A Canadian Catholic Voter’s Catechism
Does it matter whether I vote?
Yes. We have a moral obligation to vote. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that it is “…morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.”(1)
Why is voting obligatory?
“It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society….”(2) As the Second Vatican Council taught, “every citizen ought to be mindful of his duty to promote the common good by using his vote.”(3) We are not obliged to vote for the sake of voting but to vote in a way that we think will make our country better for all Canadians.
Does the Church give us specific guidance on how to vote?
Yes. While “the Church… is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system” and does not endorse a particular party,(4) the Church does “pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.(5)
What about separation of Church and state? Is it right for us to vote according to our religious beliefs?”
The Second Vatican Council teaches that as Christian “citizens among citizens … everywhere and always (we) have to seek the justice of the kingdom of God.”(6) We must seek that justice when we vote.
Our activities in the Church and in the state are distinct, but we remain the same Christian people whatever we do. We belong both to Christ and to Canada, and we must not separate ourselves from either when we vote.
What moral judgements has the Church made that affect my vote in Canada today?
The Church has many teachings about social justice, solidarity with our fellow citizens, the common good and human rights. We must take all of these into account, but two basic issues stand out in Canada today: the right to life and the status of marriage and family.
Why is the right to life the most important issue in deciding my vote?
The most basic of all our rights is the right to life, the right from which all other rights flow. Without life, no other right can be enjoyed. Any threat to the right to life, then, is a threat to all our rights. Any threat to the right to life not only puts human beings at risk of being killed, but also “is a threat capable, in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning of democratic co-existence,”(7) Pope John Paul II warns in Gospel of Life.
This is because “the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation…. The moment … (the) law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined….”(8)
What life issues are important in this election?
Canada has no legal protection for unborn human beings. While some MPs do support limitations on abortion, not all do. Check to see which candidates are committed to the right to life of the unborn and to reducing the number of abortions in Canada.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide
Euthanasia (killing someone who is suffering) and assisted suicide (helping them kill themselves) is still illegal in Canada, protecting the rights of the elderly, disable and mentally ill. But some politicians want to legalize one or both of these. Check to see which candidates will uphold the right to life of all vulnerable persons and who will work to ensure that all Canadians have access to good medical treatment and pain care when we face serious illness.
Why are marriage and family policies also very important?
Pope John Paul II wrote that, “a family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies.”(9) This is simply because the family is “the original cell of social life.”(10) Therefore, “The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty `to acknowledge the true nature of the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality and domestic prosperity.’“(11)
What marriage and family issues are important in this election?
Assistance to Families
Each party has a plan to assist families, through tax breaks, daycare subsidies, and other means. Not all of these plans will be helpful to families, and some will make family life more difficult. Check to see which candidates believe that parents have the primary responsibility to care for their children, and which candidates will work to ensure that the government’s family policy truly will assist parents and not hinder them.
There are other important life, marriage and family issues to consider. These are only some highlights. More information can be found on these issues and on party positions on these issues at www.rcav.org/OLF, the Office of Life and Family website.
So what do I look for in a candidate and party?
First, we must vote for candidates and parties that uphold the right to life for all Canadians and for all human beings everywhere.
Second, we must vote for candidates and parties who recognize that a family is “a man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children,”(12) who will enact policies that recognize that children are the responsibility and duty first and foremost of their parents and not of the state, and who will enact policies that assist and do not hamper parents in raising their children.
What if I cannot find a suitable candidate?
While it is always wrong to ‘do evil that good may come of it’ (Cf. Rom 3:8) – and therefore wrong to support a candidate who fails to uphold the right to life and the good of marriage and the family – it is not wrong to limit evil that good may come of it. That is, we cannot do something wrong just because it may lead to a good outcome, but we can work to limit something wrong being done in order to lead to a good outcome.
Thus, if no candidate upholds the right to life and the rights of the family, we can still exercise our responsibility to vote. We can vote for the candidate who is the least hostile to the right to life and to the family – and limit the harm that worse candidates might do.
In the words of one theologian, “At times, the voter can do no better than make a choice of the lesser of two or more evils…. He must choose the group or individual who, everything considered, is the most favourable to faith and morals or is the least hostile.”(13)
To quote another theologian, “It is sinful to vote for the enemies of religion or liberty, except to exclude a worse candidate….”(14)
When no truly good option is given to voters, we are then forced to use our vote to ensure the least objectionable outcome.
Besides casting a pro-life vote, what else can I do?
Apart from always voting for a greater recognition and protection of the right to life and other human rights, we must also constantly strive to use other means to build a culture of life.
As Christians we are called to evangelize our culture by bringing Christian values into the market place, into every phase of our life in society.
One important way of doing this is by voicing our views publicly and by getting involved in the political process, influencing the nominations of candidates and the setting of party policy, and supporting candidates who stand for the Gospel of Life in all its aspects.
1. CCC # 2240
2. CCC # 2239
3. GS #75
4. GS #76
5. CCC #2246
6. AA #7
7. EV #18
8. CCC #2273
9. EV #90
10. CCC #2207
11. CCC #2210
12. CCC #2202
13. Bernard Haering, CSsR, The Law of Christ, Vol. II, pp.513-514
14. Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology, vol.2., p.90