A Final (I think) Few Remarks…

…on Voting as a Moral Act.

And, by the way, about this business that we *have* to vote even when two candidates both advocate grave intrinsic evil. It comes from a very selective reading of CCC 2240. Let’s look at it in context:

2238 Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts:43 “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. . . . Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God.”44 Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community.

2239 It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.

2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country:

Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.45
[Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.46

The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.”

Quite obviously, what the catechism envisions is the duty of citizens to participate in the political process as free human beings subject to the law of God. It does not have in mind a brainless rule that says, “vote no matter what, even if it’s stupid” just as it does not have in mind a brainless rule that “everybody has to pay taxes even if they have no income above the poverty line” or “everybody has to serve in the army even if they are 4F”. The duty to vote is mitigated by CCC 2242.

The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”48 “We must obey God rather than men”:49

When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.

We are not bound to support anything (or anybody) who we believe will act in some way contrary to the law of God. Per Cdl. Ratzinger, we may do so if we think we have some proportional reason for doing so. But we do not *have* to do so. I think the best way I can participate in the political process for the common good is a) to vote my conscience by refusing to support pols who promise to do grave evil and supporting pols who refuse to do grave evil and b) to do much much more with my pen than my vote. Doesn’t mean I don’t vote at all. There are still lots of people and items on the ballot that I vote on. Just not pols who promise to do grave evil.

  • dcs

    I can’t claim vast knowledge in moral theology, but I’ve looked at a couple of texts. Both Jone & Adelman and McHugh & Callan agree that if one is confronted with a choice of two unworthy candidates, one is permitted to vote for the lesser evil. Is permitted, not should and definitely not must.

  • James Isabella

    Your philosophy on voting always reminds me of this quote from the movie Airplane:

    Rumack: What was it we had for dinner tonight?
    Elaine Dickinson: Well, we had a choice of steak or fish.
    Rumack: Yes, yes, I remember, I had lasagna.


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