View Full Version : Group of Bishops Using Influence to Oppose Kerry

October 12th, 2004, 09:32 AM

October 12, 2004
Group of Bishops Using Influence to Oppose Kerry

DENVER, Oct. 9 - For Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate in Colorado, there is only one way for a faithful Catholic to vote in this presidential election, for President Bush and against Senator John Kerry.

"The church says abortion is a foundational issue,'' the archbishop explained to a group of Catholic college students gathered in a sports bar here in this swing state on Friday night. He stopped short of telling them whom to vote for, but he reminded them of Mr. Kerry's support for abortion rights. And he pointed out the potential impact his re-election could have on Roe v. Wade.

"Supreme Court cases can be overturned, right?" he asked.

Archbishop Chaput, who has never explicitly endorsed a candidate, is part of a group of bishops intent on throwing the weight of the church into the elections.

Galvanized by battles against same-sex marriage and stem cell research and alarmed at the prospect of a President Kerry - who is Catholic but supports abortion rights - these bishops and like-minded Catholic groups are blanketing churches with guides identifying abortion, gay marriage and the stem cell debate as among a handful of "non-negotiable issues."

To the dismay of liberal Catholics and some other bishops, traditional church concerns about the death penalty or war are often not mentioned.

Archbishop Chaput has discussed Catholic priorities in the election in 14 of his 28 columns in the free diocesan newspaper this year. His archdiocese has organized voter registration drives in more than 40 of the largest parishes in the state and sent voter guides to churches around the state. Many have committees to help turn out voters and are distributing applications for absentee ballots.

In an interview in his residence here, Archbishop Chaput said a vote for a candidate like Mr. Kerry who supports abortion rights or embryonic stem cell research would be a sin that must be confessed before receiving Communion.

"If you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil?" he asked. "And if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes."

The efforts of Archbishop Chaput and his allies are converging with a concerted drive for conservative Catholic voters by the Bush campaign. It has spent four years cultivating Catholic leaders, organizing more than 50,000 volunteers and hiring a corps of paid staff members to increase Catholic turnout. The campaign is pushing to break the traditional allegiance of Catholic voters to the Democratic Party, an affiliation that began to crumble with Ronald Reagan 24 years ago.

Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate, and many conservative Catholics are concentrated in swing states, pollsters say. Conservatives organizers say they are working hard because the next president is quite likely to name at least one new Supreme Court justice.

Catholic prelates have publicly clashed with Catholic Democrats like former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York and Geraldine A. Ferraro, the former representative and vice-presidential candidate.

But never before have so many bishops so explicitly warned Catholics so close to an election that to vote a certain way was to commit a sin.

Less than two weeks ago, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis issued just such a statement. Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark have both recently declared that the obligation to oppose abortion outweighs any other issue.

In theological terms, these bishops and the voter guides argue that abortion and the destruction of embryos are categorically wrong under church doctrine. War and even the death penalty can in certain circumstances be justified.

But it is impossible to know how many bishops share this view, and there is resistance from a sizable wing of the church that argues that voting solely on abortion slights Catholic teaching on a range of other issues, including war, poverty, the environment and immigration.

Liberal Catholics contend that the church has traditionally left weighing the issues to the individual conscience. Late in the campaign, these Catholics have begun to mount a counterattack, belatedly and with far fewer resources.

In diocesan newspapers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, they are buying advertisements with the slogan "Life Does Not End at Birth." Organizers of the campaign say it is supported by 200 Catholic organizations, among them orders of nuns and brothers.

"We are looking at a broader picture, a more global picture," said Bishop Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles who is president of Pax Christi USA, a Catholic peace group that initiated the statement. "If you look at the totality of issues as a matter of conscience, someone could come to the decision to vote for either candidate."

In the presidential debate on Friday, Mr. Kerry discussed his religious beliefs. "I was an altar boy," he said. "But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever."

Alexia Kelley, director for religious outreach for the Democratic National Committee, said Mr. Kerry's policies reflected overall Catholic teachings.

The Republican Party is betting that many observant Catholics will disagree. The National Catholic Reporter reported that that on a visit to the pope this year Mr. Bush asked Vatican officials directly for help in lining up American bishops in support of conservative cultural issues.

For four years, the party has held weekly conference calls with a representative of the White House for prominent Catholic conservatives. To ramp up the Catholic campaign last summer, the party dispatched its chairman, Ed Gillespie, and a roster well-known Catholic Republicans on a speaking tour to Catholic groups throughout the swing states.

