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March 2008 Archives

March 2, 2008

LA Times: Deciphering the Catholic 'swing vote'

By Tim Rutten:
Deciphering the Catholic 'swing vote'
The church's history of nuanced social views frees members from litmus-test voting.
March 1, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her advisors have referred to next week's Texas and Ohio primaries as her campaign's "firewall" against Sen. Barack Obama's surging popularity. In both states, the New York senator's barrier is built on the same foundation -- the Catholic vote, and that fact has intriguing implications well beyond the primaries.

Read the full article here.

March 3, 2008

Hillary retiring? Obama rising? Ask the nation's Catholics

An interesting story on the voting trends of Catholics... It also contains a quote from member Steve Krueger.



By Matt Bigelow

The Catholic swing vote will determine this year's Democratic primary and may break for Illinois Senator Barack Obama in Texas and Ohio on March 4, according to pollsters, political scientists, and Catholic priests who have tracked Catholic turnout. While early in the campaign Senator Hillary Cliton could rely on substantial support among Catholic voters—she enjoyed a two-to-one margin over her opponent in states such as California and New Jersey—Obama has in recent weeks trimmed back that margin.

Read the entire article.

March 5, 2008

Analysis of Catholic voting in the March 4 Democratic primaries

In a review of exit polls from CNN and MSNBC for the March 4th Democratic primaries, Senator Hillary Clinton won clear majorities of Catholic voters in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island. Senator Barack Obama won Catholics by a 4 point margin in Vermont.

In Ohio, a state where 22% of voters are Catholic, Senator Clinton won among Catholics by 63% to Senator Obama's 34-36%.

In Texas, a state where 30-32% of voters are Catholic, Senator Clinton won over Catholics in popular primary voting by 62-64%, to Senator Obama's 36-38%.

In Rhode Island, the state with the largest percentage of Catholics at 54% of the population, Senator Clinton won over Catholics by 66% to Senator Obama's roughly 33%.

In Vermont, a state where about 19% of the population is Catholic, Senator Obama received 52% of the Catholic vote to Senator Clinton's 47%.

Catholics have been decisive in other primary contests as well. While Senator Clinton had won the Catholic Democrat vote in the early primaries, Senator Obama has been closing the gap in recent weeks.

Catholic Democrats have been voting in record numbers in the primaries. In analysis done by veteran activist Steven Krueger for the Catholic Democrats, Catholics have been voting in numbers that exceed their proportion of the population. Roman Catholics represent between 20% and 25% of the US population. In some states, including New Hampshire and Wisconsin, Catholics have been voting at rates ten points above the participation level of the general population.

In an analysis of the primaries through February 19th, Catholics represented 29% of Democratic voters and 26% of Republican voters. In proportion to the total votes cast by Catholics in both parties, 67% of the votes, or 5.3 million votes, were cast by Catholics in the Democratic primaries, and 33%, or 2.7 million of Catholic votes were cast in Republican primaries.

"This data underscores the importance of the Catholic vote, " said Bill Roth, Communications Director for Catholics Democrats. "Catholics are the last true swing vote in America, and will turn out to be decisive in this election."

March 9, 2008

Canton Ohio: Catholic Democrats quoted on Hagee article

In an article in Saturday's Canton Repository, two members of the Catholic Democrats team we're quoted in an article on the Hagee Controversy. Communications Director Bill Roth was quoted as saying:

Calling the nation's 66 million Catholics "the last swing" vote, Bill Roth of Catholic Democrats said Hagee's endorsement could harm McCain.

"I was surprised by Hagee's comments, because I thought this sort of bias went out in 1960," he said. "It's not 1928 when Al Smith ran. It must be said that Hagee by no means targets specifically Catholics. Women, Muslims and gays are also frequent targets. ... It's especially damaging in Ohio. If 100,000 Catholics in Ohio had voted Democratic in 2004, this would be a re-election campaign for President Kerry. That's how important Catholics are."

Ohio Chair Lisa Share got her two cents in as well:

Lisa Schare, chairwoman of Catholic Democrats Ohio, said she doesn't believe McCain is anti-Catholic, but "I don't think it's going to blow over. There's no question, he (Hagee) was a photo opportunity. McCain stood there and accepted his endorsement. As a Christian, I'm always shocked that there's hatred amongst Christians. ... It says in the Gospel we should love our neighbors as ourselves."

Read the entire article.

