DENVER - Democrats have made it a priority to lure more evangelical and Catholic voters from the Republican camp into their own, but the likelihood of success is becoming more problematic given pronouncements by two Catholic archbishops and a decision by the editor of an evangelical Christian magazine.
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, said Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden should avoid taking Communion because of his support for abortion rights.
In 2004, the Archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley stood by a statement he had made the previous year that pro-choice Catholics are in a state of grave sin and cannot take Communion properly. Around the same time, then-Cardinal (now Pope Benedict XVI) Joseph Ratzinger, in a private memorandum, told American bishops that Communion must be denied to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion. The memo and the statement by O'Malley were thought at the time to be directed at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who is Catholic. Kerry and many other Democratic and Republican Catholic politicians have mostly ignored such directives and taken Communion anyway.
Appearing last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried some theological hair-splitting. She described herself as "an ardent, practicing Catholic," but then said the church had only held its pro-life position for the last 50 years and that during the previous 2,000 years it had reached different conclusions about when life begins.
In an unusual public rebuke of a leading political figure, Washington, D.C., Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl said Pelosi was "incorrect" in her statement that the church had differed over the years about when live begins. Wuerl added, "We respect the right of elected officials such as Speaker Pelosi to address matters of public policy that are before them, but the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops. Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record."
Wuerl said the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been clear for 2,000 years and he quoted from it: "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. Š Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."