Not only *can* Catholics vote for Romney, but we *ought* to.

Romney has been endorsed by many pro-life activists and activist organizations.

Right off the bat, let it be known that Mitt Romney was my fourth choice among the GOP primary candidates.

Check my writing in this space from that time and you’ll see me talking up Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum, with barely a word in support of Romney. Since he won the nomination I’ve written a whole lot about how awful Barack Obama is but still barely anything in favor of Romney.

I think that establishes that this is far from blind loyalty speaking.

I am supporting Mitt Romney wholeheartedly in this election and I would like to share with you why I think you really ought to as well.

It comes down to this: we have a responsibility, as citizens, to be engaged in the public policy process to move public policy in the direction of the true and good. Our most direct and important means of doing this is voting. We are about to vote for President of the United States, the single most powerful secular political office in the world. There are two, and only two, candidates with any chance of winning the presidency next Tuesday. A vote for anyone apart from those two candidates will not affect public policy at. all. If one of the two candidates with a chance to win is morally acceptable then that candidate is eligible for your vote. But further, if one of the two candidates is morally reprehensible, then the other has a lower threshold to overcome to be deserving of your vote.

That applies to voting in general. We as Catholics have special considerations, teachings from our church on what is more or less important when casting a vote. There are five “non-negotiables:” abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, gay “marriage,” and human cloning. We cannot ever support policies that go against the Truth on these matters. Other areas that are negotiable—taxation, capital punishment, social welfare, waging war, etc.—allow for legitimate disagreement within a spectrum guided by Church teaching but ultimately up to the individual’s conscience. In this post I’m not talking about the negotiables.

On those non-negotiables, some seem to think we cannot vote for a candidate who is not darn-near pure as the driven snow. In his recent rather flippant post on such a consequential matter Mark Shea seems to be in this category.

After some undeserved and flimsy shots at Romney and Paul Ryan he concludes:

My point is this: If the five non-negotiables are this negotiable, something is wrong. My idea is that the five non-negotiables really are non-negotiable and that our selective negotiability has, over the past 30 years, cost the prolife movement a whole lot more than it has gained it anything. I think we should return to refusal to negotiate on non-negotiables–and re-evaluate our voting based, not on the negligible impact our vote has on election outcomes, but on the massive impact compromising on non-negotiables has had on the prolife movement.

First, his arguments against Romney in his preceding paragraph read more like sour grapes than anything else. Romney is endorsed by plenty of legitimate, respected pro-life groups and provides ample assurance that he will protect life, religious liberty, and marriage. I did not support Romney in the primary because I believed the other three would be better champions of these causes, but I am not afraid of a Romney presidency, and certainly not as afraid as of four more years of Barack Obama.

But second, based on that paragraph I quoted, which is more important to Shea, the “prolife movement,” or actually affecting public policy for the good over the next four years? He talks up the “prolife movement” at the expense of Romney and Ryan. He disparages the “negligible impact” of our individual sovereign vote. You could almost get the impression that Shea would be okay with four more years of Obama so long as the “prolife movement” gets stronger at some indeterminate point in the future. Ridiculous, and counterproductive for actually moving public policy in the direction of the good and true.

Shea may consider his version of the “prolife movement” more legit than others, but then what kind of movement is it if so many within the main bulk of the movement have already gone another direction?

Regardless of the present power or leadership of the “prolife movement,” public policy will be formed  both over the next four years, as well as in that as-yet unattainable epoch when the “prolife movement” is strong enough to satisfy Shea. It is imperative that we do what we can to affect public policy now, and in the future. Voting is our most immediate and important means of affecting public policy. We live in the now, and the next four years of public policy will likely roll by before that coalescing of the “prolife movement” Shea so desires, so we need to act to affect the now. Romney *is* the only candidate for president who both has a chance to win and is acceptable on the non-negotiables. Romney is not perfect—no one is, not even the three I preferred over him—but the alternative is Barack Obama. And this much is true: If you sit out today and withhold your vote “to teach a lesson,” or in pursuit of ideological purity you will achieve neither in this fallen world of constantly shifting political factions and fads. It just doesn’t happen.

Politics, the rough-and-tumble, back-and-forth competition of coalitions and compromise by which we get public policy, is about doing what you can, when you can, with the team you can put together at the moment, to advance the ball as far as you can, every opportunity you can. Politics is not about taking your ball and going home when you don’t hit the 90-yard touchdown strike on the first play from scrimmage. If you pursue that strategy you will lose, badly, and not be taken seriously by those who are actually trying to, and are content to, advance the ball by increments toward the goal. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl, Jeff George did not. Don’t be Jeff George.

