Denver, Colo., Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - Barack Obama’s message of healing our cultural wounds and stressing all men’s duty to their brothers gives him a stronger appeal to Catholics than any recent Democratic nominee for President. But in the eyes of some conservative Catholics and pro-lifers, Obama’s extreme position on abortion makes him the most objectionable recent major party nominee.
As with John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000, Obama has the firm backing of liberal Catholic Democratic politicians. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), a hero to the abortion lobby and homosexual activist groups, gave Obama a boost in the primary with his endorsement and his speech at the Pepsi Center Monday was the highlight of the convention’s first night. Every Catholic Democrat in the House and Senate, as well as every Catholic governor, has endorsed Obama, in keeping with party loyalty.
Catholic delegates to the Democratic National Committee, including those who pledged to Hillary Clinton, also are lining up behind Obama.
Surprising, however, are conservative pro-life Catholics who are backing Obama. The most notable of them is constitutional law expert Doug Kmiec, a professor at the Pepperdine University School of Law.
Kmiec, a pro-lifer and an alumnus of the Reagan administration, in March endorsed Obama over McCain.
Kmiec, in Denver to speak at interfaith panels supporting Obama, spoke with Catholic News Agency Tuesday at breakfast. Kmiec openly states that Obama’s full support for legal abortion is “morally unacceptable,” but he argues that there are proportionate reasons to vote for Obama.
Pointing out that McCain has voted to use taxpayer money on embryo-destroying stem-cell research, and arguing that McCain’s pro-life efforts would end at nominating a judge who would overturn Roe v. Wade, Kmiec summed up his choices: “I’ve got an imperfect McCain and an imperfect Obama.”
Most impressive to Kmiec, Obama struck him as a sincere “bridge-builder,” trying to find common ground with those with whom he disagreed. “He’s not afraid to borrow a good idea” from conservatives and Catholics, Kmiec said, pointing to Obama’s appreciation of subsidiarity—the notion that local governments, parishes, or families—rather than the central government—are often the appropriate level at which to address problems.
For Kmiec, Obama’s disposition towards diplomacy and peace compares favorably to McCain’s general bellicosity. “Between the two candidates, I think Senator Obama is closer to the Church’s teaching than Senator McCain is.
In line with the Holy See, Barack Obama opposed U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2002 and 2003, while John McCain has long been a supporter. Democratic delegate Deborah Langhoff of New Orleans is a Catholic who favors keeping abortion legal, and she, too, points to foreign policy as a reason for Catholics to support Obama. Suggesting Obama’s foreign policy—and his notion of a fairly rapid withdrawal from Iraq—is a part of a culture of life, she told Catholic News Agency “we need to talk about the lives lost in Iraq war.’
Joshua Mercer, spokesman for the conservative Catholic advocacy group Fidelis doesn’t believe the Iraq war can outweigh abortion in this election. “When you compare the 4,000 soldiers who lost their lives fighting valiantly in Iraq to the 4,000 babies who died today, it becomes clear…. Barack Obama has admirable qualities, but he advocates legal abortion for all nine months.”
Polls and recent election results present a mixed picture of Obama’s chances among Catholic voters. On the question of party loyalty, Catholics have moved towards the GOP in recent presidential elections. According to CNN’s exit polls, Bush defeated Kerry by five points, 52% to 47% in 2004; among Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly, (11% of the electorate), Bush won by 13 points.
In 2006, however, Catholics aided Democrats in their sweep to control Congress: 55% of Catholics voted for the Democratic House candidate.
While winning the Democratic primaries this year, Obama performed poorly among Catholics. In the most crucial state with a large Catholic population—Pennsylvania—Obama pulled in only 30% of Catholic voters (26% of regular Mass attendees), despite the endorsement of pro-life Catholic Sen. Bob Casey (D).
Denver, Colo., Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - Attempting to find “common ground on abortion,” former Indiana U.S. Representative Timothy Roemer, a pro-life Catholic Democrat, and Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, a pro-choice Democrat and president of the United Church of Christ-affiliated Chicago Theological Seminary, spoke on the “Faith in Action” panel at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Tuesday.
