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Boston Globe, October 15, 2007

Strange behavior for tax-exempt churches

Extolling faith-infused politics, GOP hopeful talks of abortion, hope at dedication Mass

By April Simpson


GOP presidential candidate Sam Brownback talked with Cardinal Sean O'Malley at a luncheon in Boston. (Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe)

In a speech to members of the Catholic Lawyers Guild yesterday, presidential hopeful Sam Brownback preached to the choir, discussing the role of faith in politics and the need for a more expansive view of life.

Brownback, a conservative US senator from Kansas, delivered a warmly received message in which he said that the country was founded as a "faith-based experiment" and that efforts to drive faith out of the public domain are a detriment to the country's future. He said that America's fluid conversation on the role of faith in politics is a sign the country is maturing and that faith is reflecting onto politics, rather than politics corrupting faith.

"We have tried countries and governments governed only by reason and they have failed," said Brownback, citing Communism in the Soviet Union. "It steals the soul of the individual rather than giving it life and liberty. We don't want to go that route. A country that walks away from God walks away from its own future."

Brownback, who is vying for the Republican nomination, converted to Catholicism in 2002 and has been one of the most vocal candidates on his religious views. He spoke yesterday at a luncheon celebrating the Red Mass, a popular name for the Mass of the Holy Spirit offered to invoke God's blessings on judges, attorneys, and other judicial employees. Prominent local leaders, including Joseph R. Nolan, a retired Supreme Judicial Court justice and president of the guild, and Sean P. O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, attended the annual event, held at the Park Plaza hotel.

Brownback has filed a bill, cosponsored by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat of Massachusetts, that would require doctors to share information on Down syndrome and other prenatally diagnosed conditions with pregnant women who receive a positive diagnosis.

Brownback, who also is working to create a national registry of people willing to adopt Down syndrome children, said most affected children live to their mid-50s. However, Brownback said, 90 percent of fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted. He compared them to the biblical story of Lazarus, a beggar who was ignored by a rich man on earth but spends eternity in heaven. Embracing the poor and the downtrodden can save our souls, Brownback said.

"These are modern-day Lazaruses," Brownback said. "And we kill them before they get here."

Brownback also has proposed legislation that would require those who perform abortions on women who are at least 20 weeks pregnant to share medical evidence that such fetuses feel pain. The abortion provider would have to make a verbal statement and provide a government-issued brochure to a woman seeking such an abortion. If the woman decides to abort, she would have the option of choosing anesthesia for the fetus.

At a Mass earlier in the day at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, the Rev. James M. DiPerri applauded Brownback for championing the cause of the unborn.

"We see the child suck its thumb . . . We see how it responds to pain," DiPerri said during the homily. He added, "It may be voiceless, but we are not."

Brownback said that more than half the country supports pro-life measures, and he predicted that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, will be overturned. He said the Supreme Court is one justice away from overturning the landmark decision.

"I'd love to be the president that appoints the justice that votes to overturn Roe v. Wade and end the night of wrong," Brownback said.

Following Brownback's remarks, Nolan said, "It certainly is refreshing in Boston to hear a United States senator talk the way you just talked."

Cardinal O'Malley added, "There is no other presidential candidate in the United States at this moment whose positions really reflect Catholic social dogma in the way that" Brownback's do.

April Simpson can be reached at asimpson@globe.com

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