Baltimore Archbishop: Catholic Voters Can’t Vote for a Candidate Who Stands for an Intrinsic Evil

From the Knights of Columbus annual convention in Anaheim, California, Baltimore archbishop William E. Lori tells me that “this is a big moment for Catholic voters to step back from their party affiliation.”

For Catholic voters in November, Lori advises, “The question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil, evil no matter what the circumstances? If that’s the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.”

At the convention this week, the message wasn’t just coming from Lori, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ new committee on religious liberty, but also from a letter conveying greetings from Pope Benedict XVI, commending the Knights and their work, specifically in defense of religious liberty. The Knights have been known to get papal encouragement, but this implicit comment on a contentious political issue is not part of the routine, reflecting what the letter calls the “unprecedented gravity” of the current situation.

“At a time when concerted efforts are being made to redefine and restrict the exercise of the right to religious freedom, the Knights of Columbus have worked tirelessly to help the Catholic community recognize and respond to the unprecedented gravity of these new threats to the Church’s liberty and public moral witness,” Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone wrote in the letter to the Knights, the largest lay Catholic organization in the United States, no doubt referring to the fight over the HHS contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing-drug mandate that has Catholic diocese, universities, and even businessmen suing the federal government to protect their religious-liberty rights. Cardinal Bertone continued: “By defending the right of all religious believers, as individual citizens and in their institutions, to work responsibly in shaping a democratic society inspired by their deepest beliefs, values and aspirations, your Order has proudly lived up to the high religious and patriotic principles which inspired its founding.”

“The challenges of the present moment are in fact yet another reminder of the decisive importance of the Catholic laity for the advancement of the Church’s mission in today’s rapidly changing social context,” the letter continues.

Citing papal comments to the bishops from the United States in Rome in January, the letter went on:

“As he stated to the Bishops of the United States earlier this year, the demands of the new evangelization and the defense of the Church’s freedom in our day call for ‘an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-a-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society’ (Ad Limina Address, 19 January 2012).”

“Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion,” the Pope also said in that January address. “Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.”

“Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs?” the Pope, perhaps prophetically, asked during his 2008 visit to Washington, D.C.

That this papal message would be sent this month to a lay organization, in particular, is “very significant,” Archbishop Lori emphasizes. “If we are going to transform the culture from within, which we are called to do, and defend our basic freedoms,” it will be primarily the role of the laity, Lori tells me.

“The bishops are teachers,” he said, but political leadership “really needs to come from the laity as citizens and mothers and fathers and voters.”

When it comes to election advice for Catholics: “The reality is we are defending something that transcends party. The defense of religious liberty,” he said, “should not be a Democratic or Republican issue.” For a Catholic voter, this should be “fundamental, as people of faith.”

And not just for Catholics: “Many in the media have portrayed the HHS-mandate fight as a fight about contraception—as well as sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs … but this really is a fight about religious liberty,” Archbishop Lori says. “And you can see that as Evangelicals, Mormons, and Orthodox Jews have joined us in defense. They realize if the government can do this to the Catholic Church, they could be forced to violate their consciences too. The Evangelicals include those at Wheaton College, which recently joined a lawsuit that the Catholic University of America had filed in opposition to the mandate, over [its] abortion-inducing drug aspect.”

In an interview last month, Philip Ryken, the president of Wheaton College, told me that “even if the HHS mandate had no effect on Evangelical institutions, it would still be important to me to be supportive of Roman Catholic institutions if there were invitations and opportunities to be supportive.” He echoed the immediate reaction of New York’s archbishop and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, to the so-called accommodation that the president misleadingly touted this Wednesday afternoon in Denver, after being introduced by feminist superstar Sandra Fluke. “The most disturbing thing to me,” explains Ryken, who was a Presbyterian pastor in Philadelphia before becoming president of Wheaton, “was the government’s provision of a ‘safe harbor’ that would defer for one year the implementation of the mandate—and presenting that as somehow being a reasonable accommodation of religious liberty. I found that offensive—the hope that we would change our religious convictions over the course of the intervening year, or that religious convictions had somehow been honored if you violated them later rather than sooner.” “It was clear to me,” Ryken adds, “that there was no understanding of the true nature of religious liberty in the administration.”

“Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights,” now Cardinal Dolan said.

Cardinal Dolan joined the papal greeting in Anaheim, encouraging the continued witness of laity in the defense of religious liberty. Alongside him was the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, who said: “Our call at this moment is to affirm the right of religion to be active in the public square … to defend the freedom of people of faith and of religious institutions to act in accordance with their beliefs and nature; to maintain healthy church state relations; to understand conscience correctly and to form it according to objective truth; and to protect the right to conscientious objection. Believers are summoned now to stand up for their faith, even if they must suffer for doing so.”

