What happens when, for example, the candidate or party for whom you would like to vote takes a stance which you find morally problematic? Let’s say you intend to support Barack Obama. You like him. You like his message. You like most of his policies. He’s your man…except he opposes Prop 8, and you’re a Mormon. You worry (or are told to worry, not by the Brethren mind you) that a vote for Obama would be a vote against your church’s position on the matter. What do you do? (We already know that God supports McCain, so Republicans need not read on.)
As one possible solution, I offer advice that was given to Evangelicals and Catholics at the last election, faced, as they were, with a pro-choice candidate, John Kerry. You are, of course, free to consider Prop 8 support a deal-breaker if you wish, but for those who are torn, here’s something to think about.
Many Catholics and Evangelicals are even more vehemently anti-abortion than Mormons. You would think, then, that single-issue voting would dominate their politics. Not always.
Back in the summer of 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who then headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a memo that discussed whether Catholics should vote for pro-choice candidates. The answer was basically no, but with, perhaps, an important exception:
“When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor 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, as long as a Catholic does not share the candidate’s pro-choice view, he/she may vote for that candidate if there are “proportionate reasons.” (BTW, I love the term “remote material cooperation.” Let it never be said that the Catholics don’t know how to describe issues with panache.)
I am no expert on Catholicism, and I know that this statement has been endlessly debated (and that Ratzinger was no Kerry fan), but to me it seems that the basic advice here is don’t (necessarily) vote on a single issue.
“Abortion is a monstrous tragedy for the nation, but our Christian commitment to a culture of life does not permit us the luxury of abandoning other important issues.”
There is something to learn here about mature political engagement. Be sure to weigh all the issues carefully. Gay marriage and abortion are two, but what about war, justice, social policy, and healthcare? As citizens of free nations we should vote for a balance of policies that aim to make our society more prosperous, peaceful, moral, and just for all people, Mormon or not. Such a calculus could lead us to vote for the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, or Green. (Well, maybe not Labour.) The church does not endorse one party, not even tacitly, so do not listen to anyone who claims otherwise (such people are guilty of spiritual intimidation). Support or reject Obama based on the totality of his policies, not just one.
Can a Mormon who supports the FP position vote for a politician, like Obama or Schwarzenegger, who is anti-Prop 8? Yes, if that vote is cast for “proportionate reasons.” Given the political neutrality of the church, and its reluctance to publicly offer a Mormon solution to this Gordion knot, I recommend Mormons consider the Ratzinger formulation.