March 10, 2008

Vatican lists new sins, including pollution

VATICAN CITY - A Vatican official has listed drugs, pollution, genetic manipulations as well as social and economic injustices as new areas of sinful behavior.

Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti said in an interview published Sunday by the Vatican's daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, that known sins increasingly manifest themselves as behavior that damages society as a whole.

Read full article here.

Catholic Democrats of Santa Clara County Chartered

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bill Roth, roth@catholicdemocrats.org (408)-221-1847

SAN JOSE, Calif. — March 10, 2007 — Catholic Democrats of California are pleased to announce the formation of their first local group, Catholic Democrats of Santa Clara County. The group, which includes vertern Democratic activists was certified as an offical group in California by the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee.

"Many of our groups around the country started in someone's living room, among people concerned about both the future of our country and the future of our Church," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, Executive Director of the Catholic Democrats, a national advocacy organization. "This important grass roots effort in a place like Santa Clara County brings a new ingenuity and can-do spirit to our growing national Catholic Democrats movement."

The Santa Clara County group's web site is www.catholicdemocrats.org/scc. The national site can be found at: http://www.catholicdemocrats.org/.

About Catholic Democrats

Catholic Democrats is a national political organization of concerned Catholics, based in Boston. The organization was founded in 2004 as an outgrowth of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' “Call to Faithful Citizenship,” which is rooted in “a consistent moral framework anchored in the scriptures and expressed in the teachings of the Church.” The Catholic Democrats have members in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, with active local groups in a growing number of states.

Catholics United: Catholics United Welcomes McCain’s Comments on Anti-Catholicism

On Friday, March 7, 2008, Senator John McCain responded to Catholics United and a growing chorus of concerned Americans by renouncing controversial televangelist John Hagee’s anti-Catholic comments. Catholics United is now asking Senator McCain to finish the job and reject this endorsement.

John Hagee is a prominent Texas pastor who has referred to the Catholic Church as "the Great Whore," calling it a "false cult system" and "the apostate church." Hagee has also compared women to terrorists and dogs, and made light of slavery. In 2006, he argued that Hurricane Katrina was an act of retribution from God for a "homosexual parade" in New Orleans. Pastor Hagee also advocates immediate war with Iran and an end to the peace process in the Middle East.

Read full posting here.

Catholic Voters Viewed as Key in Pennsylvania

By RUSSELL BERMAN
Staff Reporter of the Sun
March 10, 2008

WASHINGTON — One key to Senator Obama's chances of defeating Senator Clinton in the crucial Pennsylvania primary next month will be his courtship of Catholic voters, a sizable bloc that has loyally supported the former first lady throughout the primary season.


Catholics could make up more than one-third of the vote in the Keystone State on April 22, and Mrs. Clinton's victories in Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island on Tuesday made clear that despite a stepped-up effort in recent weeks, Mr. Obama has failed to narrow her edge with that demographic.

Read the full article here.

March 11, 2008

Catholic Democrats respond to formation of "Catholics for McCain"

Senator John McCain announced yesterday the formation of an advocacy group called "Catholics for McCain." Its steering and national leadership committees are composed of 100 Republican political figures, with no theologians or prominent Catholic writers. A careful analysis of Mr McCain's record on issues that are uniquely important to Catholics reveals a minefield of reasons why Catholics are likely to be very skeptical of the McCain candidacy.

Overall, Sen. McCain's stance on preemptive war, his plans for the continued expenditure of vast sums for war in Iraq, and his recent backtracking on torture are all in direct conflict with the recommendations of both the US Bishops and the Vatican. His openness to working toward abortion reduction through measures other than reversing Roe-v-Wade is indistinguishable from his Democratic opponents, as is his stance in favor of regulated embryonic stem cell research. In summary, Sen. McCain stands in opposition to Church teaching on the defining peace issue of our time, and has taken positions on social issues that have often made his views indistinguishable from most Democrats.

On the individual issues, first is John McCain's unapologetic salesmanship for the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Pope John Paul II called it a "defeat for humanity." Pope Benedict XVI declared before the invasion that the "concept of a 'preventive war' does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church," and said that Iraq could not be construed as a just war under Catholic doctrine. Prior to the invasion, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued 19 separate statements condemning the preparations for war in Iraq. Sen. McCain and President Bush ignored them all, putting the US economic interests in the Middle East, and the tipsy calculus about non-existent weapons programs, ahead of the lives and wellbeing of 25 million Iraqis and two million US military families. In the past two days, 8 US soldiers have been killed en route to the 4000th casualty as the five-year anniversary of the invasion approaches next week. John McCain is out of step with most Americans and most Catholics, who think Iraq never should have been invaded and believe that the US should withdraw as soon as possible.

