U.S. Elections: A Battle of the Unworthies

Back in June, a Catholic “never Trumper” from Canada (yea, they exist there too) accused me of being a “rabid Trump supporter,” even though my articles and public commentary on the man plainly testify otherwise. 

In fact, my unhinged detractor was initially triggered by a tweet in which I criticized Donald Trump for his continued promotion of the COVID death jab – a sure sign that he serves the globalist cause – urging those who imagine that he’s the solution to our nation’s problems to get their heads out of their collective you know whats. (So much for rabid support, eh?) 

In any case, the heart of the matter was made plain when the sanctimonious troll declared with magisterial confidence “there is absolutely no way on God’s green earth that a Catholic can make a ‘legitimate argument’ for supporting Trump.” 

One can imagine why he might believe that this is so. After all, Trump endorses evil policy initiatives with which we cannot participate, like abortion in certain cases and portions of the LGBT agenda.

Does that necessarily mean that we can never vote for such a person, under any circumstances?

The Canadian has convinced himself that such a candidate is utterly off limits. Me? I try (though sometimes fail) to avoid putting too much stock in my own opinion, deferring instead to the mind of the Church, her magisterium, and the insights provided by her approved theologians. 

You see, when faced with a moral dilemma such as the one under discussion here, the faithful Catholic is called to avail himself of the relevant moral principles as explicated by reliable, traditional sources, so that we may conform our opinions and our actions accordingly. It takes effort and humility to be sure, but it’s not rocket science.

In this article, we will attempt to do exactly this by turning to the following sources:

1. “Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities,” Fr. John A. McHugh, O.P., and Fr. Charles J. Callan, O.P., 1958

2. “Catholic Principles on Voting,” Fr. Titus Cranny, S.A., M.A., S.T.L., 1952

3. Pope Pius XII, To the Parish Priests of Rome, 16 March 1946, cited HERE

4. Pope Pius XII, Discourse to Italian Catholic Action, 20 April 1948, cited HERE

We’ll begin with a look at the generally applicable principles and move on from there to some specifics.

[NOTE: I repeatedly invited my Twitter foe, both publicly and privately, to join me on this same journey. Sadly, he declined. My hope is that you, dear reader, will come along for the ride.] 

For the sake of expedience, I will provide relatively brief excerpts, indicating the source by number as shown above. Readers are encouraged to follow the hyperlinks for a more in-depth treatment.

To set the stage, let’s be clear about the questions we are attempting to answer:

What is the Catholic voter to do when an election consists exclusively of a choice between candidates that advance principles that are evil, offensive to Christ, and injurious to the common good? 

Using the vocabulary of the moral theologians, what we are discussing is an election in which all of the candidates are “unworthy” of the office being sought. [1, 2] Without question, this describes practically every major U.S. election in recent memory.

What is allowable in such cases? What must be avoided? What is obligatory? 

It is lawful to vote for an unworthy candidate when this is necessary to prevent a greater evil, as when the opposing candidate is much worse. [1]

It would be licit to vote for an unworthy man if the choice were only between or among unworthy candidates; and it might even be necessary to vote for such an unworthy candidate (if the voting were limited to such personalities) and even for one who would render harm to the Church, provided the election were only a choice from among unworthy men and the voting for the less unworthy would prevent the election of another more unworthy. [2]

Though the theologians cited above were writing in the 1950’s, their teaching was drawn from the commentary of some of the Church’s most well-respected manualists who wrote in the early part of the 20th century. 

Lehmkuhl says that it is never allowed to vote absolutely for a man of evil principles, but hypothetice it may be allowed if the election is between men of evil principles. Then one should vote for him who is less evil (1) if he makes known the reason for his choice; (2) if the election is necessary to exclude a worse candidate [Compendium, 343]. The same author in his Casus conscientiae lists the general argument, adding that there must be no approbation of the unworthy man or of his programme.

Tanquerey declares that if the vote is between a socialist and another liberal, the citizen may vote for the less evil, but he should publicly declare why he is voting this way, to avoid any scandalum pusillorum, i.e. to avoid scandalizing those weaker in Faith. (Synposis theologiae moralis et pastoralis, 3, 981). 

Prümmer says the same (Manuale theologiae moralis, 2, 604).  [2]

Thanks to the insights provided by these highly reliable, traditional sources, the answers we seek are starting to come into view: 

In an election between two unworthy candidates, one most certainly can make a legitimate argument in favor of voting for the “less evil” candidate, namely, because doing so prevents the more unworthy candidate from prevailing, thus being put in a position to promote an even greater evil that does greater harm to the common good. 

Now that we have a sense for what is allowable, let’s discuss what is obligatory and what must be avoided.

Already, we’ve been given a hint: “It might even be necessary to vote for such an unworthy candidate … even for one who would render harm to the Church.”

NB: Might… In other words, one must exercise prudence in determining whether or not necessity actually exists in a specific case. Clearly, there is ample room for persons of good will to disagree. 

