Clarifying yet again why Catholics cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion or euthanasia

By Dave Andrusko

I had coffee this morning with a member of the adult Sunday school class I lead. What he does for a living is not relevant for this post, but he said the increase in his business “is like clockwork. Every four years, in an election year.”

Something else that increases every four years, particularly in the last few months before the General Election. And that is the lecture that abortion is not the preeminent issue when deciding whom to vote for, the insistence that there are a constellation of issues that are (at a minimum) of comparable moral weight. It is not uncommon for us single-issue voters to be chastised for our “lack of vision.”

We’ll tackle this on and off (again) over the next 49 days. Today I’d like to lift from a thoughtful post by Fr. Daniel Maria Klimek, T.O.R. Fr. Klimek is an assistant professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville [Ohio]. While these are arguments specific to the Catholic faith, the core of what Fr. Klimek is telling us is universally applicable.

His opening paragraph is indicative of the errors he is working to erase.

In several tweets pertaining to faithful voting for Catholics, the popular Jesuit priest and author Fr. James Martin, S.J., who offered prayers during the 2020 Democratic National Convention, presents a distorted view of Catholic moral teaching about voting while creating unnecessary confusion for the faithful.

Fr. Klimek offers several examples of what he generously calls merely “misleading impressions,” the first of which is “posting an out-of-context quote from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.” 

For those of us who are not Catholic, Fr. Klimek offers this hugely important clarification of what those such as Fr. Martin would obfuscate:

Catholic moral teaching acknowledges that not all issues have the same moral weight. There are some issues, particularly abortion and euthanasia, that always have a higher moral gravity because they are intrinsically evil acts that constitute the direct killing of innocent human life. Supporting such fundamentally evil acts is a mortal sin.

Other issues — such as fighting for the homeless, migrants and refugees, and prisoners on death row — while important matters, do not have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia because these other issues do not constitute the immediate killing of innocent human lives.

Another major example of pulling quotes—or drawing conclusions out of context, not to mention missing the important nuances—is Fr. Martin’s tweet about what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says in “Faithful Citizenship” about the role of conscience.

Fr. Klimek quotes from “Faithful Citizenship,” where the U.S. bishops explain

A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.

Fr. Klimek concludes

Martin was the priest who came to the Democratic National Convention to offer an invocation prayer. His presence at the event can imply a political disposition toward a certain candidate. His tweets, similarly — even those covered under the guise of “objectivity” — appear to possess more of a political agenda than faithful Catholic teaching.