Applying Catholic Moral Theology To The Question Of Voting Or Not Voting

Applying Catholic Moral Theology To The Question Of Voting Or Not Voting


Ladies and gentlemen, the nominees of the two parties are now determined. This will be a Trump vs Clinton contest. I just now finished watching Cruz’s speech at the GOP convention. I voted for him and had hoped that he would be the nominee. Enough other people voted differently so now it is Trump who will be opposing Hillary Clinton.

There is no gainsaying that Trump has his warts. But now he is officially the GOP candidate and the only one who now stands between us and a Hillary presidency. No one, with a straight face and who pays attention to the facts of history, can pretend that Trump is just as evil as Hillary. I’ve written before regarding the intentions voiced by some good people to either 1) not vote at all in the presidential election or to 2) write in a “third-party” candidate. Either option will have the obvious effect of reducing the hurdle that Clinton would have to overcome to seize the White House. Please read from this anthology of posts.

In those posts I attempted to examine the question of voting versus not voting in the context of Catholic moral theology. Below are quotes from both Father Peter West and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, both speaking in terms of Catholic teaching. I found these on facebook, by the way.

From Father West: “Voting for Donald‬ Trump is not doing evil in order to achieve a good end. Voting for him is not endorsement of everything he has said or done. Your vote is an exercise of power. If you exercise that power to limit evil you are doing something good. You are not doing something evil in order to achieve a good end. In Catholic moral theology a moral act must be evaluated according to the act itself, the intention and the circumstances. All three have to be either good or neutral. The act of voting is in itself good. If your intention is to limit evil, your intentions are good. The circumstances in this election is that a vote for Trump is the only way to stop the election of a corrupt, dishonest, pro-abortion, anti-family, extremely careless criminal. Voting for Donald Trump is therefore a good moral act because it limits evil insofar as it is possible at the moment.”

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI): “According to the principles of Catholic morality, an action can be considered licit whose object and proximate effect consist in limiting an evil insofar as is possible. Thus, when one intervenes in a situation judged evil in order to correct it for the better, and when the action is not evil in itself, such an action should be considered not as a voluntary acceptance of the lesser evil but rather as the effective improvement of the existing situation, even though one remains aware that not all evil present is able to eliminated for the moment.”

I believe these establish the case, from rigorous application of Catholic moral theology, that a vote for Trump will assist in limiting the evil of a Clinton presidency. If some of my #nevertrump friends remain unconvinced, would you please establish your case with your own examination of the question that applies Catholic moral theology to the question? Needless to say, “personal preference” and “gut feeling” is not going to cut the mustard. The discharging of our civic responsibilities demand utilization of reason and intellect for they are very serious matters.

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7 comments on “Applying Catholic Moral Theology To The Question Of Voting Or Not Voting


    Why Resist Examination Of Voting Through Catholic Moral Theology?

    The post prior to this deals with the matter of examining this election in light of Catholic moral teaching. A comment to that post seems to take exception to what I wrote. One line stands out, citing “an erroneous use of Catholic doctrine to try and put pressure on people to vote for Trump”. Would it be an erroneous use of Catholic doctrine to pursuade people not to vote for Hillary? This question of mine is not merely rhetorical, especially since Hillary has chosen a pro-abortion Catholic as her running mate and will be likely to snag the votes of many liberal Catholics as did Obama.

    This election is not the first one in which “purer than thou” misguided Catholics have decided to shirk their civic duties and stay home, not accepting that the GOP candidates, while far from perfect, were many times more preferable to their rabidly anti-God Democratic opponents. Long-time readers of this blog will recall that I attempted, during those times, to examine that stance, and voting in general, through the lens of Catholic moral theology. I’ve no doubt that my attempts may well have contained some mistakes, but to the best of my knowledge, I was the only one who attempted such examination – at least openly.

    Common sense dictates that matters such as exercise of the voting right/responsibility are so weighty as to warrant such examination and discussion. I realize that many clergy might be inclined to shy away from it for fear of jeopardizing that all-too-important “c3” status. By the way: did we all pick up what Trump said about repealing that onorous Johnson amendment?

    Therefore I was delighted to see Father West’s post on facebook – the one I copied into my Wednesday post. Father Guarnizo believes that Father West’s logic was “atrocious” but cited no reasons for his assertion. I for one find no problem with Father West’s reasoning, and it seems other commenters agree. I’m grateful to Father West for taking a stab at looking at this election through the lens of moral theology.

    As far as using doctrine to pursue a Trump vote, might it simply be that the application of Catholic moral principles make the truly moral course of action to be as plain and clear as the nose on one’s face? Sometimes there is only one moral path to take, leaving no “wiggle room”. To those who balk at such a suggestion, I can only say “tough tiddly-winks”. The situation is what it is. Deal with it.