Second, Sen. McCain's commitment to continue the Bush occupation of Iraq means the ongoing waste of truly staggering sums of American tax dollars there. The Nobel Prize winner and former chief economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, projected last week that overall costs to the US would reach $3 trillion for the Iraq misadventure, the equivalent of an entire year's worth of the federal budget. Dr. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University has estimated that extreme world poverty could be eliminated by 2025 by spending only 0.7% of US gross national product, a figure less than the $3 trillion cost of the Iraq war. Plans put forth by both of the Democratic presidential candidates anticipate costs less than this to provide medical insurance for 20 years to everyone in America.

Every dollar spent by the Bush/McCain coalition to continue the fighting in Iraq is a dollar robbed from the urgent needs of poor children across America and around the world. Sen. McCain is out of line when it comes to the wishes of most Americans and most Catholics, who think that staying in Iraq is a monumental waste of resources.

Third, Sen. McCain has backed away from his initial opposition to torture, voting earlier this month against HR2082, a bill vetoed by President Bush that would have outlawed water boarding. The American bishops strongly urged Mr Bush to sign the legislation. Catholicism is a religion built upon the words and example of someone who was Himself tortured to death, and no amount of "I was against torture before I was for it" can justify this kind of incivility toward other human beings. Sen. McCain is out of touch with most Americans and most Catholics, who support the historical US opposition to torture.

Finally, on the subject of abortion, Sen. McCain has made statements in the past indicating that his own views are close to those of the Democratic candidates. In a 1999 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he said, "Certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (have) illegal and dangerous operations." Like both of the Democratic candidates, Sen. McCain has spoken affirmatively of finding "common ground" on the subject of abortion. In New Hampshire in 1999, he said, "Both pro-life & pro-choice people believe very strongly that we need to eliminate abortion."

He has advocated measures like encouraging adoption and better foster care as a means to decreasing the number of abortions in America. He failed to vote in October 2007 on HR3043, a bill vetoed by President Bush that included Democratic abortion reduction legislation. He has been ambiguous in his support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Like most Catholics, and most Democrats, Sen. McCain has spoken against penalizing women for abortion, and has urged conciliatory efforts to bring down the number of abortions.

More recently, Sen McCain has indicated he would appoint only judges who "would not be in the business of legislating." Like many elements of his distinguished record of studied dissent, he has been forced to walk a more doctrinaire line in pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination.

The Gospels save their harshest condemnation for those who fail to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, or welcome the stranger (Mt 25:41). The McCain/Bush vision of America is one that continues to pour vast sums of money into the black hole of Iraq rather than addressing the underlying causes of misery and poverty that are the true security threats in our world. Senator McCain is an honorable man. But his newfound devotion to soft-headed Bushonomics, and the 'us-versus-them' rhetoric that have so severely damaged our world the past eight years, cannot be supported by any honest reading of Catholic Social Teaching.

March 15, 2008

Pope's next encyclical to cover globalization, digital divide

By John Thavis Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming encyclical is titled "Charity in Truth" and covers a wide range of issues related to globalization and social justice, said an Italian report.

The text is still under revision and has yet to be translated, according to church sources. A leading Vatican official said he doesn't expect the encyclical to be published before summer.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported March 12 that the encyclical, whose Latin title is "Caritas in Veritate," is divided into four chapters. The lengthy text begins with a reflection on the 1967 encyclical, "Populorum Progressio" ("The Progress of Peoples"), and the social changes that have occurred since then, it said.

Among the topics examined by the pope are the relationship of economic and social development with human dignity, and the gap between the rich and poor, it said.

It said the text touches on issues of war and peace, international cooperation and economic globalization, environmental and energy issues, the "digital divide" and disarmament.

Vatican sources said the pope began work on the encyclical last year. His first two encyclicals examined the virtues of love and hope.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said March 9 that the social encyclical was nearing completion.

"The pope is reflecting and revising, and therefore we cannot predict. But I presume it will not be published before the summer vacation period," he said.

Cardinal Bertone, who spoke with ANSA while visiting Azerbaijan, said the pope was preparing his new text carefully.

"It needs to be written well. The pope is making his reflections and annotations and is checking things rigorously," he said.