There is a grave duty of using the privilege granted to citizens of voting in public elections, and especially primaries; for the welfare of the community and the moral, intellectual and physical good of individuals depend on the kind of men who are nominated or chosen to rule, and on the ticket platforms voted for … in major offices (such as President, governor, congressman, legislator, or judge) the party principles for which he stands have to be considered chiefly. [1]     

A grave duty… This is a stronger statement still, one that comes close to suggesting obligation. Even so, let’s remain cognizant of the context in which it is offered:

The liceity of voting for an unworthy candidate is conditional, predicated as it is upon the intention “to prevent a greater evil.” Herein lies more fertile ground for debate, and disagreement, as to what constitutes the greater evil.

At this, let’s turn at last to Pope Pius XII:

The people are called on to take an always larger part in the public life of the nation. This participation brings with it grave responsibilities. Hence the necessity for the faithful to have clear, solid, precise knowledge of their duties in the moral and religious domain with respect to their exercise of their civil rights, and in particular of the right to vote. [3]  

In this, we are being informed that the matter of voting is one of tremendous gravity, i.e., it’s not enough to simply rest on one’s own emotions and opinions. The Holy Father is telling us in no uncertain terms that we have a “grave responsibility” to work toward attaining “clear, solid, and precise knowledge” concerning our moral and religious duties, which is exactly why the present exercise is so crucially important.

Two years later, the Holy Father stated:

In the present circumstances, it is a strict obligation for all those who have the right to vote, men and women, to take part in the elections. Whoever abstains from doing so, in particular by indolence or weakness, commits a sin grave in itself, a mortal fault. Each one must follow the dictate of his own conscience. However, it is obvious that the voice of conscience imposes on every Catholic to give his vote to the candidates who offer truly sufficient guarantees for the protection of the rights of God and of souls, for the true good of individuals, families and of society, according to the love of God and Catholic moral teaching. [4]

Here we find an even stronger statement as the Holy Father speaks of a “strict obligation” to “take part in the elections.” 

Once again, however, context is crucial as the pope is speaking of “the present circumstances.” Without delving too deeply into history, the Holy Father was addressing the faithful of Italy in particular about the upcoming 1948 Italian General Election, which was to take place the following month.

It seems rather clear that the Holy Father was encouraging the faithful to support Alcide De Gasperi of the Christian Democracy Party, even without naming him, inasmuch as he alone could reasonably be considered as offering “sufficient guarantees for the protection of the rights of God and of souls,” etc.

Some commentators have concluded that the strict obligation to vote exists only when such a candidate is on the ballot. We must acknowledge, however, that this is mere opinion inasmuch as the Holy Father did not actually state that the obligation is so conditioned. Moreover, there is good reason to believe that the obligation to vote is not so exclusive. 

As we have seen, Fr. John A. McHugh, O.P., and Fr. Charles J. Callan, O.P. – highly regarded moral theologians who were no doubt well aware of the Holy Father’s 1948 address – wrote that we have “a grave duty of voting in public elections,” not only on such occasion as when a good Catholic candidate is available, but in light of one’s duty to safeguard “the welfare of the community and the moral, intellectual and physical good of individuals.” [1]

Some argue that one can never be strictly obligated to vote for a candidate that promotes evil. It can rightly be said, however, that we are always strictly obligated to exercise care for the common good. This is why the theologians can say:

The obligation [to vote] is, therefore, one of legal justice, arising from the fact that the common weal is everybody’s business and responsibility, especially in a republic … a citizen who stays away from the polls sins, and perhaps gravely, against legal justice. [1] 

Be that as it may, there are occasions when one can reasonably refrain from exercising the right to vote. For example, “grave inconvenience (e.g., sickness, ostracism, exile, persecution).” [1]

The Dominican theologians go on to say, “Neither is there an obligation to vote when an election is a mere formality, as when there is but one candidate or party.” [1]

Based upon the degree to which fraud clearly impacted the outcome of Election 2020, one could hardly be blamed for concluding in good conscience, rightly or wrongly, that their vote is “a mere formality.” Once again, we see that there is room for disagreement among persons of good will. 

At this, I’ll share some of my own takeaways from the principles we just explored and how they may apply to our current situation, beginning with the lightning rod himself, Donald J. Trump in light of the two most recent U.S. Presidential elections, as well as the one slated for 2024 (should the Almighty continue to suffer us for that much longer).

As I’ve already indicated, I consider Trump to be a tool of the globalist agenda who endorses intrinsic evils in which a Catholic cannot participate.

Now, a word about participation. Voting for the less evil candidate does not make one an accomplice in the evil elements of his program. Why not? As the theologians stated, such a vote is not a “vote absolutely for a man of evil principles,” it is a vote to “exclude a worse candidate.” As such, “Citizens do not make themselves responsible for all the acts of their representatives.” [1]

Looking ahead to 2024 , I genuinely hope that somehow, some way, a far less unworthy candidate than Trump is offered, but either way, the “choice” (if one even exists) will come down to Democrat v Republican. 