    For those #nevertrump folks who still insist on digging in their heels and denying reality, I now link to some food for thought by Gerard Nadal [see comment below]. If this shoe fits, please amend that.

  2. Presidential Politics: Idolatry Masquerading as Conscience

    July 22, 2016 by Gerard M. Nadal

    The following is a post I made on FaceBook earlier today. It speaks for itself.

    I’m sure the following will cause many to unfriend me. So be it.

    No, Trump didn’t mention abortion. Do I wish that he had? I’m at the stage in life where I think it doesn’t matter. All the other Republicans mention abortion and most do nothing once they get into office. Reagan was willing to go to bat for a Constitutional Amendment that included a rape clause. This split the pro-life community so badly that Reagan walked away. At least 40 million humans would be with us today had such an amendment passed, and in the intervening years we could have been working to save the rest not covered in the initial amendment.

    There is such a thing as making an idol of one’s conscience and blinding oneself to the wealth of good that can be done, all because one cannot get 100% of what their conscience demanded. Rather than see the 99 babies saved, if they can’t have 100, they’ll stand on conscience and reject the offer of the lives of the 99.

    That’s not fidelity.

    That’s idolatry.

    Even Lincoln knew he couldn’t get everything he wanted for slaves in one Amendment, so he settled for abolishing slavery in the 13th Amendment, realizing that citizenship would have to wait for a later day. It came with the 14th Amendment.

    In this election, either Trump or Clinton will be elected. We are called to limit evil and promote as much good as we can. After the past 8 years, there is little doubt what a Clinton Presidency will mean. The Democrats decided to elect a Messiah eight years ago, and it was a disaster. Now conservative intellectuals are making the same mistake in rejecting Trump and sitting it out.
    We elect humans, with all of their frailties, not angels or saints. Trump wouldn’t have been my first, fifth, or tenth choice. But Trump at his worst is orders of magnitude better than Clinton at her best.

    We are also not electing a king. We need to elect people to Congress who will actually use the system of checks and balances at their disposal to rein in whomever gets elected. So, to those who make the perfect the enemy of the good, I say that’s the litmus test for turning conscience into an idol.

    Let the unfriending begin

  3. Küng Fu: Modernism the Legend Continues

    Kwai Chang: Master, when progressive modernists and charismatic neo-Catholics wage a campaign against reason, does this not spread confusion which carries over into the public realm of policy debates?

    Master Po: Careful, Grasshopper, lest you be accused of excessive rigidity and neo-Pelagian triumphalism by progressive modernists and hypervigilant Pope Francis Catholics in their campaign against Catholic orthodoxy. If the Energizer Bunny hopped where the Eagles and Vultures fly, would he make it home safely for the next recharge?

    Captain Kirk: Mister Spock! Attacks on reason and natural law in the Catholic tradition weakening rational and prudential judgments in civic affairs…analyze using your usual superior Vulcan logic, the superior claims for which we will bracket in the interests of multicultural diversity, ecumenical dialogue, and the new evangelization of culture so that the feelings and self-esteem of progressives who suspend the use of logic and reason will not be harmed…

    Spock: Fascinating, Captain. The Church which has always encouraged the proper use of reason, natural law, and prudential judgment does not teach fideism or attacks on reason as proper uses of the mind in the Catholic order. The Church’s teachings are not based on personal feelings, as Senator Kaine has implied. Such confusion has played a role in the disorientation and dissembling of modernism and in public debates affected by its errors, errors which have been piling up since the modernist Spirit of Vatican II seized control of major institutions and universities, paving the way for progressive Situation Ethics and the surrender to modernity and secularization.

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Prudential judgments on ethical controversies involving grave matter are acts of reason which the Church in her teachings fosters, encourages, and requires, carrying with it a moral burden to make sound rational judgments which limit and thwart evil and its effects, combating the intellectual errors which make evil seem good to the uninstructed. Father Gannon and Father Walsh never would have tolerated the emotivism which has been gaining ground in modernist circles pushing the progressive agenda and spreading such confusion.
    Since progressive virtue signalling is an exercise of the feelings of self-righteousness by secular liberals and atheist humanists, we must study the phenomenon carefully and how it affects the use of reason and prudential judgments, in ascertaining whether it is a proper exercise of moral judgment in accord with natural law which a Catholic may choose in such public debates of civic responsibilities.

