Monday, June 30, 2008

A Message From Senator Bob Casey




Today we have a break from our campaign postings to bring a very important message from Senator Bob Casey.


I didn't introduce the Starting Early, Starting Right Act because of politics. It wasn't about any lofty ideas. I heard the stories across Pennsylvania from families struggling to make ends meet due to the high cost of child care. I promised to make this issue one of my top priorities in the Senate.

Now that I've introduced a bill to make child care more affordable -- and to improve the quality of child care available to families -- I need your help moving it forward. Thousands of you have already signed on as citizen co-sponsors, and you're making a big difference.

But many of you have your own stories to share about how the high cost of child care is affecting your family or people you know. I know how powerful personal stories can be, and there is no better way to help me improve child care than to share your story.

Your story will help move Senate Bill 2980, the Starting Early, Starting Right Act, forward.

Maybe your family has to cut back at the grocery store. Maybe you couldn't go back to work when you wanted to -- or had to take a second job just to afford child care. Maybe the closest quality child care center adds another hour to your commute.

Child care costs too much in this country, and there are a million ways it can affect your family.America needs a solution to this problem right now, and by sharing your story with me, you can help move it forward.


Thank you for your help -- it means a lot.


Sincerely,


Bob Casey

Sunday, June 29, 2008

An Important Resource



John Sylvest of the Roman Catholics for Obama website has sent us the following very helpful information:


I have just completed a summary of what seem to me to be the most common abortion-related misconceptions vis a vis the POTUS political campaign. I gathered these from my 2008 ytd observations of Catholic voter attitudes toward Senator Obama. Most correspondents thru the Roman Catholics for Obama website seemed indeed unreachable. Many, however, were dialogic. Some were even members of the press.

To reach only 500 voters in any given swing state could sway this election. As all are aware, the Catholic demographic in most of the key Battleground States is substantial. I hope this info can constructively contribute to our Rapid Response effort, which will be crucial once the 527s gear up for the General Election.The summary, with my explicit apologetic, is located here: http://www.geocities.com/rc4o08/misconceptions.htm

Feel free to share.

Peace,

John Sobert Sylvest

Saturday, June 28, 2008

James Dobson Doesn't Speak for Me


Is Dobson's Obama Hit Backfiring?

By Amy Sullivan

After years of attacking Democrats with relative impunity for their supposed moral failings, Evangelical leader James Dobson surely didn't expect to suffer much of a backlash when he trained his sights on Barack Obama. Over the years, the party had practically cowered in fear and gone into radio silence when the head of Focus on the Family targeted one of its standard-bearers. So in a campaign that has already proved to be anything but predictable, the counterattack on Dobson this week epitomized the new, fraught political climate that Christian Right leaders like himself face.

Earlier this week, Dobson used his popular Christian radio program to denounce a 2006 speech the Illinois Senator gave about the place of religion in public life. He took personal offense at the fact that Obama had referred to him by name in the same breath as Al Sharpton, using the two to illustrate the range of differences that exist within Christianity. But he also expressed outrage at Obama's assertion that individuals can be moral without being religious. "He oughta read the Bible," said Dobson. Obama, he charged, was "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview."

But less than 24 hours after Dobson's radio broadcast, http://www.jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com/ was up and running on the Web. The site displays both Dobson's charges against Obama and Obama's own quotes from the 2006 speech. It also features a statement condemning Dobson that reads in part: "James Dobson doesn't speak for me when he uses religion as a wedge to divide; he doesn't speak for me when he speaks as the final arbiter on the meaning of the Bible."
The website was the handiwork of a coalition of Christian leaders headed by [the Rev.] Kirbyjon Caldwell, the Texas pastor and Bush family friend who led the benediction at George W. Bush's first Inauguration. The group came up with the idea for the site a while ago, and figured it was just a matter of time before the good Dr. Dobson would give them an opportunity to unveil it. And they're not the only ones pushing back against the Christian Right leader's broadsides. The Matthew 25 Network is a political action committee formed in early June by Mara Vanderslice, a Democratic strategist who oversaw religious outreach on the 2004 Kerry campaign and remembers well the perils of remaining silent in the face of attacks on that candidate's Catholic faith. Within hours of Dobson's program, the PAC had raised $4,000 for radio ads that will run next week in the Colorado Springs market, Dobson's home turf. Vanderslice and her co-producers at the Eleison Group, a new Democratic consulting firm founded by Hillary Clinton's former religion adviser, Burns Strider, plan to expand to other stations that carry Dobson's Focus program.
It's hard out there for a Christian Right leader. Last December came and went with barely a peep about a grinchy liberal "War on Christmas." The Republican nominee, John McCain, has refused to make the pilgrimage to Colorado Springs, telling the Focus on the Family leader to come to him instead. But the biggest problem is that Democrats — and Barack Obama in particular — are determined to make a play for a bloc of voters over whom Dobson and his colleagues have traditionally maintained exclusive control. And those voters seem willing to listen.

Obama's willingness to talk about his faith, including his decision to become a Christian as an adult, has resonated even with religious conservatives who disagree with him politically. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals was part of a gathering of Christian leaders Obama convened earlier this month, and he says, "There was no way I could leave that room not knowing this was a fellow brother in Christ." The Democratic candidate has also been an outspoken critic of what could be termed "certainty" theology — the idea that real Christians have no doubts about their rightness.

This language, combined with the Obama campaign's aggressive efforts to reach out to religious voters, has made it hard for the Christian Right to paint Obama as a secular bogeyman. His opponents have numerous lines of attack — is he a secret Muslim? A black nationalist Christian? A wishy-washy liberal Protestant? — but all seem to accept the basic premise that Obama is religious, which is key in a country where 70% of voters say they want their President to be a person of faith, according to Pew Research polls.

Obama's theological beliefs are clearly more liberal than those on the Christian right. But it's the beliefs of the latter that are fast becoming a minority. A new Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey of 35,000 Americans reports that 70% agree with the statement "Many religions can lead to eternal life," including 57% of Evangelicals. No less a figure than George W. Bush responded "no" when asked in 1999 if he believed heaven is open only to Christians. Those evolving, more relatively open-minded attitudes are one reason Dobson's organization has steadily lost members and revenue over the past five years.

