“Padre, pwede ba ko moboto sa usa ka kandidato nga pabor sa death penalty, same-sex union o kaha sa abortion?”
When I was asked this question a few months ago, and other questions similar to it, I could not hide the wrinkles on my forehead, as I was groping for an appropriate answer.
My answer that time was along the line of clarifying one’s fundamental motive for choosing a candidate. I was also emphasizing on the distinction between the “morality of one’s act of choosing” and the “morality of the chosen one’s life” (the candidate’s moral life).
Recently, I came across with a copy of a memorandum sent by Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal McCarrick in July 2004 that could somehow substantiate and clarify my explanation. Cardinal Ratzinger’s memo explains the guiding principles on the worthiness of receiving Holy Communion. A Nota Bene (N.B.) that follows the Six General Principles says:
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.
Clearly, when a Catholic deliberately votes for a candidate precisely because such political aspirant favors abortion/or euthanasia, he/she formally cooperates with evil. “Formal cooperation takes place whenever one takes part in the immoral action of another, while at the same time adopting the evil intention of his associate” (Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, EWTN Q&A, 02-27-2002). Voting for a candidate because of his favorable stand on abortion or euthanasia is formally taking part in this immoral action.
St. Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae clearly states:
Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil… This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it” (EV, 74).
Now, what if I vote for that candidate not for his/her anti-life stance, but for other reasons? “It is considered remote material cooperation”. Remote material cooperation is a mediate (not actually or intentionally taking part in the act) cooperation by simply “supplying the occasion or material for the commission of a morally wrong action, but is further removed from the immoral act itself” (Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, EWTN Q&A, 02-27-2002). It is permissible under proportionate reasons.
Notice, however, that the foregoing discussion is so focused on abortion and euthanasia. Death penalty (and, I think, same-sex union) is not of the same moral weight because, as Cardinal Ratzinger points out, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.”
For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment (death penalty) or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia (Principle No. 3).
It goes without saying that though death penalty and same-sex union may not have the same moral weight (gravity) as abortion and euthanasia, to vote for candidates precisely because of their favorable stance on these issues still is formal cooperation with evil, hence, sinful. But a Catholic may vote for these candidates, “for other reasons”, that is, for reasons other than their anti-life stance, for it is considered only as remote material cooperation with evil.
The bottom line is: when you vote for a candidate, know first his/her moral stance on certain issues. Never vote for a candidate on account of his/her favorable stance on immoral issues (abortion, euthanasia, death penalty, same-sex union, divorce, etc.). Rather, your intention in voting for him/her should be his morally acceptable stance on other issues.
Vote for a candidate NOT because of his/her immoral stance, BUT because of the good which you believe he/she can do to the country.