The two speakers, addressing delegates and guests gathered in a ballroom at the Colorado Convention Center, professed a shared desire to reduce the number of abortions and to establish a “web of support” for poorer women who are considering having an abortion.
Citing Robert F. Kennedy’s exhortation to work to reduce the number of suffering children, Roemer defended the possibility of finding common ground on the issue.
“If we can do it with issues like jobs and health care, we can do it on abortion,” he said.
Roemer mentioned the group Democrats for Life’s “95-10” policy to reduce the abortion rate by 95 percent over the next ten years “within the law and legal system today.”
He said Sen. Obama has put “strong, binding language” in the Democratic Party platform that “all Catholics can be proud of.” Characterizing the platform as a “two-pronged” approach, he described its two aims of pregnancy prevention and supporting pregnant women so that they do not feel compelled to have an abortion because of economic need.
As part of prevention efforts, Roemer advocated contraception and “appropriate” sex education.
As part of efforts to help pregnant women, Roemer endorsed creating a “web of support” and increasing government programs and funding for women, infants and children. He also said tax credits should be granted to encourage people of “very, very, modest means” to be “out there adopting babies and giving encouragement along those avenues.”
At one point, Roemer blasted the Republican Party, claiming its policy is to attack and argue and use abortion as a “wedge issue” to win elections. He argued their goals are not really to preserve and save life, and repeated a frequent Democrat slogan accusing Republicans of acting as if they believe that life “begins at conception and ends at birth.”
He also said he supported Sen. Barack Obama “because of his stands on faith” and pointed to the candidate’s work as a community organizer in Chicago, where he had worked with the Catholic Church “to help people get jobs” and secure unemployment benefits.
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite followed Rep. Roemer’s speech. While Thistlewaite stressed that she was proud of her support for Roe v. Wade, and “in favor of choice,” she said she was in favor of women having lots of choices.
Her belief that a good society “allows you to make choices,” she said, led her to endorse programs that would “reduce the need for abortions.”
“What kind of a choice is it if you are afraid on the one hand, of terminating a pregnancy or being poor, not being able to educate yourself, not being able to have health care, and not being able to have your kids grow and thrive?” she asked.
Citing the high murder rate of pregnant women, Thistlewaite encouraged better and more widespread programs against domestic violence. She advocated various other political actions, including more funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, SCHIP; increased pre-natal and post-natal care programs; and expanded family and medical leave.
Noting that the higher level of education a woman has, the lower her risk of teen pregnancy, she also endorsed education efforts targeted at young women.
Early in Thistlewaite’s presentation, she was briefly interrupted by two pro-life protesters, one of whom asked “Does that little child have a choice?” as he was escorted out of the ballroom.
She rebuked their actions as “an example of a lack of common ground.”
In his concluding remarks, event host and Evangelical preacher Jim Wallis referred to the protesters, saying “I’m tired of all the shouting on this question. The shouting has to stop. Let’s find some common ground.”
Denver, Colo., Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders met last weekend to discuss the theme, “Keeping and Transmitting Our Values in the 21st Century.” Speakers, such as Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, and Archbishop of San Antonio, Jose H. Gomez challenged conference participants to live as virtuous leaders and help change American society with the truth of Christ.
The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL), an organization which strives to work with the Catholic Church for the good of Latinos in the U.S., organized the conference that was held August 22-24 at St. Malo Retreat Center near Estes Park, Colorado.
Besides the archbishops who presented talks, others in attendance were Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona; Bishop Alfonso Cortez, Auxiliary of Monterrey (Mexico); and priests representing the Dioceses of Fort Worth, Texas and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Archbishop Chaput’s Address
A Generation of Latinos to Impact Society
Opening the conference on Friday, Archbishop Charles Chaput, President of the Advisory Committee, challenged the more than 30 entrepreneurs and Latino leaders to be “willing to do the work to have an impact on American Catholic life and American society.”
