By Kathleen Gilbert
KANSAS CITY, MO, September 16, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As the election season approaches, the bishops of Kansas City have issued a joint pastoral letter on the responsibility of all Catholics to promote the culture of life and limit evil as much as possible when casting their vote this November.
Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas John Naumann and Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph Robert Finn emphasize that the Catholic Church in America does not endorse specific political parties or candidates; however the Church “has always cherished its right to speak to the moral issues confronting our nation.”
The bishops write that the Catholic Church has a responsibility “to form properly the consciences of her members,” especially as they take active part in a democratic system of government.
The letter mentions various social issues that, while having “important moral dimensions” that Catholics should investigate, can be addressed in different ways and ultimately allow Catholic voters to disagree in good conscience.
But the letter then warns that this is by no means true of policies that involve intrinsic evil, which must always be rejected: “There are, however, some issues that always involve doing evil, such as legalized abortion, the promotion of same-sex unions and ‘marriages,’ repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. A properly formed conscience must give such issues priority even over other matters with important moral dimensions.
“To vote for a candidate who supports these intrinsic evils because he or she supports these evils is to participate in a grave moral evil. It can never be justified.”
While the letter says an ideal situation would allow Catholics to vote for candidates who oppose all grave evil, it recognizes that sometimes Catholics must cast their vote to limit the greater evil. “W e may be confronted with a voting choice between two candidates who support abortion, though one may favor some limitations on it, or he or she may oppose public funding for abortion. In such cases, the appropriate judgment would be to select the candidate whose policies regarding this grave evil will do less harm. We have a responsibility to limit evil if it is not possible at the moment to eradicate it completely.
“The same principle would be compelling to a conscientious voter who was confronted with two candidates who both supported same-sex unions, but one opposed abortion and destructive embryonic research while the other was permissive in these regards. The voter, who himself or herself opposed these policies, would have insufficient moral justification voting for the more permissive candidate. However, he or she might justify resorting to a write-in vote or abstaining from voting at all in this case, because of a conscientious objection.”
The letter recalls that when United States bishops had asked Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger for counsel on the responsibilities of Catholic politicians and voters, the future Pope Benedict XVI replied: “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”
The letter then poses the question, “Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy?” But the bishops say they cannot conceive of a reason that could possibly outweigh the evil of abortion: “What could possibly be a proportionate reason for the more than 45 million children killed by abortion in the past 35 years?”
The letter ends by exhorting Catholics, who now make up a greater percentage of the American voting population than ever before, to take this crucial opportunity to change the course of history in America and exercise strong moral leadership.
“There has never been a moment in our nation’s history when more Catholics served in elective office, presided in our courts or held other positions of power and authority. It would be wrong for us to use our numbers and influence to try to compel others to accept our religious and theological beliefs.
“However, it would be equally wrong for us to fail to be engaged in the greatest human rights struggle of our time, namely the need to protect the right to life of the weakest and most vulnerable.”