The 2004 Election

Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2004
VOL 123 NO. 38
The 2004 Election
By Catholic News Service
Catholics in Political Life Editor’s note: The following was developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and approved for publication by the full body of bishops at their June 2004 General Meeting.

We speak as bishops, as teachers of the Catholic faith and of the moral law. We have the duty to teach about human life and dignity, marriage and family, war and peace, the needs of the poor and the demands of justice. Today we continue our efforts to teach on a uniquely important matter that has recently been a source of concern for Catholics and others.

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, founded on her understanding of her Lord’s own witness to the sacredness of human life, that the killing of an unborn child is always intrinsically evil and can never be justified. If those who perform an abortion and those who cooperate willingly in the action are fully aware of the objective evil of what they do, they are guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from God’s grace. This is the constant and received teaching of the Church. It is, as well, the conviction of many other people of good will. To make such intrinsically evil actions legal is itself wrong. This is the point most recently highlighted in official Catholic teaching. The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law. In the United States of America, abortion on demand has been made a constitutional right by a decision of the Supreme Court. Failing to protect the lives of innocent and defenseless members of the human race is to sin against justice. Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.

As our conference has insisted in Faithful Citizenship, Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life. Our obligation as bishops at this time is to teach clearly. It is with pastoral solicitude for everyone involved in the political process that we will also counsel Catholic public officials that their acting consistently to support abortion on demand risks making them cooperators in evil in a public manner. We will persist in this duty to counsel, in the hope that the scandal of their cooperating in evil can be resolved by the proper formation of their consciences.

Having received an extensive interim report from the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, and looking forward to the full report, we highlight several points from the interim report that suggest some directions for our efforts:

• We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials. We welcome conversation initiated by political leaders themselves.

• Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life. It is the particular vocation of the laity to transform the world. We have to encourage this vocation and do more to bring all believers to this mission. As bishops, we do not endorse or oppose candidates. Rather, we seek to form the consciences of our people so that they can examine the positions of candidates and make choices based on Catholic moral and social teaching.

• The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

• We commit ourselves to maintain communication with public officials who make decisions every day that touch issues of human life and dignity.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life. Therefore, like every Catholic generation before us, we must be guided by the words of St. Paul, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). This means that all must examine their consciences as to their worthiness to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. This examination includes fidelity to the moral teaching of the Church in personal and public life.

The question has been raised as to whether the denial of Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life is necessary because of their public support for abortion on demand. Given the wide range of circumstances involved in arriving at a prudential judgment on a matter of this seriousness, we recognize that such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action. Nevertheless, we all share an unequivocal commitment to protect human life and dignity and to preach the Gospel in difficult times.

The polarizing tendencies of election-year politics can lead to circumstances in which Catholic teaching and sacramental practice can be misused for political ends. Respect for the Holy Eucharist, in particular, demands that it be received worthily and that it be seen as the source for our common mission in the world.
Catholic Voters Urged to Consider Respect for Human Life, Dignity

Catholic voters should make their political judgments based on the fundamental issues of respect for human life and respect for human dignity, an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said at a New Orleans seminar Oct. 2.

The seminar was on the U.S. bishops’ political responsibility statement titled “Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility.” The document describes “a consistent ethic of life” as the “moral framework” from which Catholic voters should address all issues in the political arena. “Without life, nothing else matters,” said John Carr, head of the Department of Social Development and World Peace of the USCCB. “Without human dignity, life is incomplete. They go together. The moral measure of something is whether it protects human life or harms it, whether it supports human dignity or does not.”

The seminar, held at Loyola University, included commentary on the document by Jesuit Father Fred Kammer, provincial of his order’s New Orleans province and a former head of Catholic Charities USA. He said Catholics can contribute to the political process and the debate about the common good because of the church’s “consistent moral framework rooted in the sanctity of human life” as well as “its experience of service” — through schools, health care and social services — and its diversity.

Carr acknowledged the pain and confusion among Catholic voters in evaluating the presidential candidates’ stances on issues in the Nov. 2 election. He said the doctrinal note from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the U.S. bishops at their June meeting was “a very powerful reminder that, to Catholic politicians, there can be no false separation between faith and (their) lives.” The “Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life” said that, while freedom of conscience leaves Catholics free to choose among political parties and strategies for promoting the common good, they cannot claim that freedom allows them to promote abortion, euthanasia or other attacks on human life. Carr admitted that, in his own life, “I feel politically homeless sometimes.” His mother is a pro-life Republican who ran a pregnancy program in Minnesota; his father is a pro-life Democrat “who believes his party should protect the weakest.” “This is not a cause for one month or one election,” Carr said. “The fundamental issue is human life. I’m convinced we’re not going to prevail unless we get it right about human life. We have to change hearts and minds.”