The party has recruited an undisclosed number of Catholic field coordinators who earn $2,500 a month, along with up to $500 a month for expenses to increase conservative Catholic turnout.

In an interview this week from Albuquerque, where he was rallying Catholic outreach workers, Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, who has taken the role of informal adviser to Mr. Bush's campaign on Catholic issues, said Republicans hoped that Mr. Bush could draw even more of the Catholic vote than Reagan, who attracted 54 percent when he ran for re-election in 1984. Mr. Bush received just under half of the Catholic vote in 2000. In a Pew Research poll this month, 42 percent of white Catholics favored Mr. Bush, 29 percent favored Mr. Kerry, and 27 percent were undecided.

"I can't think of another time in recent political history where a political party and a campaign have paid more attention to faithful Catholics," Mr. Leo said.

How the bishops' guidance or the new voter guides are playing in the pews remains to be seen. In a poll for Time magazine in June, 76 percent of Catholics said the church's position on abortion made no difference in their decisions about voting. But in a New York Times poll conducted over the summer, 71 percent of Catholics favored some restrictions on abortion, compared with 64 percent of the general public.

Republican strategists say Catholics and others who attend religious services at least once a week tend to be more conservative. Fifty-three percent of those Catholics supported Mr. Bush in 2000 compared with 47 percent of all Catholics, according to exit polls. The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life of Staten Island, N.Y., says priests with his group are going from church to church in swing states like Florida, giving fellow priests sample homilies for each Sunday in November, inserts for church bulletins and voter guides.

Father Pavone spoke by telephone from Aberdeen, S.D., where he said he was meeting with dozens of priests and nuns to teach them how to organize transportation to take parishioners to the polls. Addressing abortion, he said he told audiences, "One can't hold public office and say it's O.K. to kill some of the public."

In past elections, the main voter guide distributed in many Catholic churches was a questionnaire from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that listed candidates' stands on dozens of issues. This year, conservative Catholic groups sought to derail the questionnaire, because it appeared to give equal weight to each issue. When neither the Bush nor Kerry campaigns responded to the questions by the deadline, the bishops' conference abandoned the effort, a spokesman, Msgr. Francis Maniscalco, said.

Many parishes are having free-for-alls over what materials to use in helping Catholics think through their choices. Many bishops are using a document the bishops developed last year, "Faithful Citizenship." It tells Catholic voters to consider a range of issues and vote their consciences. Other parishes are instead using a guide from a conservative Web site, Catholic Answers, at www.catholic .com. The guide says it is a sin to vote for a candidate who supports any one of five "non-negotiable issues," abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual marriage.

Archbishop Chaput says he has had no contact with either campaign or political party. He says his sole contact with the White House has been his appointment to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. The prelate acknowledged that his communications director, Sergio Gutierrez, had worked in the Bush administration, but Archbishop Chaput said he had known Mr. Gutierrez long before that.

It was only logical for the Republicans to view the church as a "natural ally" on cultural issues, the archbishop said. He said that would end if a Republican candidate supported abortion rights.

"We are not with the Republican Party," he said. "They are with us."

Mr. Kerry's Catholicism is a special issue for the church, Archbishop Chaput said. To remain silent while a President Kerry supported stem cell research would seem cowardly, he said. The Rev. Andrew Kemberling, pastor of St. Thomas More Church near here, said he agreed with the archbishop, but he acknowledged that parishioners sometimes accused him of telling them how to vote. He said his reply was: "We are not telling them how to vote. We are telling them how to take Communion in good conscience."

October 12th, 2004, 01:52 PM
Both houses are Republican, the Supreme Court is conservative, the President is a pro-life born-again Christian, and still Roe v. Wade wasn't overturned in the last four years. It's not going to happen no matter who is elected this year. Our country has been attacked, we are at war, and we have the biggest debt ever - this is not the issue that should be the deciding factor for voters this year.

October 12th, 2004, 03:07 PM
Both houses are Republican, the Supreme Court is conservative, the President is a pro-life born-again Christian, and still Roe v. Wade wasn't overturned in the last four years. It's not going to happen no matter who is elected this year. Our country has been attacked, we are at war, and we have the biggest debt ever - this is not the issue that should be the deciding factor for voters this year.