Dobson and his colleagues have also been stymied by a new generation of Evangelical leaders who stubbornly refuse to join the political fray. When Saddleback pastor Rick Warren welcomes Obama to his church with open arms or Mike Huckabee declares that Obama's religion and his former pastor should be irrelevant issues in the campaign, they undercut the criticisms made by their elders in the Christian Right. In 2004, there was near-universal agreement by religious conservatives that their "non-negotiable" issues were limited to abortion, stem-cell research and gay marriage. But Warren and others now insist that the environment and poverty and health care reform are legitimate concerns as well, and the people in the pews increasingly agree with them.

So it's no surprise that the old lions of the Christian Right are suddenly sputtering. "This is raising my blood pressure," admitted the normally calm, Mr. Rogers-sounding Dobson at the end of his radio show on Tuesday. Just a few weeks earlier, the conservative columnist and former Moral Majority vice president Cal Thomas wrote an essay calling Obama a "false prophet." Placing Obama's "Christianity" in quotes, Thomas charged that the candidate's statements about religion — including his belief that non-Christians can get to heaven — prove that he does not understand what it means to be a Christian.

But if the grassroots reaction is any indication, the attacks on Obama have been largely self-defeating. After Thomas' column ran, dozens of regional papers that carry it were flooded with letters to the editor — and they were hardly in liberal bastions. In places like Augusta, Georgia, and Lubbock, Texas, people wrote in to criticize Thomas' attack on Obama. "To suggest that anyone is not a Christian because they do not adhere to Cal Thomas' narrow interpretation of what a Christian should believe," wrote one Texan, "is extremely intolerant, ignorant, and downright insulting." Barack Obama couldn't have said it any better himself, and this election year he may not have to.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Another Christian for Obama



"I stand today, a committed person of faith, in the teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ- teachings of tolerance and love for our neighbors. I stand today, a committed voter of the United States of America, supporting a public servant, Barack Obama. Who I believe holds the teachings, of our Lord, dear to his heart. Who I believe, will take the teachings, of our Lord, and not force them on America, but will instead lead by example and bring others into Grace."
- John T., Johnson City, TN

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Polling Shows Obama's Catholic Support

Gallup Says Obama Holds Advantage Over McCain Among Catholics


http://www.gallup.com/poll/108382/Obama-Holds-Slim-Advantage-Over-McCain-Among-Catholics.aspx


In other commentary, even right wing Catholic political operative Deal Hudson is forced to admit that Senator "Obama picked up steam with Catholic voters”. He also conceeded that the Iraq War “has destabilized the dynamics of the Catholic vote” and has given Obama a “surprising” traction among Catholic voters. In Hudson’s view, a “key breakthrough” for Obama came when he was endorsed by Prof. Doug Kmiec, a well-known Catholic pro-life professor of law who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Catholics Moving to Democratic Party


Democrats Have Edge Among US Catholics


The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown has some new data that shows that Catholics identify as Republicans at a lower rate than at any point since 2000, when Al Gore won the Catholic vote.


The Republicans labored mightily to disqualify John Kerry's Catholicism for conservative Catholics in 2004,and on the surface, it appears as if they succeeded: according to the 2004 exit polls, President Bush won a majority and increased his margin over 2000 by five points -- Gore won them by three points in 2000. (Note: a Pew study found that regular massgoers actually swung away (by three points) from President Bush in 2004, which suggests that the communion and abortion controversies weren't that relevant.)


The CARA study finds that 57% of US Catholic adults identity as Democrats or Democratic leaners, while 40% identify as Republicans or Republican leaners. The shift from 2004 holds across all attitudinal levels, including frequency of mass attendance and the degree to which Catholics rely on doctrine, age, and gender.


The polling data also indicates that Catholic attitudes on social, political and moral issues have shifted during the Bush administration, especially regarding two issues: the use of U.S. military force and taxes. Attitudes about immigration policy have also changed slightly and opinions regarding life and social justice issues have remained relatively stable. “Overall, these shifting Catholic attitude trends, less support for the use of U.S. military force, more support for higher taxes for wealthy Americans, and increasing acceptance of immigration, may favor the Democrats and Obama,” said Mark Gray, director of CARA Catholic Polls. In 2002, before the Iraq war, 63 percent of adult Catholics agreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that “The U.S. should be willing to use military force to overthrow governments that support terrorism against the U.S., even if it mean losing lives of U.S. service members.” In 2006, only 43 percent agreed with this statement – a shift of 20 percentage points. An increasing number of Catholics support a tax increase for the wealthiest Americans; 65 percent agreed in 2006, up from 52 percent in 2002. Catholics have also become less likely to agree that the number of immigrants permitted to come to the United States should be decreased; 54 percent in 2006, down from 65 percent in 2002. Among Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week, Republicans are more numerous than in the Catholic electorate at large. However, weekly attenders are still more likely to be Democrats than anything else.


In 2004, there was a lot of talk among conservatives about the great Catholic-Evangelical coming together. What happens in 2008?


The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate ( CARA ) is a nonprofit, independent and nonpartisan research institution at Georgetown University. CARA researchers conduct applied social scientific research related to the Catholic Church in the United States. CARA was created in 1964 and has been affiliated with Georgetown University since 1989. CARA’s national polls of adult Catholic have been conducted annually since 2000. To date, CARA has conducted CARA’s 19 national surveys of self-identified adult Catholics, including more than 21,000 respondents during the 2000 and 2008 period.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"TOLERANCE"


Some very fine words from Senator McCain, an honorable man who has served his country with great valour. My prayer is that both his supporters and Senator Obama's supporters remain aware of this important statement as the campaign progresses. May God bless him and keep him well and safe. God bless Senator Obama also and may God bless America.



"We have our disagreements, we Americans. We contend regularly and enthusiastically over many questions: Over the size and purposes of our government; over the social responsibilities we accept in accord with the dictates of our conscience; over our role in the world and how to defend our security interests and values in places where they are threatened. These are important questions; worth arguing about. We should contend over them with one another. It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in times of crisis, especially in times of crisis, we fight among ourselves for the things we believe in. It is not just our right, but our civic and moral obligation. But we deserve more than tolerance from one another, we deserve each other's respect, whether we think each other right or wrong in our views, as long as our character and sincerity merit respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the noisy debates that enliven our politics, a mutual devotion to the sublime idea that this nation was conceived in -- that freedom is the inalienable right of mankind, and in accord with the laws of nature and nature's Creator. Let us exercise our responsibilities as free people. But let us remember, we are not enemies. We are compatriots defending ourselves from a real enemy. We have nothing to fear from each other. We are arguing over the means to better secure our freedom, promote the general welfare and defend our ideals. It should remain an argument among friends; each of us struggling to hear our conscience, and heed its demands; each of us, despite our differences, united in our great cause, and respectful of the goodness in each other"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Young Evangelicals Move to Obama,Too


HUFFINGTON POST

Gains for the Democrats Among Evangelicals

by Tony Campolo

In the past, the Republican Party has depended on unified support at election time from Evangelical Christians. But times are changing! There is evidence of a significant division emerging in the Evangelical ranks as the 2008 election approaches. Young Evangelicals, especially, are breaking ranks with older Evangelicals (over 40) and are more and more leaning towards voting Democratic.

