Why Catholics do not have to vote for Trump

Paul Fahey – July 31, 2016

There’s an article going around by a student at Christendom College, Colleen McCrum, titled 10 Reasons Catholics Should Vote for Trump. In his public endorsement of Donald Trump, Catholic apologist Steve Ray quotes the entirety of McCrum’s article.

To be entirely honest, it’s really unfortunate to see good Catholic and pro-life leaders like Steve Ray publicly endorsing a pro-choice, pro-torture, pro-war crime, pro-deportation of millions of non-violent people back to extreme poverty and violence, strip club owner for president. Vote for Trump if your conscience tells you to, and form your conscience by following your bishops and reading Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. But please, please, don’t undermine the Catholic and pro-life political witness by publicly endorsing Donald Trump.

All that said, I wanted to directly respond to those 10 reasons why some think that Catholics should vote for Trump. The original post is in regular font and my responses are in bold:

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1.) He’s not Hillary Clinton.

We know exactly who she is, what she is, what she stands for, and can pretty well guess what she will do to our country. We can’t risk her getting into office.

If you can’t vote for Trump, vote against Hillary. The only realistic way to do this is by voting for Trump, since he is the only candidate that has a chance against her.

This argument presumes that the Catholic/pro-life vote is already owed to Trump and that not voting for him will be a vote for Hillary. This is false. My vote and your vote are our own. This argument also flies in the face of the US Bishops who clearly say that voting for a third party, or abstaining from voting, are acceptable positions when all major party candidates support intrinsic evils. Paragraph 36 of their document states:

When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, 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 the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

*Shortly after I initially posted this article I came across a very lucid blog post by Brandon Craig dismantling the argument that not voting for Trump is giving a vote to Hillary. It’s titled, “No, a Vote for a Third Party (or Abstaining from Voting) Is not the Same as a Vote for Hillary” and is a great read.

2.) He might pass and protect pro-life laws.

While we know for sure that Hillary will push the corrupt Planned Parenthood down our throats every chance she gets, and she will keep abortion-providing Obamacare in place, Trump is a bit of an unknown with the potential for being pro-life. That is, he claims to be pro-life, and it’s worth the leap of faith on this one. He has said, “Public funding of abortion providers is an insult to people of conscience at the least and an affront to good governance at best.”

He might, if it is advantageous for him on that day. Or he might not. We can’t know because he has given no real demonstration of an actual commitment to unborn lives, just cheap lip service (poor and confusing lip service at that). Here are four reasons to seriously doubt that Trump is in any way pro-life:

1. He says he’s anti-abortion. However, in the spirit of Reagan’s quote, “Trust but verify” and Jesus’ saying “You can know a tree by its fruit,” I have not seen any actually verifiable fruit of his anti-abortion stance. None. He has only said that he was anti-abortion when it was politically advantageous for him to do so.

2. He’s only called himself pro-life since he started running for president. Before that he supported abortion and donated money to pro-choice candidates (including Hillary Clinton), praising them as great leaders and individuals.

3. Back in April he changed his mind on abortion literally three times in less than a week, his last position being that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and that he has no interest in changing it. He said, “At this moment the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way…

4. He dehumanizes women, the disabled, immigrants, Muslims, etc. on a regular basis. So I have little reason to think that he values human life that doesn’t immediately benefit him.

3.) Voting for an imperfect man is not a sin.

I have taken philosophy and theology classes since 8th grade. I mention that to lend myself some credibility, not to imply expertise in the subjects. But I studied them enough to know that neither Aquinas nor Aristotle ever said that the ruling sovereign has to be a saint. I understand that lending someone your vote is a big deal, and it is preferable to have a candidate you really believe in. Many people do really believe in Trump, and so this might not be an issue for you. But if you have reservations, I would ask you to consider that:

Imperfect? Pope Francis is imperfect. President Lincoln is imperfect. Paul Ryan is imperfect. Donald Trump is pro-choice, pro-torture, pro-war crime, and pro-deportation of millions of non-violent immigrants back to the poverty and violence they fled from. He is morally corrupt. Calling Trump imperfect is disingenuous, and voting for a candidate because of their support of intrinsic evil is formal cooperation in evil and, yes, that is a sin. Our bishops explain in paragraph 34:

A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an
intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting
workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or
inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.


4.) Voting for a third-party in this presidential election= a vote for Hillary Clinton.

Recent polls have shown Trump ahead by a couple points. He has a chance in this election, so every vote counts.

I’m sympathetic to the ideals of third-party candidates, Libertarians, and Independents. It’s a democracy, anyone should be able to win. We have a rigged system right now, which only allows Republicans or Democrats to realistically win. However, the way to further these other parties is in local elections, and ongoing campaigns. Fuel the fire during the off-season, not during the presidential race! Be realists, not idealists. We have to work with what we have.

