A Catholic Perspective on Voting
What does it mean to be a Catholic voter? This question isn’t too hard to answer. To be a Catholic voter is to vote keeping in mind Jesus’ words, “‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Mt. 25:40, NABRE).
The Church never tells us who to vote for. But she does tell us what we should think about before we cast our ballot. We are called to vote in a way that respects the dignity of human life at all stages: to protect the lives of unborn children, to safeguard the elderly and the sick, to respect migrants, to assist the poor, to stand against racism, to curtail violence at home and abroad, to take care of the environment, and to protect the freedom of worship.
Thinking through these principles, one will quickly realize that neither of our two major political parties align with the Catholic view of protecting the most vulnerable. Well, then, what are we to do?
Ultimately, we are all called to vote listening to our consciences. But our consciences must be well-formed. To assist in that formation, I would like to bring our attention to the issue that the American bishops have described as “our preeminent priority.” This issue is abortion.
Perhaps you agree with the bishops on this matter. Perhaps you do not. In the case that you do not, I would like for you to pretend with me that we are citizens of a country called Imagination. The land of Imagination is a very strange place, since they have a law that makes it legal every January to run over pedestrians in crosswalks. It is not legal to do so, however, in the other eleven months of the year.
As a concerned citizen of Imagination, you might scratch your head and ask, “Now wait a minute. If it is legal to run over pedestrians in January, then why shouldn’t it be legal to run them over in February or June? I mean, if a pedestrian’s life has no value at the beginning of the year, then why does it have value later on in the year?”
Let’s step out of Imagination now and apply this thinking to real life. If it is legal to kill a baby in the womb, then why shouldn’t it be legal to kill a baby outside of the womb? If it is legal to take an unborn child’s life, then why not a toddler’s, or a teenager’s, or an adult’s, or an immigrant’s, or a disabled person’s, or, frankly, anyone’s?
Either life is deserving of respect at all stages, or it is deserving of respect at none. This is not a scenario in which we can have our cake and eat it, too.
If we do not respect the unborn child, then there is no logical reason whatsoever to respect migrants, to care for the poor, or even to be concerned about infecting others with the coronavirus. Under the law as it currently stands, these lives didn’t matter before they were born. Why do they matter now? If innocent, helpless life does not deserve to be protected the moment it begins, then all life is up for grabs.
One might rejoin and say, “I agree that abortion is wrong. I am personally pro-life, but I don’t want to tell other people what to do.”
I recognize the desire to do the right thing that one carries in this sentiment. But the thing is, we do tell other people what to do, and all the time, too. We tell people that they can’t steal, can’t kidnap, can’t counterfeit, can’t lie in court, can’t drink and drive, can’t shoot bald eagles, can’t run through red lights, can’t litter. If society can tell us not to throw candy wrappers out of our car windows, then do you think that society can tell us not to take the lives of unborn children? I know how the unborn children would answer.
If our country had stood for the dignity of the unborn back in 1973, there would be 60 million American babies who would not have lost their lives. 60 million. We, the United States of America—the land of the free!—have killed the equivalent of the entire population of Italy. That’s the price we have paid for being “personally opposed to abortion.” A hefty price indeed.
So, what do you think? Will your vote be a voice that says, “All people deserve to be respected”? Or will it be one that, in its logical repercussions, says, “No people deserve to be respected”? What is it that your vote will do to the least among us? What is it that your vote will do to Christ?
That’s the choice we’re going to have to make. Choose wisely, choose well. Life—at all stages—is on the line. It’s in your hands.
Individuals who are interested in reading more in-depth about a Catholic’s responsibility towards voting should check out the bishops’ letter, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”at https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/forming-consciences-for-faithful-citizenship.pdf
Victoria Vidales '21,