Fr. Frank Pavone
Priests for Life
(Click here for the Spanish
In the elections of 2000, surveys showed that among those calling themselves
Christians, only 50% were registered to vote. Then, on election day, only half
of the Christians who were registered actually went to the polls. The Christian
vote has declined 10% since 1994.
Then we sit around and wonder why the policies of our country are less and
less Christian. And remember, some races were won by 90 votes. A single
congregation, and the efforts of a single pastor, could have made the
One of the reasons that some Christians don t vote is that they are being
told not to by some of their leaders. Some Christians feel it is more righteous
not to vote when the slate of candidates isn t that great. They feel
compromised, dirty, or even sinful by casting a ballot for someone with whom
Now it is true that to vote for someone who will advance un-Christian
policies, precisely because you want them to, while rejecting a better, viable
alternative, is indeed sinful. But when you are faced with two candidates,
neither of whom is perfect (surprise!), but one of whom is clearly closer in
his/her convictions to the Gospel than the other, it is perfectly
legitimate to vote for the better one.
Some mistakenly call this "the lesser of two evils." It is not.
In this example, one is not choosing evil at all. Rather, one is choosing a
good. The good is the reduction, as much as possible, of an existing evil.
A clear example arises with abortion. All abortions are currently legal. If
one candidate wants to eliminate more abortions than the other one, my vote for
the one who wants to eliminate more can be seen as an effort to reduce the
evil of legal abortion, and a choice to reduce evil is precisely a good.
Now some Christians, not finding a candidate who is willing to eliminate
all abortions, do not vote at all. It is a mistake, however, for these
Christians to think they will be "tainted" by voting for an imperfect candidate.
The vote is not a vote for canonization, nor is it a declaration that one agrees
with every position the candidate takes. (The only way to do that is to vote for
What then, is the vote? It is a practical exercise in leadership, by which we
do our part to put people into office who can make some improvement in
our country s policies. Both we and the elected official are obliged to make
the maximum improvement possible at the moment. At the same time, nobody is
morally bound to what is impossible, and it is perfectly legitimate to recognize
the limits of what is possible.
Every abortion is wrong, and somebody else s sinful choice made them
legal, not ours. No vote can end them all today. But a vote that can help reduce
the evil is, in fact, a good.