Catholic Election Guide
If you are looking for an “election guide” to tell you who to cast your ballot for in November, then you will be disappointed in the rest of this guide. This is not a biased, partisan, political guide to tell you who you need to vote for and then try to justify it. This guide is simply to point you to what the candidates for president and their running mate/vice president stand for and have supported considering what Catholic teaching tells us. It is a neutral, fair presentation of the facts and, at the end, it is your decision to make as to how you reconcile the facts with your faith. It is your vote. This guide is simply to give you the facts and then ask you to pray over those facts and allow God to lead you to your decision. You will also see a “Resources” section at the end of this guide which will direct you to all the links and references for the issues mentioned in this guide. I encourage you to do your own research and investigation into these beliefs as well and the platforms these candidates promote. This is, again, simply a guide and not intended to be a thorough investigation of any candidate or issue.
Not only do we have an obligation and duty to vote, but we have a responsibility to vote according to the faith which we profess. St. Vincent of Lerins once said, “[I]n the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense "Catholic," which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. (Commonitory 2, 6) The faith and teachings of the Church we will discuss in this guide is that which the Church has always believed and should be taken seriously by all Catholics who vote. Our faith and the teachings of the Church are not merely “suggestions” or “talking points” to defend your preferred choice of candidate. It should be your road map and your direction signs.
Though not one candidate is perfect, because we are all human and sinners, and each have issues we agree with and issues with which we disagree, we must remember that it is our duty to vote in the election. As Catholics, we should not sit home and refuse to vote because we do not like a person or think it may not make a difference. “It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one's country follows from the duty of gratitude and belongs to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community. Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country (Rom. 13:7) …. . . . The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way." (1 Tim 2:2) (CCC 2239-2240)
Now, let us get to the issues. We will introduce each issue with a teaching of what the Church says about it and then will proceed to highlight, in a short and simple fashion, how each of the two major presidential candidates stand on the issue. In order to avoid the appearance we are endorsing one candidate over the other (because we trust you will take the church teachings and the candidate’s stand and make your own decision) we will alternate which candidate’s stand is introduced first with the issue. For example, if President Trump’s statements are first on one issue then Joe Biden’s will be first on the next.
Let’s begin with abortion. The choice to start addressing issues with abortion is not based upon a political choice or platform but rather on the idea that all issues, at their root, have to do with the value and dignity of life. From immigration, racism, police reform, education, healthcare, and the economy; they all have at their root the issue of how one values life. We, as a country, will never value life and recognize the dignity of a person until we value the dignity of the unborn life. It is at the moment of conception that the value of life takes on dignity and meaning. It is there, at that life changing….life creating moment…. where we begin.
There is an entire section, beginning at CCC 2270 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which addresses the church’s teaching on the subject.
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person- among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life…..Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral of evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral life.” (CCC 2270-2271)
The Catechism even addresses those who have government authority and how they should act regarding abortion.
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority…..Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.” (CCC 2273)
President Donald Trump: President Trump identifies as a Presbyterian, although it is well known he is not a weekly church-goer. He has, however, been a strong advocate for the pro-life movement and fought against large abortion industries such as Planned Parenthood. In February 2019, the Trump administration blocked abortion agencies such as Planned Parenthood from receiving federal dollars and, instead, directed the money to more conservative groups that did not provide abortion referrals. The rule enacted by the administration prevented any abortion provide, such as Planned Parenthood, from receiving Title X funds. Title X funds is funding that comes from the Department of Health and Human Services that targets lower-income Americans. In 2020. President Donald Trump became the first US President to speak at the March for Life in Washington D.C.
In the Republican primary debate, as well as many live appearances on TV news networks, Trump touted his pro-life stance and promised to defund Planned Parenthood. With the blocking of Title X funds going to abortion providers, his promise was kept.
“I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life.” – Donald Trump during the Republic Primary Debate.
Former Vice President Joe Biden: Joe Biden, who is a Catholic and regularly talks about how important his faith is to him, how it has brought him through difficult times, and how he attends Mass regularly, has taken the reverse approach. According to his campaign website, “The Obama-Biden administration fought Republican attacks on funding for Planned Parenthood again and again. As president, Biden will reissue guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers that refer for abortions or provide related information and reverse the Trump Administration’s rule preventing Planned Parenthood and certain other family planning programs from obtaining Title X funds.” The website also specifies that Biden, as president, will do everything possible to ensure abortions and to eliminate obstacles to an abortion. “As president, Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion, such as so-called TRAP laws, parental notification requirements, mandatory waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements.” In other words, Biden promotes that he will allow an “abortion on demand” concept that eliminates barriers, ensures anyone at anytime can obtain an abortion, and abortion clinics will have access to federal funds.
