Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2008
Obama, Democrats under fire for abortion views
Denver prelate says candidate's Catholic supporters deluded or confused
From Catholic News Service
Two well-known American Catholic prelates are denouncing Sen. Barack Obama and his Democratic Party as the Nov. 4 American presidential election draws within sight.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has called Obama the "most committed abortion rights" candidate to lead a major party's presidential ticket since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973.
"To suggest -- as some Catholics do -- that Sen. Obama is this year's 'real' pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse," Chaput said in an Oct. 17 presentation to a Denver women's group.
The archbishop also accused Catholic allies of Obama of doing a "disservice to the Church."
Chaput's comments come three weeks after the former bishop of St. Louis, Archbishop Raymond Burke, said the Democratic Party "risks transforming itself definitively into a 'party of death.'"
As well, Carl Anderson, head of the 1.8-million member Knights of Columbus, published large advertisements in several American daily newspapers inviting Obama's vice-presidential running mate Joe Biden, a Catholic, to meet with him.
Anderson challenged the Delaware senator to bring his personal views opposing abortion into the public policy arena by overturning legalized abortion.
Chaput, one of the nation's most politically outspoken Catholic prelates, told the women's group he was stating his "personal views as an author and private citizen" and was not speaking for the Church or telling people how to vote.
"To portray the 2008 Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred 'pro-life' option is to subvert what the word 'pro-life' means," he said.
Chaput questioned the work of organizations that have urged voters to consider the gamut of Catholic teaching on abortion, war, the economy, poverty, the environment and other issues when they cast their vote.
"None of the Catholic arguments advanced in favour of Senator Obama are new. They've been around, in one form or another, for more than 25 years," he said.
"All of them seek to 'get beyond' abortion, or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won't be necessary.
"I think it's an intelligent strategy," he said. "I also think it's wrong and often dishonest."
In their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the U.S. Catholic bishops stress the importance of the life issues.
"The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many," the document says. "It must always be opposed."
Obama also co-sponsored the Stem-Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which the U.S. bishops had strongly opposed. The legislation would have permitted the destruction of so-called "spare embryos," unused after fertility treatments, for use in embryonic stem-cell experiments.
The Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, also supported that bill.
Archbishop Burke, the new head of the Vatican's Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, made his comments in an interview published in the Sept. 27 edition of Avvenire, a daily Catholic newspaper sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference.
Burke was asked if he knew that the August Democratic National Convention in Denver featured a guest appearance by Sheryl Crow.
As archbishop of St. Louis, Burke had opposed Crow's performance at a 2007 benefit for a Catholic children's hospital because of her support for abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.
"That does not surprise me much," the archbishop said of Crow's appearance at the Democratic convention.
"At this point the Democratic Party risks transforming itself definitely into a 'party of death' because of its choices on bioethical questions as Ramesh Ponnuru wrote in his book, The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts and the Disregard for Human Life."
Burke said the Democratic Party once was "the party that helped our immigrant parents and grandparents better integrate and prosper in American society. But it is not the same anymore."
Pro-life Democrats are "rare, unfortunately," he said.
Burke was one of a few U.S. bishops to publicly ban Catholic politicians who hold positions contrary to Church teaching from receiving Communion.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, a handful of Catholic bishops issued statements saying they would refuse to give Communion to Democratic nominee John Kerry, a Catholic, if he presented himself to them during Mass.
Like Kerry's record, Biden's legislative history includes opposition to efforts to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion and to make it harder for minors to cross state lines to obtain an abortion.
However, Biden has voted in favour of limits on abortion, including voting for a ban on partial-birth abortion and against federal funding for abortions.
Biden said on the Sept. 7 Meet the Press TV show that he accepts the Church teaching that life begins at conception, but that he will not impose this belief on others.
Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, head of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, and Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., head of their doctrine committee.
"We have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not," Rigali and Lori said. "Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection."
What effect the bishops' stands have on the election remains to be seen.
In September, Martin Shaffer, a political science professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said the impact of the life issues "may be murky at best given that neither candidate has been known nationally as a leader in either direction on those issues."
Letter to the Editor - 11/17/08
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