"I'm not saying the pope is a true perfectionist, but in a certain sense he is," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Bertone said he hoped that, with this encyclical, a Chinese translation would be published immediately, along with the other main languages.

END

March 17, 2008

CatholicDemocrats in WSJ: Candidates Court Catholics


Bloc's Support May Be
Key in Pennsylvania;
'Nun Theory' at Work?
By AMY CHOZICK
March 17, 2008; Page A8

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Sen. Hillary Clinton often evokes her Methodist faith on the campaign trail. But it is Catholics who make up one of her most reliable groups of supporters and could help her defeat Sen. Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary.

On Saturday, Sen. Clinton joined the annual St. Patrick's Day parades in Pittsburgh and Scranton, an effort to reach out to some of the more than four million Catholics in Pennsylvania -- or one-third of all voters in the state.

This also included a quote from two members of the Catholic Democrats team:

"We've got a history of not only having the faith but acting on it," says Bill Roth, director of the Catholic Democrats of California and a national spokesman for the group. "Maybe the action [Sen.] Clinton has shown in terms of putting forward proposals, whether they work or not, is motivating."

Another argument is the "nun theory," which holds that Catholics are more accustomed to strong-minded female leadership because of the prominent role of nuns. "I think Catholic Democrats...are accustomed to having female authority figures in the form of the sisters in our schools and Sen. Clinton, I think, benefits from that," says Christopher McNally, the Pennsylvania chair for the Catholic Democrats and an active Obama supporter.

Read the entire article here. You may have to search for it if the link expires.

DNC Statement on Death of Chaldean Archbishop in Iraq


Following the news of the death of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Democratic National Committee's Faith In Action Staff Director Rev. E. Terri LaVelle made the following statement:

"It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. Our prayers are with the Archbishop's family, parishioners, colleagues and all those who loved and will miss him as his funeral mass is celebrated today. The Archbishop was a voice for peace and religious harmony in Iraq. His kidnaping and death is a sad reminder of the suffering and violence Iraqis face daily as a result of the Iraq war. Our prayers go out to his Chaldean community, from which many members have been forced to flee the country and are living as refugees away from their homeland, while many others have died due to failed policies in Iraq."

http://www.democrats.org/a/2008/03/dnc_statement_o_30.php

McCain more bellicose than Bush, says Bloomberg.com

McCain More Hawkish Than Bush on Russia, China, Iraq (Update2)

By Hans Nichols

March 12 (Bloomberg) -- John McCain is at least as determined as George W. Bush to stay the course in Iraq and more confrontational than the president on foreign policy issues ranging from Russia and China to North Korea. Read more

March 18, 2008

Upcoming book links parishioners' politics with their priests' views

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A small study to be reported in an upcoming book on the political influence of parish priests found huge differences in the types of political messages being emphasized from one parish to another, which may come as no surprise to anyone.

But whichever subjects their priests address, said author Gregory Smith, a fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, people clearly are being influenced in their political thinking by what they hear from the pulpit and read in their parish bulletins.

Read the full article here:

March 20, 2008

Catholic Democrats of California Sponsor Mass at the California Democratic Convention


Catholic Democrats of California are sponsoring a Mass in conjuntion with the California Democratic Party Convention in San Jose.

WHEN: SATURDAY, MARCH 29TH, 7:15 A.M.

WHERE: SAINT JOSEPH'S CATHEDRAL
80 SOUTH MARKET STREET, SAN JOSE
(DOWNTOWN SAN JOSE, ½ MILE
FROM THE CONVENTION CENTER)

Mass will be celebrated by Fr. Jon Pedigo.

Join is as we come together to share the social justice teachings of Catholic Democrats.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Bill Roth, Chair, Catholic Democrats of California, 408-221-1847.
EMAIL: Roth@CatholicDemocrats.org. For more information or Press info, please contact the number above.



March 26, 2008

Old abortion language doesn't work: A Third Way

Since 1973, Americans have been arguing over the issue of abortion. Amidst the rancorous debate and occasional violence, very little has been achieved other than the election of many Republicans chanting the anti-abortion mantra. The abortion rate is roughly equivalent to what it was in 1973, and many religious people have been duped into thinking that one party is in favor of abortion and the other is opposed to it.

It is time to reframe the discussion around abortion, in the hope that we might accomplish something.

Everyone is "pro-life" (except for suicides and sociopaths). To suggest otherwise ignores something fundamental about the human condition. It is most often used when the speaker wants to vilify someone.