Joe Biden has not always been pro-choice and a strong advocate for abortion. In fact, when he was a United States Senator from Delaware, Biden voted against a 1977 compromise that provided an exception to Medicaid funds to be allowed for abortions. The compromise would have let Medicaid provide financial funds for abortions in the cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother was in danger. The rape and incest exceptions passed and Biden once again voted in 1981 to have those exceptions removed. In 2007 he released a book titled “Promises to Keep” where he speaks on his record of abortion and labels himself as a “middle of the road” person when it comes to abortion. In the book, he says he did not think he had a right to impose his beliefs about abortion on society. “I think the government should stay out completely. I will not vote to overturn the Court’s decision. I will not vote to curtail a woman’s right to choose abortion. But I will also not vote to use federal funds to fund abortion.”
Racism and Statue removal:
With the recent protests and riots, not to mention the vandalism of sacred images, it is only fitting to acknowledge there is a need to understand and consider racism and the removal of statues when choosing who to cast a vote for in the election.
The Church’s teaching promotes the need to do away with racism. “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity. The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” (CCC 1934-1935)
Joe Biden: Joe Biden recently released a plan detailing how he would work toward bringing about racial equality in the US if he were president. The plan includes providing every American the chance to go to college for up to 2 years for free.
According to NPR, "[Biden] believes in an economy where every American enjoys a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead. An economy more vibrant and more powerful precisely because everybody will be included in the deal. An economy where Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American workers and families are finally welcomed as full participants," Biden’s campaign proposal said.
Biden, on the other hand, appeared to draw a line when it came to the removal of statues. During a press conference, Biden said the government needs to protect statues and monuments for historical figures such as Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. He did, however, differ between which historical figures should be protected and which ones should not. When it came to statues of Confederate generals, soldiers, and those who fought in the Confederacy for succession “belong in museums, they don’t belong in public places.” He said there was a difference between remembering history and revering those having to do with history. He did not, however, detail who would be the authority deciding which statues deserved to stand and which would be removed to a museum.
Donald Trump: “They’re not taking down our monuments, I just want to make that clear.” President Trump has issued an executive order regarding the destruction of monuments. “Their (those vandalizing statues) selection of targets reveals a deep ignorance of our history, and is indicative of a desire to indiscriminately destroy anything that honors our past and to erase from the public mind any suggestion that our past may be worth honoring, cherishing, remembering, or understanding.” The statute he signed announced his administration would prosecute those responsible for vandalizing historical statues. (Link to complete Executive Order is at the end of this guide)
President Trump has used language that could be taken as racist. He has tweeted remarks such as asking why certain congresswomen didn’t “go back and help fix the total broken and crime infested places from which they came.” He has also called the impeachment inquiry against him a “lynching,” and used terms such as “China virus” and placed bans on 5 majority Muslim countries. (to be specific, the ban was on the country and not the religion itself or those adhering to it)
Trump is not the only one who has used racist language, however. Joe Biden has used racist comments and generalizations many times. “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent,” Biden said when he was senator in 2008. He has also made comments such as “they’re gonna put ya’ll back in chains” (language associated with slavery), and, to a black journalist, he said “if you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or Trump then you’re not black.”
There is, of course, no official teaching of the Church on COVID-19 or the coronavirus. The Church’s stance regarding the pandemic would fall under its social teachings and, therefore, point the Church toward caring for others, specifically in a time of need. There is obviously no way we can go into depth about the response of each candidate, specifically the president, when it comes to COVID. The best recommendation on evaluating them when it comes to the pandemic is to evaluate them yourself based on the Church’s social teaching on helping your neighbor and those less fortunate. The specifics highlighted below are just a sample of each.
Donald Trump: In July 2020, his administration allocated $400 million in COVID funding to enhance the Veteran’s Affairs emergency relief response for homeless veterans or those at risk of homelessness during the pandemic. His administration also gave $1.6 billion to Novavax for the creation of a COVID vaccine. During his administration, Congress and the president provided a relief stimulus to Americans due to the economy being hit by the closure of businesses during quarantines. The administration also allocated additional resources, including federal troops, to provide assistance with testing and providing medical supplies to front line workers.
Joe Biden: He urged President Trump, which in turn reflects his views of how he would have handled the issue if president, to institute a transparent reporting process, expand hospital bed capacity, increase medical personnel to those areas which need them the most, and to lift the tariffs on China because it restricted access to medical supplies, equipment and personal protective equipment.
The systemic view of rights of individuals began developing in the Catholic Church with the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Beginning with the encyclical and continuing through various documents and conferences there were three basic principles on immigration that emerged within Church teaching: People have a right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their family, a country has a right to regulate its borders and control immigration, and a country must regulate its borders within justice and mercy.
