Casting a Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?

Pretend that Guiliani was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate this year.  If this occured, then we would have two pro-choice politicians running for president.  But Obama is most certainly the more extreme candidate of the two.  Is it therefore permissible to vote for Guiliani because he is the lesser of two evils?

Four years ago, the then Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, issued a statement to the effect that a vote for an abortion candidate is a grave sin.  At the time, Catholic Democrats ran around calling His Grace an extremist who ought keep his nose out of politics because he was essentially telling voters to vote for Bush.  Catholic Republicans accepted His Grace’s commentary, using it as justification for their own votes and as a condemnation of a vote for John Kerry.  I can’t count the number of times people (including myself) complained that Kerry supporters were putting party loyalty ahead of Church teaching.

Since embryonic stem cell research is very similar to abortion, it seems plausible that his statement on the latter can be extended to the former.  This year, there is heated debate on the Catholic blogosphere concerning whether a Catholic may vote for McCain–who is in favor of embryonic stem cell research, something on par with abortion as a grave evil.  The Catholic blogosphere is very divided on this point, even among Catholic Republicans.  But those Catholic Republicans that agreed with Archbishop Burke during the previous presidential election but support McCain this year seem to be acting inconsistently.  For Archbishop Burke never said that it is permissible to vote for the lesser evil, he said it is a grave sin to vote for a politician in favor of abortion. 

If indeed an inconsistency exists, then McCain-supporting Catholics must do one of two things:  a) cease supporting McCain, or b) agree that Archbishop Burke is wrong.  But there is a further question:  if the McCain supporter opts for b), he had better do an extensive examination of conscience.  Is this person rejecting Archbishop Burke’s teaching this election c) because he truly sees that Burke’s reasoning is wrong, or d) because he puts his political affiliations ahead of Church teaching, and is only now disagreeing with Archbishop Burke because his statements do not conform with his favored candidate?  

So many Catholics deny that they put political party before Church, but exit polls from previous elections show that this is not the case.  Catholics truly are aligned more with their party than the Church.  That’s unacceptable:  If you’re going to be Catholic, be Catholic.  Don’t half-ass it.

Explore posts in the same categories: Catholicism, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized

2 Comments on “Casting a Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?”

  1. Genna Says:

    Hi Paul! A question for you: at one point there was speculation that both Obama and McCain were going to choose pro-choice VPs. This upset me a good bit, as it does not “sit right” with me to vote for a pro-life President with a pro-choice Vice President. But then, as my friends have said, you don’t vote for the Vice President. What do you think would be the right and moral thing to do in this situation?

  2. phamilton Says:


    I’ve been torn on this issue myself. I waver back and forth between voting for McCain and voting for, e.g. Alan Keyes (or some other write in) for a few months now. A week ago, I was leaning towards voting third party, whereas this week I’m leaning more towards McCain.

    There is a line which a candidate cannot cross, and once they cross that line they are no longer worthy of our vote. For instance, if Hitler were running against Stalin, one may be “the lesser of two evils,” but both are still monsters who do not possess the minimum amount of moral sense required to lead. Discovering where to draw this line is a tricky question. To err too much on the side of idealism leads one down the path of withdrawing from politics altogether because no politician would be good enough for our vote. On the other hand, to err too much on the side of the pragmatic may cause one to sell his soul (

    I have other issues with McCain, but you specifically asked about the pro-life issue. I think you, me, and the Church (CCC 2273) are in agreement that upholding the sanctity of human life in our positive laws is imperative for the well-being of society. While abortion may not be the only important issue, to be pro-life is a necessary condition of being a viable choice for president. McCain says that he is pro-life, and his voting record seems to play this out for the most part. However, there’s a disturbing part to McCain on abortion as well, mainly his support for embryonic stem cell research, warnings by other Republicans during the primaries that McCain frequently prevented pro-life legislation from reaching the Senate floor, and the general incoherence of saying that the pro-life platform is essential to the Republican party, but nevertheless the party should be big enough to tolerate a pro-abortion candidate if one is selected. None of these things speak well in his favor.

    However, McCain will elect the right type of Justices to the Supreme Court, the type that oppose legalized abortion as a point of political philosophy. Thus, even if McCain is not as pro-life as he should be, maybe his faults will be redeemed by those he selects for the Supreme Court.

    I still don’t know whether I’m comfortable voting for McCain or not. This election is a very messy one, and I do not trust McCain enough to think that his selection of Sarah Palin was an expression of his own beliefs, but rather a political move. The Vice President just doesn’t do enough for her awesomeness to sway me.

    In the end, I have no good answer to your question. I feel like I rambled more than I clarified things. All I can tell you is to follow Aristotle’s advice and do as the virtuous man would do. If you are wondering what the virtuous man would look like, I have one suggestion for you, even if he is too humble to admit to it.

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