“Our task is to persuade a majority of American citizens that the unborn child is not a thing,” he said. “Abortion is the destruction of innocent, unborn human life. I respect those who say, ‘This (issue) is it for me.’ But it is not enough to proclaim. We have to engage and persuade.” Carr said since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks there is a more urgent need than ever for the church to refocus on its mission as proclaimed by Jesus in the fourth chapter of Luke: to bring glad tidings to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and restore the sight of the blind. “Responsible citizenship is a virtue. Participation in the political process is a moral obligation,” he added. Carr said he often encounters Catholics who talk about either rights or responsibilities, not about both.

“It begins fundamentally with the right to life, but it also includes what makes life truly human,” Carr said. “It’s morally wrong that 44 million Americans don’t have health care coverage. We have the responsibility to secure those rights for ourselves and others.” The debate over the war in Iraq and terrorism has swamped any conversation in the presidential election about the “poor and vulnerable,” Carr said. “We are one of the few institutions that raised serious moral concerns about going to war in Iraq, and we have supported the president’s faith-based initiatives while opposing some of his welfare policies,” Carr said. “I predict someone will ask the question in the next few weeks, ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’” he said. “The question should be, ‘Are we better off? Are the unborn protected, are the poor being lifted up, are the sick being cared for? This is about people, not principles.” He added that this presidential election is not about President George W. Bush, the Republican nominee, or Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee. “It’s about whether the woman who cleans your office at night can take her kids to the doctor,” said Carr. “The central question is who has a place at the table of life? I think we’re white-water rafting against cultural forces.” Carr said the ultimate example of cultural disarray and violence is what is taking place in Florida. “The state of Florida is going to kill a man who killed a doctor who killed babies in order to tell us that killing is wrong,” he said.
Are Republican Catholic Pols Treated Differently from Democrats?

The three Catholic politicians who had prominent speaking slots at the Republican National Convention this year are all supporters of legal abortion. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Gov. George Pataki and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger all are practicing Catholics who describe themselves as “pro-choice.” Each spoke at the GOP convention during televised prime time. Yet while Catholic Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry’s participation in church sacraments is regularly criticized because he supports legal abortion, Republicans with views similar to Kerry’s seemed to some observers to receive far less criticism, despite their visible role at the convention.

One critic was the American Life League, which placed an advertisement in a handful of newspapers describing Schwarzenegger, Pataki and two other Republicans as part of the “Deadly Dozen” Catholics who, the ad said, should be refused Communion because of their “unrepentant support for the killing of babies in the womb.” Kerry was among eight Democrats pictured in the ad. Beyond that, criticism of the prominent role the GOP gave the three men was limited to a protest outside the convention that attracted perhaps a dozen people, according to Steven Waldman, editor in chief and co-founder of the online religion magazine Beliefnet. “You’d think the pro-life Republicans would have been outraged” at the conspicuous roles Schwarzenegger, Pataki and Giuliani played, he said. If they were, they kept their outrage to themselves.

That’s probably due to a combination of factors, said Waldman and Matt Streb, a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. For one thing, “there are organizations within the Republican Party that are absolutely opposed to abortion,” Streb said. “And they make sure to attack Democrats on that.” Indeed, one Web site that purports to explain Kerry’s positions on issues of interest to the Catholic Church is filled with criticisms of Kerry on topics ranging from abortion to homeland security. In miniscule type at the bottom of the page is the notation that the page is paid for by the Republican National Committee. Streb said that because the Democratic Party’s leadership supports legal abortion, those Democrats who oppose abortion “certainly aren’t going to do the same” and openly attack Republicans for taking a position their own party supports. Waldman put it more bluntly.

“The Democratic Party is so clearly aligned with pro-choice organizations that Democratic activists will not organize to (criticize) pro-choice Republicans,” he said. “Who in the Democratic Party would make it an issue?” That means there’s a “much smaller natural political constituency” of people without a connection to the political parties who have either the financial means or the numbers to make an issue out of Republican Catholics who act in opposition to the church’s teachings on abortion, said Waldman. This contributes to the general impression that “Republican pro-choice Catholics get a pass” when it comes to being held accountable for their political actions in the way Catholic Democrats are, Waldman said.

