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 Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates 
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New post Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates
The following is an exact reproduction of chapter II, 4 of The Moral Obligation of Voting, Rev. Titus Cranny, The Catholic University of America Press, 1952, pgs 93-96.

4. CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH ONE MAY VOTE FOR UNWORTHY CANDIDATES

By the term “unworthy candidates” we do not necessarily mean men whose private lives are morally reprehensible, but those who, if elected, would cause grave injury to the state or to religion, as for example, men of vacillating temperament who fear to make decisions.

In practical life it is often difficult to determine whether a particular candidate is worthy or unworthy because there seems little upon which to judge accurately, especially in local or municipal elections. It does not follow that every Catholic is necessarily the best man for office and that every non-Catholic is not; nor that every Catholic will promote the interests of the common good of the state of religion and that the non-Catholic will not. Even if a man is of sterling character in his private life, he will not by necessity prove competent in public office. Sometimes too, as St. Robert Bellarmine pointed out in his De laicis [175] the so-called evil rulers may do more good than harm, as Saul and Solomon. It is better for the state to have an evil ruler than no ruler at all, for where there is no ruler the state cannot long endure, as the wise Solomon observed: “Where there is no governor the people will fail.” [176]

When unworthy candidates are running for office, ordinarily a citizen does not have the obligation for voting for them. Indeed he would not be permitted to vote for them 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. On the other hand, 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.

Since the act of voting is good, it is lawful to vote for an unworthy candidate provided there is a proportionate cause for the evil done and the good lost. This consideration looks simply to the act of voting itself and does not consider other factors such as scandal, encouragement of unworthy men, and a bad influence upon other voters. Obviously, if any or all of these other factors are present, the excusing cause for voting for an unworthy candidate would have to be proportionally graver. [177]

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. [178] 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. [179]

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. [180] Prümmer says the same. [181] Actually, however, in the United States and in other countries where the balloting is secret, there seems to be no need of declaring one’s manner of voting.

Several authors including Ubach, [181a] Merkelbach, [182] Iorio, [183] Piscetta-Gennaro, [184] and Sabetti-Barrett [185] allow for material cooperation in the election of an unworthy candidate when there are two unworthy men running for office. Ubach adds this point: (1) There must be no cooperation in the evil which the man brings upon society after assuming office; (2) The voting must not be taken as an approval of the candidate or of his unworthiness. Merkelbach asserts that such cooperation may be licit per accidens if there is no hope that good men will be elected without voting for the bad ones in the same election.

As a practical point it may be remarked that at times a citizen may have to vote for an unworthy man in order to vote for a worthy one, e.g., when people have to vote a straight party ticket, at least in a primary election when the “split ticket” is not permitted. However the good to be gained would have to outweigh the evil to be avoided, or at least be equal to it.

In his Casus Genicot, [186] sets up a case of an election between a liberal and a Communist. To avoid scandal the citizen should give reasons for voting for the liberal. One does not support the evil candidate but simply applies the principle of double effect. This author also says that a person may use a mental reservation in promising to vote for an unworthy man.

Cardinal Amette, Archbishop of Paris, implies the liceity of voting for an unworthy candidate when he writes of voting for a less worthy one. “It would be lawful to cast them,” he writes,” for candidates who though not giving complete satisfaction to all our legitimate demands, would lead us to expect from them a line of conduct useful to the country, rather than to keep your votes for those whose program would indeed be more perfect, but whose almost certain defeat might open the door to the enemies of religion and of the social order.” [187]

Thus we may say that it is permitted to vote for unworthy candidates (that is, give material cooperation) if these are the only type of men on the ballot lists; in order to exclude the more unworthy; in order to secure the election of one who is somewhat unworthy instead of voting for a good man whose defeat is certain; and when the list is mixed containing both worthy and unworthy men, so that a citizen can vote for the former only by voting for the latter at the same time.

175. c. 4, p. 7.
176. Prov. 11:14
177. “Omnes fere moderni theologi concedunt electionem mali deputati non esse quid intrinsecum malum, ac proinde aliquando per accidens licere ad avertenda majora mala.” Prümmer, op. Cit., 2, 604.
178. Compendium 343.
179. Op. cit., 1, 729.
180. Op. cit., 3, 981.
181. Op. cit., 2, 604.
181a Op. cit., 1, 115.
182. Op. cit., 1, 786.
183. Op. cit., 2, 161.
184. Op. cit., 4, 26, 4.
185. Op. cit., 262.
186. Op. cit., 138.
187. Ryan-Boland, 207-208.

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Mike


Mon Jun 16, 2008 1:11 pm
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New post Re: Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates
Mike,

This section of the article on voting is a gold-mine of information for Catholics. If I understand this article, it is important for voters to determine the least evil of candidates (if that's our only choice) that have a reasonable chance of winning, and vote for that candidate, rather than vote for a better man (from a different party, perhaps) that has very little chance of winning, or by writing in a candidate that has no chance of winning. Have I understood this correctly?