George Weigel, writing in National Review Online, essentially agrees:

Catholics who are still pondering their presidential vote will have heard, endlessly, that no political party fully embodies the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. That is certainly true. And it is also largely irrelevant. For the choice in 2012 is not between two parties that, in relative degrees, inadequately embody the Catholic vision of the free and virtuous society. The choice is between a party that inadequately embodies that vision and a party that holds that vision in contempt, as it has made clear in everything from the “HHS mandate” through the Charlotte convention votes against God to the [Lena Dunham] ad. Catholics who do not like their Church, or their vote, or themselves to be held in contempt could make the decisive difference in 2012 — not so much as a “Catholic vote” bloc, but as a community of American citizens determined to restore the decencies to public life and American culture.

(emphases mine)

On religious liberty, abortion, defense of marriage, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, defense of marriage, and human cloning, the question is not, “Is Mitt Romney perfectly, solidly Catholic on these positions?” but “Will Mitt Romney or Barack Obama present the better opportunity to advance public policy toward the true and good, and will either of them be truly deleterious to these causes?”

I make no categorical claim that a President Mitt Romney will have a perfect record on all of these areas—only fools make categorical claims about the future actions of politicians. But the nearest to a categorical claim any of us can make is that Barack Obama, if given the chance, would continue to be the most anti-life, anti-religious liberty president we have ever endured.

So in my view the choice is clear: If you value life and liberty in the way the Church admonishes us to you must vote for Mitt Romney.



  • Romcom

    If you feel that Romney is pro-life, then check his stance on capital punishment. Unless you’re just pro-fetus, as I suspect most of you papists are. Or anti-woman, more likely.

    • Joe M

      Yes. Insulting people while asking them to take your advice is such a clever way to be persuasive!

      Way to go!

    • Tom Crowe

      You’re bad at insulting *and* you’re ignorant on pro-life matters. Quite the combination.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I’m consistent ethic of life, but I think you’d get further with Romney’s stance on Euthanasia.

  • Nicholas Escalona

    They can claim an obligation on to vote on the basis of a prudential judgment. A particular circumstance can be subject to prudence and yet have only one right course of action. CatholicVote is wrong, though.

    Voting for Romney doesn’t limit evil or support the common good, because one vote does not morally effect his chances of winning. Plain as that. It’s our American obsession with both consequentialism and self-governance that makes that truth hard to see.

    • Joe M

      The polls give us reason to believe that Romney is the only candidate with a chance to defeat Obama. Thus, voting for Romney is clearly supported by Catholic Teaching on the basis that Obama is more likely to advance abortion and is in a position to influence that issue.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        And why would Romney reduce Planned Parenthood’s market share when he’s being paid to supply services to Planned Parenthood?

        • Joe M

          Romney is not being paid to supply services to Planned Parenthood.

          Assuming that you are referring to Stericycle, Romney’s connection to it has been debunked long ago. To summarize:

          1) Romney had left Bain to run the Olympics before Stericycle was acquired.
          2) Even if he hadn’t, Stericycle did not engage in abortion-related services until years after Bain had sold it’s shares of the company.

          So, to answer your question: Romney would reduce Planned Parenthood’s marketshare because Romney is pro-life and disagrees with Obama and Planned Parenthood on the ethics of the abortion industry.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            1. Romney, even after he left, continued to own shares of Bain *and gets dividends from those shares to this day*.
            2. Bain still owns shares of Stericycle, though they no longer own a *controlling share*.
            3. I see no evidence of Romney being able to tell the truth in a campaign promise about anything- he is very much a politician’s politician. I cannot use his own words to salve my conscience enough to vote for the man.

            Having said that- Obama’s worse. I didn’t vote for him in 2008 and I ain’t going to vote for Obama now.

          • Joe M

            1. As he should.
            2. No they do not. They sold all shares in 2004.
            3. Good. Then your logical conclusion is that you should vote for Romney since Obama is worse. Not voting for Romney increases the chances that Obama will be elected. As you point out, that would be the worst outcome of the election.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            1. Usury is still an intrinsic evil.
            2. Turns out you’re right, and I’m gonna start admitting it on that one.
            3. Too late, I voted last Tuesday (we don’t have polling day in Oregon anymore). But I can’t save my conscience by voting for evil. Even the lesser of two evils is still evil.

            The way I see it, if Obama wins, it is our duty as Catholics to revolt. Do not comply with the HHS Mandate. Do not comply with unjust wars. Do not comply with paying fines through the IRS.

            If Romney wins, it is our duty as Catholics to revolt. Unionize the businesses we own. Just say no to venture capital. Do not comply with unjust wars. Do not invest in the stock market. Build local economies instead.

