On Abortion: Rudy Criticized Pope John Paul II / Defended Clinton

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Apr 19, 2007 11:52 AM

Yesterday, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani praised the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion.  As many pointed out, this was a reversal of his previous position.

In the past, Giuliani not only supported partial-birth abortion -- he opposed the Catholic Church's involvement in the issue.  For example, in 1996, then-Mayor Giuliani got into a public dispute over the issue with Pope John Paul II.

Here's the story:  After President Clinton vetoed a ban on partial-birth abortions, Pope John Paul II condemned Clinton's veto as "a shameful veto that in practice is equivalent to an incredibly brutal act of aggression against innocent humans."

As the New York Times reported on April 22, 1996, Giuliani defended Clinton -- and criticized Pope John Paul II, and Cardinal O'Connor:

Critics of the Pope's statements, including Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, questioned last week whether the church should issue opinions on political matters.

"It is a not-so-clever way of trying to muzzle the church," the Cardinal said of the criticisms. "If the church here in New York, the church in Rome or anywhere else were to refrain to address such crucial issues of public policy simply because an election campaign is being waged, then the church would never" be able to address these issues.

"The church will not be silenced simply because of an election," he added.

The Cardinal's remarks came a week after he equated late-term abortions with outright infanticide, and a week and a half after President Clinton's veto. Although Cardinal O'Connor used St. Patrick's pulpit yesterday to broadly defend the church's right to voice opinions on policy matters with moral dimensions, he also seemed to be responding specifically to comments made by Mayor Giuliani on Friday.

Asked about the Pope's criticisms, Mayor Giuliani, who is Catholic, said: "Such direct involvement in politics is not a good idea, because I think it confuses people. I think that religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, have every right to do everything they can to persuade their members and others as to their moral views. That can be done without focusing on a particular political figure, in this case the President of the United States."

But ...

... Governor Pataki, who also is Catholic, defined the church's role as open-ended: "I think the church has every right to speak out on issues that they consider to be of importance. And they have every right to speak out and criticize political decisions and politicians who make those decisions."

Among Catholic voters, I can only imagine that criticizing Pope John Paul II is about as popular as criticizing Ronald Reagan would be at a GOP convention.  But aside from criticizing the late Pope, Giuliani seemed to say that the church should stay out of politics ...

Rudy will have a long way to go to convince voters that his statement yesterday was sincere.