Upon visiting more than twenty campuses of Evangelical colleges and universities over the past year, it became obvious to me that a significant minority of the students at these schools would not be voting Republican come November. While still maintaining conservative views on gay marriage and abortion, the hot-button issues that governed their voting in previous elections, these younger Evangelicals have broadened their agenda. They now have strong concerns about saving the environment; doing something about human trafficking for sexual purposes; stopping the genocide in Darfur; addressing the AIDS crisis in Africa; and ending poverty. These latter two issues have become especially important to them, in part because of the influence of the rock star Bono.

Given their broadened agendas, these younger Evangelicals are finding the Democrats, and especially Barack Obama, more on their wavelength.

The traditional spokespersons for the Evangelicals, such as Chuck Colson and James Dobson, have become alarmed about this drift away from the "Family Values" issues that they believe should be the overwhelming concerns of Evangelicals. They have expressed their displeasure in letters of protest circulated through the religious media.

While these elder statesmen of Evangelicalism have a strong hearing among the over-40 crowd, the younger Evangelicals have turned to new voices such as Jim Wallis of the Sojourners/Call to Renewal movement; Shane Claiborne, a leader with the Simple Way; and Brian McLaren of the Emergent Church movement. This new breed of leaders is certainly not part of the Religious Right.

What might not be apparent to outside observers is that this political drift has been, in part, due to disillusionment with the Republican Party among younger evangelicals. "After all," they reason, "the Evangelical vote was crucial in electing a Republican Congress, a Republican president, and establishing a conservative Supreme Court. Yet, during the two years the Republicans held sway, they made no attempt to overturn Roe vs. Wade. When they had the power to do so, the Republicans didn't even try." Furthermore, more and more young Evangelicals are increasingly aware that at least half of all abortions are economically driven. For instance, an unmarried, eighteen-year-old pregnant woman, working at a minimum wage job, without hospitalization and without provisions for daycare for a newborn child, is likely to resort to having an abortion. In response to a woman in such a predicament, the Republicans, who claim to be pro-life, have generally opposed using federal monies to provide the means to deal with these economic necessities that go with having a baby. Many young Evangelicals think that, given such economic realities, outlawing abortions would only drive desperate women to seek them through some "underground" means.

While they still remain conservative in respect to gay marriage, younger Evangelicals are upset by the efforts of their elders to curtail some basic civil rights of gays and lesbians. One of these young people on my own Eastern University campus remarked, "How can we tell these gay brothers and lesbian sisters that we love them, as Christians are called to do, and then turn around and want rulings that allow for firing them from jobs because of their sexual orientation; accept discrimination when it comes to their being able to serve in the military; and even prevent hospital visits for homosexual patients by their longstanding partners if the patient's parents object?" Younger Evangelicals contend that love requires justice, because justice is nothing more than love translated into social policies.

These young people are showing deep appreciation for what President Bush has done to increase monies provided to address the AIDS crisis in Africa and for his commitment to increase funding to feed the poor. But the president has lost points with them because of his past failures in dealing with global warming and because of the horrendous waste of life due to his failed policies in respect to the war in Iraq.

It's a long time between now and November, but the evidence is increasingly clear that something dramatic is happening among younger Evangelicals that is causing them to rethink their politics. The Democratic leadership is aware of this and is coming up with all kinds of ways to show that they are "religiously friendly." The party leaders have created what they call a "Faith in Action" committee in order to get input from religious leaders on policy matters and they have encouraged their candidates to be "up front" with their religious convictions. It's a new day for the Democrats when it comes to matters of faith, and the younger Evangelicals are aware of this and many of them are moving into the Democratic camp.


huffington_post:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tony-campolo/gains-for-the-democrats-a_b_99089.html

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Two Testimonials for Obama


Eileen P., A Catholic from Oley, Pennslyvania:
I support Senator Obama for a number of reasons, but mostly because he says that we must "find the common ground". I was able to happily reconcile my support of Obama with my pro-life values after reading his 2nd book, Audacity of Hope. Unlike many of the Democratic leadership, he shows a profound respect for those of us with pro-life values, and he is able to once again "find the common ground", by looking for ways to eliminate the need for abortions, as well as to support all life, whether thru speaking against unnecessary, unjust wars, or by eliminating poverty, or by improving education.


Janet S., A Catholic from South Carolina:

As a person of faith, I support Barack because I trust him. It's as simple as that. I also believe he will treat people fairly and not consider one class of people somehow "better" or "more worthy" than another class of people. All are the same in God's eyes and I think Barack agrees with that outlook.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Catholics and Evangelicals for Obama


Analysis: Obama steps up outreach to evangelicals

By Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — With the Democratic presidential nomination in his grasp, Sen. Barack Obama is making a full-throttle push for centrist evangelicals and Catholics.
It's a move that's caught off guard some conservative evangelicals, who say they are surprised and dismayed to see a progressive-minded politician attempting to conscript their troops. At the same time, they say Sen. John McCain has done little to court their affections.
"I've never seen anything quite like it before," said evangelical author Stephen Mansfield, who wrote The Faith of George W. Bush and has a forthcoming similar book about Obama.
"To be running against a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and to be reaching into the Christian community as wisely and knowledgeably as (Obama) is — understanding their terms and their values — is just remarkable."


Earlier this month, the Illinois senator held a closed-door meeting in Chicago with nearly 40 Christian leaders, including evangelical heavyweights like the Rev. Franklin Graham, publishing magnate Steve Strang and megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes.



Obama's campaign is also launching a grass-roots effort, tentatively called Joshua Generation, with plans to hold concerts and house meetings targeted at young evangelicals and Catholics.
Meanwhile, a new political action committee set to launch later this month, the Matthew 25 Network, plans to direct radio advertising and mailers to Christian communities while talking up Obama in the media. The group is not officially tied to the Obama campaign.
Obama's emphasis on faith outreach plays to his strengths, campaign observers say. The senator is at ease speaking about religion and preaches a message of forging common ground with disparate communities.

