By Fr. George Welzbacher
August 17, 2008
As our two major political parties are about to hold their nominating conventions, the one in Denver and the other here, a topic of intense interest for observers of the political scene is where the Catholic "swing vote" will go this year. And swing vote indeed it is. Political analyst John M. Broder offered his "take" on the subject in the August 7th issue of The New York Times. I thought you might fmd his comment perceptive.
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Obama's View on Abortion May Divide Catholics
By: John M. Broder
From: The New York Times
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Sixteen years ago, the Democratic Party refused to allow Robert P. Casey Sr., then the governor of Pennsylvania, to speak at its national convention [held in Philadelphia!] because his anti-abortion views, stemming from his Roman Catholic faith, clashed with the party's platform and powerful constituencies. Many Catholics, once a reliable Democratic voting bloc, never forgot what they considered a slight.
This year the party is considering giving a speaking slot at the convention to Mr. Casey's son, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who like his late father is a Roman Catholic who opposes abortion rights.
The likely shift reflects concern among Democrats that they need to do more to regain the allegiance of Roman Catholic voters, who broke decisively for President Bush in 2004 and could be crucial to the outcome in a number of battleground states this year....
The Obama campaign is being close-mouthed about its convention plans and would not confirm whether Mr. Casey would be given a prime-time speaking slot. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said that the call was Mr. Obama's but that a prominent speaking role for Mr. Casey would assist in the candidate's efforts to woo Roman Catholic voters.
Mr. Casey, who endorsed Mr. Obama early and campaigned extensively for him in Pennsylvania, said there was no formal offer yet from Mr. Obama or the party. But, he said, "I think we'll get something worked out."
Mr. Casey's appearance would be an important signal to Catholics, especially those who follow Church teachings and oppose abortion. Mr. Obama could also use his choice of a vice-presidential running mate to reassure Roman Catholics. Among those that his campaign is vetting is Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Roman Catholic whose faith has been part of his political identity. At least three other Catholics have also been mentioned as possible running mates.- Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Gov. Kathleen Sebelims of Kansas [all three of whom are "pro-choice"].
Although abortion is central to the political crosscurrents around Catholics-Ms. Sebelius has vetoed a number of bills that would restrict abortion rights in Kansas, prompting the archbishop of Kansas City to suggest that she stop receiving communion- part of Mr. Obama's strategy is to emphasize that there are other issues on which they can base their votes. It would be a way to address the perception that Mr. Obama has a 'Catholic problem'....
Douglas Kmiec [a Catholic legal scholar at Pepperdine Law School] has urged Mr. Obama to invite Mr. Casey to speak as an answer to those who believe they cannot vote for someone who supported abortion rights. Mr. Kmiec's and Mr. Casey's views put them in conflict with millions of lay Catholics, for whom abortion is a nonnegotiable issue, and many Catholic clerics, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, the site of the Democratic convention.
Archbishop Chaput, who has stopped short of telling his flock how to vote, has called abortion a "foundational issue. " He has said that a vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights or stem-cell research, like Mr. Obama or Senator John Kerry in 2004, was a sin that must be confessed before receiving communion. Mr. Obama's Republican rival, Senator John McCain, an opponent of abortion rights, met last week in Denver with Archbishop Chaput.
The archbishop declined an interview request but his spokeswoman, Jeanette DeMelo, said that his views had not changed. the archbishop wrote. In a column this year Archbishop Chaput wrote that Catholics could support a politician who supported abortion only if they had a "compelling proportionate reason" to justify it. "What is a 'proportionate' reason when it comes to the abortion issue?""It's the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life-which we most certainly will. If we're confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed." [An example would be voting for the less aggressive of two supporters of abortion if both of the two major parties' candidates are pro-abortion, but one of the two is luke-warm whereas his rival is an energetically committed supporter of the "right" to kill an unborn child.]
T'hat is a tough standard for Mr. Obama, or any supporter of abortion rights, to meet. Republicans are gearing up campaigns to depict Mr. Obama as a radical on the question of abortion, because as a state senator in Illinois he opposed a ban on the killing of fetuses [ i.e., children] in the event that they were bom alive.
Mr. Obama has said that he had opposed the bill because it was poorly drafted and would have threatened the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade that established abortion as a constitutional right. He said he would have voted for a similar bill that passed the United States Senate unanimously because it did not have the same constitutional flaw as the Illinois bill. Mr. Obama has opposed the federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortions for similar legal and constitutional reasons.
That explanation did not wash with many abortion foes and most Republicans.
"When you look at his opposition to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act in Illinois and the Partial-birth Abortion Ban, which many Mass-attending Catholics view as bans on infanticide, Obama's more extreme than any other Democratic presidential candidate," said Leonard Leo, who directed Catholic outreach for Republicans in 2004, and is an informal adviser to the party and the McCain campaign.
Mr. Leo also said that the appearance of Mr. Casey on the dais at the Democratic convention would not be enough to address the concerns of faithful Catholics.
"He might get a slight bump from Casey amongst Catholics generally, but it doesn't get him all the way there because Casey-the-Younger isn't his father and Mass-attending Catholics have figured that out," Mr. Leo said.
William A. Gaiston, a domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Catholics were the quintessential swing voters. Mr. Gaiston said they were roughly a quarter of the electorate but lived in disproportionate numbers in the swing states of the Midwest. Polls show them closely divided between the two candidates. Mr. Galston said Mr. Obarna could improve his standing with Catholics by, like Mr. Clinton in 1992, conferring with a group of Catholic leaders and then giving a substantive speech at Notre Dame or another Catholic institution....
* * * * *On another, and much happier note, may I bring the following news item to your attention.
* * * * *Miracle Points to Sainthood
By: Hugh E. Gentry
St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sunday, 8-10-08
When cancer spread to her lungs, doctors told Audrey Toguchi, of Aiea, Hawaii, she had six months to live and suggested chemotherapy as the only option. Toguchi, however, turned to a Catholic Missionary who tended to leprosy patients and died more than a century ago. "I'm going to Molokai to pray to Father Damien, " she told her doctor. One month later, in October 1998, doctors discovered her tumors had shrunk. By May 1999, tests confirmed they had disappeared without treatment, and the Vatican concluded the recovery defied medical explanation. On July 5th, Pope Benedict XVI approved the case as Damien's second miracle, opening the way for the Belgian priest to be recognized as a saint.
On the Weekend of August 23 - 24th, 2008, Reverend Ray Maiser, C.Ss.R., a Redemptorist, will speak at all the weekend masses. The Redemptorists are a world wide community of priests and brothers numbering almost 6,000. The Redemptorists of the Denver Province have foreign missions in Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria. Please join me in welcoming Reverend Maiser to our parish.
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Father George Welzbacher