This is the same argument as #1.


5.) There will likely be several Supreme Court spots opening up.

The president is in charge of appointing the Supreme Court justices. With Hilary, we know the type of person she would nominate. With Trump, we might have a chance of getting better people in.

There is a vacant seat right now. There have been rumors about Justice Thomas retiring this year. Ginsburg is already 83, and Kennedy will be turning 80. Breyer is 77. The record age for a Supreme Court Justice was 90; the average being closer to 80. We’ll probably be looking at a few new Justices this term and the next.

The Supreme Court argument is the best argument that I’ve heard about why a pro-life voter should support Trump, but it’s far from a perfect argument. Fr. Joseph Faulkner shared a comprehensive counter argument on his Facebook page earlier this month. Here it is:

1) Presidents do not pick justices alone. The Senate is a serious bulwark against extreme justices. Therefore the single worst thing to do is to nominate Donald Trump who is toxic to the down-ballot and risk losing control of the Senate. Wise people said that back in January but nobody listened. Now that they are stuck with him, the best thing for a Republican Congressman in a close race to do is distance himself from him.

2) if Hillary becomes president and gets an “extra” Supreme Court pick up to fill in Scalia’s seat, that’s also entirely on the GOP. Knowing that HRC had a real chance to win in 2016 it was imprudent to leave that unfilled when Obama offered a relatively moderate option. And this GOP intransigence adds to the national perception that Republicans won’t play fair. More danger for those Congress seats in November.

3) As has been said elsewhere and before, it would be better for a conservative Senate to have a clear opponent on SC picks in Clinton than to have to figure out how to oppose a moderately unconservative pick by their own party member. What’s worse: HRC putting up 4 radical pro-aborts you can fight or Trump giving you 2 soft conservatives and 2 non-conservatives that you can’t oppose?

4) I have seen nothing to make me think Trump won’t pick whoever he feels like on that given day. I do not believe he has principles on this. He changed his position on abortion 5 times in 3 days this spring. I do not believe that he will go from the “list” that he has shared. Some people have objected to this: “No, he has to; otherwise we will vote him out.” Really? You’re really going to vote him out if he’s the sitting president and there’s another Hillary or the next Obama waiting in 2020? Bull. He owns you if you make him incumbent— and for the exact same reasons he has you pinned now.

5) If Solon were alive today he’d say “Call no president happy until he and his SCOTUS picks are deceased”, meaning every president is just waiting for his Supreme Court picks to fail him. Republicans have had the White House the majority of the last 65 years and have had a disproportionately high number of SC nominations, and yet GOP courts gave us Roe v. Wade and have never removed it. Their fallen justices have ranged from full traitors (Souter) to “not total surprises” (Day-O’Conner, Kennedy, et al.) to “good but still faulty” (Roberts, et al.). Point is: even the best Presidents making their best picks have, at worst, been horribly betrayed and, at best, still been disappointed that things couldn’t change under them. If Reagan got Kennedy and H.W. got Souter, what will even Trump’s very best pick turn into?

Summary: put not your trust in princes. Or presidents abd justices. Hillary may not be as capable of the evils you fear (if Congressmen are savvy or at least lucky) and Trump is almost certainly not going to deliver the good you hope for.


6.) Ben Carson endorsed him.

As Carson said, “It’s not about Mr. Trump. This is about America.” Carson is a Christian and a man of character, and a week after dropping out of the race, he took the time to vouch for the character of Trump. He said, “Some people have gotten the impression that Donald Trump is this person who is not malleable, who does not have the ability to listen, and to take information in and make wise decisions. And that’s not true. He’s much more cerebral than that.”

Because Ben Carson should be a greater influence on Catholics than our own bishops? Note also that the context in which Carson said that Trump was “cerebral,” he also said:

There’s two Donald Trumps. There’s the Donald Trump that you see on television and who gets out in front of big audiences, and there’s the Donald Trump behind the scenes…They’re not the same person. One’s very much an entertainer, and one is actually a thinking individual.

So Trump’s private self is dramatically different than his public self? And we should see this as a virtue or somehow an endorsement of his character? Usually two-faced people are despised and called “hypocrites.”

7.) In the interest of our religious freedoms.

The government is slowly stripping our country of religious freedom. Across the United States, crosses are being labeled as gang symbols, Catholic business owners are being pressured to provide abortion access to their employees, and believing in the beauty of marriage is becoming equivalent to hating gay people. In the past 8 years, under Obama, our country has already changed.

We can’t risk another 8 under a similar president.

So we will just assume that Trump will be an improvement over Obama or Hillary? Again, where are the verifiable fruits of this claim? 

8.) He is a successful business man.

Our economy could use some expertise in that area. I know he’s  had some bumps in the road, but there is a possibility he could bring good ideas to our economy.

So is the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, but that doesn’t mean we should feel morally obligated to make him the president of the United States.

