In recent elections when a high-profile Roman Catholic Democrat seeks high, or higher office, the issue of abortion surfaces. As the pro-choice, non-Catholic Barack Obama makes a play for evangelical voters, conservative Catholics are asking their fellow believers to take seriously the church's teaching on abortion and not cast their vote for Obama and Catholic Joe Biden.
The split in Democratic ranks is along political as well as theological lines. Liberal Catholics claim that government programs advocated by Democrats more accurately reflect the teachings of Jesus about the poor and the weak. More "observant" Catholics, some of whom support anti-poverty government programs, point out that no program can help someone who is not given the right to live. Liberals want Catholics to look beyond abortion. Would they have been comfortable 50 years ago with appeals for Catholics to look beyond the racism of Southern Democratic senators? Probably not.
A group calling itself Faithful Catholic Citizens" (FCC) has produced two powerful television commercials, which are running in Iowa and soon, it hopes, in heavily Catholic Pennsylvania. Both spots begin with a confrontational question: "Are you truly Catholic" and follow with a sound bite from "Meet the Press" in which Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserts that Catholic teaching on abortion has been inconsistent. "Utterly incredible," Cardinal Edward Egan is then quoted as saying about Pelosi's statement, which is followed by one from the late Pope John Paul II, who called abortion "(the) deliberate killing of an innocent human being." And then comes a reference to Sen. Barack Obama on the abortion issue from Rick Warren's forum in August at which Obama said that knowing when life begins is "above my pay grade."
"Don't be misled," continue the ads, "Know the church. Know the truth." (View both ads here.)
Is abortion "intrinsically evil" and "a non-negotiable issue for Catholics," as FCC President Heidi Stirrup asserts? If one is a Catholic and subscribes to the belief that the interpretation of Scripture and moral truth is the responsibility of the pope and the apostolic bishops, then one would have to say, "yes;" and when faith and politics conflict, a politician should be required to choose one or the other.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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