If I'm a Catholic, can't I just vote for whomever I want?
Answer: Not if you want to avoid committing a sin – perhaps one that is a mortal sin.
Why? Because if you vote for the candidate who least adheres to the Church's teaching on abortion, "This could put your own soul in jeopardy."*
* Bishop David L. Ricken, Green Bay
What are the 5
For Catholics, some issues concern “non-negotiable” moral principles on which there is no exception or compromise. There are numerous non-negotiable issues, but five of them are currently “in-play” politically in the United States. These five intrinsically evil actions are those that fundamentally conflict with the moral law and can never be performed under any circumstances. It is a serious sin to deliberately endorse or promote any of these actions, and citizens support these evils if they vote for candidates who do so.
So what are these five non-negotiables?
Abortion: The Church teaches that, regarding a law permitting abortions, it is “never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or to vote for it.” (EV 73)
Euthanasia: Often disguised by the name “mercy killing,” euthanasia is actually a form of homicide. “True compassion cannot include intentionally doing something intrinsically evil to another person.” (EV 73)
Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Human embryos are human beings. “Respect for the dignity of the human being excludes all experimentation or exploitation of the human embryo.” (CRF 4b)
Human Cloning: Such attempts to create a human being “are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union.” (RHL I:6)
Homosexual “Marriage”: It is an objectively immoral arrangement, and “the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor … is gravely immoral.” (UHP 10)
But what about other issues, like immigration and the death penalty?
Aren't there other issues that Catholics should consider when voting?
Yes, but they are either not “in play” politically at the present time or are issues on which Catholics are permitted to have a legitimate difference of opinion.
For example, contraception and genocide are also non-negotiables for Catholics. But American politicians are not presently addressing these evils in a substantial way, so for practical reasons they are not included in the 5 Non-Negotiables for Catholic voters.
Other moral issues do not rise to the level of being non-negotiable, because Catholics may legitimately have differing opinions on how to address them. These include questions of when to go to war, when to apply the death penalty, how to help the poor, how to manage the economy, how to protect the environment, how to handle immigration, and how to provide education, health care, and retirement security.
Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, explained this by using two non-negotiable issues as examples: “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia,” he said. “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”