Cardinal: It’s not automatic sin to vote for pro-abortion candidate
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service – 6 October 2005
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A leading expert on church law said Catholics are not necessarily sinning if they vote for a candidate who supports legal abortion.
Cardinal Mario Pompedda, the retired head of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s supreme court, said Catholics might find sufficient reasons to consider such a candidate a “lesser evil” in a field of imperfect choices.
The cardinal made the remarks in an interview published Oct. 6 by the Rome newspaper La Repubblica, following a discussion at the Synod of Bishops on the question of Communion, politics and human life issues.
Cardinal Pompedda said that while the church punishes the act of procuring abortion with automatic excommunication voting for a candidate who supports legal abortion is an indirect act that should be viewed differently.
“I would be cautious in applying the word ‘sin,’ which implies intentionality. It would be more accurate to speak of risk or imprudence,” he said.
“Of course, whoever votes for a ‘pro-abortion’ candidate assumes a responsibility, but it does not necessarily involve sin as an immediate consequence,” he said.
The cardinal said a Catholic voter might choose such a pro-abortion candidate as a “lesser evil, when there are no candidates who respond more fully to his scale of values. He might choose him, let’s say, for other aspects of his (political) program that the voter supports.”
Catholics who do vote for such a politician might carry out their own pro-life responsibilities in other ways, for example, by working against abortion through political or cultural initiatives, he said.
Cardinal Pompedda said voters typically choose candidates for a variety of reasons.
“I think that rarely or never is there a candidate who presents himself solely on the basis of his support for abortion. And I think it’s very unlikely that a voter would vote for him solely for this reason,” he said.
Cardinal Pompedda echoed two points made in 2004 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in a memo to U.S. bishops:
— A Catholic who deliberately voted for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s pro-abortion (or pro-euthanasia) stand would be guilty of “formal cooperation in evil.”
— When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered “remote material cooperation,” which is permitted when there are proportionate reasons.
Cardinal Pompedda’s interview came as church officials at the Vatican and in Italy were reacting to the announcement that the northern Italian region of Piedmont would begin distributing the abortion pill RU-486. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, condemned the move and said use of the pill was “really and truly murder.”
Cardinal Pompedda said the church was right to condemn all forms of abortion, but he said he would not call abortion “murder,” because of respect for language.
“Murder refers to man, while here the reference is to the embryo. Law and morality have always distinguished between murder, infanticide and abortion. Should we suddenly erase this distinction?” he said.
He said he thought the church could fully defend the human embryo’s right to life without artificially dramatizing the differences with those who think differently.
“I’ve also heard the killing of embryos compared with the Shoah. But I would invite people to use more moderate language. Isn’t it enough to say ‘abortion’?” he said.