Similarly, no one is really "pro-abortion," just as no one is "pro-disembowelment." Every abortion is a tragedy, and represents a failure of society at many levels.

"Pro-Choice" is not the appropriate term either, because "The Choice" will happen whether or not this "Choice" is legal. We only need to look to either the developing world. In 2003, nearly 50% of world-wide induced abortions occur in countries where abortion is illegal. Or we could turn to pre-1973 America for the physics of abortion. They will happen whether or not the procedure is legal.

Beyond the old way of discussing this issue, the core discussion is whether or not a particular course of action reduces the overall number of abortions. It should also be noted that Catholics are not unanimous on this issue. In fact, in the United States, American Catholics mirror the population in general for the unfortunate and unnecessary procedure. In the wider Church, the debate continues as well. No less an authority than Cardinal Carlo Martini, the former Bishop of Milan, called legal abortion a "positive", echoing a recent World Health Organization report which showed that countries where abortion was criminalized showed no decrease in the number of abortions, and a marked decline in maternal health. Predictably, the Vatican issued a statement offering corrections to Cardinal Martini's statement.

I will leave the moral language to the clergy and the theologians. Its not clear that language like "abomination", or "intrinsic evil" help to improve the situation. But if you believe that every abortion is a tragedy, then it follows that reducing the number of abortions is a worthy goal.

Let this be the anchor of the new way to discussion the issue. If we all agree abortion is a tragedy, and if we all agree that criminalization has failed and that the data shows it does not make the situation better, then shouldn't we work to reduce the number of abortions by other means? Instead of focusing on abortion per se, we should focus on eliminating unwanted pregnancies.Instead of focusing on the procedure itself, we should focus on giving women more options, by providing free access to family planning services, and better access to women's heathcare services in general. It is useful to consider that the major cause of abortions in this country is unplanned pregancy. The government, the private sector, and faith-based groups all have a role in acting on ways to reduce the number of abortions.

Once beyond the criminalization argument an entire range of options opem themselves up. To those who ascribe to a free-market approach, I ask "are there economic incentives that could help to lower the number of abortions?" To the faith-based communities I ask, "are you doing enough to take care of women with unwanted pregnancies so they do not need to have abortions?" To the rest of us I ask, "What are the new ways to think about this problem that could help to lower the number of abortions?"

Many positive ways of looking at this problem have been proposed. Congress has shown, with their Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act bill (HR 1074) and the Prevention First Act (HR 819) bill, they are serious about finding new solutions to serious problems posed by the practice of abortion. These efforts have been supported by Democrats and Republicans.

Congress has also worked on making other alternatives more attractive, including adoption, with the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003, which is now Public Law No: 108-145. Just as the new language on abortion will help to reframe the discussion, Congress' new approach could be a forerunner of a strategy that will avoid the divisiveness of the past, and give a glimmer of hope that we can make real progress on this issue in the future.

As Catholics and as Democrats, we believe that our faith perspective informs our political outlook at this situation - and visa versa. We call upon our Church to broaden the dialog beyond casting the stone of blame on an individual, but to use our Catholic Social Teaching to get at these deeper issues. We call upon our party to work even more diligently in the areas of academic and vocational opportunities for our young generation, particularly women; to work for universal health care; and to move forward legislation that will result in the creation of jobs that pay solid wages. We call upon the press to cover Democratic people of faith and their positions on this serious issue with equal weight to that of Republicans. We believe that using the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and our solid Democratic platform will be the most effective means to address abortion.

March 27, 2008

Newsweek: Catholic vote critical for Dems in Pa.

Understanding Pennsylvania's rich Catholic tradition and responding to it is an article of faith for Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama as the April 22 primary looms in the still unsettled and intense Democratic presidential race.

Read the article here.

BeliefNet: Catholics Hold Key to Pennsylvania Primary

The Associated Press reports on the strenuous Catholic outreach efforts of the Clinton and Obama campaigns in Pennsylvania. Catholics make up 30-percent of the population there and may be the biggest factor in determining whether Clinton wins big and survives to fight another day or whether Obama narrows her commanding lead among white religious voters and vanquishes her candidacy. The AP has fresh reporting on the Catholic outreach operations of both Democratic candidates...

Read the full article here.

March 30, 2008

No automatic ticket to Hell in 'Faithful Citizenship,' Gregory says

From the "That's a relief!" department...


Posted on Feb 26, 2008 12:20pm CST.