          • Joe M

            1. Being successful in business is not usury.

            2. Thank you.
            3. Not the way the Bishops explain it.

            Why on earth is it our duty to unionize businesses we own? What is wrong with venture capital? Many businesses and their employees thrive without unions. Many businesses would fail or not be created at all without venture capital.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            1. It isn’t if you are merely successful in business. It is if you violate two out of the four “sins that cry out to heaven to do it”. It is if you’re taking income you haven’t personally worked to earn. And it most certainly is if you buy up companies, saddle them down with debt, and then push them into bankruptcy (Bain Capital’s main business model, though admittedly, it wasn’t exactly a novel concept even when Romney started doing it).
            3. I am significantly more scrupulous with myself than most of the Bishops and Priests I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ll do what they say, not what they do.

            “Why on earth is it our duty to unionize businesses we own?”
            In short, because Pope Leo XIII told you to:

            Pope Paul VI repeated it in Populum Progresso:

            “What is wrong with venture capital? ”

            In short, it removes the control of the company from the workers and owners and gives it over to people who have neither expertise nor actual labor input into the business. Thus being dangerously close to usury- unearned income.

            ” Many businesses and their employees thrive without unions. Many businesses would fail or not be created at all without venture capital.”

            Thrive? Not so much. There is a reason why the Investor Class has had a growing income over the past 40 years compared with inflation, where the working class has lost ground.

            But then again, I take my economics from Popes rather than from atheists, for the most part. Those who would rather follow atheists like Acton and Hayek and Von Mises, would most certainly have a different theology on these points.

          • Joe M

            1. Your characterization of Bain Capital does not match the facts. While some acquired companies failed, more succeeded and did better after Bain took over. There is no evidence whatsoever that buying companies and making them go bankrupt was ever their business model or even beneficial compared to making the company succeed.

            3. It doesn’t sound like you do what they say.

            A) Um, no. Pope Leo XIII and Pope Paul VI said a lot of things about unions. That we should unionize our own businesses is not one of them. The idea doesn’t even make logical sense. Unions are organizations of workers. Not workers organized by business owners.

            B) Companies aren’t controlled by workers to begin with. They are controlled by the company owners. And their decision to become involved with venture capital companies is voluntary. The idea that this resembles usury is laughably absurd.

            C) The working class has not lost ground over 40 years. Your figures are incorrect. However, the working class has lost ground during the last 4 years of Obama policies. That is true.

            D) Economics is not theology (except maybe for liberals). It is science. Catholic Social Teaching says that Catholics should embrace science as a gift from God.

      • Nicholas Escalona

        This would only be true if a vote for Romney had a significant effect on Romney’s chances for winning. But it doesn’t. So how does that basis stand?

        • Joe M

          That’s why I referenced the polls. They demonstrate that Romney can count on more than one vote. Thus, he has the ability to win the election and influence abortion in a Catholic direction.

          • Nicholas Escalona

            yes, Romney can win. This has moral importance to Romney; he has a special responsibility to profess moral truth. The fact that Romney can win does not mean a vote for Romney has a significant effect on the outcome. In fact, it doesn’t, so my vote has to be evaluated on different moral criteria than the effect on the outcome.

          • Joe M

            Voting for Romney does have a significant effect on the outcome. That’s how candidates win elections. By people voting for them.

          • Nicholas Escalona

            But you’re not ‘people.’ Presidential candidates win because people vote for them. But no presidential candidate has ever won, or will ever win, because YOU voted for him.

            A vote is an endorsement – that’s why voting for Romney is material cooperation with evil. If my single vote made a significant difference, then I might have a proportionate reason to vote for him. But it doesn’t, and I don’t.

    • Tom Crowe

      Tell you what: you find a nation that is trending toward philosopher kings and I’ll agree that we have an unhealthy obsession with self-governance. Second, convince an equal number of Obama voters that their votes have no effect and I’ll consider not voting. Third, as for consequentialism, nope, that doesn’t apply either, any more than it does to any other choice made to improve one’s situation and that of a group of people. I am looking at the purpose of voting and the best thing to do given that purpose. Purpose of voting is to affect public policy for the good, the only viable candidate who will do that is Romney.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        We can only have a nation that trends towards philosopher kings, if we learn to first make morality non-negotiable.

        • Joe M

          It’s not moral to let thousands die that we could save on the basis that we can’t save every life.

        • Tom Crowe

          Excellent. Then I’m on the right track.

      • Nicholas Escalona

        With ‘self-governance’ and ‘consequentialism’ I’m not pointing out specific logical errors so much as pointing out the cultural movements that make it hard to see the truth in this matter. Even though the consequences of a vote are negligible, we tend to overlook that and act as if they really matter.