Still, some religious leaders wonder if Obama's Christian-focused outreach may alienate Jewish and Muslim voters, for example, not to mention the Democratic Party's large secular wing.
"You really have to consider the question: What message does this send to people of other faiths?" said the Rev. Romal J. Tune, a Washington pastor who works on religious outreach with the Democratic National Committee.

Joshua DuBois, Obama's director of faith outreach, said the campaign is "not solely focused" on evangelicals and Catholics but "committed to reaching people of faith broadly and trying to bridge religious divides."

Nonetheless, Obama has clearly learned a lesson from previous, unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidates: Ignore — or dismiss — evangelicals at your peril.

Right now there's really more continuity than change" among religious voters, said John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "But we're at the beginning of the campaign, and what campaigns try to do is change people's minds."
Obama may have done some of that at the Chicago meeting, which one adviser described as a "Nixon goes to China" moment.

Abortion and gay marriage — issues on which the Illinois Democrat openly disagreed with many of the evangelical leaders in the room — dominated the discussion, according to participants.
Still, Strang wrote in a blog, Obama "won over the loyalties of many."

"He came across as thoughtful and much more of a 'centrist' than I would have expected," Strang wrote, adding that he hopes McCain will host a similar gathering.

Mansfield said he sees similar political acumen in the Joshua Generation program. Often used as a "mobilizing phrase" among evangelical church youth groups, the "Joshua Generation" name refers to the biblical story of Joshua, who did what Moses could not: lead his people into the Promised Land.

"The impressive thing about Obama is that he knows this," Mansfield said. "This is language you expect to hear at a youth rally, not from the presidential campaign of the most liberal member of the Senate."

The Matthew 25 Network, named after the biblical passage in which Jesus promises eternal life for those who care for the least and the lost, will be led by Mara Vanderslice, a young evangelical who briefly led faith outreach for Sen. John Kerry's 2004 campaign and later founded a respected political consulting firm.

About 40 people turned up for a $1,000-per-head Washington fundraiser earlier this month to hear about the group's plans for targeting Catholics, moderate evangelicals, Hispanic Catholics and Protestants, Vanderslice said.

The PAC is just one "piece of the faith outreach puzzle," said Mike McCurry, a former press secretary for President Bill Clinton who is advising the project.

"For evangelicals, obviously this is an uphill battle. No one is proposing that we go and win a majority of them," McCurry said. But there are significant numbers of moderate Christians "and we need to reach them."

Find this article at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2008-06-18-obama-evangelicals_N.htm

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Catholics for Obama" Named One of Top Ten Obama Blogs


Blogged.com, a service to find better blogs, has announced a list of the top 10 blog sites for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The list was compiled by Blogged.com's in-house editors after evaluating numerous blogs that focused on the candidate. After a thorough analysis, ten Barack Obama blogs were found to be of the highest quality.

"The recent Democratic primary has caused an unprecedented increase in media coverage and discussions about the two candidates. We felt that the voices of the bloggers should be included in these discussions as well." said Kenneth Yeh, co-founder of Blogged.com.

Blogged.com offers political junkies and casual readers alike a one-stop shop for finding key blogs on their candidate – with everything from op-eds and political punditry, to biographical pieces and news updates. Blogged.com plans to release additional lists of top 10 blogs on popular topics in the months ahead as part of its mission to help people "find better blogs."


Barack Obama Blogs:
http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/hqblog
http://www.barackoblogger.com/
http://www.positivelybarack.com/
http://2008obama.blogspot.com/
http://asianamericansforobama.typepad.com/
http://thisweekwithbarackobama.blogspot.com/
http://community.livejournal.com/obama_rama
http://blogobama08.blogspot.com/
http://www.catholicsforobama.blogspot.com/
http://election2008options.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

COMMONWEAL Article by Catholic Theologian


Yes You Can: Why Catholics Don’t Have to Vote Republican


Gerald J. Beyer

Republicans often use overheated and oversimplified rhetoric regarding the affinity between Catholic teaching and their platform. As a result, many people mistakenly assume that a Catholic must vote Republican. David Carlin, former Democratic Rhode Island senator, seems to have fallen prey to this fallacy (“Two Cheers for John McCain,” Commonweal, May 9).

Like many other well-meaning Catholics, Carlin argues that “there is no logical way to vote for the presidential candidate of a party committed to the preservation and extension of abortion rights.” He maligns “Catholic in name only” types who resort to intellectual chicanery to justify voting for candidates who support “the slaughter of innocents.” In this context, it is interesting to ponder why so many distinguished Catholic public servants, activists, and theologians have endorsed Barack Obama, a Democrat, for the presidency.

As an institution, the Roman Catholic Church does not tell believers for whom or against whom they must vote, despite what some politicians, pundits, and pastors suggest. Rather, as the U.S. bishops write in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2007), “the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience.”


Certainly Catholics must seriously consider any candidate’s stance on “intrinsic evils” such as abortion, racism, and torture. Catholics may not vote for a candidate who supports an intrinsic evil “if the voter’s intent is to support that position.” Yet Catholics may choose a candidate who does not unequivocally condemn an intrinsic evil for other “truly grave moral reasons.” Catholics ought to choose the candidate who is least likely to promote intrinsic evils and the most likely to promote “other authentic human goods.” So the question becomes: Are there “grave moral reasons” that permit Catholics to vote for Obama, or any other candidate, despite his or her prochoice stance, or would such a vote be “intellectually careless or downright disingenuous,” as Carlin asserts?

In the U.S. political context, where no candidate perfectly mirrors Catholic teaching on issues such as abortion, war, stem-cell research, poverty, discrimination, gay marriage, and immigration, voting should be a difficult matter of conscience for Catholics. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship argues that these issues “are not optional concerns which can be dismissed.” While John McCain’s voting record on antiabortion legislation may be more consistent than Obama’s with Catholic teaching, he supports federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research—an intrinsic evil that Catholic teaching unambiguously condemns. He supported and promises to continue a war that the members of the Roman curia and the U.S. bishops deemed unjust. The bishops have called for a “responsible transition in Iraq...sooner rather than later.” They caution against a hasty withdrawal that would abandon U.S. legal and moral responsibilities to the people of Iraq. Yet they see continuing military operations there as a catalyst for the insurgency and unlikely to promote sustainable peace. The bishops also urge nonmilitary actions, such as diplomatic engagement with Syria, Iran, and other nations in the region that “address the underlying factors of conflict.” Is this the kind of “soft patriotism” tinged with “pacifism and cosmopolitanism” that Carlin rejects in the positions of Obama and other Democrats?