By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Washington, D.C.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta said today that it was not the intent of the U.S. bishops in their recent “Faithful Citizenship” document to suggest that Catholics who vote for a pro-choice candidate are automatically placing their salvation in jeopardy.

I spoke briefly with Gregory before he addressed the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, offering a “send-off” to participants heading to Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress.

Issued last November, "Faithful Citizenship" has been the object of a flurry of competing interpretations in recent days, as it has seemingly become clear that once again Americans will be faced with a choice at the presidential level between a pro-life Republican and a pro-choice Democrat.

In a Feb. 23 op/ed piece in the Washington Post, former NCR Washington correspondent Joe Feuerherd summarized the message of “Faithful Citizenship” this way: “Tap the touch screen for a pro-abortion-rights candidate, and you’re probably punching your ticket to Hell.”

Gregory, however, said that’s not what “Faithful Citizenship” teaches.

“Defending the right to life is obviously a primary concern,” Gregory said. “It’s the point of departure for everything else.”

Nonetheless, Gregory said, it is “at least possible” that a Catholic who carefully weighs the issues could decide that, on balance, a candidate who is not explicitly pro-life is preferable to one who opposes the legalization of abortion but who does not share Catholic positions on other matters of moral importance. Gregory was speaking in the abstract, without reference to any specific candidate.

In that sense, Gregory said, “Faithful Citizenship” cannot be reduced to an absolute obligation to vote for a pro-life candidate, regardless of his or her stances on anything else.

“It’s a complicated document,” Gregory said. “It suggests that people have to think hard about their choices.”

Gregory, a former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, drew attention to another op/ed piece on "Faithful Citizenship," this one in the Feb. 26 Chicago Tribune. It's written by Charles W. Murdock, a law professor at Loyola University of Chicago.

In the piece, Murdock asserts that “Faithful Citizenship” is “far more balanced and nuanced than its critics acknowledge.”

"No one candidate or political party has a monopoly on moral positions," Murdock wrote. "The sooner that liberals and conservatives within the church accept this complexity and find a way to talk about the issues, the better off the Catholic Church will be. And, for that matter, the country."

Adopted during the bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore, “Faithful Citizenship” addresses the role of Catholics in political life. Beginning in 1976, the bishops have produced such a document regularly during election years.

In his remarks to the Social Ministry Gathering, Gregory encouraged Catholics to carry several messages to Capitol Hill:
• “The lives of unborn children need protection”;
• “Poor children need justice”;
• “Families need affordable health care”;
• “Immigrants need to be treated as brothers and sisters, not enemies”;
• “The hungry of the world need food”;
• “Those living and dying with HIV/AIDS need compassionate care”;
• “The people of the Holy Land need a just peace”;
• “The unending war in Iraq requires a responsible transition.”

Each item on the list drew applause, and Gregory himself received a standing ovation both at the beginning and the end of his comments.

“We are not a lobby,” Gregory told the social ministers, “but a community that serves the poor and vulnerable every day. We are not an interest group, nor are we advocating our own narrow interests, but speaking for the voiceless and standing up for the common good.”

Gregory described the journey to Capitol Hill as “not a secular mobilization, but, in a sense, a pilgrimage.”

“We go not bringing campaign contributions or political endorsements, but to share our principles, our everyday experience, and our passion for the poor and for peace.”

“We go not to impose some sectarian doctrine,” Gregory said, “but to add our voices and our convictions to the debates and decisions on what kind of nation we are becoming, what kind of world we are shaping.”

Gregory specifically endorsed several items on the social ministers’ agenda, including the “Pregnant Women Support Act,” which would expand child care, pre-natal care and nutritional support programs for women and children, as well as barring insurance companies from defining pregnancy as a “pre-existing condition” to deny medical coverage. The idea is to craft an anti-abortion strategy that could draw bipartisan support by focusing not on legality, but on providing resources to women.

“In supporting the basic right to life, we cannot allow mothers and children to be forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because the resources are not made available,” Gregory said.

Gregory conceded that some people have been surprised and even angered by the bishops’ position on immigration – “including,” he said, “even some Catholics.” He lamented what he called a “coarse and polarizing” debate on immigration policy.

“I would envision another kind of public dialogue,” he said, “where the centuries-old experience of Christianity can help balance the harsh exigencies of law.”

Sponsored by 18 different Catholic organizations, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Social Ministry Gathering brings together around 700 diocesan and parish-level leaders involved in charitable service and social advocacy. The session runs Feb. 24-27 in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama



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