are we to do about the elections when every candidate is either a liberal or
questionable? But the Church tells us we have to vote, doesnt it?
es, the Catechism of the Catholic
Church does say that 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 ones country (§ 2240).
But the answer to your question is not as simple as declaring, Therefore,
we all have to vote. The individuals responsibility to civil
authority has several complicated components. So lets look at
Looking back into the Old Testament,
we can see that, once the Jews became established in their own country, they
ruled themselves, first through judges, then through kings. Still, God was
the highest authority, and all social order derived from the divine Law.
The concept of the individuals relationship to civil, rather than
religious, authority began only when foreign nations invaded and conquered
Israel and Judah.
Although we can imagine that
there must have been resistance and rebellion at first, eventually the exile
became inevitable. We have in Jeremiah a record of how God told the Jews
to accept this inevitability of living under civil rule:
to dwell in; plant gardens and eat their fruits. Take wives and beget sons
and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters husbands,
so that they may bear sons and daughters. There you must increase in number,
not decrease. Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you;
pray for it to the LORD, for upon its welfare depends your
In other words, because external
civil authority provided an environment of peace and stability in which the
Jewish religion could be preserved, the individual was called to promote
the welfare of that authority.
Now, at the time of Christ, the
Roman Empire was the civil authority in Judea, and Christ, when asked about
paying taxes to Rome, echoed the words of Jeremiah when He said, Then
repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God
(Matthew 22:21). Christto the dismay of some of His followerswas
no revolutionary, and He never called for disrespect to civil
In the early Church, Saint Paul
reaffirmed the need to respect civil authority (see Romans 13:1-7), and it
is to Saint Paul that scholars have looked ever since in regard to the
individuals responsibility to the state.
The fact is,
the Romans allowed Jewish religious freedom because they understood that
the Jewish faith predated the founding of Rome; the Romans respected things like
thatthey may have been cruel and ruthless, but they were still intelligent
After Saint Pauls
time, however, when the early Christians started getting kicked out of the
synagogues, the Romans raised their eyebrows. If the Christians were not Jews,
then they were a new religion, and under Roman law they could legally be suppressed
as a novelty that threatened the states welfare. It was this sort of persecution
that brought about the early Christian martyrs: men and womenand childrenwho
refused to respect an anti-Christian civil authority.
The Limits of
Consequently, in spite of our obligation to
respect civil authority, there are limits to this respect. The Catechism
makes this perfectly clear by stating it as a command: The citizen
is obligated 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 (§
This philosophy has its
basis in the Old Testament. For example, in the book of Esther we have
the story of Mordecai who refused to kneel and bow down to a kings
servant. In the book of Daniel we have the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego who were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship the
golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar had made (Daniel 3:197). In the same
book we also have the story of Daniel himself who was thrown into a lions
den for refusing to follow a law prohibiting prayer to any god or man except
the king (Daniel 6:129). In the book of 2 Maccabees we have the story
of the martyrdom of a mother and her sons for refusing to eat pork in violation
of Gods law (2 Maccabees 7:142).
Moreover, we have the stories
of countless Christian martyrs. It began with
Christians who refused to worship the Roman emperor, and it has continued
through the centuries with those who suffered persecution and death rather
than betray their faith.
Notice that the
directive here is not to protest laws contrary
to the faith but to refuse to follow any such laws
imposed on us personally. The Catechism makes no mention of the price of
such refusal, but Scripture makes that price perfectly clear: persecution
even unto death.
So far we have seen that we have
an obligation to promote the welfare of civil authority because it provides
the general social stability to practice our faith. Even if the state persecutes
us or does things of which we do not approve, we still must respect the law,
pay our taxes, and pray for our leaders to
repent their sins. But if we are directed
to perform any act contrary to our faithfor example, when hospitals are
ordered by the government to perform abortionswe have an obligation to refuse,
whatever the cost to us.
Now, how does this apply to
When we vote, we select persons
who will take up the responsibility of making decisions
about the future. In selecting these persons, we give them our approval to
do what they see fit to do. Notice carefully: we give them our approval
to do what they see fit to do. Thats a large trust. On what basis
do we place it?
Well, we place our trust on what
the candidates have said during their election campaigns.
And here is where the problems
What if the things a candidate
says indicate that he or she intends to legislate for things contrary to our
faith and morals? Well, by definition, our voting for that person gives our
approval to those things. So where does that leave us? It leaves us in
sin. The Catechism itself says so. It says that we
have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate
in them . . . by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them (§
Therefore, if we vote for a candidate
who intends to legislate sinthat is, to order, advise, praise, or approve
sinwe commit a sin because voting for that candidate amounts
to approving sin. For example, if a candidate is pro-abortion, has a history of
lying, perjury, causing scandal, breaking the law, and supporting immorality, and
if you vote for her, then you are condoning all her sins, and, if she gets elected,
you will share culpability for the sins she commits in office. That fact right
there should govern the voting choices of any person who cares about the welfare
of his or her soul.
Still, the problems can get
What if a situation were to arise
in which every candidate intended to commit mortal sin, or to order, advise, praise,
or approve mortal sin? What do we do then?
There is only one answer. We
refuse to vote for any candidate because it would obligate us to do something
contrary to our faith.
Then we vow personally to live
chaste and holy lives so
that we will be a reflection of Gods glory into the darkness of our
culture. Mind you, its far harder to live a true Catholic lifestyle, quietly
and with humility, than it is to argue about
politics. Furthermore, we
pray and make sacrifices that this country will be
spared the worst of the disasters and horrors that
await it if it doesnt repent its insane eagerness to trample Christian
values underfoot as it heads down the ever
widening path of diversity.