For real. The irony is that if Bush wins it'll be on this not-an-issue. Another irony is that he'd be nuts to screw around with Roe vs. Wade considering that he has two single daughters not exactly famous for chastity.

It's too bad these guys keep falling for that GOP line. They also found bones to pick with JFK in 1960 but he had Joe and Jackie to help him squeak by... man this one's gonna be close.

October 12th, 2004, 03:53 PM
"We are not telling them how to vote. We are telling them how to take Communion in good conscience."
The Catholic Church appears to be taking a moral position on this. How ironic that when confronted with their own problem of child abuse by clergy, the hierarchy, instead of taking the moral highground, chose to allow attorneys to legally rationalize their innocence.

Set thy house in order.

October 12th, 2004, 04:22 PM
So much for separation of state and church. Now let's go to Afghanistan and Iraq and instruct them on democracy.

October 12th, 2004, 04:32 PM
So much for separation of state and church. Now let's go to Afghanistan and Iraq and instruct them on democracy.
That's kind of unfair to religious people, that they have to abandon their religious beliefs if they are elected to office.

October 12th, 2004, 04:54 PM
That's kind of unfair to religious people, that they have to abandon their religious beliefs if they are elected to office.

It is not unfair - it is in the job description; the public expects that the candidate will serve them and not the candidates' church.

October 12th, 2004, 05:36 PM
That's kind of unfair to religious people, that they have to abandon their religious beliefs if they are elected to office.

It is not unfair - it is in the job description; the public expects that the candidate will serve them and not the candidates' church.

I understand what you're saying, but when is it OK for an elected official to use their own judgement?

October 13th, 2004, 02:43 PM
"Conscience formation" is a keystone of Catholic moral theology and it puts the onus on the individual. It is certainly proper that church authorities would make their positions known based upon their church's body of teachings and current praxis. Unfortunately, what we painfully see today is a hierarchy that has lost its compass. The moribund leadership has lost credibility with its own flock; its own immorality has squandered any chance to shape dialogue on moral issues. Secular society need not fear moral leadership -- Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, etc. continue in the tradition of Martin Luther King in advocating a moral viewpoint that can change public policy. What we must fear is when religious fervor becomes a theocracy, and religious fanaticism shapes and determines actual public policy.

There is a honorable tradition of Catholic social teaching that has played a critical role in the development of labor practices and public policy in this country. A pluralistic society can be fully inclusive of religious freedom and defend freedom of speech without fear of establishing a state religion. The American system of democracy is far healthier than the French secularists -- even when the conservative right makes a play for the presidency and both houses -- in that the debate remains solidly in the public forum.

However, I find the public scoldings of the present US bishops to be an embarrasment, that at times in direct conflict with the fuller theological arch. Too often my conscience leads me to walk out of church (quietly and respectfully) because issues of control and partisan politics try to masquerade as theology. To the bisops chagrin, the public is too smart for their manipulations to be effective.

The sexual abuse scandal became such a huge crisis because of the hierarchy's inablity to lead, to follow a moral compass and to set a pastoral direction that is both courageous and compassionate. We can take alarm at their positions but they alone are responsible for their lack of credibility -- in both the political and moral spheres.

October 13th, 2004, 03:10 PM
"Conscience formation" is a keystone of Catholic moral theology and it puts the onus on the individual.

This is the point I am trying to get across; the necessity of [Cannonically] scandalous behavior required of Catholic politicians, lest they force their beliefs on the populace.

October 13th, 2004, 04:47 PM
This was the most balanced, insightful and intelligent thinking I encountered to date on Catholic Teaching in relation to the presidential vote.

October 11, 2004
Voting Our Conscience, Not Our Religion

outh Bend, Ind. ó For more than a century, from the wave of immigrants in the 19th century to the election of the first Catholic president in 1960, American Catholics overwhelmingly identified with the Democratic Party. In the past few decades, however, that allegiance has largely faded. Now Catholics are prototypical "swing voters": in 2000, they split almost evenly between Al Gore and George W. Bush, and recent polls show Mr. Bush ahead of Senator John Kerry, himself a Catholic, among white Catholics.

There are compelling reasons - cultural, socioeconomic and political - for this shift. But if Catholic voters honestly examine the issues of consequence in this election, they may find themselves returning to their Democratic roots in 2004.

