Every election season, confusion abounds among Catholics about voting in faithful accord with Church teaching. But we can reduce or eliminate much of the confusion by distinguishing between the concepts of policy and principle. Let’s begin with a definition* of terms:
Policy: a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions
The question of principle itself is an entirely different matter. I’ll illustrate with a fundamental principle of Catholic teaching and Natural Law:
It is never permissible to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
- Protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death.
- Recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family—as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage—and its defense from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable role.
From these broad principles we can establish a “checklist” of current issues that are at the forefront of political debate. And we can evaluate each candidate based on their adherence to, or violation of, Catholic principles in the non-negotiable areas, eliminating those candidates who violate any or all of these principles. In Catholics in the Public Square (p. 39), Bishop Olmsted includes the five frequently enumerated non-negotiables:
Abortion Oppose _________ _________
Euthanasia Oppose _________ _________
Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR) Oppose _________ _________
Human Cloning Oppose _________ _________
“Same-sex Marriage” Oppose _________ _________
Bottom line: If a particular candidate supports any or all of the “non-negotiables”, a faithful Catholic cannot vote for that politician, regardless of how favorably they consider a candidate’s policy on other critical (but negotiable) issues such as immigration, economy,
housing, etc. The only exception: In a case where all candidates conflict with the Church on a specific non-negotiable issue, (e.g. ESCR) a Catholic can legitimately vote for the candidate who is in most complete agreement with the Church on the other non-negotiable issue and/or who will likely do the least evil in regard to the specific non-negotiable issue in question.
God’s Blessings… my prayers...
Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral
**Source: Catholics in the Public Square, 3rd Edition, p. 39