Will You Vote Democrat, Republican or Catholic?


Vote Catholic

Editor’s note: As we approach the 2012 elections, we will be featuring articles to help promote reflection and conversation. Please keep commentary Christian and charitable in nature. LMH

I will never forget the day I had the realization that since the Catholic Church has been around for over 2000 years, unchanging in doctrine, she is probably a little smarter than I am.  That day I found real peace in the understanding that I can trust the Church in helping me make every major (and minor) decision I would ever need to make. Why would I ask the Church’s teaching on matters that have nothing to do with religion, you might ask.  Simply because we are created to know, love and serve God in this life and live with Him forever in Heaven in the next.  That basically says every decision we make should show Him that we love Him and are willing to serve Him first.  How do we know how to do that? We trust in the teaching of the establishment that Christ left us to show us how, the Catholic Church.  I certainly don’t want to stand at the Pearly Gates some day and have to find a way to explain to God why in the election of 2012 my opinion was more important than His instruction through the Church, that the economy was more important than the commandments, that the government knew better on that election day than He does eternally about the rights that originally came from Him. Whew! That would be a scary day for me and a sad day for our loving Father, who wants our obedience in love so that He can care for us.

In a speech delivered in March 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave us three non-negotiables when making our voting decisions. Why would he do that? Isn’t that mixing Church and state? Nope! The Pope, who is the shepherd of all our souls is most concerned with our souls! As Catholics, we are supposed to be Catholic 24/7, not just when it is comfortable or fits our opinion. The Holy Father wants to guide us toward Heaven and as the successor of Peter and the current leader of the Church that Christ left to guide us, he takes seriously the grave sins that are committed when we leave our Catholic card at home for the day.  These three non-negotiables are even more prevalent today as we prepare to elect the president of the United States.

Pope Benedict stated, “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principle focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are non-negotiable.” A year later the Pope repeated the need to recognize the non-negotiables in his Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis.  Those who choose to call themselves Catholic should use these as a safety net for their souls when making their decisions in the voting booth.  Pope Benedict set forth the principles as “respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children.”

If we apply these non-negotiables to the platforms of each party, it becomes very obvious the direction the devout Catholic should cast their vote.  Unfortunately, neither platform is perfectly in line with our Catholic teaching so we are, with well-formed consciences, to vote for the candidate most in line with those teachings.  If we look at history and learn from its lessons we find no write-in candidate has ever won the presidential election in the United States. This said, we can deduce that the two candidates running as a Democrat and a Republican are the more likely candidates from which the president will be chosen.  To cast a vote for a write-in candidate that has little likelihood of winning the election, actually takes a vote from the candidate most closely in line with Catholic teaching.

Look now at the Democratic and Republican platforms, regarding only the statements within each that relate to the non-negotiables, and begin to weigh your options. In doing this you will see that by following the Church’s teachings, it is quite simple to make such an important decision.

The first non-negotiable is the respect of life from conception to natural death. This is quite obviously regarding abortion and euthanasia at its basic level. The Democratic Platform states, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocably supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” It goes on to say, “…President Obama and the Democrats will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers.” (Life Issues Institute acknowledges with data that “Planned Parenthood is the largest provider and promoter of abortion in the US.”) The Republican Platform “…asserts the sanctity of human life and affirm[s]that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” Regarding the funding of abortion providers, the platform states, “We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.”

The second non-negotiable requires that the definition of marriage continue to be the natural structure of the union between a man and a woman.  The Democratic Platform states, “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples.”  The Republican Platform addresses the issue with this statement, “…we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage.”

The final non-negotiable, the parent’s rights to educate their children in the method they choose, is also discussed in each platform. In the Democratic Platform we read, “We are committed to ensuring that every child in America has access to a world-class  public education [emphasis mine]so we can out educate the world and make sure America has the world’s highest proportion of college graduates by 2020…We will continue to strengthen all our schools and work to expand public school options…” Parents are only included in this portion of the Platform in the following sentence.  “We also recognize there is no substitute for a parent’s involvement in their child’s education.” This issue is also addressed in the Republican Platform stating, “Parents are responsible for the education of their children.  We do not believe in a one size fits all approach to education and support providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level.”

