For the past year, Priests for Life has conducted a major effort to prepare believers for the upcoming elections. We have endorsed no candidates, but simply offer pastoral formation and guidance based on the teachings of the Church, particularly the documents Living the Gospel of Life and Faithful Citizenship.
One pastoral question that keeps arising is whether it is morally permissible to vote for a candidate who has a realistic chance of winning and is better than his or her opponent, but who is not as good as another candidate who is running but does not have enough of a base of support to be elected now.
Of course it is.
While some call this voting for "the lesser of two evils," it really isn't. We may never choose evil, but we may choose good even when evil is mixed in with it. When we vote for someone in order to improve the current policies, that improvement is itself a good, even when it isn't perfect.
"But if this is true," some will ask, "how will we ever get to the point of electing someone whose positions reflect more fully the Church's teachings?"
The answer is that we will get there when we are able to build enough of a base of support throughout the nation for such a candidate. But such a base of support is not built in a vacuum. The current policies of the nation, the lessons taught by Supreme Court decisions, and the teaching and example of those in public office go a long way to create a certain climate which is either favorable or unfavorable to the conversion of minds and hearts, and to the formation of the young. Conversion is, of course, the key element in building the support necessary to elect more favorable candidates. We need to keep our mind on long term goals, without ignoring the impact which the short-term results have on our ability to reach those goals.
So let us move forward, recognizing both the opportunity and limitations of voting. No single election brings about the resolution of our nation's problems. By the act of voting, we are neither waving a magic wand, nor are we making statements about what is perfect. What we are doing, instead, is attempting to place in positions of public trust those whom we believe can make the best improvement possible at the present time in the public policy of our nation.
If the result of the elections of 2000 is national leadership that more closely reflects our values, may we not for a moment fall into the trap of thinking that the government will do our work for us. We are called to be ever vigilant in bearing witness to the faith in our personal lives. And if the elections bring our nation further from our values, may we not for a moment despair, but rather summon renewed courage and confidence to proclaim the Word of God, which, in His good time, indeed shall renew the face of the earth.