John Leo

It looks as though more than 90 percent of America?s Roman Catholic bishops want no confrontation with John Kerry over his support of abortion rights­ so far, only four of the 300-odd bishops said they would deny him Communion, and 15 others indi­cated serious concern over the issue. I think Catholic objections to Kerry on abortion are sound. If you proclaim yourself a member of any faith, you ought to be able to stand up on the well-defined moral issues that your faith considers crucial. This goes for Catholic pro- choice Republicans, too. Arnold Schwarzen­egger, Rudolph Giuliani, and George Pataki never seem to get around to talking about abortion as a moral issue. But the bishops are in a weakened position because they mishandled the cleri­cal sex scandals for so many years. And they are fully aware that a dramatic election-year move against John Kerry, the first Catholic presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy, would surely look as though the church were aligning itself fully with the Republican Party. That would very likely harm the church at least as much as Kerry.

Besides, the bishops have already made their point. The vot­ers will judge for themselves. A Zogby poll last week showed Kerry getting low support among America?s 51 million Catholics on issues where he opposes the church?s position. Kerry received only 23 percent support from Catholics on the question dealing with unrestricted stem-cell research and also 23 percent on favoring homosexual unions. Two thirds of Catholics would be less likely to support a Catholic presidential candi­date who would use a Roe v. Wade litmus test to appoint pro-choice judges. The poll reports the ?star­tling? finding that Catholics in ?blue? states (those won by Al Gore in 2000) are much less likely to vote for a Catholic candidate who is pro-choice. However, there is doubt about whether these issues will dom­inate among Catholic voters, who tend to be a pretty diverse group. The pollster, John Zogby, played down his own findings. He thinks the economy, the war, and healthcare will be more important to Catholic voters, and to everyone else as well.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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