These are the non-negotiables given to us as Catholic citizens to guide us in our choices in the voting booth.  The term “non-negotiable” is just that, not negotiable.  It is not an opinion of someone but the spiritual guidance of the Holy Father.  As Catholics we are called to obey in trust what our Holy Catholic faith teaches for our own good.  As I said in the beginning, she’s been around for over 2000 years, she’s probably a little smarter than I am.  If we want to call ourselves Catholic, we follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, even if we don’t agree.  Otherwise, we’re just vegetarians eating bar-b-que at the Sunday picnic.  So this November are you going to vote Democrat, Republican or Catholic?  Remember the grand finale is Heaven. Which vote will get you closer? God is greater than the President and He will take better care of you than the government.  My vote tells Him just how grateful I am for His blessings.

God’s blessings!


Copyright 2012 Diane Schwind





About Author

Diane Schwind is the wife of Robert and the mother of four grown children and two grandchildren on the way. They live in a small town in north Texas. Robert and Diane have a marriage and family apostolate, Balanced Families Ministries. Through this ministry they speak at seminars and conferences and offer one and two night marriage retreats sharing the teaching of the Catholic faith on marriage and family with an emphasis on Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Diane can be reached at http://www.balancedfamiliesministries.com/ as well as their Facebook page for the apostolate, Balanced Families Ministries.


  1. I was actually worried about reading this, not knowing where it was going and concerned that the “non-negotiables” would be ignored or that the point that one party is definitely more in line with Catholic teaching than the other would be overlooked or dismissed.

    The facts are succinctly given here and every thinking, caring Catholic can arrive at her or his own decision based upon them.

    In fact, I pray that Catholics everywhere will use this excellent article to help flesh out the reality of the non-negotiables as we approach the November election.

    It would be valuable to also note that beyond these “non-negotiables” the Church is an excellent example of compassion and care through the network of Catholic charities and hospitals that serve the poor, the indigent, the homeless.

    Our blessed mother church doesn’t just take a stand on non-negotiables but also witnesses to Christ’s love through her works.

    Mother Church is the real deal! The complete package!

    God bless America!

  2. I would like clarification on the following:

    “The first non-negotiable is the respect of life from conception to natural death. This is quite obviously regarding abortion and euthanasia at its basic level.”

    I thought this was also the basis for the Church’s teaching against capital punishment and part of the foundation for the just war teachings (see Iraq war, for instance). If I am not correct, I would greatly appreciate clarification, if I am, then this statement is greatly misleading with respect to evaluating candidates and policies.

    I really don’t see the clarification regarding the education platforms. For years,I worked in areas of dire poverty in our country. While it sounds nice to talk about freedom to choose educational options, how can you do that when cutting budgets? How do you meet the educational (not to mention health care needs) of our neediest citizens? It’s easy to narrow our focus to middle class realities, but is that a just focus for a Catholic?

    I really appreciate the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching (http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/seven-themes-of-catholic-social-teaching.cfm). I believe this statement fleshes out the subject and suggests the complexity of the matter – much information, prayer, and reflection required to reach meaningful conclusions and to cast an informed vote!

    Another area that greatly concerns me is that, even if a candidate seems to be consistent with Church teaching on the non-negotiables, does it mean that he or she is a competent option for a significant office? I think articles such as these should mention that this is just a first qualifying level for consideration. I fear that we have many incompetents in office because they seem to qualify under some basic screening, but not the one that measures overall competence.

    Thank you for addressing the critical matter of Catholics and voting.

  3. To RJ Caroff,

    You are trying to compare apples to oranges. You cannot equivocate the Church’s capital punishment and just war doctrines with the Church’s stance on abortion, marriage, and educational freedom. Both Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI, have spoken with absolute clarity on the supremacy of the right to life within Catholic Church social teaching. As Diane Schwind (the author of the above article that you comment upon) explains, the teaching of the Church is clear and unyielding regarding these truths. Sadly, there are those within the Church today who seek to hijack Catholic social teaching and reinvent the doctrine to fit a different agenda.