The parties appeal to Catholics in different ways. The Republican Party opposes abortion and the destruction of embryos for stem-cell research, both positions in accord with Catholic doctrine. Also, Republican support of various faith-based initiatives, including school vouchers, tends to resonate with Catholic voters.

Members of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, are more likely to criticize the handling of the war in Iraq, to oppose capital punishment and to support universal heath care, environmental stewardship, a just welfare state and more equitable taxes. These stances are also in harmony with Catholic teachings, even if they may be less popular among individual Catholics.

When values come into conflict, it is useful to develop principles that help place those values in a hierarchy. One reasonable principle is that issues of life and death are more important than other issues. This seems to be the strategy of some Catholic and church leaders, who directly or indirectly support the Republican Party because of its unambiguous critique of abortion. Indeed, many Catholics seem to think that if they are truly religious, they must cast their ballots for Republicans.

This position has two problems. First, abortion is not the only life-and-death issue in this election. While the Republicans line up with the Catholic stance on abortion and stem-cell research, the Democrats are closer to the Catholic position on the death penalty, universal health care and environmental protection.

More important, given the most distinctive issue of the current election, Catholics who support President Bush must reckon with the Catholic doctrine of "just war." This doctrine stipulates that a war is just only if all possible alternative strategies have been pursued to their ultimate conclusion; the war is conducted in accordance with moral principles (for example, the avoidance of unnecessary civilian casualties and the treatment of prisoners with dignity); and the war leads to a more moral state of affairs than existed before it began. While Mr. Kerry, like many other Democrats, voted for the war, he has since objected to the way it was planned and waged.

Second, politics is the art of the possible. During the eight years of the Reagan presidency, the number of legal abortions increased by more than 5 percent; during the eight years of the Clinton presidency, the number dropped by 36 percent. The overall abortion rate (calculated as the number of abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44) was more or less stable during the Reagan years, but during the Clinton presidency it dropped by 11 percent.

There are many reasons for this shift. Yet surely the traditional Democratic concern with the social safety net makes it easier for pregnant women to make responsible decisions and for young life to flourish; among the most economically disadvantaged, abortion rates have always been and remain the highest. The world's lowest abortion rates are in Belgium and the Netherlands, where abortion is legal but where the welfare state is strong. Latin America, where almost all abortions are illegal, has one of the highest rates in the world.

None of this is to argue that abortion should be acceptable. History will judge our society's support of abortion in much the same way we view earlier generations' support of torture and slavery - it will be universally condemned. The moral condemnation of abortion, however, need not lead to the conclusion that criminal prosecution is the best way to limit the number of abortions. Those who view abortion as the most significant issue in this campaign may well want to supplement their abstract desire for moral rectitude with a more realistic focus on how best to ensure that fewer abortions take place.

In many ways, Catholic voters' growing political independence has led to a profusion of moral dilemmas: they often feel they must abandon one good for the sake of another. But while they may be dismayed at John Kerry's position on abortion and stem-cell research, they should be no less troubled by George W. Bush's stance on the death penalty, health care, the environment and just war. Given the recent history of higher rates of abortion with Republicans in the White House, along with the tradition of Democratic support of equitable taxes and greater integration into the world community, more Catholics may want to reaffirm their tradition of allegiance to the Democratic Party in 2004.

Mark W. Roche is dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

October 23rd, 2004, 09:21 AM

Talking Point

Bless me father, for I am thinking of voting for Kerry

By Jane Flanagan

Last week an archbishop in Colorado said that voting for John Kerry would be a sin.

Iím in trouble now. While Iíve been sinning a long time, I havenít yet disobeyed a direct order from an archbishop as reported to the New York Times. But then, I suppose these are not normal times.

Still, I wasnít always a sinner. In fact, I started out life avoiding misdeeds at all costs. As a six-year-old, brand new to Catholic school, when the nun forbid me to talk to friends, and then told me it was as a sin to disobey, I stopped talking.

In fact, so successful was I at not sinning, that when I turned 7 and prepared to make my First Holy Communion, I had a problem: confession. Itís where sinners go for absolution before receiving the sacrament. I honestly couldnít think of any sins. And while I may have been zealously obedient, I wasnít stupid. The nuns and priests told us God wanted us to behave perfectly, but they didnít think we could really pull it off. (They always underestimated children.) I knew they would never buy ďno sins.Ē

So I lied. As part of the confessional warm-up, the sister explained the kind of thing Father would be looking for: telling a lie, disobeying mom, etc.