Asked about the controversy brewing over an invitation extended by Cardinal Dolan to President Obama to speak, alongside Governor Mitt Romney, at the annual Alfred E. Smith Foundation dinner, a fundraiser for charities in New York, Archbishop Lori urged Catholics and other concerned citizens to “keep our eyes on the ball.” The invitation, and his presence, “do not constitute an endorsement,” Archbishop Lori tells me. But he was ready to make an endorsement himself: “I don’t think there is a clearer voice in the United States about the sanctity of life and religious liberty than Cardinal Dolan … [he’s] a very clear, clarion voice…. Don’t get distracted.”

© 2012 by National Review, Inc. Reprinted by permission.

Kathryn Jean Lopez


Kathryn Jean Lopez is the former editor and current editor-at-large of the daily webzine, National Review Online, where she has written and edited for more than a decade. Lopez is a graduate of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where she studied philosophy and politics. She has been a fellow at the Claremont Institute and serves on the Archdiocese of New York’s Pro-Life Commission.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Here’s my question: Yes, I know that it is a mortal sin to vote for a candidate who supports abortion – the killing of an innocent human person.  But, if that politician is a Catholic, is it permissable to give him/her Holy Communion?

    Answer: Yes or No

    • clingermanocds

       Assumptionis Beatae Mariae Virginis
      Sadly, this is not a trick question, and the American hierarchy has some soul-searching to do and some actions to take.  They did not heed St. Paul’s “Do not conform yourself to this age.”  Political correctness has diluted incontrovertible truth.  Fortunately we do have Burke and Lori and others of like mind.  Unfortunately, these appear to be exceptional.

      Blessed feast day of Our Lady!

      Phil ocds

  • lifeknight

    Hello Deacon,
    The answer to your question is that although WE know it is a mortal sin (by definition), the bishops are not all in accord.   We were told from the pulpit for the 2008 election that it was our duty to exercise our right to vote and to “be sure to vote for a change”!  With that type of direction from the pulpit what do we expect from the sheep in the pews?  Now we can try to figure out how Cardinal Dolan can “square” his invite to the dinner with his staunch defense of life.   Time to walk the walk….forget the talk.

  • Pholman82

    The Lord said countries will be judged, and who are the countries you and I.  I think this means how we vote and stand on moral issues.

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  • Alecto

    That statement took courage and conviction from Bishop Lori.  I commend him and hope  the rest of the bishops will follow his example. 

    I never have been able to understand how any Catholic can vote for a Democrat since the party made abortion on demand part of its platform.  Now that the Democrat party has decided to include gay marriage in its platform, I cannot accept that anyone who professes to be “Catholic” could support that party.  We face a simple choice, either live and profess your Catholic faith or don’t in which case you should leave the  Church or be forced out.  Unfortunately, I never met a Democrat with an ounce of ethics, integrity or character and so I do not expect they will voluntarily go.

    • hombre111

      And I can never understand how anybody can vote for a Republican who stands for the misery of the poor and the triumph of the uber-rich.

      • Deacon Ed Peitler

        Hombre, Please let us know exactly how you help the poor children (50 millions of them now and counting) who have been aborted.  Death does get in the way sometimes doesn’t it!

        • hombre111

          I am appalled by abortion and have spent my time holding a placard in front of abortion clinics. But this is not the only moral issue. And, as this most recent economic downturn has shown, the number of abortions exploded lin states like New York and New Jersey, where poor people decided they just could not have another child.

          The Catholic majority on the Supreme Court still manages to avoid any case touching Roe vs. Wade. Been doing that for years. Apart from changing the laws and convincing people to keep their children, the other really effective thing we can do is give poor people some hope so they will keep their children. Ryan will actually hurt them and the bishops were right to say his proposals violate Catholic morality.

          • Brian English

            ” And, as this most recent economic downturn has shown, the number of abortions exploded lin states like New York and New Jersey, where poor people decided they just could not have another child.”

            Ah, the old “people only have abortions because they are poor” canard. 

            “Ryan will actually hurt them and the bishops were right to say his proposals violate Catholic morality. ”

            Right, because runaway government spending that is going to shut-down the economy within 15 years will definitely help the poor.  Tell me, what is your plan for dealing with these issues?  Your heroes in the Senate haven’t even bothered to pass a budget in three years and your genius in the White House has proposed budgets that were so absurd the Democrats wouldn’t even vote for them.  Maybe you have a plan they can use. 