Archbishop Chaput explained to the conference participants that the Catholic Church in the U.S. “has been fueled by several major waves of immigrants.”
“The very heavy Irish influence in shaping the American Church over the past 150 years has obviously been based in the demographic realities. The Irish were the largest single Catholic ethnic group in the country. But the really interesting thing is this: Their actual influence was even greater than their numbers.”
Why were they so influential? he asked. “It’s because unlike all the other ethnic groups that came to America, the Irish developed a highly organized and effective leadership. The Irish, with their own priests and religious, created an extraordinary cultural system that impacted not only the organization of the Catholic Church in the United States, but also the whole political and social environment. In essence, the Irish turned a persecuted minority into a cultural, economic and religious force in the United States.”
The Archbishop of Denver compared the Irish immigrants to the Latino population in the United States. “Today, Latinos are by far the largest Catholic ethnic group in the country.”
“What the Church really needs is a generation of Latino leaders willing to do the work to have an impact on American Catholic life and American society. We need leaders willing to vigorously promote priestly vocations and pastoral ministers. We need leaders eager to show by their example that success in the financial, political or social environment can be achieved by reaffirming, not relinquishing, their Catholic values. We need leaders willing to strengthen the Latino family as the domestic Church, which is the cornerstone of a renewal of American culture.”
Archbishop Chaput called on the conference participants to lead both as Catholics and as Latinos. “And if you lead, if you accept God’s call, then the future will be full of hope -- not only for the Latino community, but for everyone who shares this great and beautiful nation.”
Archbishop Gomez’s Address
Ambassadors of Faith, Heralds of Hope, and Messengers of Love
The following day, Archbishop Gomez from San Antonio, who is one of the founders of CALL and also the Episcopal Advisor to the group, encouraged Latino leaders to renew the culture by living the three theological virtues—faith, hope and charity.
We are being called to lead a greatly needed renewal, the archbishop explained. “We all want to move beyond this culture of secularism, materialism, and selfishness, with all its empty promises, false freedoms, and false roads to happiness. But in order to do that, our country needs to be evangelized again.”
Archbishop Gomez pointed out that this cannot be done solely by “elegant proofs and arguments.” Rather, we must work to change the hearts and minds of our countrymen by becoming “living examples of the Gospel we’re called to proclaim,” he said.
To do this, the archbishop urged his audience to practice the virtues. “Your mission, my friends—what the Church expects, what the nation expects, and what God requires—is that you become men and women of virtue.”
The key virtues to focus on, Archbishop Gomez said, are the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity (love).
“So when I say you must be men and women of virtue, I’m saying that you must be saints. And this isn’t something extraordinary. It’s what God created us to be. St. Gregory of Nyssa said: “The goal of the life of virtue is to become like God’.”
The prelate stated that we must live out these virtues by becoming, “ambassadors of faith, heralds of hope, and messengers of love.”
To be an ambassador of faith, he stressed, one must “stand up against the forces of our secular society” which isolates faith to only private matters.
This is a mentality that must be rejected, Archbishop Gomez explained. Faith is much more than “private prayer and personal devotion. Your faith must illuminate everything you do. From how you love your spouses and raise your children, to how you run your businesses, to the kind of policies and politicians you support.”
“God still has something to say to this world that he created. This world he shed his own blood to redeem. And he wants to make his appeal to the world through you. Through the witness of your life.”
The archbishop also called upon his audience to become heralds of hope, a virtue necessary because many people today “have accepted the lie that they don’t need God to be happy.”
Instead, “they put their hope in things that can’t last. They seek happiness in pleasures that will never satisfy. So many of them are like broken cups— desperately trying to fill themselves up, but never being able to.”
We must talk to our neighbors about our great hope – “about heaven and eternal life. Pray that the star of Christian hope will rise in the hearts of all our neighbors.”
“Finally, my friends, the archbishop concluded, “You must be messengers of love. We can’t say we love God if we aren’t working to help our neighbors in need. We can’t say we love our neighbors if we aren’t willing to share with them the whole truth about God and the human person.”