One of those documents that arose was the Exsul Familia by Pope Pius XII. When the Nazis were defeated at the end of World War II it caused a flood of migration of millions of people into other countries who were seeking food and freedom and safety. Pope Pius sided with those immigrants in his document because they were seeking a better and safer life. The Church teaches that the immigrant has a right to seek a better life and that natives of other countries should not be treated any better than the immigrant since all the things on earth belong to God rather than man. However, the Church does not deny a country the ability or authority to refuse immigrants. No country, according to the Church, must be forced to accept all those who want to move into that country. As Americans, we should welcome the stranger seeking a better and safer life in this country. However, we should also work as a more civilized country to make it where individuals are not forced, or do not feel forced, to leave their own country but rather can live productive and good lives in their own homeland.
When it comes to illegal immigrants, the USCCB says, “Undocumented immigrants present a special concern. Often their presence is considered criminal since they arrive without legal permission. Under the harshest view, undocumented people may be regarded as undeserving of rights or services. This is not the view of Catholic social teaching. The Catholic Church teaches that every person has basic human rights and is entitled to have basic human needs met—food, shelter, clothing, education, and health care. Undocumented persons are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by employers, and they are not able to complain because of the fear of discovery and deportation. Current immigration policy that criminalizes the mere attempt to immigrate and imprisons immigrants who have committed no crime or who have already served a just sentence for a crime is immoral. In the Bible, God promises that our judgment will be based on our treatment of the most vulnerable. Before God we cannot excuse inhumane treatment of certain persons by claiming that their lack of legal status deprives them of rights given by the Creator.”
Donald Trump: President Trump had made strides to attempt to secure the border of the United States and prevent illegal immigration. He had secured cooperation agreements with Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to control migration flows. The Trump administration has overseen over 100 miles of border wall construction and says they will continue building it along the entire border. Illegal immigration has declined since he has been president. The administration took a lot of attacks from the border situations where illegal immigrants were being held by Customs and Immigration, often resulting in the separation of children from their parents. Additionally, Trump has pushed back against “sanctuary” states and has disapproved of them. He has also touted reform within the immigration system to go to a skill and merit-based system for legal immigration rather than the randomized system currently in place. The proposed merit-based system would basically allow those immigrants with skills that would contribute to the American society to be considered first for admission and those without skills would be placed lower on the list.
Joe Biden: He said his immigration policy within the first 100 days of his presidency would “keep families together” (in reference to illegal immigrants), “take immediate action to protect dreamers, including the more than 100,000 eligible dreamers from east and south Asia.” He also said within the first 100 days he would “rescind the unAmerican Muslim ban” (NOTE: There is not an effective “Muslim ban” in place. The ban is only for prominently Muslim countries as referenced previously in this guide, but not for “Muslims” as a religion) He said he would “restore Refugee admission which is in line with the values and historic leadership of our country, raising the target to a minimum of 125,000 people a year.”
The Church’s Teaching: “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” (CCC 2357-2359)
The Church forbids any acts of homosexuality and regards them as a violation of the Sixth Commandment, putting it as a mortal sin. That does not mean the individuals who are suffering from these feelings and who are homosexual should be mistreated, abused, or in any other way discriminated against. The significant thing to recognize in the Church’s teaching is that the prohibition is only toward the actual acts, not the feelings, of homosexuality. This could also be applied to all areas of LGBQ. Regarding those who are transgender, there is very little direction from the Church. Some priests, and even bishops, have spoken out regarding the issue but there is no official Church teaching. Transgenderism is not addressed in the or any other Vatican document. However, there appears to be the beginnings of a guide regarding the teaching that arose in 2015 when a transgender sought permission to be a godparent. In September 2015, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responsible for enforcing Catholic doctrine, denied the permit for the transgender man in Spain to serve as a godfather. The decision basically barred transgender Catholics from serving as a baptismal sponsor. According to the Congregation, “[…] the result is evident that this person does not possess the requisite of leading a life conformed to the faith and to the position of godfather (CIC, can 874, 1,3), therefore is not able to be admitted to the position of godmother nor godfather. One should not see this as discrimination, but only the recognition of an objective absence of the requisites that by their nature are necessary to assume the ecclesial responsibility of being a godparent.”
The decision only applied to the person’s ability to be a godparent based on them being transgender and not living a life “conformed to the faith”. It does, however, specify the decision is not based on discrimination because the individual is transgender itself. The Church does not teach that those who are living a LGBTQ lifestyle should be banned, ostracized, or discriminated against.