To return to the main question, what issues might weigh so heavily on the consciences of Catholics that they choose to endorse Obama? The obvious place to start is precisely the so-called war on terror and foreign policy more broadly. As is well known, Obama consistently opposed the war in Iraq and supports a timely and responsible withdrawal. In a speech in September 2007, he outlined his proposals to bring the war to an end. They include: talks with Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia; eschewing war with Iran; continued training of Iraqi forces; increasing aid for Iraqi refugees from $183 million to $2 billion; welcoming Iraqi refugees to the United States; a UN Iraqi war-crimes commission; and building schools throughout Iraq.
Not only is Obama’s position on the war and his strategy to end it more consonant with Catholic teaching, but his vision for the place of the United States in the international community much more closely resembles modern papal teaching on international relations. “I don’t want to just end the war,” Obama has said, “but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.” After his long conversations with Obama’s foreign-policy team, the journalist Spencer Ackerman reports that “the Obama doctrine” seeks to abandon “the politics of fear” and “spreading democracy” in favor of “dignity promotion” (“The Obama Doctrine,” American Prospect, March 24). In other words, Obama will pursue much more dialogue with other nations and attack the conditions that create misery and generate anti-American sentiment in impoverished countries. As Obama put it, we must “more effectively tackle the twin demons of extremism and hopelessness that threaten the peace of the world and the security of America.”
Obama ranks among the few politicians who embrace Pope Paul VI’s 1967 dictum, “development is the new name for peace.” More recently, one finds resonances between Obama’s understanding of U.S. global leadership and responsibilities and that of Pope Benedict XVI. In the pope’s address to the United Nations, he argued that the best way to eliminate inequality among nations and to increase global security is to promote human rights. Throughout his papacy, Pope John Paul II tirelessly advocated globalization that is guided by the principle of solidarity, which precludes marginalizing weaker nations. This requires creating a world community based on “mutual trust, mutual support, and sincere respect.” All nations must be equal dialogue partners, with the right to influence global decision making. Candidates who speak of “obliterating Iran” with nuclear weapons, as Sen. Hillary Clinton did, or of evicting Russia from the G-8, as McCain suggested, do not share the Catholic vision of a just internationalism guided by the principle of solidarity. Obama does. He has argued that U.S. global leadership requires much greater “investments in our common humanity.” In order to help people lead lives “marked by dignity and opportunity,” Obama proposes to double foreign aid to $50 billion by 2012, and to create a $2-billion Global Education Fund—akin to the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation.

Obama favors a robust U.S. military, judiciously deployed. He argues that the United States must restore its leadership position and protect its own security by promoting the welfare of impoverished and oppressed peoples: “We must do so not in the spirit of a patron, but in the spirit of a partner—a partner that is mindful of its own imperfections.” On his view, reaching out to other nations is not an exercise of charity, but a matter of “recognizing the inherent equality and worth of all people.” McCain, on the other hand, taunts Obama for his desire to negotiate with nations like Iran. Catholics who share recent popes’ understandings of international affairs should pray that if McCain becomes president, he does not lead the United States into a disastrous war with Iraq’s neighbor. Such an unjust “preventive” war would kill more innocent civilians. A vote for McCain breathes new life into the neoconservative foreign policy—sometimes disguised in the language of humanitarian intervention—that has wreaked havoc in Iraq during George W. Bush’s presidency. As Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth argues, the invasion of Iraq was not a humanitarian intervention because Saddam’s mass-murder of Kurds had ceased much earlier, “nor was such slaughter imminent.”

On the domestic front, Obama and the U.S. Catholic bishops believe we must more aggressively confront the enduring problem of racism. Both appreciate the progress that has been made over the past several decades. Yet, as Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia has put it, the “intrinsic evil” of racism has remained “deeply rooted in American life.” In his 2001 pastoral letter Dwell in My Love, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago lamented persistent discriminatory housing patterns, devaluation and underrepresentation of minorities and their cultures, unjust judicial penalties for minorities, and the perpetuation of racist attitudes in American society. Likewise, Obama described the pernicious consequences of racism in his speeches in Philadelphia and at Howard University, and in his “Plan for Strengthening Civil Rights.” He contended that the educational achievement gap between black and white students in the United States stems from the inferior schools that many African Americans must attend. He criticized unfairly harsh penalties for first-time nonviolent offenders, which are disproportionally given to minorities. He also decried racial profiling and the attempt by the Justice Department to eliminate affirmative-action programs at U.S. colleges and universities.

Obama and bishops who have spoken out against racism propose many of the same remedies: ensuring that children of minorities and the poor have good educational opportunities; eliminating racial disparities in the justice system; and fair access to credit and housing for minorities. Obama’s ability to enter into dialogue with people of different ideological stripes and his profound understanding of racial injustice allow him to address racism in a way that McCain cannot. Obama alone has spoken passionately and persuasively on the issue and has a proven track record both as a community organizer among the disenfranchised and as a civil-rights attorney.

he U.S. bishops and recent popes have advocated a more just economic system in the United States. The late Pope John Paul II, for example, decried America’s neoliberal capitalism, which “considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters” and fails to protect the weakest members of society. The U.S. bishops support policies including a living wage, affordable health care, welfare reform, and fair taxation. Obama opposes the “sink or swim” capitalism that has created unjust economic disparities in the United States. Yet Obama, like Pope John Paul II and the bishops, recognizes the potential of the market economy, guided by reasonable and just social policies, to advance the welfare of all members of society.

