable to choose. The reason is that while abortion in the first trimester is still evil, this amendment would be a first step away from the greater evil into the greater good.

However, this does not apply in any way to the proposed amendment in my state. Instead, it would be a vote to legalize the murder of innocent life.

You do not put your Catholic conscience into a box when you go into the voting booth. Our choices have consequences. We are called to use our votes to make the world a better place.

But you cannot perform this good if you vote for what is evil.

Copyright 2023, WL Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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