Friday, July 29, 2016

The Voting Booth And the Confessional

It is something that I suppose I will never understand. Nobody has ever given me an explanation that even comes close to satisfying me.

Passionate disagreement about the role of government, the best way forward in terms of the economy, the poor, education, gun laws, social security, immigration, taxes, the environment, foreign policy . . . I get it.  Nobody--though many act as though they do--has a claim to infallibility on the vast majority of decisions facing a nation. Higher taxes, lower taxes . . . sure, reasonable people can disagree. (For the record, I'd like my taxes to be lower. Raise everyone else's, fine. But just lower mine).  

But, there are certain issues that I just can't understand any Catholic, or any decent human being for that matter, simply overlooking or, worse, supporting. At the outset, let me say that I recognize that this current election season is the strangest that any of us has ever seen. I'm not suggesting in this post that someone has to vote for one or the other candidate.  What I am asking is this: How can Catholics and people of good will be "proud" to belong to a party that has the most pro-abortion platform in American history?  How does that make one feel proud? Isn't that something for which a person with a well-formed conscience would be ashamed? I'm not asking what kind of moral reasoning you might employ in order to unwillingly and grudgingly decide to vote for that party. What I'm asking is how could someone whose conscience is well-formed be happy about voting for it?

Let's suppose that one candidate's platform called for the use of chemical weapons on some peaceful country.  At the same time, the opposing candidate's platform called for the elimination of people who were sick and unable to contribute to the economic good of society.  In these circumstances, I could understand people struggling to vote for one or the other candidate, and making some unhappy decision based on a variety of factors.  "Sure, he wants to use chemical weapons on civilians in a peaceful country, but he won't kill our senior citizens and he's going to cut taxes." "Yeah, she's going to euthanize the sick, but she won't use chemical weapons and she promises health care costs will get lower." In the face of equally bad candidates, I can understand how someone begrudgingly casts a vote for someone who is terrible, but not as terrible. I get that.

What I can never figure out, however, is how any person with a conscience can be gleeful about supporting someone who wants to expand abortion, remove any limitations on it, and who wants taxpayers to fund it. If a particular party's platform was perfect in every way, but suggested that the homeless should be euthanized, one would hope that somebody wouldn't be gleeful about supporting that party. It would, I hope, sound rather odd at your dinner party to hear someone say, "Why yes, I'm not really in favor of euthanizing the homeless, but I'm so proud of the party for its stand on the environment." I hope that would leave most people of any kind of conscience, at least, mildly distressed and not feeling particularly proud.

And yet, Catholics gleefully support and vote for persons who are "really great . . . yeah, except for that whole crushing a baby's skull and killing it.  Other than that, he's a great speaker and has done a lot for public schools." It's difficult to have any respect for people who cheer for abortion the way normal people would cheer at the birth of a baby. No matter how many balloons fall from the ceiling, how many flags are on the stage, or how many people applaud, there is something dark and grotesque about people gleefully cheering for abortion. There is something sinister and grotesque about any candidate or platform that demeans human beings--whether those human beings are in the womb, the nursing home, the homeless shelter, the prison cell, or on the border. Being gleeful about dehumanizing anyone is not Catholic. 

One might feel compelled to vote for a candidate who supports the greatest evil of our day because of some equally grave concern about the other candidate or candidates. That, of course, is a very high threshold. But, this should not leave any person with a well formed conscience gleeful or proud. It should leave them filled with sorrow for a very fallen world. It ought to leave them filled with tremendous regret that in a country as great as America, the only candidates whom they felt they could support were the ones whom Planned Parenthood supports. It should leave them, not with giddiness, but with horror.

Catholics are familiar with the confessional box. You enter, pull the curtain, and whisper as quietly as possible your sins. We don't boast of our sins and, once it is over, we are happy to be done with it, never to speak of those sins again.  Those who feel compelled by their well-examined and well-formed conscience (a high standard) to vote for a candidate who "champions" abortion, ought to treat the voting booth like a confessional. Whisper it. Don't boast, be proud, or be gleeful about it. Have true sorrow in your heart that your well-formed conscience compelled you to make such an awful choice, and never speak of it again! You just voted for someone whose policies will mean the death of innocent life. It hardly seems something for which to be proud or gleeful.


  1. Well said Fr. Barnes. I had these same sorrowful thoughts this afternoon when I heard my coworkers speaking about a certain pro-abortion candidate as the "lesser of 2 evils." Holy Innocents...Pray for us!

  2. When I comment about abortion or contraception I don't use the accepted lingo. I ask, for example, why should an employer be forced to subsidize his employee' recreational sex. It puts things in a truer perspective.

  3. Amen, Amen, Amen! I can never figure why some people condone murdering innocents.