            • hombre111

              I used to know a Brian English. We were in the seminary together. He went to Rome but I don’t know what happened to him.  You that Brian? 

              Anyway, back to the business at hand. You side with the bishops on the health care thing but don’t side with them when they say Ryan’s ideas violate Catholic morality. Hmm. A cafateria Catholic? Picking and choosing? Now for me, I want both an end to abortion and an end to the attack on the poor. Means the Democrats stink and the Repubs stink. Tough decision, whom to vote for.

              • Adam Baum

                 Have you thought about posting something that doesn’t include ridiculous cliches?

              • Brian English

                ” You that Brian? ”


                “You side with the bishops on the health care thing but don’t side with them when they say Ryan’s ideas violate Catholic morality. Hmm. A cafateria Catholic? Picking and choosing?”

                Another Catholic Left classsic.  Disagreeing with the conclusions of a couple of bishops (who don’t make any concrete proposals of their own) on a proposed federal budget is the same thing as dissenting from the Church’s 2,000 year-old teaching on abortion.

          • JP

            If current spending trends continue unabated the US will run up over $25 trillion of debt by 2025. Ryan did go on record saying it probably wouldn’t ge that far, as our economy would surely collapse before it hits that point. His solution for Medicare (which was passed by the House in 2011), changes nothing for people 55 and older. But it does significantly change how younger people will have to fund Medicare.

            But, Medicare is only one part of the equation. Medicaid costss are rising faster than Medicare. And in order to extend health insurance to the poor, ObamaCare steals $70/year beginning next year from Medicare.

            The US Bishops,who collectively backed ObamaCare, are silent on this theft. Funding health insurance for the poor on the backs of the elderly somehow doesn’t sound too moral to me.

          • You know I also stand in front of an abortion mill where about 50 unborn children are killed every weekend. But it is NOT ‘the poor’ who are killing their children here.  No.  Nice shiny vehicles pull in. The abortions are the majority for the sake of convenience.

            I know the Dems like to slam ‘the rich’.   I am unemployed and I know many others who are or are underemployed because the jobs have gone overseas.  My husband works part time.  We have been involved in volunteer work for years and I have served many a meal at a soup kitchen.

            I WILL NEVER VOTE FOR THE PARTY AND FOR THOSE THAT STAND FOR INTRINSIC EVILS!  Understand that.  The earth, this world is not our final home. Souls are at stake and as those that promote and legislate for instrinsic evils, the devil laughs for that means more souls in his camp.  Being poor is not worse than being in a state of mortal sin.

            Please take a supernatural persective for once.

      • JP

        Mmmm…the former Dem Sen from North Carolina, John Edwards, is worth over $50 million; the 2 wealthiest men in the US (Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are Democratis); almost all major Wall St firms are run by Democrats. The Kennedy’s were at one time the wealthiest political family in the US; John Kerry and his wife Terresea Heinz are Democrats. Almost all of the wealthiest people in Entertainment are Democrats. The 3 wealthiest zip codes in the US are solidly Democrat. The founders of Progressive Insurance and Oracle (Peter Lewis and Larry Ellison) are rock solid Democrats. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is worth more than $35 million. I could go on and on…

        Not sure if your talking points need some updating…

      • Joanne S.

        Republicans do not “stand for the misery of the poor and the triumph of the uber-rich.” Just because they don’t bribe the poor to vote for them with giveaways and make them dependent on government doesn’t mean they don’t care about the poor. They provide opportunity, education and jobs so the poor can move up and not be stuck in their poverty. I’m getting pretty tired of this phoney mantra of the Dems.

      • Adam Baum

         The reason you don’t understand voting for a Republican is because your conception of one is a grotesque caricature.

        In case you haven’t noticed-our present President isn’t a Republican. Unemployment has been over 8% for over three years, dependency of public assistance is at all time highs and the President has expressed an indifference to $4.00/gallon gas.

        Meanwhile, he hobnobs with an solicits the support of the triumphant “uber-rich” like Buffett, Soros and most of Hollyweird.

    • Obama supports abortion politicaly but opposes it privently 

      Mitt opposeses is publicly but has invested in the abortion industry and has profited greatly from killing children.

      Both are bad, but one is far far worse.

