So...I still don't quite get it. Is your conscience telling you something my conscience isn't? I agree with you that Romney et al are just more of the ruling class and I am completely unimpressed with him, not to mention unedified. But it either is true or untrue that we can as Catholics in good conscience vote for a lesser evil to prevent a greater, right? Am I misunderstanding that teaching? If I am understanding it correctly, then the third-party vote or the refusal to vote is not (or should not be) a matter of a demand of conscience, but a difference in strategy. Where am I going wrong in my reasoning? Believe it or not, my question to you was prompted by a disagreement with my dh--he gave one of my friends a lecturing to because she stated that she intends to vote for Ron Paul. He kept insisting that you have to vote for Romney in good conscience, and I kept insisting that this is not what the Church teaches. Now it seems that you are saying that a well-informed conscience would not allow you to vote for Romney--or maybe you are just talking about your own private conscience, but then it seems that if this only applies to you, where is the discussion and what is it about?I think these are good questions, and I want to take a stab at answering them. But please bear in mind: I’m not a trained Catholic theologian, nor do I play one on TV. :)
But here’s my best understanding as a Catholic laywoman who has been attempting to pay attention to these matters ever since the last election cycle (note: not very long).
We can never vote for a candidate who supports intrinsic evil IF (and it's an important if) we are voting for that candidate because of his support of intrinsic evil: that is, we like the evil and want it to happen. Thus, it is not moral for a Catholic voter to vote for a pro-abortion candidate because the voter likes abortion and wants it to keep happening.
We can not, under ordinary circumstances, choose to support a candidate who supports intrinsic evil IF (again, important) a candidate who does not support intrinsic evil is running in opposition. Given America's two-party system, many people would insert the word "viable" after "candidate" in the previous sentence: that is, just because a "no-evil" third-party candidate with no possible chance of success is running for election does not mean we must support that candidate over the two candidates from the parties who have actual chances of winning--but I don't have the proper qualifications to weigh in on that debate, other than to say it seems reasonable that if there really are only two possible winners one is not forced to support someone with no chance of winning.
In a race where both candidates support some intrinsic evil, it is possible morally to support one of the candidates given a) that one candidate supports less that is evil or will do more to limit the harm of the greater evil supported by the other and b) that there are proportionate reasons to support the candidate you reasonably believe and rationally expect will limit evil.
And here's where we get to Rebecca's question pertaining to individual conscience. If Rebecca (hypothetically) believes that Romney will not support evil to the degree that Obama does and that Romney will in fact limit the harms possible from the evil Obama supports, AND that it is proportionate to vote for Romney (who supports some evils) to limit harm potentially caused by Obama (who supports other, putatively graver evils) she can vote for Romney in good conscience (given all the usual caveats about the informing of one's conscience, etc.).
Since I (not hypothetically) believe that Romney is not trustworthy about the evils he claims not to support (since he was pro-abortion a decade ago, presided over the gay "marriage" debacle in Mass., etc.), that he supports evils that are potentially every bit as grave as the ones Obama supports, and that if there truly is a proportionate reason to support Romney I have not yet discovered what that may be, I cannot in good conscience vote for Romney at all.
Now, if a Catholic says or writes something like this: "We have to vote for Romney to stop Obama!" then we can take that in good faith as shorthand for a belief that Romney doesn't support as much evil as Obama, that Romney will limit real harms from evils Obama supports, and that there are proportionate reasons to vote for someone with Romney's beliefs. But if a Catholic says or writes something like this: "Anybody who claims to be a Catholic has to vote for Romney, and any Catholic who throws away his or her vote on some third-party candidate is not only an idealistic fool but is actually helping evil triumph over good!" is not saying anything like the same thing, and has to be challenged for saying it.
And those are the people I'm challenging, the Catholics who publicly or privately have said to me and others like me that we're not really being good Catholics about our potential votes since we have said we don't plan to vote for Romney. I respect attempts to convince voters like me and to change our minds by highlighting what you think are the evils Romney will stop and/or the proportionate reasons to vote for him, but I can't respect what is nothing more than name calling and political tribalism.