As John McCain looks towards the open waters of the general election he is trying to consolidate his support amongst what he sees as a key demographic—Catholics.
Speaking to members of his National Catholics for McCain Committee this afternoon in a conference call, the senator addressed issues of concern to Catholics.
One Catholic supporter from South Carolina voiced his concern about the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, an evangelical Christian who has made comments derogatory of Catholics both in his preaching and his writing. McCain responded by repeating his repudiation from this past Friday of any anti-Catholic comments made by Hagee.
David Adams from Florida speculated that perhaps the Catholic vote could be won by McCain on more centrist issues such as human rights and religious freedom. He asked the senator, “What will you do as president to promote human rights in places like Darfur or those persecuted for their religious beliefs in, say for example, Afghanistan…?”
Sen. McCain replied by saying that he believes that his “very clear record” on human rights, his statements and speeches on Darfur and his support for stopping the genocide that took place against Muslims in Bosnia are issues that Catholics can unite behind him on.
While McCain is pro-life on the issue of abortion, he differs with the Catholic belief that embryonic stem cell research is immoral. The Catholic Church teaches that embryonic stem cell research is immoral because it involves the killing of embryos.
Austin Ruse from Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) raised the issue with the Arizona senator by asking him whether he had considered changing his position on embryonic stem cell research given the dramatic scientific advances of the last two months. McCain responded to Ruse’s question by saying that while he is “very encouraged” by the advances, he has yet to see “sufficient scientific evidence” to change his support for the practice. He added that he will continue to examine the issue and receive briefs on any progress being made.
The McCain campaign is actively recruiting Catholics around the country, including at the parish level, as the Republican nominee plans for his run against the still undetermined Democrat competitor.