Matt C. Abbott
Noted priest: Come November, Catholics should vote for...
By Matt C. Abbott
April 16, 2012

I asked noted Catholic priest-author-EWTN personality — and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy — Father John Trigilio Jr. (who thankfully is recovering from a serious automobile accident he was involved in on March 16) to answer the following question:

Taking all things into consideration, would it be better for a Catholic to vote for President Obama or Mitt Romney?

Now, as you'll see, Father Trigilio won't say specifically who you should vote for, but I think, if you read between the lines, you'll know who he believes you shouldn't vote for. I'll even give you a hint as to who that candidate is (the one you shouldn't vote for): His last name rhymes with "Osama."

Here's Father's response (slightly edited):
    Legally and morally speaking, as a Catholic priest and pastor, I cannot and will not tell my parishioners (or anyone, for that matter) who they should vote for in an election. I can say who I myself will choose in the voting booth, but I won't since we have a wonderful tradition in the United States of the secret ballot.

    Nevertheless, as an ordained priest of the Catholic Church and as a pastor of two parishes, I can and must inform my people of the principles they need to know and use in their selection of a candidate. Pope Benedict XVI, while he was still Josef Cardinal Ratzinger and prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II, issued a statement in June 2004. That document explicitly states that abortion and euthanasia are always grave and mortal sins. Furthermore, not only are politicians who support abortion guilty of formal cooperation in evil, voters are likewise culpable if [they] were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. This is found in the Nota Bene found at the end of the letter.

    What happens, though, when the voter is pro-life and the candidate-politician is pro-abortion (alias 'pro-choice')? Cardinal Ratzinger continues: "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."

    This sentence, like any verse in the Bible, must be taken in context with the entire document in order to be accurately understood and interpreted. The N.B. is attached to the entire letter, and specifically paragraph three states emphatically:

      '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.'

    There it is in plain English. There is no legitimate diversity of opinion among Catholics with regard to abortion and euthanasia. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.

    The 'proportionate reasons' is an essential qualifier. Hence, if there are only two candidates running for the office of president, senator, representative, governor, and so on, and both are pro-abortion, a Catholic may vote for one of them (1) as long as they do not personally agree (which would be formal cooperation in evil) and (2) they must choose the candidate who is more pro-life or less pro-abortion than his or her opponent.

    In other words, Candidate A favors unrestricted abortions on demand at any time of pregnancy, and Candidate B only tolerates abortion in cases of rape, incest and when the life of mother is in jeopardy. Neither position conforms to the natural moral law or the magisterial teachings of the Church. Yet, the lesser of two evils can be tolerated when there is no alternative. Whether Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian or tea party, when the choice is between two candidates who are not 100 percent pro-life/anti-abortion, the one who is more pro-life and less 'pro-choice' must be selected over his or her opponent.

    Even though there are many valid and important issues (like the economy, the environment, death penalty, war, health care, family and marriage rights), there is a hierarchy of values. The right to life trumps all other rights and privileges. The Declaration of Independence clearly states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    Notice that the inalienable right to life is mentioned first, even before liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no 'right' to an abortion. Abortion is legal, but so was slavery and racial segregation at one time in America. There is no 'right' to contraception, either. Both abortion and contraception are legal in the United States, but they do not and should not be financed by the government since the taxpayers are the ones who pay the bills.

    Bottom line is that no priest, deacon or bishop needs to say who to vote for in any election. We do not and should not mention any names or political parties. On the other hand, we must and are obliged to inform our people of their moral duty to use a well-formed conscience in choosing a candidate. Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and the CDF made it crystal clear: Not all moral issues are of the same moral weight. The right to life is paramount; economic, environmental, military, and social issues are secondary, if not tertiary. When the choice is between a candidate who manifests his or her pro-abortion position and a candidate who professes to be pro-life, the moral obligation is to choose life by choosing the pro-life politician.

    It is not that we are single-issue voters, but there is a proportion, a hierarchy of values in which the right to life outweighs all other concerns. The unjust killing of innocent lives is not eclipsed or overshadowed by any other concern. When there are two candidates whose stand on abortion is basically the same, then other issues can and must be brought into the equation to make a prudent vote. When Election Day comes this November, we should know well who is more pro-life and who is more 'pro-choice.' Then our well-formed conscience should tell us to choose the former over the latter.
© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media, and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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