Catholic church doesn’t endorse, but does give advice
Each campaign season, the bishops’ conference issues a document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which outlines key issues. Those issues run across the right-left spectrum, providing arguments on whether to vote for Republican or Democratic candidates, Catholic supporters of each political party say.
The 2012 edition features these key issues: abortion rights, religious freedom, traditional marriage, immigration reform, fighting poverty and ending war.
“As Catholics, we are not single-issue voters,” the bishops wrote in the guide. “A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support.”
But the bishops also make clear that abortion rights is a crucial issue because it involves “an intrinsic evil.”
“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position,” the guide says.
Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the spiritual leader of an estimated 1.3 million Catholics in the six-county archdiocese, believes that “when Catholics go into the voting booth, they should try to promote the common good — recognizing that some issues are more important than others,” spokesman Ned McGrath said.
“At the same time, we have the clear obligation to oppose intrinsic evils, which can never be justified, such as abortion,” McGrath wrote in an e-mail about Vigneron’s views. “Catholics should not vote for a candidate who supports something intrinsically evil unless there are proportionate reasons to do so. And, in the case of abortion, it is hard to imagine what could be proportionate to the taking of over a million innocent human lives per year in the United States.”
But there’s a basis for Catholic voters to support candidates who are pro-choice, other Catholic leaders say.
It’s this statement in the bishops’ guide: “A Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position (on abortion) may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.”
Many Catholic Democrats say they consider a candidate’s plans for outreach to poor and disabled people or a candidate’s position on war as important matters, too.
Thus, a Catholic may vote for a candidate who backs abortion rights if the voter supports the candidate for other “morally grave” issues, but not because the Catholic voter supports the candidate’s pro-choice position, explained the Rev. Thomas Reese of the Woodstock Theological Seminary at Georgetown University.
The guide also says a voter “should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.”