  • Jared B.

    “Our most direct and important means of doing this is voting.”
    “A vote for anyone apart from those two candidates will not affect public policy at all.”
    Those two statements contradict each other. Suppose the direction in which we want to influence policy is “none of the above” when it comes to the two main candidates? A vote for either of them is abdicating our own voice in the public square: we’re not affecting public policy, we’re just voting “present” for a consensus that has been decided for us by others. Voting is merely choosing among a set of options — the most important, if not the most direct, means of moving public policy is what we do to affect who gets on that list of options.

    The fact that the author felt the need to put “prolife movement” in scare-quotes pretty well sums up how corrupted the conservative & pro-life movements have become through subservience to whatever candidates the GOP serves up. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place: admittedly a 2nd Obama term would be catastrophic, but what message does a vote for Romney send, except that the threshold has been lowered for what pro-life voters are willing to vote for? I am voting Romney for several reasons that do not even resemble the ones outlined in this post. But even with all the evil that would result from an Obama in and all the good that would result from a Romney win, there is an unavoidable if unintended evil that will come from Romney winning: from that point on, we have sent a message to the conservative establishment that a candidate only has to be *that* pro-life to earn our votes. That is scary.

    If this trend continues, in 20 years the U.S. will be where Canada is now: when NEITHER major political party has any pro-life loyalty. I know the law of double-effect and I am absolutely not saying that it is wrong or immoral to vote for Romney (I just said that I am), but let’s not kid ourselves: whether we intend it or not, a vote for Romney is helping to make that future a reality. If we want to avert it, we need to do a lot more to influence things BEFORE the candidates get on the ballot.

    • Tom Crowe

      You said: “‘Our most direct and important means of doing this is voting.”A vote for anyone apart from those two candidates will not affect public policy at all.’ Those two statements contradict each other. ”

      No, they don’t. Consider the antecedent to the demonstrative pronoun “this” in the first sentence. It refers to moving public policy in a good direction. Casting a protest vote does not do that in the slightest because no one pays attention to protest votes when they are writing and passing legislation. In order to affect public policy for the good we have to get people into the positions of power who will do so. If either of the candidates is at all morally acceptable then protest votes do not “advance the ball” at all, no matter how good they make you feel.

      I put “prolife movement” in quotation marks because I was, well, quoting. If they scared you, sorry. But unlike you, I do not believe electing Romney disabuses anyone of the notion that ardent prolifers will continue to agitate for pro-life legislation. Fight the battle in the primary within both/all parties, then elect the best viable candidate. Seems pretty straightforward and not yielding at all.

      We are not in danger of becoming Canada. But I wholeheartedly agree that the first place to fight the battles is in the primary process (which I did, though I lost) and not in the general when one of the candidates is as morally reprehensible as Barack Obama.

      • Joe M

        The US Bishops put it well. Catholics must consider a candidates ability to influence an issue when casting their vote. Voting for a third-party candidate would be to ignore whether or not they have the ability to influence the issue.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    What do you say to somebody who believes that tyranny in business is as dangerous as tyranny from the government, and who sees anti-Catholic practices not just in Washington DC, but in Wall Street, particularly in a man who is happy to take dividend checks from Stericycle whose main business partner is Planned Parenthood?

    There is an awful lot of compromise necessary to vote for such a man in light of the non-negotiable nature of abortion. More than my conscience could bear- basically to vote for AMERICA at this point means accepting the heresy of Americanism to me.

    And that’s why I voted third party, and urged every liberal Catholic Obama supporter I knew IRL to do so as well. Not that it will make a difference, though there is an outside chance that this action will throw Oregon into Romney’s electoral bucket (Oregonians normally vote heavily Democrat- so heavily that the local Republican party has pretty much given up- but this year, Obama is only 6% ahead in the polls instead of 20%).

  • Kevin

    For me, I can’t simply look at this as Romney vs. Obama, right here, right now. The Republican party is hardly Republican anymore on a variety of issues, and is drifting further and further to the left. I worry not so much about four more years of Obama, but four horribly ineffective years of Romney, followed by a Democratic Party lock on the White House because the GOP couldn’t reject the errors of George Bush. There are worse things than Obama as President.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I can’t think of many things that are worse for the Church than 4 more years of Obama, but ever president in my lifetime has been measurably worse than the one before. Romney will find a way.

    • Joe M

      There are better things than Obama as President: Romney as President.

  • Cindy Nichols

    At the end of the day, we most form our consciences well and vote as Catholics guided by Church teaching, not as partisans guided by political ideologies.



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