Before you vote, answer these questions

When we vote, we are not voting for the candidate but for the party platform and all within it

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

“Thus says the Lord…. Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?” — Ezekiel 18:25

Questions God Asks. God always asks hard questions of us, but only that we might further scrutinize our thoughts and better discern the decisions we must make to bring us closer to God and the way He thinks and loves. With this in mind, I will pose a number of questions that might prove very challenging to answer, but answer you must—not to me, but to God because they are moral questions, and they deal with how you will vote in the upcoming election.

End and Means. There are two foundational principles of morality that we must always be guided by in discerning our choices in life—“do good and avoid evil,” and “the end does not justify the means.” Together, these basic truths remind us that no matter how good the end is that we desire, good intentions can never excuse the use of evil means in attaining them. Such is the lens we must use to approach the moral act of voting.

Two Paths. Perhaps you share my serious concern that the election that is upon us will decide whether the path our nation takes will be to the quickening of its ruin or not. At this crucial time in our nation’s history, I am reminded of the opening words in the ancient Christian manuscript of the first or second century, “The Didache”: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways.” Of the two political parties, which do you feel best promotes the way of life or the way of death?

Candidates and Platforms. While many are focusing solely upon the candidates and their personalities and mannerisms, and the media’s select reporting of them, it is critically important to go beyond the candidates and to actually examine each party’s political platform. For what we actually are voting for is the political platform of the candidate’s party and the means that party will employ to obtain its vision for the country and for each of you.

Read the Platform. The political platforms of both parties can be easily read online (note: Google “2016 Republican Party Platform,” as because of COVID-19 they kept their 2016 platform unchanged). Though it takes a good bit of effort to go beyond all the political rhetoric and the “pie in the sky” promises and hyperbole, you will get a much better idea of each party’s agenda.

Life Issues. An examination of the party platforms reveals starkly different positions on issues involving intrinsic evils that are never permissible or acceptable. On issues regarding the sanctity of life, the platforms are polar opposites of each other on abortion, infanticide, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and assisted suicide, and the death penalty, as well as on the criteria they will use for the selection of judges and Supreme Court justices to defend their particular stand on these life issues.

Other Issues. The platforms also highlight each party’s position on religious freedom and conscience rights (although we must also look at the past 12 years to see the reality of their definition of these), as well as separation of church and state. The parties differ significantly on issues related to marriage and the family, gender identity, on the educational system, on sex and LGBTQ instruction in our public schools, and on school choice. They differ significantly on the size of government and socialism, taxation, more or less business and trade regulations, and on immigration reform and the rights of a nation to control its borders. They have different plans for health insurance and medical care. And they differ on the best way to protect the environment.

Supporting Agendas. When you vote for a political candidate, you are in fact empowering their particular party to advance the agenda outlined in their platform. Whether I choose a candidate because of his personality or because I like his party’s stand on particular issues, we must understand that our vote supports their party’s entire agenda—you buy into the party’s entire program for our country.

Issues We Can’t Ignore. There are many issues that are a matter of prudential judgment, meaning there can be legitimate debate about which party offers the better solution on various issues. But some issues are of such moral weight that they rise above all other issues and can become the preeminent issue that decides how we cast our vote.

Questions to Ponder. Here, I wish to ask a series of questions, prefaced with some brief background, that we must seriously ponder and answer regarding our vote in this election.

Pre-eminent Issue. Not everyone believes abortion to be the pre-eminent moral issue of our time, nor of this election. But it’s hard to argue with the statistical facts that each week in our country approximately 19,000 unborn children are “surgically” aborted in the most horrific and painful way. This number would be significantly higher if the number of “chemical” RU-486 abortions was counted, which they are not. But because many are indifferent about abortion, including clergy, ask yourself the following questions.

Questions. Medical science is irrefutable in affirming that human life begins at conception. So instead of unborn children, if 19,000 Jews or Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics, or Asians were brutally executed each week in our country and their remains thrown in garbage dumpsters, would you vote for the political party that promotes and protects the right to do so? Can you vote for a party whose platform clearly supports, promotes, and will do everything possible to protect the willful destruction of human life on a genocidal scale? Do you believe that a more just society can be built upon a foundation that considers the unborn child to be less of a person and therefore undeserving of the most basic right that our Constitution guarantees: the right to life?

A Historical Perspective. Let us look back at a time when our nation and its highest court in the land ruled that another class of people, African slaves, were “less than human” and therefore considered “property” to be used as one wished. If you were alive in the mid-1800s up until slavery’s end, would slavery have been a preeminent moral issue for you, or would it have been one issue among many others that you felt equally or more important? Would you have voted for candidates of the pro-slavery political party or would you have voted for those of the anti-slavery political party?

Tax Support. If you lived in the 1800s, would you have voted for a political party that insisted that your tax dollars should support the slave trade and its organizations the same way your tax dollars are being used today to support Planned Parenthood and the culture of death within our nation as well as globally? Would you vote for the political party if it forced you, against your conscience, to support the slave trade as a part of your health insurance premiums (had such existed back then) the way the Affordable Care Act mandated that abortion, abortifacients, and contraceptives be provided, even by the Church, in insurance packages to employees?

