If no candidate is 100% by Catholic moral teaching, is it OK to just not vote?

By Paul Dion, STL

Faithful Catholic, Faithful Citizen.

The other day the Publisher and the Theology Editor of attended the joint vicariate meeting of the San Bernardino Diocese. It turns out that this is an annual event when at least one priest and the staff of every parish come together at the Diocesan Pastoral Center and have a day of conviviality, informational get together, constant light snack buffet and two
solid conferences/presentations as food for thought.

This year Bishop Gerald Barnes decided to make the fourth Episcopal Letter to voters the center piece of the event. To make the event all the more attractive, he invited Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington D.C. to discuss the election year document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). has another section dedicated to the Cardinal's presentation of the contents of the document. But this is the Burning Question Section and we intend to challenge you with a tough one this time.

Voting is not easy. It is a difficult task because it calls our conscience out and demands that it make a correct decision. If there is an activity that requires Catholics to put their moral behavior thinking caps on, it is voting. There are just so many moral variables to consider.

We ask ourselves so many questions about the candidates. Is this person pro-abortion? Is this one pro-war? What's her position on taxes? What's his position on torture? Is this guy going to really provide good, affordable health-care to everyone? What's this we hear about her wanting to privatize Social Security?, etc., etc.

You know as well as I do that the questions go on and on. What do we do? Do we zero-in on abortion? Embryonic Stem-cell Research? War? Negotiating prescription drug prices? Medicinal marijuana?

The fact of the matter is that there is never a perfect Catholic candidate in the race. We have found in the past that making the candidate's stance on abortion the center-piece of our voting decision can have some disastrous results. So, the temptation is to wring our hands, make a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament at the church down the street, return home, sit back, have a beer and watch the results on TV, without stopping by the polling booth vote at all.

Is that the moral thing to do? So because there is no one who is pro-life in the running, do you stay home? Since no one is willing to stop the war, do you stay home? asks, "Is it appropriate Catholic behavior to refrain from voting because no one
candidate conforms to the serious part or some serious parts of the moral code?"

This is not an easy question. Let's try to enlighten one another. There is an answer. Hints of it can be found in the other article about the formation of consciences for faithful citizenship.

We will provide quasi immdiate feedback to your contributions and a fuller answer to the question as we go forward.


  1. Cecilia Marie8:44 AM

    With two candidates on one side firmly and consciously refusing to side with the life of the unborn and one on the other side firmly pro-war, where are we go? I'm thinking sitting this one out as the only way for my conscience's sake.

  2. Cecilia Marie:
    On the surface, the temptation is there to "sit it out." However, there are other important moral issues that have to be corrected going forward. Life is not a simple straight line and our relationship with God is rather complex too.
    Therefore, it is's position that since there are so many important moral hurdles to overcome, it is better to study the issues seriously in the light of the Gospel and of the Church's teachings and go out and vote for the side that seems to promise the most hope of resolving the tough questions. There are some still hanging out there besides abortion and war...Hunger, genocide, care for the earth, labor, health care, immigration, and some others that escape me as I sit here running this through my mind.
    That, Ma'am is why we think that the one real moral thing to do as a faithful citizen is to go out and vote your conscience.

  3. Michael Reese7:45 AM

    There is no perfect candidate. But there will always be the one that is the best of the lot even by Catholic standards. I will vote for the one that offers the most promise and the least damage to the teachings of the Church. Catholics can not boycott. Jesus tells us we have to be part of the civil process. Give unto Caesar, etc..... That's the only way we can really make changes, albeit small baby step changes at a time.

  4. Michael:

    Paul Dion, STL
    Theology Editor

  5. I am highly suspicious of the two main parties... I think instead of "sitting it out", perhaps the "third party" is the way to go. A couple of years ago when I subscribed to the New Oxford Review, they were suggesting to form a "third party" for Catholics.
    Not sure how that will go.

  6. Laurence,
    Ever hear of the Christian Democrats? It is a European phenomenon. So-so results.

    The short answer is, don't sit it out, work it out with yourself.

  7. I considered fleeing to Canada, but I hear they arent that much better on the main issues. If the Third Secret of Fatima is true, then maybe I should just move to Portugal, where "the dogma of the faith shall be preserved" :-)