Consistent with our nation's legal tradition we hold that all human laws must be measured against the natural law engraved in our hearts by the Creator….In particular, respect for human life is numbered among those basic values that underpin the very foundation of civilization. What we profess in defense of the sacredness of unborn human life harmonizes with our historic legal tradition founded on the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"Abortion on demand," the bishops stress, "does not."
The letter, the release of which is clearly meant to coincide with the looming federal elections, informs Catholics that it would be cooperating with grave evil to vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor an intrinsic evil, such as abortion, unless there is a sufficiently grave reason to vote for the candidate.
"A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil," explain the bishops.
"There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable moral position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons." However, the bishops continue, clarifying what might constitute a "grave moral reason", "Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil."
In the letter the bishops do not ultimately give a definite guideline for what a Catholic should do when all of the candidates presented for consideration support intrinsic evils. Instead the bishops lay out the underlying principles that a Catholic must consider in such a situation, and leave the final decision up to the conscience of the voter.
"When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for a candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position but more likely to pursue other authentic human goods."
Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a memorandum to Cardinal McCarrick that was made public July 2004 here:
Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion
by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
1. Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: "Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?" The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected (cf. Instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," nos. 81, 83).
2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a "grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. [...] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’" (no. 73). Christians have a "grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. [...] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it" (no. 74).
3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.
4. Apart from an individual's judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin (cf. can. 915).
5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.
6. When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" , nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.
[N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.]
In other words, we are forbidden to vote for pro-choice candidates if there are others available who are not pro-choice.
Let's look at our current crop of candidates:
Hillary Clinton NARAL Rating 100%
Barack Obama NARAL Rating 100%
John McCain NARAL Rating 0%
Mike Huckabee No Federal rating, but considered "anti-choice" by NARAL
I specifically left Ron Paul's record out, only because he is not a viable candidate for president at this time. He is pro-life and was present at the March for Life last month.
So that leaves the question: who are we supposed to vote for? It's very clear from the ratings above the choices we face as Catholics. Consistently, and for years, I have heard Catholics of my age and slightly younger making the claims they must vote for the Democrat, as it was the party of their parents, grandparents, etc. These Democrats today are NOT of the party of the past generations. Forty years ago they were the party of the "little guy"; not anymore.
The death penalty is another issue tossed around by those who choose to vote for the pro-choice candidates, yet claim to be pro-life. I've been called a "hypocrite" on numerous occasions because of my position on the dp (opposed but the state must retain the right to execute convicted murderers). How does one equate the life of an innocent child to that of a convicted killer? I've heard the usual "a life is a life" argument over and over, yet have never heard a legitimate reason why one is not allowed to support the state's right in this matter.
Also, let me ask those adamant anti-death penalty people two questions: how many people were executed by individual states in the US last month? How many were executed in the womb last month?
I think it's very clear who the candidates for the "little guy" truly are in this day and age.