In addition to the American Life League, one of the most visible critics of Kerry has been the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Between July 6 and Oct. 1, the league issued 13 press releases criticizing Kerry or the Democratic Party on various topics. For the same period — which included the Democratic and Republican conventions — the league had no statements about President George W. Bush or about the three Catholic supporters of abortion. Kristen Day, director of Democrats for Life, said going after Republicans who support abortion is beyond the scope of her organization. “Our agenda is focused on supporting pro-life Democrats,” she said. “We haven’t even gotten into discussing pro-choice Republicans.” Streb theorized that individuals who feel strongly enough about opposing abortion to make it their top priority in politics tend to be conservative on other issues and identify more readily with the Republican Party.

“In general, those people are already going to be more irritated with Democrats,” Waldman said, and therefore more willing to challenge them over abortion. On the other hand, anti-abortion Republican activists may rationalize that a Republican who supports abortion is preferable to a Democrat who does, and may be less willing to challenge such politicians, he said. Waldman also feels that in New York, at least, there’s a difference in how publicly the Catholic Church deals with individual politicians. A New York resident, Waldman said he’s never heard Pataki receive the kind of criticism from leaders in the Catholic Church for supporting abortion that he says was regularly leveled at Pataki’s predecessor, Catholic Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo. “By our calculation, on Pataki’s watch there have been more than 1,235,000 abortions in New York,” he said. Considering the history of public confrontations between Cuomo and New York Cardinal John J. O’Connor, Waldman said he feels it is striking that neither Cardinal O’Connor nor his successor, Cardinal Edward M. Egan, have challenged Pataki the same way that Cuomo was challenged.

Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said that while Cardinal O’Connor’s public statements on the subject of politicians and their views on abortion may have coincided with specific statements on the topic by Cuomo or former New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic nominee for vice president who was also criticized for being a Catholic who supported legal abortion, “he (Cardinal O’Connor) expected they would apply to anyone,” not just particular politicians. “What Cardinal O’Connor did and what Cardinal Egan does is to articulate what the teachings of the church are,” Zwilling said. Neither would single out politicians by name, he added. Although Schwarzenegger, Pataki and Giuliani are all said to have aspirations for the presidency — Schwarzenegger supporters are seeking an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to permit immigrants to run for president — Waldman sees little chance any of them would get the kind of Republican Party support necessary to be nominated.
Below is a Summary of the Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, St. Louis

1. The archbishop is impelled to speak to Catholics and all people of good will in the metropolitan community on our civic responsibility for the common good on account of his responsibility as a bishop to teach clearly the moral law.

2. Scripture teaches definitively that we are our “brother’s keeper,” good Samaritans charged to exercise our civic responsibility to promote the common good. Above all, we must promote and protect the inviolable dignity of all human life. We are called to be “Christians Without Borders,” without boundaries to our love of neighbor.

3. Our civic responsibility to promote the common good is informed by our life in Christ, which unites us in a bond of charity.

4. As citizens of Heaven and Earth, we are bound by the moral law to act with respect for the rights of others and to promote the common good.

5. The right to act in accord with conscience presupposes that it is informed with the truth God has inscribed in our hearts and revealed in Sacred Scripture. Conscience is the voice of God within us, assisting us to choose good and to avoid evil, in accord with God’s law.

6. We are morally bound in conscience to choose government leaders who will serve the common good. The first priority of the common good is the protection of human life, the basis of all other social conditions. There can never be justification for directly and deliberately taking innocent human life: abortion, destruction of human embryos, euthanasia, human cloning. Legal recognition of same-sex relationships undermines the truth about marriage and sanctions gravely immoral acts. For the sake of the common good we must safeguard the good of human life and the good of marriage and family life. The death penalty and war are different from procured abortion and same-sex “marriage,” since these latter acts are intrinsically evil and therefore can never be justified. Although war and capital punishment can rarely be justified, they are not intrinsically evil.

7. To ensure the common good, Catholics have a responsibility to vote for a worthy candidate, because the welfare of the community depends upon the persons elected and appointed to office.

8. It is never right to vote for a candidate in order to promote immoral practices; this is “formal cooperation” in evil. In some circumstances it is morally permissible for a Catholic to vote for a candidate who supports some immoral practices while opposing other immoral practices. This is called “material cooperation” and is permissible under certain conditions and when it is impossible to avoid all cooperation with evil, as may well be true in selecting a candidate for public office. There is no element of the common good that could justify voting for a candidate who also endorses, without restriction or limitation, the deliberate killing of the innocent, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, human cloning or same-sex marriage.

9. If a candidate supports abortion in a limited number of cases, but is opposed otherwise, Catholics may vote for this person. This is not a question of choosing a lesser evil but of limiting all the evil one is able to limit at the time.

10. As Catholics we cannot remain silent. We have a serious obligation to bring the moral law to bear upon our life in society, so that the good of all will be served.

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