The information contained in the articles you have posted on voting are a splendid gift to the forum. What an eye-opener in so many ways. Thank you for taking the effort and time to post them.

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Teresa


Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:20 pm
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New post Re: Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates
Teresa Ginardi wrote:
Mike,

This section of the article on voting is a gold-mine of information for Catholics. If I understand this article, it is important for voters to determine the least evil of candidates (if that's our only choice) that have a reasonable chance of winning, and vote for that candidate, rather than vote for a better man (from a different party, perhaps) that has very little chance of winning, or by writing in a candidate that has no chance of winning. Have I understood this correctly?

The information contained in the articles you have posted on voting are a splendid gift to the forum. What an eye-opener in so many ways. Thank you for taking the effort and time to post them.


Dear Teresa,

You have understood it correctly. This teaching is rooted in a necessity to preserve the common good, preserve the rights of Catholics to live their Faith, and to mitigate evil as far as possible. If a Catholic must choose between two candidates with evil principles, the idea is that it is not supporting the lesser of two evils, it is minimizing the worse evil program of the other candidate.

I can think of many practical uses for this teaching in U.S. elections. I am happy to see you again on the Forums. :)

Yours in JMJ,

Mike

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Mike


Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:56 pm
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New post Re: Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates
Is it required that one votes for the lesser of two evils, considering they are both still evil? or is it simply allowed and maybe even suggested? Because I see many phrases in this piece saying "allowed" or "licit to do so" or "permitted". Does it say we must do so?


Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:05 pm
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New post Re: Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates
I am not sure why Rev. Cranny did not use Fr. Jone or Fr. Davis in this section, but I think they also add to the understanding of this issue. Perhaps he thought the use of the other theologians he used already drove home the argument, and adding more was unnecessary. The following was posted by Colin Fry on the voting thread and are relevant here:

Quote:
"It is sinful to vote for the enemies of religion or liberty, except to exclude a worse candidate, or unless compelled by fear of great personal harm, relatively greater than the public harm at stake." [Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology, vol. 2, p. 90 ]

and Fr. Jone

"205. Voting is a civic duty which would seem to bind at least under venial sin whenever a good candidate has an unworthy opponent. It might even be a mortal sin if one's refusal to vote would result in the election of an unworthy candidate. [Jone, Moral Theology (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1929, 1955)]"


viewtopic.php?f=2&t=493&start=0

Yours in JMJ,

Mike

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Mike


Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:12 pm
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New post Re: Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates
Mike wrote:
This teaching is rooted in a necessity to preserve the common good, preserve the rights of Catholics to live their Faith, and to mitigate evil as far as possible. If a Catholic must choose between two candidates with evil principles, the idea is that it is not supporting the lesser of two evils, it is minimizing the worse evil program of the other candidate.

I can think of many practical uses for this teaching in U.S. elections.


Mike,

What you have said is extremely important. I little understood this until this election, and reading your prior posts. Catholics have a serious obligation to participate in elections, and your quote above nails all the reasons handily. I urge other forum members to read your prior posts regarding the necessity of Catholics to participate in elections by voting (with prior study, prudence, guidance, and prayer), the theological reasons for doing so, and the practical application of that responsibility in our current election year.

Again, Mike, thank you for posting this essay. The essay is so instructive in these eclipsed times. Perhaps, many Catholics, myself included, opted out of the whole 'mess'; so-to-speak, because of our ignorance concerning this issue. I can't tell you what a breath of fresh air these posts have been.

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Teresa


Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:24 pm
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New post Re: Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates
Colin Fry wrote:

Colin Fry wrote:
Is it required that one votes for the lesser of two evils, considering they are both still evil? or is it simply allowed and maybe even suggested? Because I see many phrases in this piece saying "allowed" or "licit to do so" or "permitted". Does it say we must do so?


Dear Colin,

My understanding of this is:

1. Catholics are bound to vote, and this obligation is more grave during elections that have evil candidates who may damage the common good, and harm the Church.
2. If there are two candidates of evil principles, it is lawful to vote for the less evil candidate to block the more evil candidate, thus minimizing the evil that would occur if the more evil candidate won the office. This of course presumes the conditions mentioned in the essay.
3. It appears that although it is licit in this given situation to vote for this candidate, it would appear that a Catholic is not bound to vote for this candidate, and may opt to use his vote by turning in a blank ballot to protest both of them, or vote for a non-winnable but good third party candidate as a protest. I think any of these actions are lawful, and fulfill the obligation to vote, but as the essay states, Catholics must be knowledgable about the issues and use their vote wisely for the benefit of the common good and for the good of the rights of the Church.
4. In this situation, each Catholic will have to weigh these issues out to determine on their own conscience how to best use their vote to acheive the goals mentioned above.

I hope this helps.

Yours in JMJ,

Mike

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Mike


Tue Jun 17, 2008 1:54 pm
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New post Re: Conditions Under Which One May Vote For Unworthy Candidates
thanks for the clarification. That's how I understood also but wanted to make sure. I agree with all of it.


Wed Jun 18, 2008 6:34 am
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