In conscience, who can I vote for?

Cincinnati Enquirer
Friday, July 30, 2004
In conscience, who can I vote for?

Your voice: Richard J. Middendorf

Recently a priest at my church urged the congregation to vote pro-life.

I was a bit surprised at this political endorsement from the pulpit, but understood that he was just telling us what the U.S. bishops promulgated March 15 in their every-four-year document, Faithful Citizenship.

At first I thought that the minister was telling us to strongly follow the Fifth Commandment without reservation - that is, not to kill, not to stop life. I thought he was telling us not to vote for a politician who has been responsible for killing a hundred convicted killers in Texas. I thought he was telling us not to vote for a politician who led us to pre-emptively invade a sovereign nation-state.

Besides the Fifth Commandment, the social teaching of the Catholic Church explicitly prohibits and condemns such aggressive behavior. Pope John Paul II made this clear in a recent audience with President Bush.

In view of this, I could not help but think that this minister was advising us to not vote for Bush.

But in talking with others who attended the same Mass, they had the impression that he was advising us not to vote for John Kerry, who has come out in favor of a woman's right to kill her child-to-be before it is born.

I am confused. Should I vote for a candidate who favors killing killers and favors killing thousands in an unjustified war, or should I vote for a candidate who says he favors allowing women to kill their unborn children? Maybe as a Catholic I cannot in conscience vote for either candidate.

But wait: The bishops have come to the rescue. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, D.C., head of a task force of U.S. bishops studying how to relate to Catholic politicians, wrote recently: "However, 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 it there are proportional reasons." (editors note: the key quote attributed by the author to Cardinal McCarrick is actually from a memo sent to him by Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (in other words, an even more authoritative voice).

The environment, worker rights, health care, death penalty and economic justice issues are proportional reasons to be considered here, according to Faithful Citizenship.

A Jesuit from 1947 to 1973 and married since 1975, Richard J. Middendorf of Monfort Heights taught at St. Xavier High School and La Salle High School. He has been active in the Peace and Justice Committee at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Monfort Heights since 1974.