True love will always come at a cost. “Jesus taught us that love means laying down your life for your brothers and sisters. For you, laying down your life might mean risking your reputation, your job, your re-election. But we have the promise of our Lord. That if we lose our lives for the sake of his Gospel, we will find our lives forever in him,” Archbishop Gomez encouraged.
“You may be the only Christians your neighbors and co-workers come in contact with on a regular basis. This is a great responsibility. And a great opportunity, he emphasized.
The key to reaching these people, the archbishop explained, is to allow ourselves to undergo conversion. “You can’t read the Bible to them or recite the Catechism. Only a changed life will change lives. So what you must do is show them a life transformed by the Gospel. You must be men and women of virtue—ambassadors of faith, heralds of hope, messengers of love.”
The Archbishop of San Antonio finished his talk by calling the Latino leaders to evangelize. “Our nation is waiting for your witness. This new evangelization that proceeds from heart to heart, from soul to soul. An evangelization that once again opens our culture to the saving power of Jesus Christ.”
Rome, Italy, Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, said this week that, “Fundamentalist violence and hatred will not make the Church renounce dialogue, since there is no lack of enthusiasm among us for manifesting the love of God everywhere, especially for the poor.”
The archbishop made his comments to the SIR news agency in response to the recent murder of a young priest in the region of Andrea Paresh and the violence by Hindu extremists against Catholics and Christian and Catholic institutions.
“In Orissa, the violence has gotten worse since last December. At the end of January we had begun reconstruction of what was destroyed by the violence of radical Hindus. Now we will do the same without fear. The wounded and the suffering of the victims will lead us to continue on in our service to them,” the archbishop explained.
Archbishop Quinana said those responsible for the violence “are minority groups. The reality in India is not that of the violence of these days. There is a coexistence and a dialogue among communities that is made manifest in daily life. I am convinced that, like in the past, the Hindu representatives and those of other confessions present in India will be the ones to contribute to the reconstruction of what was destroyed,” he said.
“Dialogue is the spirit of India. It may seem absurd but it is from these serious acts that the balm of knowledge, respect and common efforts can come forth,” the nuncio said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - Shiryu Juárez Medina was born on May 29 in Mexico City at 23 weeks, weighing 15 ounces. He overcame numerous obstacles and with the assistance of specialists and the love of his family he will leave the hospital in a few days, having become the youngest premature baby in the world.
According to the Mexican daily, Milenio, Berenice Medina Aguilar, 33, went to the emergency room on May 29 complaining that she was not feeling well.
Doctors performed a c-section on the pregnant woman and were able to stabilized little Shiryu.
Dr. Leonardo Cruz Reynoso, head of the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital said there was no doubt he was the youngest premature baby to survive in the world.
“There is not a single case in the whole world of a baby boy surviving under these circumstances,” Cruz said, noting that premature babies do not have sufficiently developed organs to usually be able to survive.
Shiryu’ case is even more amazing because he has not shown any signs of neurological or vision problems, which are very common among premature babies.
“When a baby is born prematurely, usually he displays mental retardation or blindness as a consequence of the cerebral alterations that are experienced when the process of development is not completed. The levels of potassium and glucose are altered, there can be infection that raises the blood temperature, in summary, there are many things against the baby that lead to disabilities,” Cruz said.
Shiryu, whose name means “Knight dragon” in Japanese, will be released from the hospital this week. He is now 88 days old and weighs four and a half pounds.
His parents are anxious to have him at home, together with his sisters Ximena, 10, and Xiadan, 8.
“This little boy is a miracle, after so little hope that we had for him. This situation is an example of the great strength a baby can have and of everything that painstaking medical care can accomplish,” the mother said.
Vatican City, Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - During today's general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the life of St. Paul. Recounting that the Church honors the great missionary in a special way this year, the Holy Father said that Catholics should emulate Paul by sparing no energy and enduring trials for the sake of the Gospel.
