The Record (U.S.), October 14, 2004
Why Is Bush Getting
the Bishop's Blessing?
NEWARK'S ARCHBISHOP John Myers wrote an opinion
piece in The Wall Street Journal last month
on why Catholics cannot in good conscience
vote for a pro-choice candidate. It was titled
"A Voter's Guide."
Myers wrote that abortion and research that destroys
human embryos are evil and that no other issue
outweighs that evil in this presidential race:
not the death penalty, poverty, or the war
The archbishop did not name names, but his message
is clear: Catholics can't vote for John Kerry.
Since Catholics make up one-quarter of the
voting population, Myers would hand the election
on a silver platter to President Bush.
Another archbishop, Charles Chaput of Colorado,
is even more blunt: Voting for a candidate
who is pro-choice or supports embryonic stem
cell research is a sin, and the voter must
confess it before receiving communion.
These dire warnings are part of an attempt by
both the Bush campaign and conservative bishops
to deliver the Catholic vote for the 2004 Republican
ticket. In other words, Bush is endorsed by
This is a hard pill for many Catholics to swallow.
In any election, American voters do not like
to be dictated to - and this is no ordinary
race. How can it be reduced to one issue when
so much is at stake?
Bush and Kerry have starkly different views on
preemptive war, how to fight terrorism, reducing
nuclear proliferation, preserving the environment
and expanding health care. All of these issues
have the potential to save or destroy a great
Yet Catholic Kerry supporters are being told
they must put aside their opposition to Bush's
policies, which many of them have reached on
moral grounds, and vote for a man who they
believe has done some rather immoral things:
taken the nation to war on false pretenses
and made the world less safe by recklessly
concentrating his resources on Iraq instead
of the war on terror.
Some Catholic voters would consider their positions
on these issues "pro-life."
But Myers says in his article that it's a numbers
game: What other issue can outweigh 1.3 million
abortions in America each year? Sadly, other
issues do rival those numbers. Millions have
died in civil wars in Africa in recent years,
and genocide is happening in the Sudan right
now. Millions have died from AIDS, particularly
in sub-Saharan Africa, and millions continue
to be infected around the world. Millions could
die in a military showdown with North Korea,
for instance, if nuclear weapons were used.
Bush is pro-life, although he said during his
first campaign he would not try to overturn
Roe vs. Wade. But this time around, if reelected,
he would likely name one or two justices to
the U.S. Supreme Court. Given that his favorites
on the court are Antonin Scalia and Clarence
Thomas, it's certainly possible that a future
court would have enough votes to ban abortion.
But so far, Bush has done little to significantly
lower the abortion rate in the United States.
In some places, abortions have likely increased
due to unemployment. And the U.N. Population
Fund estimates that Bush's repeated withholding
of U.S. funds pledged for family planning programs
has led to hundreds of thousands of abortions
in poor countries.
The conservative bishops have the right to speak
out, even organize voter drives, although in
coming so close to campaigning for a particular
candidate, they may be jeopardizing the church's
For the record, I am pro-life. I believe life
begins at conception and therefore, abortion
But I also believe most wars are wrong.
I believe it's wrong to stand by while half a
continent needlessly suffers and dies from
AIDS. It's wrong to allow people in this country
to die of easily curable illness because they
have no health insurance. It's wrong to condemn
children to lifelong poverty and waste their
minds by denying them even the most basic education.
It's wrong to allow corporate greed and influence
to take precedence over fairness and generosity
in the workplace, in the environment and in
how we care for the most vulnerable in our
nation and the world.
All of these issues, and a host of others, are
relevant in this pivotal, polarized election,
which defies reduction to a simple referendum
The church should be working to lower the abortion
rate in this country. But telling people how
they must vote, on condition of losing their
souls, goes too far.
Mary Ellen Schoonmaker is a Record editorial
writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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