Another Perspective. During World War II, 6 million Jews were systematically exterminated over a six-year period between 1939 and 1945. Over each six-year period since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion, approximately the same number of unborn children is exterminated in our country as the total number of Jewish people during the Holocaust. Can you vote for a political party that sees nothing morally wrong with the abortion of the unborn on a scale that repeats that of the Holocaust every six years in our country? Can you vote for a political party that has vowed to appoint judges and Supreme Court justices that support and protect the right to abortion, knowing this may result in this law becoming so enshrined and legally protected as never to be overturned?

Red Dragon. In the Book of Revelation (12:3), we find a horrible image of abortion and infanticide in its description of the “huge red dragon” ready to devour the child a woman is in labor with. The image recalls the idolatrous practice of child sacrifice to the demon deity Molech that the Israelites, in failing to follow God, practiced to their ruin. Are not abortion and infanticide the continued sacrifice of innocent life to this demon deity? Can you in good conscience vote for a political party that promotes what God declared to be an abomination?

Care of the Environment. Do you believe that on the level of sheer magnitude, abortion is the pre-eminent moral issue of our time? Can you vote for a political party that wants to take extreme measures to protect our environment when it takes the most extreme measures to destroy life in the first environment, the womb?

Alternative Facts and Civil Discourse. Unfortunately, we live in a time of “alternative facts”—my truth your truth, my reality your reality—that shuts down any attempt at discourse on serious issues. This is why we are beginning to see everything falling apart around us. If our nation cannot debate issues civilly and intelligently, then violence becomes the answer to solving problems, particularly that of racism. And in reality, violence never solves problems, but creates new ones.

Fears and Consequences. Are there other issues that also should be considered as a part of good governance and our vote? Absolutely. But like the terrible issue of slavery in the 1800s, abortion is the pre-eminent issue that stands apart and above all the other issues. If the political party that supports this gains control, I fear this evil practice will be enshrined in such a way as to never be overturned. I fear people will be forced to support this genocidal evil, and that health-care professionals, and even Catholic hospitals, will be forced to perform abortions and sterilizations against their beliefs. I fear that our priests and Catholics of good conscience will be arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for simply praying outside of abortion facilities or speaking in defense of the sanctity of marriage and the moral teachings of the Church. I fear the consequences that our nation faces, as it did because of slavery, for the shedding of so much innocent blood from abortion, a sin that cries out from the blood-soaked ground to heaven like Abel’s blood after his murder by Cain (Genesis 4:10).

Frustration. Do I disagree with the political party that supports the death penalty? Yes I do. Do I disagree with the political party that does not more compassionately balance the dignity and right of a person to migrate against a nation’s right to control its borders? Yes I do. But sadly, I am unable to reflect this disagreement in my vote because of the far greater assaults upon the sanctity and dignity of human life that one political party so unashamedly violates and protects.

Hierarchy of Values. The reason I take issue with any political party is over anything that violates the sanctity and dignity of the human person created in God’s image. In this regard, I find the hierarchy of values promoted by the Second Vatican Council a great help in prioritizing the weight of various issues. Of greatest weight and value for us to consider in voting “whatever is opposed to life itself,” followed by “whatever violates the integrity of the human person,” and then “whatever insults human dignity” (Gaudium et Spes, 27). But in this hierarchy, it is that which is “opposed to life itself” that defines the pre-eminent issue of our time and of this election.

What I Cannot Vote For. For this reason, I cannot vote for a political party and its agenda that supports the unrestricted genocide of abortion (19,000-plus human lives a week exterminated). I cannot vote for a political party that continues to erode protections of conscience rights. I cannot support the party that attacks and condemns the Catholic Church and people of faith for speaking out on matters of faith and morals. I cannot support a party that attacks the sanctity of marriage and the family, for what harms the family, harms society. I cannot vote for a party that redefines human sexuality and gender identity and wants to force its ideology driven “sex education” in our public schools in violation of parental rights. I cannot support the growing acceptance of the grave social error of socialism that the Church has condemned for over 125 years. And I cannot support any political party that pushes God out of society and its governing, for it is the Lord God who is the true King and Ruler that governments and leaders should pattern their manner of governing after. Words to Heed. So I close with the words of Moses to the Israelites as they neared the end of their Exodus that you, too, must heed:

“Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom…. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the LORD swore he would give (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20).”

Comments 30

  1. Although my wife and I attend a Christian Church that is not Catholic, we thank Bishop Stika for his clear and correct review of a political party that will surely destroy the country in which we live and have raised our children and grandchildren. My son is a priest in the archdiocese of Detroit, and I have forwarded this write-up to him. I hope he passes the messages of Bishop Stika to his parish.

  2. Bishop Stika, thank you for moral clarity and reason. We all must vote our conscience in this consequential election.

  3. Pro life means conception to natural death. Too many people see it as pro birth and do little to help people during their lifetime. With the exception of being anti-abortion, there is little that I think Jesus would agree with in the Republican platform. I am a Catholic and will be voting Biden in good conscience.