Recall what the Dominican theologians had to say in this regard:

In major offices (such as President, governor, congressman, legislator, or judge) the party principles for which he stands have to be considered chiefly. [1]     

Why would the “party principles” of the various candidates “have to” serve as our chief consideration? In other words, why are we not advised to speculate first and foremost as to how the law of the land may, or may not, be impacted moving forward?

I would suggest that it is because “the end which the voter should have in mind is the good of the public” [1], and the policy positions that are held and promoted by our civic leaders (e.g., on grave matters like abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, etc.) have a tremendous impact on the common good of society and its relative godliness, regardless of whether or not those principles are successfully implemented into law.  

And why is this so? It is because the influence of the office remains either way, and its impact on society is considerable. Catholics of all people should need little convincing on this note: 

For example, how often have we lamented the behavior of those popes (and putative popes) who have misappropriated the prestige and influence of the Petrine Office (even if only by way of perception) by entertaining pagans, heathens, heretics, Communists, homos and eugenicists?   

In any case, it is entirely obvious that abortion-on-demand with little to no restriction whatsoever up to the very moment of birth if not beyond (the Democrat position) is a greater evil than abortion limited to certain cases (the Republican position). The same conclusion can be drawn when comparing the parties’ stance on any number of other gravely important moral issues, like gender ideology and parental rights. 

But if Trump is a globalist tool, then my vote won’t matter. Our nation and our world will move closer to the Great Reset regardless of who gets elected!

One could just as easily argue, We’re all going to die anyway, so why does it matter if I smoke three packs a day and eat junk food 24/7?  

Our votes matter because the conditions under which we, our children, and the society as a whole labors while en route to the Great Reset (if indeed such is inevitable) matter. Once again, we are called to prudently discern which of the unworthy candidates represents the lesser evil and therefore will do less violence to the common good.  

OK then, we can use our ballot to vote for a write-in candidate!

This idea did not escape our theologians’ attention:

Indeed he would not be permitted to vote for them [unworthy candidates] if there were any reasonable way of electing a worthy man, either by organizing another party, by using the “write in” method, or by any other lawful means. [2]   

NB: Reasonable way… I’ve actually read comments on social media from persons claiming to have written-in “Christ the King.” I’m happy to assume that these persons meant well, but let’s be honest, while it may have felt good to do so, it did exactly nothing to safeguard the good of the public, which is “the end that the voter should have in mind.” [1]

While it is clear that a legitimate argument can indeed be made in favor of voting for an unworthy candidate like Trump, where far too many so-called “traditionalists” cross the line is in heaping public praise upon the man, as if to affirm his alleged Christian bona fides, holding him up as a man of virtue, anointing him as a “pro-life” champion, suggesting that he is “God’s choice,” etc. 

It’s disgusting to see just how many in “traditional” Catholic media have decided to cash in on Trump mania by singing his praises, at times, in quasi-messianic tones. This includes those who over-simplify the choice at hand (with respect to either past or future elections) as a matter of “Good vs Evil,” with Trump being portrayed as the champion of the good.  

Recall the relevant Catholic moral theological principles:

There must be no approbation of the unworthy man. The voting must not be taken as an approval of the candidate or of his unworthiness. The citizen who votes for the less evil candidate should publicly declare why he is voting that way, lest he scandalize those weaker in Faith.

Michael Matt, publisher of “the world’s oldest traditional Catholic newspaper,” gave us a perfect example of what a faithful Catholic should not do as he shamelessly extolled Trump’s virtues in a public forum, saying (among other cringeworthy things):

He sees the demons, and he’s really and truly, almost despite himself, completely on our side now on the life issue! (Michael Matt, Trump Rally, September 2020)

This, even though Trump not only failed to deliver on his 2016 campaign promise to defund Planned Parenthood, the human slaughterhouse actually received more federal funds under his administration than the previous, Obama, administration. 

As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions – Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother… (Donald J. Trump, Twitter, May 19, 2019)

So much for Trump being “completely on our side.” How embarrassing. 

Michael Matt is far from alone. Taylor Marshall, a “Catholics for Trump” advisory board member, is another allegedly “traditional” Catholic who evidently either does not know, or does not care, about the moral principles we’ve just reviewed.

For example, in a public prayer offered at a different rally, Marshall practically got the ball rolling on the canonization cause for Donald “I’m fine with gay marriage” Trump as he anointed the man a servant of God.

Not to be outdone, celebrity cleric Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò threw the “God’s choice” card down on the Donald calling him an “instrument of Divine Providence.”

In conclusion…

Those of you who have persevered to the end of this article have discovered the relevant Catholic moral principles that apply to the matter of voting. I think we can all agree that, while there’s a certain amount of room for debate as to their application, they’re relatively simple and easy to understand.

The challenge we now face is exercising the humility necessary to incorporate those principles into our thoughts and deeds, setting aside our emotional urges, temporal affiliations, and personal opinions in favor of the guidance they provide. 

Additional References for your consideration:

The Morality of Voting: Is it Permissible to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils? (Novus Ordo Watch)

Is it morally obligatory to vote? (SSPX)