After making clear the significance of this year as the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul's birth, Pope Benedict noted Paul's Jewish birth in Tarsus, his Hebrew name "Saul" and his training as a "tent" maker. The Holy Father explained that from around the age of 12, Paul was instructed in Jerusalem in the strict Pharisaic tradition, on the basis of which, the future saint "viewed the Christian movement as a threat to orthodox Judaism".
The great missionary, Pope Benedict noted, persecuted the Church "until a dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus radically changed his life."
The Holy Father recalled Paul's historical fame as a Christian and apostle, not as a Pharisee, and the saint's three missionary journeys, which are told by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. The three missionary journeys spurred the so-called Council of the Apostles, which decided that pagan converts to Christianity were not required to observe the Mosiac Law, the spread of the Gospel to Europe via Macedonia, the "birth" of the term "Christian in Antioch, and the writing of Paul's Epistles.
Pope Benedict also highlighted Paul’s arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem, and later in Rome. St. Luke closes his account of St. Paul's life noting that that the great missionary spent two years of house arrest in Rome.
The Holy Father concluded by reminding his audience of St. Paul's words: "I do everything for the sake of the Gospel." With this summary of Paul's journeys in mind, Pope Benedict continued, "Let us pray that the Lord, who made Paul see the light and know his Word and who touched the interior of Paul's heart, … will also make us see the light so that our hearts may also be touched by his Word and so that we may also give the world the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ, for which it thirsts."
Pope Benedict indicated that next week's audience address will focus on the conversion of St. Paul.
Denver, Colo., Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - Whether and how to continue the faith-based initiatives begun by President George W. Bush were among the topics of discussion Tuesday at the Faith in Action Panel at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Panelists Rabbi David Saperstein, from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Professor John DiIulio discussed the difficulties involved in the program and voiced concern about the ability of religious groups to maintain their “prophetic witness” despite government funding. Further, they outlined some of Sen. Barack Obama’s proposed changes to the faith-based initiatives program.
Rabbi Saperstein said that the vast majority of the estimated 100,000 faith community initiatives do work well even without government involvement and he also granted the potential of government involvement to expand these communities’ programs.
However, he claimed the faith based initiatives as envisioned by the Bush administration had not worked out.
He alleged they were bad for the poor, bad for religion, bad public policy, and unconstitutional.
The rabbi said President Bush’s programs threatened religions’ autonomy and mission, while the regulatory entanglement accompanying federal funding could “mute the prophetic” in religious communities.
The Charitable Choice program, Rabbi Saperstein claimed, encouraged divisive competition among churches for federal money.
He indicated that the need to prevent abuses causes entangling problems.
“We don’t want government surveillance of churches,” he said, while also saying that government money “should never be used to discriminate.”
A solution to these problems, Rabbi Saperstein proposed, involved separating church charities into non-profit organizations. If faith-based initiative funding is to continue, he explained, the government could encourage laws making such legal changes easier.
Prof. John DiIulio, who was also the first director the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush, described Sen. Obama’s proposed modifications to the faith-based initiatives program, saying he is “exceedingly encouraged” by them.
He praised what he said was their “extraordinary” breadth of vision, their respect for constitutional bounds, their combination of faith- and fact-based organization, and their adherence to the “fiscal reality principle.” He also characterized the plans as “principled and pluralistic,” citing Obama’s July 1 speech on the topic in Zanesville, Ohio as evidence of “operational depth.”
In that speech, Obama pledged to commit $500 million in federal funding for religious organizations to help the disadvantaged, the Boston Globe says.
DiIulio noted that religious non-profits comprise the largest portion of the $1 trillion tax-exempt sector in the United States, but said including the “politically unconnected” religious organizations was a problem for any faith-based initiative.
Risking the disapproval of his DNC audience, DiIulio also credited George W. Bush for keeping the initiatives on the national agenda. He said Bush’s best faith-based initiative policy was the HIV/AIDS relief effort in sub-Saharan Africa, though he criticized the domestic manifestation of similarly organized initiatives.
