Elections and the Lesser Evil


***La versión original en español del artículo se puede encontrar en este enlace. La traducción al inglés la ha realizado por uno de los miembros del Círculo Camino Real de Tejas con la supervisión de los traductores del Gremio San Jerónimo***


As it does in every electoral cycle, the Episcopal Conference of Mexico, through various communiqués, has urged the faithful to vote “responsibly” in the 2024 national elections, without really understanding for whom or why.

Such vagueness, however, is perfectly understandable. First, because the clergy would be violating state regulations if they were to provide any criteria with sufficient clarity to tilt the results in favor of any one candidate. Secondly, because the clergy itself is incapable of discerning in whose favor to recommend the vote, since it seems to have already lost, like the politicians who govern us, the notion of the common good in both its immanent and transcendent aspects. Consequently, what remains is the vague idea that Catholics must do something for their fatherland —without being able to define what that “something” is, or even what the “fatherland” is— and that, since modern democracy is a fairly accepted practice, there is nothing left to do but to participate in it out of inertia or conformism: “That’s just the way it is”.

The members and sympathizers of the liberal-conservative party have an agenda generally contrary to natural and divine laws, but are meticulously observant of the Sunday precept (and therefore are the “Catholic” party), at least among the faithful of the same age bracket as the venerable bishops —who, for their part, urge the people to vote with slogans aimed at blackmailing or extorting their consciences: Those who do not vote are not only “irresponsible” and “apathetic”, but also collaborate with the commies who want to take over the country, (as if it were not already in the hands of the Jacobins since 1824).

However, there is a hint of honesty among the disoriented clerics and the disingenuous conservatives —or rather, “conserva-errors”— who realize that all the candidates put forward by the parties in the elections are so repugnant that not even their own militants can vote for them without holding their noses. Consequently, they have refrained from presenting their own candidates as good, preferring instead to use the “lesser evil” argument.

But what exactly does such an approach consist of, and can it really help us to make an electoral decision? In a recent article, José Miguel Gambra —whose spirit we hope we have not betrayed with these lines— explained that the dilemma of the lesser evil is presented in different ways by different philosophical schools, acquiring not only dissimilar but, in some of them, deforming notes. Therefore, it is advisable that those who seek to explain it should indicate to which school they adhere: the devil is in the details. Moreover, ignoring alternative approaches, we have tried to stick to the most classical one.

The dilemma of the “lesser evil”, properly posed, refers to the choice between two morally neutral actions, one of which produces the lesser actual evil. For example: a father of a family who is faced with the painful necessity of buying a new car for the family —an expense that is not trivial when the means are modest— and must exercise a high degree of prudence in deciding between alternatives X and Y.  In such an example, note that both alternatives are morally neutral in the sense that buying cars does not in itself violate any divine, natural, or positive law. Of course, the factual evils that could result from the decision, if poorly made, could be considerable: the difficulty of paying the installments, the higher gasoline consumption of the chosen model, the higher cost of spare parts, and so on. Nevertheless, such evils will remain merely factual.

It might be thought that the father in the example, if the choice was made very imprudently, was negligent of his duties in his state of life as paterfamilias, inasmuch as he must administer the family patrimony well. However, even in such a case, the act cannot be said to be wrong in itself, but only because of its consequences. That is to say, even at the point of extreme negligence, the act is only of relative evil, and only in such a specific case. In general, buying a car remains a morally neutral act. This is the natural scope of the lesser evil dilemma.

What we are faced with in national elections is quite different: it is not a choice between two morally neutral acts (vote for X or vote for Y), subject to a merely prudential evaluation, since there are some specific points on the candidates’ agendas that are absolute obstacles because they constitute sins with which we should not cooperate, even indirectly. The dilemma of the lesser evil, as we have said, arises only between two morally neutral alternatives —even though they may produce actual evils— not between two intrinsically sinful alternatives.

What points can be absolutely impeditive —as sinful in themselves— in the moment of voting for a candidate? Ecclesial modernism has accustomed us to think that only those who are against the family as an institution are intrinsically sinful, and undoubtedly they are, but not only these. At a minimum, the following are considered to be impeditive: 1) the promotion of human sacrifice under any of its rituals, including surgical or “procured” abortion; 2) the promotion of “euthanasia”; 3) the promotion of unnatural relations; 4) the promotion of promiscuity in general; 5) the promotion of heresy or paganism; 6) the promotion of usury; and 7) the promotion of modern democracy insofar as it denies the natural basis of authority. Of course, the same could be said in the case of not actively promoting the above evils, but merely tolerating them.

As a result, if any of these items appear in a candidate’s platform, it is automatically obligatory, under penalty of sin, not to vote for him—even if the conditions for excommunication are not necessarily met. On the other hand, what if the candidate were inclined toward righteousness on one of these issues? Consider, for example, a “pro-life” candidate. If he does what he is supposed to do on any of the above points, that removes the particular obstacle, but it does not in itself make it obligatory to vote for him, because another obstacle may arise. In fact, it is quite common for “pro-life” candidates to be advocates of tolerance of heresy, to cite one example among many. Only between two candidates without absolute impediments —which is impossible to find today— could the dilemma of the lesser evil arise, making it absolutely prudent to vote for one of them or not.

Rodrigo Fernández DiezCírculo Tradicionalista Celedonio de Jarauta de Méjico

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