Speaking of Epstein, in 2002 Trump said, “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” Maybe that should give us some pause.

9.) He hurt my feelings; I’m still voting for him.

Many of the objections I hear, and made myself (earlier on in the race), against Trump include: he’s cocky,  he’s racist, he’s sexist, he’s a joke, he’s not smart enough. The majority of these claims come from statements he has made, not actions.

And all of his pro-life claims (to my knowledge, and please correct me if I’m wrong) “come from statements he has made, not actions.”


10.) He’s not Hillary Clinton.

As you may be able to tell, my motivation for writing this is mainly that I know some Catholics are having a hard time deciding whether or not to vote for him. He is not my ideal candidate by any stretch of the imagination. However, I think he’s decent in many ways, and ultimately better than his opposition. For me, that is enough, and I hope you will end up deciding that as well.

Obviously this is also the same argument as #1. However, I wanted to add that the common thread through these arguments is an intense fear of Hillary Clinton.

Some of this fear is rational. Hillary (and the Democratic Party) is pushing a radical pro-abortion agenda. I use the terms “radical” and “pro-abortion” intentionally. They want to totally oppose the Hyde Amendment (the law that prevents taxpayer money from being spent on abortions), which has had bipartisan support for years. Hillary also supports late term abortions, a position that’s not only out of touch with younger voters, but with the general population as well. Her position is even radical when compared with “liberal Europe’s” abortion laws which overwhelmingly ban abortions after 20 weeks.

However, some of this fear is irrational and apocalyptic. I had a Trump supporter recently tell me:

You and others on this thread who either vote for hillary or refuse to vote at all or vote for 3rd party candidates that have no chance, you and they will be responsible for the slaughter that will continue and increase beyond comprehension under hillary. Not only here but throughout the world. You will be responsible for the murder of your children and of your loved ones and if you don’t think that couldn’t happen just look around, muslims hate Catholics worse than LGBT.This election is not a joke, it is the survival of a nation, and of a people.

If I vote third party and not for Trump, will I really be responsible for the slaughter of multitudes, including the murder of my children and loved ones? This kind of sentiment is irrational and apocalyptic fear mongering, and it is utterly despicable when used to manipulate people to vote for “your candidate.”

Please do not ever feel morally obligated to vote for a candidate who supports intrinsic evils. Please do not let people bully or scare you into voting against your conscience. Please stop telling Christians and pro-lifers that they have to vote for Donald Trump.

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Voting with the Heart and Mind of the Church – Part 2: The Church’s Priorities

Paul Fahey – July 25, 2016

This is the second article in a three-part series I’ve written about voting with the heart and mind of the Catholic Church (Here is Part 1 and Part 3).

In Part One of this series on voting with the mind and heart of the Church, I talked about the unique role that Catholics have in politics, using the USCCB’s document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship as my guide. Specifically, Catholics are called to be salt, light, and leaven in all areas of human culture, including the political arena. Thus, political participation is not only a good and noble thing, but it is also a moral obligation. However, as Christ warns, “…if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13). In other words, how are Catholic voters distinct from secular voters? How do we vote as Catholics and not as pagans? How do we bring light to the political arena and not simply acquiesce to the darkness?

The short answer is that we make Christ’s political priorities our own. We all have our own political preferences, issues close to our hearts, policies that may directly affect our life, families, or livelihood – and that’s great! However, as Catholics we are called to be docile before the teachings of Christ and to make the Church’s priorities our own. Only in this way, as the bishops say, will we “help transform the party to which we belong” and “not let the party transform us.”

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The Church’s priorities are rooted first and foremost in the immeasurable dignity of every human person made in the image of God. Several things follow from this fundamental principle, and I want to highlight a couple of them. First, the Church is concerned with particular issues and not political parties. All of the major political parties in the US support policies that fundamentally violate human dignity. The embrace of any major party’s entire platform would be irresponsible and immoral for a Catholic.

Second, rooted in the principle of universal human dignity, the Church teaches that there are actions so opposed to human life that they can never be morally justified. These actions are called  “intrinsic evils,” sometimes referred to as “non-negotiable issues,” and I want to spend most of my time talking about them. The USCCB explains:


There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they
are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned.

An intrinsically evil action can never be justified regardless of the circumstances. Note that this is different than a “regular” evil action. For example, killing a human being is evil, but not intrinsically evil. If a gunman stormed into a public building and started shooting at innocent people, a person could legitimately shoot and kill this gunman in order to defend their own life and the lives of others in the room. Thus, because there are circumstances in which killing another person is licit, killing itself is not intrinsically evil. However, intentionally killing an innocent person (i.e. murder) is an intrinsic evil.

The bishops go on to list some relevant examples of intrinsic evils that Catholics can never support or condone (note that this list is not exhaustive as there are other intrinsic evils that the USCCB does not mention):


A prime example [of an intrinsic evil] is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5).

