• A voter carries his ballot behind a voting booth at a polling station in the Bronx section of New York City during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    A voter carries his ballot behind a voting booth at a polling station in the Bronx section of New York City during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (CNS photo by Saul Martinez/Reuters)

Can Catholics vote for pro-choice candidates?

Father Kenneth Doyle / CNS    |    09.30.2019
Category: Columns


Q. My family have all been cradle Catholics, but currently we are at odds. How can any Catholic vote for a Democrat who professes to be pro-abortion? How can Catholics look forward to someday meeting their Maker when they have voted into office those who will kill innocent human beings? (Pleasantville, Iowa)

Q. During a local retreat, I was given a guide for the sacrament of penance. Under the Fifth Commandment, it stated that voting for a pro-choice candidate is a mortal sin. Is this actually so? And what would happen if both candidates were pro-abortion? (Virginia Beach, Va.)

A. Let’s take the second inquiry first. It is simply wrong to say that a Catholic who votes for a pro-choice candidate is necessarily committing a mortal sin.

The guiding document on this is called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which the U.S. bishops refine and publish every four years prior to a presidential election and which addresses various moral issues that Catholics should consider before voting — e.g., defending the sanctity of human life, racism, promoting religious freedom, defending marriage, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, welcoming the immigrant and protecting the environment.

The document says clearly that a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy that promotes an intrinsically evil act such as abortion “if the voter’s intent is to support that position” (No. 34). But the same document goes on to say, “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons” (No. 35).

As to what to do when both candidates support abortion, the bishops’ statement says that a voter may take the “extraordinary step” of choosing not to vote for any candidate — or “after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods” (No. 36).

Q. When receiving holy Communion, some at our parish church stand and some kneel. Is there a “right way” to receive? (Atlanta)

A. It is left to national conferences of bishops to recommend the posture for receiving holy Communion. In the United States, that suggested posture is standing.

As the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal says, “The norm established for the dioceses of the United States of America is that holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling” (No. 160).

The answer to your question, then, is that there is no required “right way.”

Q. Is there any verifiable evidence as to what happened to the cross on which Jesus was actually crucified? Did the followers of Jesus ask for it and get it, or did it remain in place for further use by Roman soldiers? (southern Indiana)

A. It is difficult with historical precision to determine the exact journey of the cross of Christ from Calvary and the present-day locations of all of its fragments, but the most common belief of scholars is as follows.

During the second century, the emperor Hadrian built a pagan temple over the site of Christ’s death and burial. About the year 326, St. Helena — the mother of Emperor Constantine, who first allowed Christianity to be practiced in the Roman Empire — journeyed to Jerusalem in an effort to locate the true cross.

According to legend, she found three crosses buried on Calvary; to determine which was the cross of Jesus and which ones belonged to the two thieves, Helena arranged for a dying woman to touch the crosses and, when the woman touched the cross of Christ, she was healed of her illness.

A portion of the cross traveled with St. Helena back to Rome, and the rest of it was enshrined deep within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. During subsequent centuries, remnants of the cross changed hands several times during battles with Persian and Muslim forces and, later, with those of the Sultan Saladin.

Relics of the cross remain today in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher as well as in Rome’s Basilica of the Holy Cross, while the largest remaining piece is thought to be in Greece on Mount Athos.

Questions may be sent to Father Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com.

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