THE DOWNLOAD—YOUR VOTE COUNTS – But it’s your own soul that’ll do the counting

THE DOWNLOAD—YOUR VOTE COUNTS – But it’s your own soul that’ll do the counting

The Download—Your Vote Counts

by Peter O’Dwyer  •  •  February 9, 2016

There are many candidates on the campaign trail this year, and all are far from perfect. Now more than ever, Catholics need to be aware of the moral implications of voting for candidates who have immoral and evil platforms.

There are two kinds of cooperation: formal and material.

The distinction is easier than it sounds. Formal deals with the will and is straightforward. Formal cooperation means you intend what the principal agent intends. If you vote for a pro-abortion politician because he is pro-abortion, this is formal cooperation. Formal cooperation with an intrinsic evil is always wrong.


Formal Cooperation can be either proximate to the act, such as handing the abortionist his scalpel, or remote to the act, such as merely providing money and political support for abortion. So long as the action is intended and approved, the cooperation is said to be formal.

Either way, it’s always wrong.

Material cooperation is more difficult. Material cooperation means there is no will involved. Material cooperation is assistance provided where the person assisting does not intend or approve of the evil. Once again, there are two kinds: remote and proximate.

Proximate material cooperation, also known as immediate material cooperation, happens when someone does not approve of the actions of the principal agent, but assists in a way essential to the evil act. This is the territory of the “personally opposed but …” politician. While not willing an increase of abortions, he nevertheless enables it by protecting abortion politically. Proximate material cooperation is always wrong. Voting for such a politician is also proximate material cooperation.

Remote, or mediate, material cooperation is a different story. This is where a person does not intend or approve of the evil, and does not provide support essential to the act. For instance, Americans are by law required to pay taxes to the government, a portion of which goes to abortion groups. Americans who do not intend or approve of this money being used for abortion are providing remote material cooperation.

Catholics may vote for a candidate that holds unacceptable positions, provided they do not will the evil done, and the particular candidate will do more good proportionately to all the other candidates. But given abortion’s sheer scope and gravity, a pro-abortion candidate cannot be proportionally better than a neutral or a pro-life one. Voting for a pro-abortion candidate, even when one is personally pro-life, is proximate material cooperation, which is always wrong.

Voting has concrete consequences, and like any serious decision, it has consequences for your soul, too.

Peter O’Dwyer is a staff writer and associate producer for

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