    “Though today we can observe a mobilizing of forces for the defense of human life in the various “pro-life” movements…we must nevertheless frankly realize that till now the opposite movement has been stronger: the spread of legislation and practices that willfully destroy human life, above all the life of the weakest: unborn babies.
    With the complicity of states, colossal means have been used against persons at the dawn of their life…A violent attack is made on developing life through abortion (with the result that there are 30 to 40 million abortions a year worldwide)…But why is there this victory of legislation and antihuman practice precisely at a time when the idea of human rights seemed to have gained universal and unconditional recognition? Why do even Christians, even persons of great moral formation, think that the norms regarding human life could and should be a compromise necessary to political life?…”
    “In the death penalty, when it is legitimately applied, someone is punished who has been proved guilty of the most serious crimes and who also represents a threat to the peace of society. In other words, a guilty person is punished. In the case of abortion, on the other hand, the death penalty is inflicted on someone who is absolutely innocent. Those are two completely different things that you cannot compare with one another.” These excerpts are from Pope Benedict, contained in the book “The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, His Central Writings & Speeches”.

    There is so much more I wish I could share with you, but space here is limited. All of your other concerns are addressed by our current Pope and our former Pope, and within the context of Church doctrine. The USCCB is a large group of differing opinions on some issues, but they do not differ on the number one social teaching which is the right to life for the unborn, and if you do your research, you will find this to be true. In closing, your faith should guide your political decisions, and if you are true to your Catholic identity, your choice will be clear. Our church has persevered for 2000+ years, and remains as relevant today as it was in the time of our Lord…

  4. To CT:

    I absolutely did not equivocate and in no way was this apples to oranges. I might add, however, that you may have backed into answering the very real questions and conflicts I am concerned about with regard to Church teaching, at least from your perspective. It is disappointing that a responder to my comments would essentially accuse me of obfuscation rather than address the essential nature of my concerns. Perhaps, though, I could have been clearer in the two general areas of concern that I had with respect to the article. I will briefly try again.

    You seem to be saying that the Church’s direction on choosing between two presidential candidates is quite clear when one candidate appears to back the Church’s teaching on abortion and euthanasia and the other does not. Case closed, no need for addition information or reflection? If so this addresses the two areas that concerned me and that I was hoping to understand: #1 If the above condition is met, then it is irrelevant that a candidate is clearly against Church teaching in other critical areas. #2 If the above condition is met, the candidate’s overall fitness for the targeted office is also irrelevant.

    One point of clarification from my perspective is that the one candidate who appears to support the Church’s teaching on abortion has dramatically changed his position back and forth numerous times over the last 10 years. Is that also irrelevant with respect to our decision?

    I will not go into detail at this point regarding the other anti-Church positions held by the apparently qualifying candidate since they seem to irrelevant if you are correct. I do, however, have to point out equivocation with respect to your comments on capital punishment. The Church has consistently been against almost all applications of the death penalty, and it has spoken against it as it has been applied in this country in numerous instances. That exceptions would be considered does not change the reality of the general application of this teaching.

    With respect to competence: I believe the candidate who appears to hold the Church’s position on abortion and euthanasia has clearly demonstrated that he is a serial liar and incompetent in areas of enormous significance to our nation (the environment, the economy, energy, education,infrastructure, foreign affairs, alternative energy, taxation, and poverty). If I understand you correctly, my well informed and well thought out analysis of this candidate is irrelevant: If I am to be a good Catholic, then this candidate, the one who appears to correctly oppose abortion and euthanasia, should receive my vote.

    In summary, a candidate for office who appears to back the Church’s teaching on abortion and euthanasia should get my vote over one who does not, regardless of the candidate’s mendacity, incompetence, and opposition to other critical areas of Catholic social teaching? This characterization of the acceptable candidate is, of course, my opinion; however, it has emerged from a very careful and well intentioned ongoing review of his official record and statements during the campaign.

    Despite your characterization of my objections, I am quite seriously concerned about this matter.

  5. I am grateful to Diane Schwind for her post, Will You Vote Democrat, Republican or Catholic, and for the comments it prompted. I also appreciate having the opportunity to air my questions and concerns regarding voting as a Catholic.

    Since I very much want feedback, and since I may not have been clear in expressing my concerns, I decided to take one more try at this. I offer two hypothetical candidates:

    Candidate A
    • Acceptable under the Church’s list of non-negotiable positions
    • Rated by non-partisan commentators as a very weak candidate
    • Holds many positions contrary to Catholic social teaching
    • Demonstrates a lack of knowledge of topics crucial to the targeted office
    • Demonstrates opinions related to philosophy and policies that would cause grave harm if implemented.

