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147, yea, i heard about that.|
Posted by shamus, Mon Oct-11-04 08:04 PM
a woman at the Philadelphia Weekly paper wrote an article on it.
Local Catholic churches are playing politics with their parishioners.
by Kate Kilpatrick
In 1960 the first Catholic president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was elected with overwhelming support from Catholics. (Three-fourths of Catholics voted for Kennedy, while three-fourths of white Protestants supported Nixon.) Since then the Catholic vote has often been Democratic, the two groups converging on issues of social justice and social welfare.
Now, more than four decades later, another Catholic (Kerry) is challenging an incumbent WASP (George W. Bush). But unlike in 1960, this time the Catholic vote is up for grabs, with George Bush wooing (and winning) this constituency in great numbers.
At 64 million, Catholics make up a quarter of the U.S. population, and are heavily concentrated in key states with high numbers of Electoral College votes. Already a major force for its swing-state status in the upcoming election, Pennsylvania is roughly one-third Catholic. In 2000 the commonwealth's Catholics supported Gore over Bush 53 to 46 percent. Had the Catholic vote been reversed, Bush would have won the state.
While Bush bows down to the religious right, Catholic groups are mobilizing on their own to distribute voter information to their congregations. Yet some of the handouts found in area Catholic churches almost seem to have been preapproved by the Republican National Committee.
In church pews and vestibules at institutions like St. Patrick's at 20th and Locust streets, practicing Catholics can find a glossy pink-and-blue booklet titled the "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics."
Catholic Answers, one of the nation's largest lay-run Catholic groups, published the booklet. It has distributed 2 million copies so far, and intends to double that number by November. The group also ran a full-page ad outlining its five key moral issues in the Aug. 31 issue of USA Today. It plans to run a similar ad later this month.
According to the "Voter's Guide," Catholics are free to support or oppose any candidate or ballot measure on issues such as jobs, trade, taxes or the war in Iraq. Yet Catholics may not in good conscience vote for any candidate in any political race who supports or condones any one of the five "nonnegotiables": abortion, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning or euthanasia.
"Candidates who are wrong on any of the five issues should be eliminated from consideration," the booklet instructs.
And that would, of course, eliminate Kerry.
When no candidate would qualify for Catholic support, the guide advises voters to choose whoever supports the fewest number of nonnegotiables, or not to vote at all.
That would mean those voting at all should support Bush.
The Church's position on these issues is well known, but what's striking is the exclusion of other nonnegotiables--specifically the death penalty--that would encourage Catholic voters to support Kerry over Bush.
Karl Keating, the founder and president of Catholic Answers, says the five nonnegotiables were chosen because each represents a moral issue that's been in the news in the past five years. "We could have had, for example, the Church's position on rape--which is it's always wrong," he says, "but nobody's proposing to have a pro-rape statute passed."
But capital punishment is a current and polarizing issue, with the presidential candidates representing opposite sides of the divide. President Bush strongly supports the death penalty. (Texas executes far more death row inmates than any other state.)
Kerry, on the other hand, had the Democratic Party platform rewritten to remove the section endorsing the death penalty, making him the first major-party candidate in more than 15 years to take such a strong stand against it.
While most Americans support the death penalty, Kerry doesn't--and neither does the Catholic Church, which declares capital punishment theoretically permissible only in "very rare if practically nonexistent" situations given the modern ability for governments to restrain criminals. Pope John Paul II has called the death penalty "both cruel and unnecessary," and expressed his hopes that it not be used ever again--even against Saddam Hussein.
Keating, though, maintains, "The Catholic Church allows a range of opinions on . The Church teaches that the state has the right to inflict capital punishment, but it must be done under a regime of prudence. The catechism suggests it would be an unusual application, but nonetheless the Church doesn't forbid capital punishment. A Catholic can endorse this limited issue and still be a good Catholic."
Spokesperson Matthew Gambino says the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is "pretty neutral" about the "Voter's Guide." "We don't find anything objectionable in it," he says. "But we do have a couple caveats."
Gambino says the guide doesn't speak to local candidates or issues. He also questions the number of nonnegotiables. "Why five? Why not two? Why not 10, for that matter?" he says.
In the Oct. 7 issue of The Catholic Standard & Times, the archdiocese will distribute its own voter education material (as it does for every general and primary election) in the form of a 12-page guide that highlights 10 campaign issues and includes a candidates' questionnaire. Information from the guide will be sent to each parish to be included in the Sunday bulletins.
The 10 issues include the death penalty as well as same-sex marriage, human cloning, healthcare for the elderly, school choice, welfare reform legislation, embryonic stem cell research and legislation that could require Catholic hospital workers to deliver services contrary to their faith.
Stuffed into some parish bulletins this past week was a flier from the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation addressing the candidates' positions on "life issues." Yet abortion is the only life issue addressed, with Kerry failing miserably on each abortion topic and Bush passing with flying colors.
Perhaps more disturbing than the narrowing of life issues to one are the photos chosen to represent the candidates. A smooth-looking Bush smiles with an American flag behind him and another pinned to his lapel. John Kerry, meanwhile, is pictured looking away from the camera with a blurry background.
And again the major issue for both presidential candidates as they campaign across the country--the war in Iraq--is completely absent from any of these voter education materials.
Keating says the war wasn't mentioned in Catholic Answers' guide because "Very often in war situations you can't go so far to say that this or that position is actually contrary to the Catholic faith." Yet the Vatican has taken a strong stand against the war.
Pope John Paul II spoke out against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, adding that a preemptive strike would raise serious ethical and legal questions. During a June visit with the president, the pope reminded Bush of the Vatican's opposition to the war and the need to cooperate with the U.N. and the international community as part of a combined effort to normalize the situation in Iraq.
The Catholic Church's Just War Theory is a set of conditions that determines whether entering into a particular conflict can be morally justified. Among these restrictions are the tests of just cause, right intention, last resort, declaration by a competent authority and probability of success. The war in Iraq fails all of these tests.
Less than six months before his assassination, John F. Kennedy gave his famous "Strategy of Peace" speech in which he said, "The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war ... But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just."
If in pursuing world peace the voters chose to make arms control, diplomacy and international collaboration their nonnegotiables, they'd have a pretty easy choice to make Nov. 2.