By contrast, John McCain professes faith in the unfettered forces of the market. He proposes little to advance the cause of health care for all or to end the mortgage crisis, and he supports tax cuts for the rich and for corporations. He embraces the “trickle down” economics that favors the accumulation of wealth by some at the expense of the many. Anyone vaguely familiar with the church’s social doctrine since Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum (1891) knows that Catholic teaching eschews laissez-faire capitalism, which Republicans have religiously avowed since the Reagan revolution (though they have not always practiced it, as evidenced by Bush’s hefty farm subsidies). As Angus Sibley recently noted in these pages, John Paul II’s Centesimus annus insisted that “there are collective and qualitative needs that cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms” (“The Cult of Capitalism,” April 25). “We Catholics should not be shy about what distinguishes our recipe for the good society from that of libertarian theorists,” Sibley argued.
Of course, economic policy issues are matters of prudential judgment, which means Catholics may disagree on specific measures. It is difficult, however, to maintain that McCain will better adopt the church’s teaching on the preferential option for the poor, which is, to borrow a term from Catholic conservatives, non-negotiable. Catholic teaching holds that the justice of an economy and any particular policy must be measured by how it affects the most vulnerable. Since President Bush took office in 2000, 5.6 million more Americans have fallen into poverty. The administration’s slashing of antipoverty programs does not augur well for our nation’s poor, given that McCain would likely maintain the status quo. Yes, McCain has promised to make poverty a “top priority,” but actions speak louder than words. On several occasions McCain voted against minimum-wage increases and has never been on the front lines of the war on poverty. Obama has. From his efforts to empower the poor of Chicago’s Southside in his early adulthood to his recent cosponsoring of the Global Poverty Act, Obama has exhibited the will and know-how to fight poverty. His plans to tackle poverty share the Catholic emphasis on social change coming from the ground up. Recently Obama pledged to work with former Sen. John Edwards to halve domestic poverty in ten years. This plan, available on the Center for American Progress Web site (www.americanprogress.org), contains detailed proposals, not empty platitudes.

Perhaps the most important commonality between Catholic teaching and Obama’s proposals is one of philosophical orientation. Both stress the necessity of nurturing the virtue of hope. The Catholic tradition holds that without hope in one another there can be no justice, no spirit of solidarity among human beings. Without hope in one another, social trust disintegrates and dialogue breaks down. When that happens, we resolve to take care of our own interests. We take advantage of, or at least ignore, the downtrodden and the marginalized. Like Barack Obama, Catholicism embraces the language of hope and solidarity, without which change for the sake of peace and justice for all cannot occur. Naysayers who consider the language of hope utopian, impractical, or “soft” ought to take note of successful movements like Solidarnosc in Poland during the 1980s, which was imbued with the spirit of the Catholic tradition and the language of hope. It is no coincidence that Lech WaƂesa, the audacious electrician and leader of the Solidarity movement, titled his autobiography A Way of Hope.

Like David Carlin, many Catholics rightly oppose Sen. Obama’s prochoice position, which contradicts Catholic teaching. Still, they ought to consider his promise to reduce the number of abortions by fostering socioeconomic conditions that favor choosing life and by promoting abstinence as a way of reducing unintended pregnancies. They should also contemplate the fact that Republican presidents have not done a better job of reducing the number of abortions, as Daniel Finn has pointed out (“Hello, Catholics,” Commonweal, November 4, 2005). According to Finn, Republicans like Bush have championed the abortion issue without exerting much energy to eliminate current abortion practice. That may not satisfy the conscience of some Catholics; they may decide to vote against Obama. Still, such a choice must be made after sincerely attempting to discern which candidate will more fully advance values and policies akin to the Catholic vision of solidarity, social justice, and the common good. As the USCCB has taught, Catholics must examine a candidate’s stance on the full range of issues that ought to weigh on a Catholic’s conscience. Undoubtedly, many Catholics who support Obama have done just that. Catholics who endorse him should strongly encourage him to take steps to limit the evil of abortion. Finally, during this election season Catholic voters should not be duped into believing that the matter is already perfectly clear: Vote for McCain or be a bad Catholic! They ought to take their obligation to vote according to their consciences more seriously than that.

Gerald J. Beyer is assistant professor of theology at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another Pro-Lifer for Obama


HOW OBAMA CAN GET THE VOTES OF PRO-LIFE CITIZENS LIKE ME


by Lisa Ferguson


Obama has a huge opportunity to win over an unlikely voting bloc: pro-life voters. Much has been said about pro-life Democrats feeling disrespected by their party. In recent years, however, pro-life liberals, moderates and Democrats have been callously disrespected by the Right-to-Life Establishment. The Establishment has worked hand in glove with GOP political operatives to advance the GOP even if not in the best interest of the pro-life movement. Strategies that offer marginal protection for the unborn are pursued if they fit in with the Republican playbook, while the RTL Establishment refuses to work with Democrats to save unborn lives.

In recent years, pro-life Democrats, liberals and moderates have taken matters into their own hands. Rather than be bound to the RTL Establishment's ineffective and modest agenda, they have moved forward their own to reduce the number of abortions and prevent late term abortion.

Pro-life voters who put pro-life before being Republican are realizing that while McCain may campaign on the "immorality" of abortion but the policies he supports seem to lead to lots more of them. Isn't it time to turn the tables? Obama should hold McCain and and other Establishment RTL leaders accountable for their failure to find solutions to the high rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion.

Obama should champion wider access to birth control, and birth control is the only proven way to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion. Obama shouldn't get sucked into the silly debate about whether the pill is an abortifacient since even the anti-abortion movement's most respected physicians agree there's no scientific evidence that it is. He should ask why McCain hasn't championed campaigns to reduce unwanted pregnancies. Obama could remind the voter that only 11% of sexually active women don't use contraception and from this 11% comes 50% of the nation's abortions. Ninety-three percent of the American public strongly favors contraception because of this very reason. No less than 80% of self-described pro-life voters strongly support contraception. Few know that McCain has a long legislative resume devoted to voting against access to contraception and prevention.

McCain and the right to life Establishment may have sanctimony on their side but, so far, sanctimony has proven ineffective at preventing abortion. Study after study suggests the right to life approach, which McCain has helped execute for decades, is actually the root of the problem: leading to more abortions and later ones too.

Scanning the globe we discover little correlation between abortion law and the number of abortions. The countries where abortion is most rare have permissive abortion laws (mostly western Europe) while the countries where abortion is illegal (Brazil, Philippines, Mexico) are the ones with the highest abortion rates, often twice our national average.

Results should matter.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Barack Obama's Faith


When faith is front and center
By Douglas W. Kmiec
June 16, 2008
Chicago Tribune

A few days ago, I had the privilege of engaging Sen. Barack Obama in private conversation for several hours with Rev. Franklin Graham, Bishop T.D. Jakes and a diverse group of 30 or so religious leaders from Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical and other traditions.

This was an unprecedented sit-down for any political figure, let alone a much-in-demand presidential candidate. Why would the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party devote so much time talking faith rather than politics? Quite simply, because it is the senator's deep personal faith that explains his audaciously positive hope for his country.

