Saturday, 7 August 2010

More on voting the Party vs the potential PM

I just watched a little of an extraordinary video from a fundamentalist christian posted on facebook that seems to have attracted some interest from fundamentalist traditionalists.  Apart from pandering outright lies and misinformation (such as claims that the ALP platform and/or Julia Gillard supports homosexual marriage, which is clearly not the case), it continues to argue the case that a Catholic cannot vote for the Labor party in good conscience

Why voting for your local member is important 

So let me put to you a scenario.

Imagine you happen to live in an electorate (such as the electorate of Wentworth, where the Liberal candidate is one Malcolm Turnbull) where the Liberal candidate is anti-life and has voted in support of human cloning and in support of RU 486 in the Parliament.

Could a catholic in conscience vote for a candidate that clearly supports the culture of death, even though the leader of the party to which they belong takes a different view? 

On the argument put about supporting a culture of death, clearly the answer is no.  This would be a case of directly supporting a known evil, rather than indirectly supporting someone who only has one vote on a 'conscience' issue anyway.

But what if the alternative candidate is also anti-life (an only too real possibility - certainly the Labor candidate in Wentworth has come out in favour of homosexual marriage)?

One could vote for an independent/minor parties of course, but if they have no hope of being elected, your preferences will eventually flow to one or the other of the main candidates, so you still have to choose between the two parties. It seems to me that its at this point that questions about the leaders and the policies of the two parties become relevant.

Perhaps there is a second order argument that such issues are not likely to come up again in the near future, and so other issues are more important. Or that life issues are more important in our system for Senate candidates, other issues more important for House of Representative candidates.

But in any case, it is worth noting that on core issues such as the protection of traditional marriage, there is in practice no difference between the parties.  So once again, in this scenario at least, it comes down to how much weight one puts on the merits or otherwise of the leaders vs policies in an indirect electoral system such as ours.

What the bishops have to say

I pointed to the helpful ACL site yesterday - shame neither Cath News or the Australian Bishop's Conference haven't done something similar.  Once this appalling non-campaign is over, I think catholics who care need to have a serious think about how to ensure this policy-free zone never happens again (a funding mechanism to promote and support pro-life candidates of any party might be a good start).

But in the meantime there are two pieces of advice one might want to take note of.  The first is a guide to principles to keep in mind, and notes on some of the key issues from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.

The other is an essay by Bishop Manning on the importance of avoiding indifference and actually participating in the process.


majella said...

If I was faced with all pro abort candidates I would in conscience have to vote informal.
No it does not end there.
In today's anti-life culture I believe we all have a duty to be active in either educating the voters through vocal, visual pro-life work (not that common-ground limp wristed stuff some so called pro-lifers hide behind) or in political activism at a grass roots level ensuring the pre-selection of solid candidates.
We get the government we deserve.

Terra said...


I agree with you about the obligation for us all to engage. But:

1. If you go back to the first post on this subject, on 16 July, you will see from the discussion that it was established that in Australia there is a legal obligatin to vote, and this is not satisfied by an 'informal' vote. Given that this would prima facie appear to be a valid law, we are obliged to observe it under pain of sin. So I would argue that an informal vote is not a valid option for a catholic.

2. It is a basic principle of moral theology (ST i, 2 q103,a3ad2) that when confronted with two evils, one must choose the lesser. If all of the candidates are pro-abortion, there is nothing one can do about that (save vote first for an independent if there is one as a protest, and ensure there is a good candidate next time!). So one must assess their other policies, and vote for whoever offers the better offering in your view.

3. The primary point I was trying to get at in this post (and the previous one) is, if the Labor party candidate was pro-life (even though his or her leader is Gillard) and the Liberal is pro-abortion (even though the leader is Abbott), which would you vote for? Do you accept that it should be the Labor candidate?

Salvatore said...

“It is a basic principle of moral theology … that when confronted with two evils, one must choose the lesser. If all of the candidates are pro-abortion …”

… then perhaps the lesser evil is to break the law and cast an informal vote?

Terra said...

No - its still a valid law Salvatore!

Anonymous said...

Why would the law bind under pain of sin when many religious rules do not? In the case of religious rules, the individual has personally consented (unlike laws).

To lay the burden of sin upon people seems to be like a certain group of scholars in 1st century Palestine (whose Greek name begins with phi).


Terra said...

Personal consent to laws is absolutely irrelevant to whether disobeying them is or isn't a sin.

There are some laws we are bound to obey either as catholics (such as the requirement to attend Sunday mass) or laws we are required to submit to (such as paying taxes) as citizens of a country.

The Church teaches that we are required to obey laws enacted by the legitimate authorities of a country unless they are demonstrably evil. A requirement to vote is not evil per se, so it is binding.

Religious rules by contrast involve taking on some obligations over and above those laws we are all obliged to obey. Whether or not those obligations are binding on pain of sin depends on the individual rule and the degreee of authority behind them.