ďTwo lies, one disobeyed my mother,Ē was my opening line at the first confession. The next visit I went with ďtwo disobeys and one lie.Ē Yes, I know, by going to confession I became a sinner.

Itís a similar kind of conundrum that is plaguing me now. Voting for Kerry is a sin. But I canít possibly vote for George Bush. Of course, there is always Nader. And even though heís pro-choice and for gay rights, the archbishop didnít mention him. But, well, Iím not voting for Nader.

Itís odd that anybody over at the Catholic Church actually has the energy to talk about Kerry and sinning. What with the explosion of pedophilia among the clergy that we learned about these past few years, youíd think theyíd be laying low. But then, I shouldnít underestimate the clergy. Their fortitude is relentless.

I know because the crucial teachings kept up as I got older. I learned about abstaining from pre marital-sex, (I would marry at 38 ) and that contraception and abortion were sins. Still, itís those early grades that Iím recalling. Back then I was taught that thinking a bad thought was a sin. I still remember sitting through hours of geography, history and science, all the while trying to stamp out the thought ďGod is stupid.Ē

Come to think of it, perhaps itís this sort of preoccupation that was the point in the first place. I was one of 50 kids in a class. Any kind of mental exercise to keep pupils preoccupied, and therefore, quiet, could not be a bad thing.

Yet, I learned a lot. Preparing for that communion I had to memorize the ten commandments. This is coming in handy, because they are popping up at government halls all over America. Now that evangelical groups are as heavily funded as the Catholic Church, separation of church and state is, to the delight of both, on the decline.

Iím glad there is so much consensus now. Back when I was in school, I was taught to feel sorry for Jews and Protestants. We all knew that anybody who wasnít Catholic was going to hell.

Speaking of hell, I still havenít solved the problem of my impending sin. But I see that the archbishop said that if I vote for Kerry, I can just go to confession and fess up. Whew. Finally, I donít have to lie.


Downtown Express is published by
Community Media LLC.

October 23rd, 2004, 11:39 AM
It seems you have to be really inventive in the morals department to keep catholic faith...

October 23rd, 2004, 03:29 PM
"Sister, I've never taken the lord's name in vain."
"You're lying."
"I swear to God I haven't!"
"You just did."

October 25th, 2004, 10:40 AM
It seems you have to be really inventive in the morals department to keep catholic faith...

As a person raised Catholic, I can tell you that morals play no part in the Catholic hierarchy. My faith in God is stronger than my convictions to the Catholic Religion, but I do attend church fairly regularly. The unjust war, Bush's record busting number of state-sponsored executions in Texas, his cuts in funding for Head Start and early childhood programs, his cut back in aid to senior programs, have all been blasted from my church pulpit. Abortion has been discussed as well as embryonic stem cell research, but the message from our pulpit is that "those" bishops raising their voices are men of conviction, but men who we can freely disagree with in our public and religious lives. Dissent is allowed in the church. Jesus himself was a radical and challenge the teachings of his time. I'd rather follow his example than that of church bigots, who embody the Pharisees of his time.

October 25th, 2004, 03:09 PM
Brooklyn Rider, we may attend liturgy in different buildings but we must sit in adjacent pews. I struggle not with my faith but with the reality of the present day church, its structure and its hierarchy. As a lay professional I have served in positions throughout the U.S. (and beyond). My experience of the breadth of the problems only makes my grief that much greater. The problems have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with moral failure. Remarkably, it's the faith (and courageous witness) in the pews that keeps me onboard.

October 25th, 2004, 09:04 PM
The original post was:Kerry is not a Catholic, he is divorced, remarried (http://forums.wirednewyork.com/viewtopic.php?t=3685)

Hopefully the following articles will clear up some questions which have been raised! But the big question remains: is it a fact that Kerry rejects an adherence to the Catholic teachings? If so, how can Kerry claim to be a Catholic, and such a statement be truthful?

Cardinal Says “The Democrat Party Has Lost Its Soul” (http://www.americandaily.com/article/90)

MEDIA INTEREST IN KERRY’S CATHOLICISM GROWS (http://www.catholicleague.org/04press_releases/quarter2/040402_kerry.htm)


October 26th, 2004, 10:33 AM
He says he was brought up Catholic.

For that matter, so was I. And even though I don't adhere to Catholic dogma whatsoever, I still say I'm "Catholic" - in the cultural way.