DiIulio concluded by saying it is impossible to go to poverty stricken areas or disaster zones like New Orleans without understanding that “the faith community is leading the way, with or without government funding.”
Panel moderator Rev. Jim Wallis remarked on the discussion by arguing that faith-based initiatives are too often used as a substitute for “sound public policy.” DiIulio concurred, saying one ought not cut Head Start programs but then fund faith-based pre-schools.
Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., a former staffer of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., also addressed the gathering of DNC delegates and guests, saying there should be a “healthy tension” between faith-based mission and government enterprise.
However, he clarified, “tension doesn’t have to be hostility.”
Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.’s remarks that the church ought to be neither servant nor master of the state, but rather its conscience, Rev. Moss called for increased cooperation between government agencies and religious organizations to increase their mutual knowledge and mutual contributions to society.
Nonetheless, he reminded the audience not to compromise their beliefs for the sake of influence.
“We should never allow the state to dwarf our witness,” Rev. Moss exhorted.
Quito, Ecuador, Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Church in Ecuador has placed posters in parishes throughout the country in support of life and against the possibility of legalizing abortion through the new Constitution, which will be subject to a national vote in September.
According to Ecuadoran media, the posters have the heading, “Mommy, I’m not a tumor, I’m your son,” and the Church is hoping they will inform Catholics about a baby’s developmental process and the different methods used to carry out abortions.
Quoting Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the posters pose the question: “If a mother can kill her own child in her own body, why can’t we kill each other?”
The bishops of Ecuador have raised serious questions about the new Constitution over the possibility that it will leave the door open to legalized abortion. In light of the upcoming referendum, they have stepped up efforts to encourage voters on the need to protect human life in all its stages.
Fargo, N.D., Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota has joined several other U.S. Catholic bishops in refuting Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments that confuse the Church’s teachings about when life begins and abortion. Rep. Pelosi, meanwhile, said through her spokesman that she stands by her comments.
This past Sunday in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Nancy Pelosi told Tom Brokaw that "Doctors of the Church" have not been able to define when life begins and that because St. Augustine said life begins at three months, the viability of a child at that stage “shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose.”
Bishop Aquila did not refute Pelosi at length since he said that the statement issued by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver was "excellent" and he didn’t need to add to it.
However, the bishop did offer his take on the Speaker of the House’s comments saying, “People of good will who have studied the present day Catholic teaching as given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, John Paul II's Encyclical, The Gospel of Life, and have read the fathers of the Church, can easily recognize the flaws in her remarks on the teaching of the Church concerning when human life begins. The right to life from conception is the pre-eminent social justice and human right’s issue of our time.
“As your bishop,” Aquila continued, “I have the responsibility to present to you the authentic teaching of the Church, to correct the misinformation she has given, and finally to warn you that those who oppose the true teaching are not in good standing with the Church.”
Noting that “The Christian teaching on abortion throughout history is unchanged,” the Bishop of Fargo called for human life to be respected from the moment of conception, be treated with dignity and protected.
Aquila also addressed the issue of Catholics who support “so-called abortion rights.” These Catholics, he said, “support a false right, promote a culture of death, and are guided by the ‘father of lies’ rather than by the light and truth of Jesus Christ.”
Aquila also stressed that Catholics who support these “rights” have “placed himself or herself outside of visible unity with the Church and thus should refrain from receiving Holy Communion” out of respect for the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Church.
On Tuesday, in an interview with the Associated Press, Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said that she "fully appreciates the sanctity of family" and based her views on conception on the "views of Saint Augustine, who said: '... the law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation ...'"
While Daly could not deny that Catholic teaching is unambiguous about life beginning at conception, he tried to bolster Pelosi by saying that many Catholics do not agree with the Church’s teaching.
He also added that Rep. Pelosi "agrees with the Church that we should reduce the number of abortions" by increasing the availability of family planning such as comprehensive age-appropriate sex education and adoption programs.
CNA contacted the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the archdiocese to which Nancy Pelosi belongs, to determine whether or not Archbishop George Niederauer will issue a statement about the Speaker’s comments.