Obama's life is one of accomplishment in the face of unexpected challenge—the all-too-usual perils of an absentee father overcome by the extraordinary love of mother and grandparents; a home with little religious practice surpassed by an early education in Catholic schools and a later immersion in the hard work of faith assisting the poor in Chicago. When Obama picks up the political glass it is uniformly half full, and frankly, when he encounters the skepticism of others—as he occasionally did in our meeting—he casts a smile that doesn't discount or disregard doubt, but somehow manages to engage it with the intelligence of everyone in the room.

The discussion dwelt at some length on abortion. Obama said he earnestly wants to "discourage" the practice—despite the distortions of some who think if they affix the "pro-abortion—won't overturn-Roe-label" to the senator, pro-lifers like myself won't give him the time of day. Sorry, good friends, not this year.

Not to understand that there is more than one rather indirect and elusive judicial way to address an intrinsic evil understates the ingenuity of the devout. Describing the abortion decision as a "difficult, deeply moral one," Obama sees it as one only the woman can make. Unless her choice affirms life that is not my Catholic view, and I told him so. But disagreement or not, it is abundantly clear from our conversation that Obama shares a common aspiration to reduce the incidence of abortion.

How? Obama is committed to encouraging "responsible sexual behavior," discouraging unwanted pregnancies, promoting adoption as a more viable, affordable and appealing option than it presently is, and putting off limits in a manner consistent with the law as the justices see it, late-term abortion. Obama will not exclude abortion from medical coverage to fulfill a health exception "rigorously defined."

This replays where we disagree, but the meeting, itself, keeps revealing his appreciation for both the significance of faith and faith differences and an open mind sensitive to the need to protect religious freedom.

Obama complimented my old boss, President Ronald Reagan. Reagan talked in 1980 of "family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom," but never unleashed any systematic revival of the first three, even as he secured—for his time at least—a better peace.

Reagan was high-minded enough, but his prosperous friends did not always notice that the needs of the middle class could be caught in the switches—too well off for help, and stretched too thin not to be subject to spikes of real economic pain. If the middle-class was sometimes left unattended, and it was, no amount of the "trickle down" gospel could effectively answer the "cry of the poor."

Obama's conception of promoting the common good is situated in those regular but welcoming neighborhoods most of us call home—foreclosure aside. He intends to ask government and non-governmental entities—and you and me—to do our part.Frankly, it is more than a little exhilarating to be given that much faith and trust.

Douglas W. Kmiec, who was denied communion by a priest for endorsing Barack Obama, is a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University and was an assistant U.S. attorney general during the Reagan administration.

www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-oped0616kmiec_jun16,0,759034.story

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Time Magazine Writes of Obama's Faith Outreach


Obama's Play for the Faithful

By Amy Sullivan

It's safe to say there's no page in the Democratic handbook that recommends sitting down with several dozen right-of-center Christian leaders one week after clinching the party's presidential nomination. So the fact that Barack Obama slipped away Tuesday afternoon to a borrowed Chicago law-firm conference room for some prayer and frank talk about his faith and to face some tough questioning from heavy hitters in the Evangelical, Catholic and mainline Protestant worlds could be the clearest sign yet that he really does intend to practice a different kind of politics. But it's undoubtedly also a signal that he recognizes the damage done to his campaign by a spring that featured the Jeremiah Wright show and rumors about his true religious leanings — and ended with a decision to leave his church.


Among those gathered on Tuesday were African-American preachers like T.D. Jakes, Hispanic pastors like Sam Rodriguez and a few conservative Catholics like Pepperdine professor Doug Kmiec, who has been denied Communion because of his public support for Obama. But the majority of attendees were white Evangelical leaders, including one conservative member of Evangelical royalty, Franklin Graham.

"The purpose was not to line up endorsements," says one Obama aide. "But some very important Evangelicals left this meeting impressed. I think they'll go back to their enclaves telling an interesting story." The nearly two-hour-long meeting opened and closed with prayer. For the balance of the time, Obama spoke about his faith journey — a topic that he has written and spoken about extensively but that was new to many of those present — and fielded sometimes pointed questions.

"It never got heated," says another Obama adviser, "but these issues are tough. Abortion is going to come up. Three or four times, in fact." But while the topic of abortion is often a conversation ender or results in a terse decision to "agree to disagree," this group wanted to get at real answers, asking Obama to explain how he thought through the issue as a Christian. They also talked about poverty, health care and Darfur, among other concerns. "When he talked about trying to bring people together on poverty or abortion reduction," says one participant, "there were a lot of nods in the room, even from some traditional Evangelicals who are frustrated with the lack of progress."

The conversation became most personal when Obama talked about the decision he and his family made just a few weeks ago to leave Trinity United Church of Christ, where he has worshiped for almost 20 years. The move has been dissected in the press as mostly a matter of political calculation. But the pastors seemed supportive of Obama, understanding the difficulty of leaving a religious home. "That crowd got it better than anybody," says an Obama aide.
Several of the Evangelicals who were present say that despite their differences with Obama, the vigorous discussion was a welcome break from the tepid theological inquiry that has existed during the Bush years. "Obama is not some neophyte who is intimidated by the prospect of conversation with religious leaders on these matters," says Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals. "That makes it a lot of fun, because the country desperately needs the capacity to carry on a conversation about religion and politics in a way that is affirming of people's differences."

The meeting ended on a positive note, with many of the leaders thanking the candidate for bringing them together. Some of the most conservative seemed especially surprised that a Democratic nominee would seek out a conversation with them. A smaller group even walked back to the candidate's headquarters in downtown Chicago to tour the office and pick up some bumper stickers.

Throughout the Democratic primaries, Obama consistently lost white Evangelical and Catholic voters to Hillary Clinton, raising questions about his ability to appeal to those constituencies in the general election. However, two polls conducted in May appear to indicate otherwise — at least in terms of support for John McCain among those voters. A Gallup survey released last week showed him pulling even with McCain among Catholics, and a Calvin College poll revealed anemic Evangelical support for McCain (57%, compared with 72% who voted for George W. Bush in 2004). Even so, Obama's relationship with religious voters remains a concern for his campaign.

To Obama's advisers, the John Kerry campaign is a cautionary tale of what happens when a candidate allows his opponent to define his faith. Which is why the Obama campaign has a senior religion adviser, a Catholic outreach director, half a dozen religion interns and just announced it is bringing aboard an aide to focus on Evangelical outreach (it is expected to be Shaun Casey, professor of ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary). The campaign has also announced an effort to reach younger religious voters and will probably benefit from the work of a new PAC — called Matthew 25 — launched this week to rally Christian support for Obama.