    Father Sarducci: He’s just conducting a test on the explodability of the heads of modernists and neo-Catholics who deride reason, natural law, and the Catholic Thomistic tradition in dissembling progressive propaganda. Confused neo-Catholic charismatics and progressive modernists may want to duck and cover on the floor for the duration of this test, particularly if they have expressed admiration for Senator Kaine’s record on social justice issues in a way which makes it sound like voting for a pro-abortion candidate is possible for a Catholic or that one is still a Catholic while supporting abortion on demand “rights” in public political campaigns which attack the Right to Life.

    Father Fitzgibbon: Ah, the progressive modernists have a running mate on one of the tickets, I see. Perhaps the words latae sententiae should be added to their homework, Father.

    Reverend Neuhaus: This would be a good time to discuss the Naked Public Square in modernity, particularly since one candidate’s anti-life and anti-Christian agenda is more aggressive and severe….

  4. Spock: Of course, if Hillary is elected to the presidency it will be good for neo-Catholic charismatics, Captain.

    Captain Kirk: Why would Hillary being elected president be good for charismatics, Mister Spock?

    Spock: Because more Catholics will be rolling around on the floor shrieking, shouting,
    and yelling, Captain.

    Captain Kirk: I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way before, Mister Spock.
    Is there any cure for that?

    Spock: Affirmative, Captain. Indeed, there is.

  5. Captain Kirk: But why would progressive modernist neo-Catholics attack reason and logic as part of excessive rigidity and neo-Pelagian triumphalism? Isn’t a rational prudential judgment on a moral controversy of public policy an act of the intellect?

    Spock: Affirmative, Captain.

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Oh, yes. An assent to the truth of the Catholic faith is also an act of the intellect. If you take the simple theological proposition that Jesus is the Son of God or even the doctrine of the Resurrection, for instance, the doctrinal propositions of theology, as presented to the agent intellect, require….

    Captain Kirk: Then why does emotivism appeal to progressive modernist dissenters?

    Spock: The idea that moral issues rest on personal feelings provides more flexibility and cover for Situation Ethics, Captain.

    Hans Küng: I would like to address that….

    Prof. Alasdair MacIntyre: So would I…

    Father Copleston, S.J.: Everyone gets their chance in the Ratio Studiorum.

    Archbishop Hughes: But there should be time limits on rebuttals.

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: And for any extended citations in Latin that might send post-Vatican II modernists running for dictionaries.

    Plato: Do you want to go first, or shall I?

    Aristotle: OK, but let’s avoid any esoteric Straussian readings or double truth theories that night encourage the Foggy Bottom set.

    Hans Küng: I would like to address that and issue a microaggression warning….

    Captain Kirk: Does this involve the hermeneutics of neo-Kantian epistemology and modern subjectivity?

    Reverend Neuhaus: That’s my opening. Some might be uncomfortable, squeamish, or hesitant to discuss the problems of modernity and secularization with any degree of candor, which these issues in fact require and deserve, as Avery Dulles, Father Murray, and Father Canavan could explain, but if we could turn to the Naked Public Square perhaps…

  6. Captain Kirk: What about when resentment is directed at reason and the natural law tradition in Catholic teaching by progressive modernists?

    Spock: This is part of the standard routine of progressive modernists and the strategy of emotivism. Adding to this problem, they may not be aware that they are projecting resentment and falling into the confusion of Protestant fideism, interpreting it rather as virtue in the delusion and disorientation of self-righteous pride amidst the crusading zeal against rigidity and neo-Pelagian triumphalism.

    Captain Kirk: What about the charismatic tantrums and spaz attacks, rolling around on the floor shrieking, shouting, and yelling like maniacs?

    Spock: You mean, how can we distinguish this from normal childhood temper tantrums, attempting to gain attention and sympathy?

    Captain Kirk: Yes. Isn’t there anything that can be done for them, Mister Spock?

    Spock: There are padded rooms and touchy-feely sock puppet therapies available.

    Dr. Bones McCoy: I’ve never seen anything like it, Jim.
    We told him there would be no liturgical dancing on the ship this week and he just flipped out….

  7. Captain Kirk: What about the childish games in the blogosphere, throwing around wild and scurrilous accusations of excessive rigidity and neo-Pelagian triumphalism directed at orthodox Catholics?

    Spock: Ultimately, this is an issue of low self-esteem and poor catechetics.

    Captain Kirk: Well, is there anything that can be done for that?

    Spock: A weekend seminar on Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving is sometimes recommended. When the neo-Catholic progressive modernist feels loved and accepted, he or she is more ready to play with others without resentment, aggressive attacks, or wild accusations.

    Captain Kirk: Exactly how does that work, Mister Spock?

    Spock: It runs for about four hundred dollars, Jim.
    Of course, there may be an extra charge if the participant’s Enneagram Number is assessed.

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