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Last week as you may recall I wrote to you that it is certainly appropriate for us Catholics to vote as Catholics. But this still leaves a number of difficult questions for us to consider. It is one thing to say that we will let the principles of our Catholic faith be our guide. It is quite another thing to apply those principles to real political choices today.
Simply stated, the Gospel of Jesus is universal. Its principles apply equally to all people, in all places, at all times, in all cultures and under all forms of government. The Gospel which is God’s Word holds true in tribal villages, in medieval European cities, and in our own democratic America. The Gospel is true in all settings because it transcends all of them. It cuts across all categories. We should not expect that something of such transcendent and universal nature would translate neatly and easily into the particular circumstances of a given political moment or situation. We ought never say that as Catholics we must be a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican. Through careful study, reflection, and yes prayer, we can make practical political choices that fit best with our basic Catholic convictions, though at times our choices may not represent the only Christian position on a given issue.
Yet on some issues, as know, there will be a very clear connection between our Catholic convictions and a particular political stance. This then brings us to the controversial question of “singleissue voting”. So may a Catholic base his or her political choices on where a candidate stands on one particular issue, to the exclusion of other considerations? A rather tough question indeed!!
In practice these days, the phrase “single-issue voting” as related to Catholics is largely a code word for “pro-life voting”. Catholics and other who decide their vote purely, or at least primarily, on the basis of candidates’ positions on pro-life issues are very often criticized for being “single-issue voters”.
Our American political history as you know is rich with examples of campaigns won or lost on the basis of a particular issue of compelling concern to a sizeable number of voters, eg. slavery, the right of women to vote, and equality for all. No one seems to mind single-issue voters as long as they are voting what they term the “right” way, meaning the same way they vote. Abortion and other pro-life issues, however, are issues on which it is considered improper to be a “single-issue” voter.
But it seems to me the real question has to do not merely with “single-issues” but with “critical issues”. Sometimes there arises an issue of such deep moral significance that its outcome is crucial to the health of the whole society. When this happens, we Catholics are entirely justified, if not morally obligated, to let it override other considerations and do what one can to correct the wrong and safeguard the critical issue. Abortion and pro-life concerns are such issues. So our vote should reflect our concern for these undeniable crucial issues. Our vote should be as protectors of life in all its forms. The choice remains with you and me.
Father Robert F. Grippo