  • Eric Korn

    This is a hard election for me.   As always, I see pros and cons for both parties/candidates, but never so much as this election cycle.  Religious liberty trumps all, however, and I will reluctantly vote Republican.  If the Republicans win, the Church will have to step-up even more than it already does in order to help the poor.  This is our mission and our call and we serve with gratitude.

    • Adam Baum

       What exactly is the “pro” with Obama?

  • teej

    Headline: “Catholic Voters Can’t Vote for a Candidate Who Stands for an Intrinsic Evil”

    Actual Statement: If a candidate holds to a position that is intrinsically evil, “a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn’t be voting for such a person.”

    Can’t/Shouldn’t… two words with two different meanings.

  • Dear Hombre 111:  What is your evidence that poverty actually increasees when Republicans are in power.  The empircal evidence shows that tax redcutions actually have two efftecs that benefit the poor: increased employment and increased renvenues that can be used for truly needed charity.  The welfare state has created a culture of dependency that saps people of self-reliance and incites resentments twoard the successful.  The party that most of us were brought up to think of as the natural home for Catholics now not only stannds for the creation of dependency and demonization of the successful, but it has now fallen in with the demand for sexual nihilism.  That once veneralbe party now stands dogmatically for four of the non-negotiables.  Who does not understand that the appointment of self-exommunicated Catholics to prominent postions is really just a step toward creating a concept “Good Catholics” (pro-aborts) agaisnt the “Bad Catholics” (faithful Catholics) who are loyal to a foriegn power.  Teej is right that there is a differecne between the headline and Abp Lori’s  actual statement.  Our Church has made a bargain with the Devil by backing politicians who promise to do what we Christains should be able to do.  Is it possilbe that we could learn something from the Mormons?  If all of the relgious organization in this country could cooperate on proper welfare, the welfare state would not be necessary.  The welfare state is ruinous because it promotes dependecny,  and irresponsiblity.   It promotes murder and calls it mercy.

  • JustAnotherMurphy

    Many Catholic moral theologians might beg to differ with Bishop Lori’s conflation of moral perfection with political virtue and competence. In fact, Cathleen Kaveny argued against trying to use arcane and  abstract notions about “intrinsic evil” as any kind of practical guide for contemporary voters or any kind of legitimate tool for assessing a politician’s moral character or professional competence. Read her piece in America four years to understand why:

    Aside from the fact that discussions of “intrinsic evil” are hopelessly complicated, not all intrinsic evils are grave evils, and not all intrinsic evils are created equal. In fact, some acts that the Church teaches are intrinsically evil–masturbation, and the use contraception, for example–are unlikely to ever become legislative priorities in a pluralistic democracy. And it’s not clear that it would serve the common good, if they did.

    Bishop Lori’s language about “intrinsic evil” is so broad, so undifferentiated, and so undefined, that it’s hard to see how it’s supposed to “guide” any Catholic voter.

  • I hope other prelates will say the same…
    and not invite the enemies of the church to dinner!

  • Clementius

    But you can invite them to a prestigious Catholic fund raising function (dinner) and pretend everything is a-okay?

  • Myrtle829

    Ah yes! How many of these dear, dear bishops – the great ‘teachers’ supported intrinsic evil by constantly moving around child molesting priests! That’s pretty strong support of – and anabling of – intrinsic evil – don’t you think?

    • Smokescreek

      Those odd priest shouldn’t have been let into the seminary in the first place. When hockey teams at the seminary turned into junkets to Broadway shows, something basic had changed.

  • Rev.Myrtle

    We’ll see REAL courage when a bishop finally has the guts, decency & courage to stand up and say that the ban on artificial contraception is what is immoral, wrong, and against the will of a loving, just, compassionate God. Real courage will be when a bishop embraces gay marriage as the union of two loving committed human beings. Real courage will be when a bishop dares to ordain a woman, a married man. It takes NO courage to toe the tired party line from Rome. It takes real courage to stand on the side of justice & love.  Many conservatice catholics will be in for a shock when they see

    • catholic4life

      You are absolutely right on at least one point…conservative Catholics will be in shock should the Church change its “tired” 2000+ year old dogmatic beliefs because some “catholics” and others believe they should.  What we love most about our Church is that in a time of ever changing political and moral “norms”, the Church stands steadfast in her teachings…a rock on which to anchor our weary souls.  What takes real courage is to steadfastly maintain the moral principles laid down by God against the violent and insidious assault of the world and those who succumb to worldly views as you have done.  You need to re-read your Bible to learn exactly what marriage as instituted by God is and what a loving, just and compassionate God promises to do to those who reject his Word…Reverend.  I pray to God you are not a Catholic priest.

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