God gave us minds and the power to make good choices. He put us on the earth, in the rough-and-tumble of this time in history, in all the particular circumstances of our particular lives. He put us here for one reason: so that we can grow into the saints He made us to be. We grow by learning and by making choices—learning the truth and choosing good over evil.
We human beings have a wonderful power: we have the power to act. Not “act” as in Charleton Heston, Eddie Murphy, Colin Firth, and Meryl Streep. I mean “act” as in: to do something, like shaking someone’s hand or making a pizza.
We do have an audience: God. He sees it all, and He knows all. He pulls for us always to do what is right. He sends us countless helps to avoid doing evil. He longs to reward us in the end for serving Him faithfully. But He respects our freedom enough that He will let us destroy ourselves forever by sin—if we so choose.
So we do not act alone: God sees, helps, loves. Also, we generally do not act alone as individual human beings, either. We participate in undertakings that involve groups large and small. Undertakings like: choosing friends in school, or working for a company, or supporting a candidate for public office, or investing our money.
This means that we bear ultimate responsibility not just for what we do individually, but also for what we choose to co-operate with.
I think that everybody knows that I vote pro-life. No issue could be more grave than the protection by law of the innocent, defenseless unborn. I will vote pro-life until Roe v. Wade is overturned, until the day when, as the director of Vitae Caring Foundation Carl Landwehr put it in a speech I heard him give the other night, “abortion becomes unthinkable.”
As someone who shares in the shepherding ministry which the Lord entrusted to the Bishops of the Church, I hold myself responsible for clearly teaching not only that abortion is an evil of enormous gravity, but also that the right to life of the innocent unborn must be a part of the fundamental plan of any truly just society.
Considering all this, you would think that I would applaud the recent letter of our former Auxiliary Bishop Kevin Farrell, now Bishop of Dallas, and his brother Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth. These bishops spell out the morality of voting with admirable clarity.
They assert something, however, that I am afraid to say I do not think is true.
The Bishops carefully explain that the right to life of the innocent unborn is not a matter of prudential judgement, not something that can be weighed against other considerations. It MUST be decisive. Yes. I applaud the making of this crucial point. Thank God. This takes courage.
Then the Bishops go on to write that: “To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or ‘abortion rights’ when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil—and, therefore, morally impermissible.”
Now, morally impermissible means what it says it means. We cannot do morally impermissible things. If we do morally impermissible things knowingly and freely, our souls are in danger of damnation.
One can cooperate in evil in one of two ways, either materially or formally. Someone who vacuums the carpets in a medical office building where a doctor performs abortions participates materially in those abortions. But unless he intends to support the work of doing abortions by vacuuming the carpet, he does not formally cooperate. He might just be trying to earn a living, and this is the only job he could find. It is not a good situation, but at the same time it is not ipso facto a sin on his part.
If someone’s material cooperation in evil is “remote,” that is, not closely connected to the evil, then they do not bear moral responsibility for the evil.
Remote participation is permissible provided the person does not intend to be a part of the evil business. I could sin by intending to cooperate with something evil even if had practically nothing to do with it. An absurd example: If I planned to take a trip to a particular city BECAUSE they allowed same-sex “marriage” in that city, that would be a sin. But it is not a sin to go to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge.
Anyone who votes for a pro-“abortion rights” candidate participates materially in the evil. But if the voter does not vote for the candidate for this reason, but rather votes for the candidate for another reason, he or she does not formally co-operate with abortion. I would think that the material cooperation of a voter in an election for the President of the United States is certainly far enough removed from actual abortions themselves to qualify as “remote.”
Therefore, it is morally impermissible to vote for a pro-abortion candidate BECAUSE he is pro-abortion. Likewise, it is negligent to vote without considering the gravity of the right to life of the innocent, defenseless unborn. But I think that it is incorrect to say that anyone who votes for Obama commits a sin.
It is clearly a sin to vote for him because he supports legal abortion. But there are other reasons why people might choose to vote for him. I do not claim to sympathize with those reasons; I would be delighted to argue them calmly.
I think people ought to vote for the more pro-life candidate.
But I am NOT telling anyone how to vote. My point is exactly the opposite. We HAVE to avoid committing serious sins. But we do not HAVE TO vote for one candidate or the other. What we have to do is to stand before God and do what we believe is right.