    Candidate B
    • Not acceptable under the Church’s list of non-negotiable positions (one or more conflicts)
    • Rated by non-partisan commentators as a very strong candidate
    • Other than one or more of the non-negotiables, holds all other positions consistent with Catholic social teaching
    • Demonstrates superior knowledge of topics crucial to the targeted office
    • Demonstrates opinions related to philosophy and policies that would likely bring significant gains if implemented.

    How does a conscientious Catholic approach this election?

    I hope this discussion is not sidetracked by claims that my hypothetical is unrelated to reality. We can identify many examples of candidates who ran for office and clearly match one of these categories and then follow up by looking at how they performed in their respective offices.

    I believe that both as a Catholic and as a citizen I am obligated to address reality with my vote. Just as I would be held accountable for supporting a candidate who may not seem worthy with respect to Catholic teaching, I must also acknowledge responsibility for casting votes for the incompetents and the self-serving who would likely cause grave harm in other areas.

    I appreciate having the opportunity to participate in this discussion.

  6. To RJ Caroff:

    Let me begin by saying that I promise you I am not trying to stir up emotions with my post, but I am hoping to help you and others who may be struggling in the same way see the point of Diane’s article as well as the position of the Catholic Church on matters regarding life. While putting the right words together in any form is not on the top of my skill set, know that I speak from my heart.

    I would agree with you that there are many important issues facing our nation i.e. “the environment, the economy, energy, education, infrastructure, foreign affairs, alternative energy, taxation, and poverty”, and the list goes on. If you consider of all of these issues, the bottom line is that they are about people and the welfare and common good of people. I believe from the bottom of my heart that MOST Americans are truly concerned first and foremost about the wellbeing of their fellow human kind. Abortion attacks human rights (welfare and common good) at the very root. If we cannot as a society value and protect human life at its most basic and vulnerable level, we have nothing to build upon. The best analogy that I can offer is that of the family. The most basic level of the human family is the marriage of a man and woman. If a marriage (the healthier the better) does not exist at the foundation, the family will undoubtedly struggle to remain healthy much less thrive. In the same way, if we as a society fail to value and protect the very LIFE of the most vulnerable among us, the very foundation of human existence, we will as a nation continue to struggle with all of the other issues that we face. This is why the Catholic Church as our God given pillar of what is right and good holds the right to life as a non-negotiable issue when choosing our elected officials. If we can’t get this one right, none of the other issues will even matter in the grand scheme of things.

    While neither party or candidate has all the “right” answers to the many issues that face our great (for the time being) nation, it is clear which one holds the most basic of these in the highest regard. We must embrace first and foremost a culture of life for all human persons. Please continue to pray for our country and it’s leaders. God’s blessings to you!

  7. I pray that many will read your post and accept what Holy Mother Church teaches. I have copied your post to our email list of 1,500. It is amazing to me that so many Catholics refuse to accept the obvious distinction between the various social justice issues and try to use the “seamless garment” tactic to justify overtly supporting the culture of death. If you drive a person to the abortion mill you are in cooperation with an intrinsic evil and if you vote for a candidate that supports abortion you also are cooperating with intrinsic evil.

  8. RJ,

    Firstly let me point out that I did not make personal commentary regarding capital punishment, I merely deferred to commentary made by Pope Benedict XVI, who echoes the doctrine of the Catholic Church. I have attempted to converse with you only in light of the truths which our Catholic Church has taught. However, if you seek to debate whether or not the Church’s doctrine is right, or fair, I would not put myself in a position that would contradict Church teaching, nor would I impugn the hierarchy of the Church by calling into question the practical application of Church teachings by Pope Benedict XVI.

  9. continued to RJ,

    Yes, you ARE equivocating when you attempt to weigh equally some other Catholic social teachings you have cited, which are clearly and concisely addressed within Church doctrine, with the number one social teaching of the Church which is the right to life. While these other social teaching issues you refer to are very important, and certainly to be considered when measuring the character of any candidate, they have been categorized by the Church herself as of less consequence than the right to life. For that appears to be the crux of your argument, that one candidate supports the right to life, while the other candidate, presumably the one you would rather vote for, does not. Again the church has been amply clear regarding your query about “the Church’s direction on choosing between two presidential candidates”. 1. YES, you must first consider the candidate’s position on the right to life. 2. NO, this does not negate what the candidate’s positions may be on other issues that relate to Catholic doctrine, but it does require that Catholics place what the Church has assigned as “intrinsic evils” (abortion among others) at the top of their “decision checklist” when choosing a candidate.

