Last week, I gave a conference to a Catholic men’s group on voting with an informed conscience. During the time for questions after the talk, one of the gentlemen asked a thorny question:
“What if there’s a “pro-choice” candidate who supports 5 other issues I like? Are you telling me that if I vote for him, I’m committing a mortal sin?” The odd thing is that I never mentioned the word “sin” or “mortal sin” at any point during the talk. The terms I used were “moral evil” and “intrinsically evil act,” which need as much explaining as the term “mortal sin” does before one can assume there is an honest and satisfying answer to questions like these.
From the perturbed expression on the man’s face, I immediately understood he would not be satisfied with an honest answer. Well, he asked for it; so I gave it to him.
Let’s just look at the question first. Break it down. “Am I committing a mortal sin?”
When a grown man asks this question — and a Catholic at that — I am not the one who should be answering that question. If you don’t know the 3 conditions for mortal sin, look it up. Then ask yourself the following questions.
- Is the action in question seriously wrong? If we are talking about abortion, which is murder, we don’t need to clarify which of the 10 commandments this sin violates. Everyone knows that murder is seriously wrong.
- Am I aware that the action is wrong? If you were able to answer the last question, you should know the answer to this one.
- Do I participate in this action with the full consent of my will? This is the part people deliberate on the most. In this particular case, if we consider the man’s original question the answer is simple. If you choose to vote for a candidate, who you already know supports legislation that sanctions abortion, then you consent to his action and in doing so, you participate in his sin.
9 times out of 10, when people ask questions about mortal sin, they already know the answer. When they bring it up, seeking some sort of justification for their behavior, the best favor you can do for them is simply to point out that the ball is in their court (or tell them to talk to a priest).
But the man’s question was not that simple. The material I covered in the talk already addressed the implicit concerns embedded in his question. Namely:
- What is the nature of an intrinsically evil act?
- What are the relevant political issues that involve intrinsically evil behavior?
- In what ways can an individual participate in the evil actions of another person?
- After considering these questions, how can I possibly vote in good conscience for a candidate who actively supports and promotes legalized abortion?
In my post last week on voting with an informed conscience, I included some links to brochures and pamphlets that treat these issues specifically for those who want to vote in accord with their Christian conscience. Here is a link back to the article where you can find that information. Here, I want to assume the answers to these questions are already understood, in order to address the side-stepping question about voting for candidates who support abortion when “I like their other postions.”
What if the candidate stood behind the following positions?
- Eliminate wasteful spending in a way that satisfies you.
- Rewrite the tax-code in a way that satisfies you.
- Extend free healthcare to as many people as possible in a way that satisfies you.
- Resolve the immigration problem in a way that satisfies you.
- Provide support, funding, and weapons technology to regimes in foreign countries that actively and blatantly engage in ethnic cleansing through genocide — in a way that satisfies you.
Scratch that last phrase. No one is going to vote for this person knowing that he openly supports genocide. Clearly, anyone who would do so, regardless of his or her own opinions about genocide, knows that voting such a person into office is tantamount to sanctioning murder.
Voting for a pro-choice candidate of any political party is tantamount to sanctioning murder. Period. The laws and policies that allow for killing innocent human beings can never be tolerated under any circumstance whatsoever.
Is it more complex than that?
Yes it is. People can raise further questions that seem to complicate the issue even further. I am not saying that all those questions are easily answered. However, it does not matter how many other issues you can compound with this one, what kind of dilemmas they might raise for some people’s consciences, or how they might appear to introduce contradictions into some people’s voting decisions — no further question you might ask can take away from the fact at hand. Abortion is murder and it cannot be tolerated.