    1. I am not sure you have read the Republican Platform. Your response is strictly emotional. God bless you and I hope He will speak to your heart. Your soul and spirit are starving right now. Read His word. Your biological machine (body) will fail one day and your soul will stand in your decision the moment of your passing before our beloved Savior Jesus Christ. How will you justify to our Lord that you are okay with the killing of 62 million American souls and counting? Former VP Biden is okay with this law and policy so you are too. It’s the policy, not the person. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Good luck to you.

  4. I consider myself to be a faithful Catholic. I think that abortion is murder and I cannot tolerate it. I believe that we must vote against a lying adulterous man. I do not believe that voting for a man is also voting for his party’s complete platform. There are many checks and balances to keep such a man from connecting all of his parties platform. We must vote against such a man!

  5. Thank you, Bishop Stika, for laying it all out for us. Your reflections on these issues are unlikely to be published in the main stream media, but are greatly appreciated by the flock you shepherd.

  6. Pope Francis has stated that we cannot be a one issue religion. We must follow Jesus’s admonition to clothe the naked, feed the poor and take care of the prisoner. Years ago Kingsley Amos wrote a book entitled “Is There Life After Birth?” The key to reducing abortion is to reduce the need not legislation. We need to do a better job of teaching the Faith and supporting those who have gone astray.

  7. Thank you for your leadership and your moral clarity on the important issues in this presidential election.

  8. Thank you, Bishop Stika, for having the courage to speak the complete truth in our current culture! If only all of the bishops and priests could muster this kind of courage!

  9. This should be read in every parish during the next two weeks. Thank you for your strong words Bishop Stika.

    Fran and Francis Brown, OLOF, Alcoa, TN

  10. Thank You ! We are voting for Trump/Pence.
    As you said not for the person but for the stances they take against abortion and they are not ashamed, or apologetic in saying they are against abortion.
    Thank You for your clarity on these issues!
    Trump / Pence 2020

  11. Fascism is in the ballot with the Trump Administration advocating for more. Also, I believe that any member of the clergy especially a bishop needs to keep their personal political viewpoints to themselves. If they do not then they are in effect placing the Catholic Church into the political meaning secular world thus impinging on the concept of the separation of Church and state.

  12. This should be read in every parish the next two weeks. Thank you for your concern Bishop Stika.

  13. Thank you for providing strong and clear direction. I had a similar discussion with another Catholic who expressed support for climate change, post office, immigration, abortion, and other issues. I told her I supported those issues too. However, on a scale of 1-10, right to life/abortion issues were an 11. All other items were a 5 or below. I am an old school Democrat still believing in the vision that JF Kennedy spoke in his 1961 inaugural address. But that party has changed to something I can’t support anymore.

  14. Bishop Sticka, thank you for having the courage to speak up and guide all of us. We appreciate this and support you. I have passed this on to my family and friends that live out-of-state as well.

  15. Very insightful, thoughtful and well presented. Indeed life itself is thee pre-eminent issue and right. All other rights are moot without life itself. I would not want to be on the wrong side of this issue on my judgement day.

  16. May God bless and keep you, Bishop Stika. These words must be repeated over and over again until
    they penetrate the hearts and minds of all. This is a very clear analysis of the situation we are in now.

  17. Although I live in Florida, not in Knoxville, I am a published historian with two doctoral degrees who applauds the bishop’s historical analysis. It is outstanding! I have just written to the leader of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Wenski, urging him to follow Bishop Stika’s courageous, clear, and insightful considerations. The African American community has been particularly hard hit by abortion. Abortion is racist and ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER. Bishop Stika is a light to all of us in the U.S. The people of the Diocese of Knoxville are blessed to have him. Thank you for your manly defense of our children both here and abroad. May God shower His blessings on you.

  18. Thank you and God bless you, Bishop Stika. I have been praying for guidance for who to vote for since no one party’s platform is consistent with my position on major issues. I believe my prayers have been answered with your anaysis of abortion as a “pre-eminent moral issue”. I will vote the Trump/Pense ticket and pray fervantly that hearts are transformed on this issue; and that our nation’s divisiveness is replaced and guided by the Fruit of the Holy Spirit.

  19. I totally agree abortion is murdering the innocent unborn of our land. There I can not vote for Biden. HOWEVER … I do believe that Trump is a wolf in sheep’s clothes. I believe he will fight anyone and anything, say anything to keep himself in office. Trump has some very serious mental health issues. Friends I have from Germany as children, have said he is like Hitler was.
    I simply can not place my vote for either Biden or Trump.
    Knowing this makes me sick … but there it is. Morally I can not vote for either one.

  20. Thanks, Bishop, for your powerful statement of what should matter to us as Catholics…we are with you!

  21. Every Catholic needs to read this! Thank you, Bishop Stika, for taking this on and addressing issues that many of our clergy are reluctant to speak about. I will forward this to numerous people who are reluctant to know their faith!

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