  10. continued to RJ (my apologies for cutting this up, some wordpress password application is acting unruly)

    With regard to a candidate’s “competence” and “overall fitness for the targeted office”, here is where it becomes a stretch to continue a dialogue with you that relates to Church doctrine and how it guides the Catholic electorate. Because here it becomes evident that your personal opinion is coloring your ability to maintain a Catholic centered focus. You mention that one of the candidates “has dramatically changed his position back and forth over the last 10 years” regarding abortion. Depending upon which side of the fence you are looking over, might I point out that our current President has also changed positions on domestic social issues, most recently his decision to now support homosexual marriage. So, many stones can be thrown in many directions, but again the Church remains steady and stalwart in her social teaching doctrines.

    While your process of discernment in choosing the candidate who most aligns himself with the teachings of our Church seems noble, what you describe as your “obligation to address reality” appears to be rationalized by what “reality” you choose to bend yourself toward. It is difficult to embrace the doctrines of the Church while at the same time shaping your reality around moral relativism. I am comforted during this time of economic and moral tumult, by the knowledge that the Catholic Church’s reality has remained constant for over 2000 years.

  11. I am going to say this and then give up. And I surrender because no one else seems to share my dilemma.

    Mitt Romney clearly satisfies the Church’s teaching on non-negotiables. I accept that. And I accept that Barack Obama does not. My point, from start to finish, is that a Romney presidency would in every other important way, other than the Church’s non-negotiables (and there are many other critical areas) be an unmitigated disaster for this nation. I can readily address and support all of the points behind why I firmly believe that, but I obviously won’t do that here.

    And my whole question and point comes down to this, and don’t worry, I won’t be posing that question here again: How do I, as a Catholic, vote for a presidential candidate who I know will be an unmitigated disaster for the nation? Absolutely no one helped me with that issue.

    There is no debate in my mind, believe it or not, when you have two competent individuals for an office. In that case, I would easily accept the Church’s direction on sorting out the issue based on the non-negotiables.

    Just to be perfectly clear, and yes or no would suffice, do I understand correctly that I must vote for an absolutely terrible candidate for president because he comes down on the right side of the Church’s teaching on non-negotiables and his opponent does not?

    A final note on my final comment: Despite the interpretations and suggestions regarding my motives, I have shared my dilemma with nothing but the best of intentions. Even though no one has thus far answered me, I am still grateful for the dialogue.

  12. RJ,

    Everyone who has replied to you has answered you with truth, but it is NOT the truth that you want to hear.

    We all bear witness to what the last 3+ years in this country have been like, no one but God knows what lies ahead for the future of our nation.

    The truly “unmitigated disaster” is that more than 3000 (THREE THOUSAND), babies are aborted (KILLED) in this country every day.

    We are made in His image, and God has not placed anything above His human creation, NOTHING; not the environment, not global economics, not foreign nor domestic policy, not energy policy, and so on and so forth. Hence, the Catholic Church stands firmly against the willful destruction of God’s human creation.

    As a Catholic, your final option may be to abstain from voting in this election, if you wish to be true to your Catholic identity.

  13. First off, the party comparison doesnt make sense..

    Mitt Romney got the republican nomination without actually embracing the platform..

    ““Well, I mean, there are many people in our party that have those exceptions,” Priebus said. “I’ll just tell you that we’re proud of the fact that we’re pro-life.”
    Exceptions for rape, or to save the mother’s life, “are not uncommon differences that candidates have,” he added. “But as far as our platform is concerned, I mean this is the platform of the Republican Party, it is not the platform of Mitt Romney. That all being said, though, these guys are proud pro-life candidates of a proud pro-life party.”

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79938.html#ixzz26gyY8Fiw

    So– you can support the republican party, but it is clear that Romeny doesnt support the platform because its not his.

    Catholics cant vote for a pro-abort–

    BTW, has anyone said anything about Romney pro-abortion record? Or his connections to stericycle?

    There is NO choice in this election… only a little lesser evil.. And no one is obligated to vote for a lesser evil..

    As faithful citizenship states:
    35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental
    moral evil.

    36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, 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.

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