…Similarly, human cloning, destructive research on human embryos, and other acts that directly violate the sanctity and dignity of human life are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life, such as genocide, torture, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified. Nor can violations of human dignity, such as acts of racism, treating workers as mere means to an end, deliberately subjecting workers to subhuman living conditions, treating the poor as disposable, or redefining marriage to deny its essential meaning, ever be justified.

With this list of intrinsic evils in mind the USCCB warns against two “temptations” that the faithful must avoid. The first temptation is thinking that there is no distinction, no difference in moral weight between issues. The bishops clearly state, “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.”

However, the bishops then warn us against the second temptation, which is to focus on just one issue and to ignore or dismiss the rest. The bishops go on to list care for the environment, racism, unjust discrimination, unjust war, torture, lack of basic resource, lack of health care, pornography, the redefinition of marriage, religious liberty, and unjust immigration policies all as issues of grave concern for Catholics. The USCCB states:

These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues.

Then to emphasize their point, the US bishops quote a fantastic document by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith titled Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life. This document says:

It must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine. A political commitment to a single isolated aspect of the Church’s social doctrine does not exhaust one’s responsibility toward the common good.

With all of this in mind, two conclusions quickly become apparent. First, all major political parties actively champion intrinsic evils. Second, all of the major candidates running for president also actively champion intrinsic evils. So what options do Catholics have this presidential election? How can we participate in this election and not violate our conscience by condoning intrinsic evils and supporting policies that violate human dignity? Don’t despair, there are options. And that is what I will discuss in part three.

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and professional lay person. He is a student of Theology, History, and Catholic Studies. If you like what he has to say, check out his other articles or follow him on Facebook.

Voting with the Heart and Mind of the Church – Part 1: A Catholic’s Role in Politics

Paul Fahey – July 18, 2016

This is the first article in a three-part series I’ve written about voting with the heart and mind of the Catholic Church (Here is  Part 2 and Part 3).

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5:14-16.

If you haven’t noticed, it’s a presidential election year. Are you looking forward to November? Are you tired of all the political conversations or does discussing politics get you excited? Are you feeling hopeless, frustrated, or angry at how this election is going? Do you look at the candidates before us and want to move to Canada, eh?

Today begins the Republican National Convention where they will, barring a miracle, nominate Donald Trump to be the Republican candidate for president. Likewise the Democratic National Convention will be following shortly thereafter and we will see Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate. In light of that, I wanted to take some time to write a few posts about how we as Catholics are called and empowered to act. Specifically, I want to explain some of the foundational principles that guide a Catholic understanding of politics and then use those principles to lay out the options that we as faithful Catholics will have come November.

Before I dive in, though, I want to touch on two things. First, we all have deeply held political, economic, and moral priorities. So before you start reading this, I want to assure that my goal is to present to you what the Catholic Church teaches and not simply my own thoughts and opinions. My primary source is the wonderful USCCB (United States Council of Catholic Bishops) document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” If you’re interested in politics, frustrated with this election, or totally confused about what to do come November, then this document is for you. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Second, I urge you to approach what the Church teaches with an open mind and heart. We are called to be docile in the face of the teaching of Christ and His Church. We are called to make Christ’s priorities greater than our own. It’s good to feel challenged by the Church’s teaching because the Church is a mother who instructs us and always urges us to more fully mature into images of Jesus Christ.

So what is a Catholic’s role in politics? Our bishops say, “In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation…The obligation to participate in political life is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.” Let’s unpack that.

Jesus calls all of His followers to be light for a darkened world. Because of the grace given to us through the Sacraments and in having a personal relationship with Christ, Catholics are specially equipped to be bearers of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in all areas of our culture, which includes politics. Also, because of the centuries of rich teaching from the Catholic Church regarding human nature, ethics, and social justice, Catholic are uniquely qualified voices of reason in the political arena. Therefore Catholics have a “moral obligation” to participate, at least at a minimal level, in the political system that they find themselves in. So here in the US, where we have a representative government, voting is that minimal participation.

However, just showing up and voting isn’t good enough. If we don’t act any differently from anyone else, then how are we lights in the darkness? We do a service to our country when we vote, but only when we vote as Catholics. The US Bishops say:

“Unfortunately, politics in our country often can be a contest of powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites, and media hype. The Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable…As citizens, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths or approve intrinsically evil acts. We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our values and our votes, to help build a civilization of truth and love.”

So how do we do this? How do we vote as Catholics and not like everyone else? How can we participate in politics so that our political party and our society are transformed for the better rather than us being transformed for the worse? That is what I will discuss in Part Two.

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and professional lay person. He is a student of Theology, History, and Catholic Studies. If you like what he has to say, check out his other articles or follow him on Facebook.