Recently, I was made aware of a priest telling his parishioners that they could, in good conscience, vote for a politician who openly supported abortion AS LONG AS the voter did not agree with that position. Then he quoted from the American Bishops' (USCCB) statement Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (Nov. 2007), specifically:
34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.
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.
When taken out of context, paragraph #35 could erroneously be used to justify material cooperation in grave evil AS LONG AS there were no formal cooperation. That is NOT what (then) Cardinal Ratzinger said in his letter to the American Bishops (July 2004). He makes an important distinction between remote and proximate material cooperation in evil. The Church has always condemned formal cooperation in evil where a person gives consent to evil being done by another. When someone does not agree, however, they can still be guilty of material cooperation in evil when they provide the means by which the evil is performed. Direct or proximate material cooperation in evil occurs when a person provides necessary tools to perform the evil act, e.g., when someone sells illegal drugs they are a material cooperator in evil since they are providing the necessary means to commit evil, either illegal drug use or illegal drug distribution. Selling dangerous materials such as radioactive or biological material used for weaponry is material cooperation in evil even though personally, they object to acts of terrorism. Likewise, Doctors, nurses and other who make abortion or euthanasia possible are material cooperators in evil. If it is the biological father who drives the biological mother to the abortion clinic, he is guilty of direct (proximate) material cooperation in evil even if he personally is against abortion. Were he to give internal consent, it would also be formal cooperation in evil.
The medical personnel who perform the abortion or who assist the doctor are also direct material cooperators in evil. Remote material cooperators are those who provide indirect means to carry out the evil. The merchant of a sporting goods store sells amunition to a hunter. Legal and moral. If that hunter commits an immoral act by using the bullets he just bought to kill an innocent person, the merchant is not guilty of direct material cooperation in evil. He MAY be guilty of remote material coopertion in evil if he neglected to report to the police suspicions or apprehensions he may have had when he sold the amunition.
Politicians who personally oppose abortion and euthanasia but who VOTE for legislation to allow, permit or continue such immoral activity are MATERIAL COOPERATORS IN EVIL. If they are candidates whose office can and will affect the curtailment, restriction or possibile abolition of such grave evils, and they consistently vote to keep these heionous acts legal, then they are DIRECT (proximate) material cooperators in evil. VOTERS who elect these candidates but who disagree with their position on abortion or euthanasia, are also material cooperators in evil. They are proximate and culpable if viable alternative candidates exist.
Pope Benedict clearly stated:
3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. 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.
He also states in the Nota Bene:
A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons
Note that the qualification for voting for a 'pro-abortion' candidate when you personally disagree with their position is PROPORTIONATE REASONS. Since abortion and euthanasia are non-negotiables, they cannot be equated with moral issues such as economic justice, just war or even the death penalty. Since abortion and euthanasia always and directly involve innocent victims, they are always grave evils to be avoided. The only time a Catholic can vote for a politician who is not overtly 'pro-life' is when he or she is more pro-life than their opponent. You cannot ignore a pro-abortion candidate just because you agree with his or her economics, or other political platforms. They are not equal issues.
Hence, Catholics who vote for pro-abortion candidates merely because they agree with their position on secondary issues are guilty of material cooperation in grave evil. It would be like a person ignoring a candidate's anti-Semetic or racist positions just to vote for them because you agree with their financial policies. Likewise, someone who advocates unrestricted abortion must be opposed. Period. The other issues like the economy, the environment, the war, etc., can be used if the abortion/euthanasia issue is unclear or unknown. Proportionate reasons means that HIGHER goods, like protecting innocent life, outweigh economic issues, like taxes, etc. Some evils are intrinsically evil. When there are no 100% opponents of these evils, then we can incrementally opt for the lesser of evils if there are no other alternatives.