Maurice Healy, the Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said that the archbishop will be addressing Pelosi’s comments in his September 5 column in the archdiocesan newspaper.
Late on Wednesday afternoon the number of bishops criticizing Nancy Pelosi's comments grew as Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio and his auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantu added their voices.
"We agree whole heartedly with the statement issued by Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Bishop William E. Lori of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine," their statement said.
Denver, Colo., Aug 27, 2008 (CNA) - Sixteen years after his father was denied a place on the podium of the Democratic National Convention, pro-life Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania addressed delegates in Boston, and, in an address on the economy, referred to his opposition to abortion—the very position the elder Casey says got him barred from speaking in 1992.
“I’m proud to stand before you as Governor Casey’s son,” Casey began his remarks, immediately evoking the tension between the Democratic Party’s leadership and it’s pro-life minority.
In the summer of 1992, Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey had his name in the headlines, as he was at the losing end of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the decision that upheld most of Roe and instituted the “undue burden,” test for restrictions on abortion. As a Democratic governor of a swing state, he expected and requested a speaking slot at that summer’s convention, but he was turned down. Casey said it was because of his pro-life views. Operatives for Bill Clinton say it was because Casey would not campaign for Clinton.
In 1992 and since then, other pro-life Democrats have spoken from the podium, but never about abortion. Tuesday, Sen. Casey made only a passing reference to his pro-life stance. “Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I’m speaking here tonight is testament to Barack's ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him.” This received quiet applause from Pennsylvania’s delegates, and Casey then returned to economic issues.
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats’ for Life of America, says she was pleased with Casey’s speech, telling Catholic News Agency it conveyed “a good sense of eliminating the litmus test for being a Democrat.
Four years ago, pro-life Rep. James Langevin (D.-R.I.) spoke at the convention—but this caused even more agitation among pro-lifers such as Day. “He said he believed in the sanctity of life,” Day said, “but he went on to talk about embryonic stem-cell research, which flies in the face of the sanctity of life.”
This past Tuesday, at about 5 p.m., pro-life West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin addressed the convention—to a much smaller and less attentive crowd than Casey enjoyed. Manchin, chairman of the National Governors’ Association, did not address abortion even remotely, focusing instead on economic issues and energy.
Nick Casey, chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, said that while the state party has a pro-life platform, he didn’t want more pro-life talk on the podium. He described abortion as an “issue Republicans use to divide us,” and attributes Bush’s twice carrying West Virginia to Karl Rove “driving the wedge on abortion, guns, and gays.”
On the other hand, there has not been much defense of abortion from the podium either. Shortly before Manchin’s speech Tuesday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards addressed the crowd. She completely refrained from the words “abortion” or “reproductive rights,” talking instead repeatedly about “women’s health care needs,” and making one reference to “a woman’s right to choose.” This echoes the near-silence on abortion from the Democratic podium four years ago.
At the 2004 convention, the lack of abortion discussion on the podium was notable because abortion and judges were the most common answers I received when asking delegates which issues were most important. This year, however, the delegates called abortion a non-issue—echoing Obama’s dismissal of the abortion debate as an effort “to distract us from the issues that affect our lives.”
New Hampshire Delegate Paul O’Connor, President of the Metal Trades Council, the blue-collar union at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, says “I want to limit abortion, but it’s not a top issue—I’m a union guy.”
The execption this year was the speech by NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan delivered at 4:40 pm on Monday, well before prime time. Keenan vociferously defended abortion and assailed McCain. “Reproductive freedom is on the line,” she said. “John McCain has spent more than 25 years in Washington voting against women’s freedom and has pledged to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe v. Wade.”
A search of the Convention’s official website and a search of transcripts on Nexis revealed that Casey and Keenan were the only two speakers—out of the nearly 100 who spoke in the first two days—to say the word “abortion.” Only three, Keenan, Richards, and DNC Platform Chair Judith McHale, spoke the words “right to choose.”