Joe Biden: The Joe Biden Foundation created an initiative called “As You Are” to promote the “understanding and acceptance for the safety of LGBTQ youth”. The Biden Foundation, which was created in 2017, suspended operations hours after Biden announced his bid for president. Biden has also called transgender equality the “civil rights issue of our time.” Along with the Foundation they created, Biden and his wife have worked to promote more acceptance among LGBTQ individuals and to reduce the amount of suicide and rejection among that population.
“Any person, regardless of their political or religious beliefs, should be able to agree that violence against any person is intolerable,” Biden said when speaking in 2017 at the LGBTQ Gala. “There is no justification, none, to deal with any individual in an inhumane way. None, none, none.”
According to his campaign website, Biden plans during his first 100 days to enact the Equality Act, which would guarantee LGBTQ individuals are protected under existing civil rights laws, providing a prohibition for individuals, governments and businesses to deny services to a homosexual couple or a marriage license.
However, his position with the issue on his website and the foundation is a reversal of what his voting record has shown while he was in Congress. IN 1973, although it was an off-hand statement, he open “wondered” if homosexuals in the military were security risks for the nation. In 1994 he voted to cut off federal funds to schools that taught students to accept homosexuality. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 which blocked federal recognition of same-sex marriages. In 2012, he began strongly supporting same-sex marriage and defending LGBTQ rights. The position was a reversal of what his voting record and statements had shown.
Donald Trump: Shortly after being sworn into office, multiple federal agencies slowly began removing mentions of homosexuality and sexual orientation from discrimination coverage. Trump has not spoken about LGBTQ issues much publicly, although he mentioned when Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis was put in jail because of refusing to provide marriage licenses to gay couples, Trump said he didn’t think she should have been jailed but she should have followed the ruling of the Supreme Court and given out the marriages that were covered under the law. There are very few actions that can be pinpointed to reflect an accurate idea of exactly where Trump and the administration stand on these issues, although the removal of the mention of LGBTQ in discrimination coverage as well as the controversial new policy the DOD issued that critics claims is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy within those who serve in the military. According to NBC News, “Under the new policy, which the Department of Defense has insisted is not a “ban,” currently serving transgender individuals who have already received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria may continue to serve in their preferred gender, receive hormone treatments and undergo gender-affirming surgery. But after Friday, anyone with gender dysphoria who is taking hormones or has already undergone a gender transition will not be allowed to enlist. Further, any currently serving troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria after this date will have to serve in their sex as assigned at birth and will be barred from taking hormones or getting gender-affirming surgery.”
It is your vote. This guide is simply to give you the facts and then ask you to pray over those facts and allow God to lead you to your decision.
Donald Trump on defunding Planned Parenthood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=IXW8yi9HpE8
Joe Biden campaign website on abortion: https://joebiden.com/healthcare/
Joe Biden letter he sent as Senator to his constituents about pro-life legislation: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6127591-biden77letter.html
Joe Biden “Promises to Keep” excerpt where he speaks about abortion: https://www.ontheissues.org/Archive/Promises_to_Keep_Abortion.htm
Joe Biden: Protecting Historical figure monuments
Joe Biden on the removal of Confederate statues verses protecting other historical statues.
President Trump Executive Order regarding prosecution of those who vandalize statues: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-protecting-american-monuments-memorials-statues-combating-recent-criminal-violence/
Joe Biden history of racial comments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TJpnGCHtnA
Donald Trump “go back where you came from”: https://www.npr.org/2019/07/15/741827580/go-back-where-you-came-from-the-long-rhetorical-roots-of-trump-s-racist-tweets
Donald Trump administration gives $400 million to VA for COVID relief for homeless veterans
Trump administration gives $1.6 Billion for COVID vaccine: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-vaccine-novavax-trump-administration-1-6-billion-funding/
Resource for links of Church documents on migrant and refugees: https://www.acmro.catholic.org.au/about/church-documents-on-migration/the-teaching-of-the-universal-church/other-vatican-documents
Teaching on the Catholic stance on immigration and migration: https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/immigration/catholic-teaching-on-immigration-and-the-movement-of-peoples
Trump administration immigration actions: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/trump-administrations-immigration-agenda-protects-american-workers-taxpayers-sovereignty/
Joe Biden on what he would do regarding immigration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPr4f-DIP1o
Catechism teaching on homosexuality: https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm
Catholicism and Transgenderism: https://www.hrc.org/resources/stances-of-faiths-on-lgbt-issues-roman-catholic-church
Joe Biden and LGBTQ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZIq0NTgWoU
NBC News link on military policy for LGBTQ under Trump: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/trump-s-controversial-transgender-military-policy-goes-effect-n993826