For the rest of the article, click here:





Saturday, June 14, 2008

Obama in the Lead with Catholic Vote


Catholic vote
June 13, 2008
by Paul Moses
dot Commonweal


By the way, the NBC-Wall Street Journal Poll showed Barack Obama well ahead of John McCain among Catholic voters. Mark Silk notes on the blog Spiritual Politics that it’s because Obama is so far ahead with Hispanics (while McCain is apparently ahead , by a smaller margin, among non-Hispanic white Catholics). Silk notes that Obama’s lead among Catholics is about the same as his overall lead in the poll.

So all that chatter about Obama’s weakness with the Catholic and Hispanic votes goes nowhere.

Friday, June 13, 2008

McCain Not Welcome at Bishops' Meeting



John McCain has been told he is not invited to the Orlando meeting of the US Catholic Bishops. Attempts were made to arrange for McCain to speak or attend as a guest. The word from the Bishops: NO.

Instead, a small, right wing political group called "the Catholic Citizens Committee" will hold a secret meeting with McCain away from the conference site. Most bishops have turned down their invitation to the meeting though a small number say may attend. The general laity are barred from the meeting.

CCC actively exists only in Brooklyn and Queens and its leaders are all long standing GOP political operatives. Its chair is a wealthy New York City financier.
BREAKING NEWS: THE CCC MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED. IT SEEMS NONE OF THE BISHOPS ARE WILLING TO MEET WITH McCAIN.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Abortion Question


Catholics cannot fully embrace Senator Obama's views on abortion policy. John McCain's views also fall short from a Catholic perspective. The following is an interesting commentary by a writer who is not an activist on this question but a polling expert. Its offered for what its worth:

Democrats and John McCain

A Commentary By Froma Harrop
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hillary Clinton's blessing notwithstanding, many of the New York senator's supporters will resist the handover to Barack Obama. The sexism that permeated the recent campaign still rankles, and John McCain is far from the standard-issue Republican they instinctively vote against.
A big sticking point for wavering Democrats will be McCain’s position on reproductive rights. Clinton's backers are overwhelmingly pro-choice, and they’ll want to know this: Would McCain stock the Supreme Court with foes of Roe v. Wade? The 1973 decision guarantees a right to abortion.

The answer is unclear but probably "no." While McCain has positioned himself as "pro-life" during this campaign, his statements over the years show considerable latitude on the issue.
In a 1999 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, McCain said, "I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America" to undergo "illegal and dangerous operations."

George W. Bush turned that statement against him in the 2000 race for the GOP nomination. The National Right to Life Committee ran ads denouncing McCain -- one reason he lost the important South Carolina primary to Bush.

Addressing conservative South Carolinians last year, McCain said that Roe should be overturned. Primary politics or a change of mind? The former is my guess -- and also that in his current pursuit of Hillary Democrats we may see a softening of that position.
Whatever McCain really thinks, the chances that he would submerge his presidency in the maelstrom of abortion politics seem slim. Partisan battles over court nominees aren't his thing, either.

McCain played a central role in the Gang of 14 -- the seven Democratic and seven Republican senators who joined hands to find common ground on court appointments. For his efforts at compromise, McCain took a pummeling from the right wing. Note that Obama, the self-styled foe of division, declined to join the bipartisan group.

And if a President McCain did put forth a controversial candidate, the Democratic majority in the Senate -- sure to grow after the upcoming election -- would put a quick end to the idea. That's why McCain would probably choose a cipher, as had some of his Republican predecessors. Ronald Reagan gave us Sandra Day O'Connor, and George H.W. Bush picked David Souter. Both justices were essentially friendly to Roe.

Obama is no doubt pro-choice, but on the issue, he's hardly been a profile in courage. As an Illinois state senator, he famously voted "present" on anti-choice legislation. Voting "present" is a tactic used to express disapproval without actually taking a stand.

In February, Bonnie Grabenhofer, the president of the Illinois National Organization for Women (and a Clinton supporter) wrote: "We made it clear at the time that we disagreed with the strategy. ... Voting present doesn't provide a platform from which to show leadership and say with conviction that we support a woman's right to choose and these bills are unacceptable."
For someone representing Obama's very liberal Chicago district, there was zero danger in voting "no" on an anti-abortion bill. He almost certainly voted "present" as political cover should he run for higher office and need to appeal to a wider base of voters. And run for higher office he soon did.

Nowadays, most abortion fights center on regulations. The movement to ban the procedure outright suffered a disastrous blow in 2006, when the conservative voters of South Dakota threw out a state law written to do just that.

Curious Democrats will have many questions about the Arizona senator's positions on taxes, health care and war. But they need not obsess on what a McCain presidency would do to Roe. That is one war McCain is unlikely to wage

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Best Saved Nickel Ever


Bill Donohue, the high strung head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (a group that has no official recognition from the Catholic Church) issued a press release (a regular activity of his) demanding that Barack Obama dissolve his Catholic Advisory Council. It seems that either it is wrong for Senator Obama to seek advice from Catholics or it is wrong for Catholics to advise Obama.

Members of the Catholic Advisory Council responded to Donohue, maybe giving him more attention than he deserved (though giving him what he most lusts for).

Donohue wasn't satisfied and had his staff place haranguing telephone calls to the Obama campaign demanding to know if Obama had conformed to the instructions made by this conservative political operative.

Guess what? The Obama campaign didn't return his calls. (best saved nickel ever).

Now, and this gets rich, Donohue, not recognizing a snub when he sees it, has decided that since no one called him back, it must mean that the campaign dissolved the Catholic Advisory Council.

We tested this practice by placing a call to the Pope asking him if the College of Cardinals still exists. The Pope has one more day to call us back or we assume that there no longer is a College of Cardinals.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Catholic Scholars Defend the Eucharist


www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.communion09jun09,0,7586458.story
baltimoresun.com


Don't play politics with Communion
By David O'Brien and Lisa Sowle Cahill
June 9, 2008

What do a former legal counsel for Ronald Reagan and a Democratic governor have in common? As you might expect, it's not the same politics. Douglas W. Kmiec, an esteemed constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University, is a pro-life Republican. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is a moderate known for consensus-building. But these prominent Catholics are both the most recent targets of clergy who use Communion as a political weapon and effectively blacklist respected Catholic leaders. It's time for Catholics and all Americans to speak out against this spiritual McCarthyism.


When Mr. Kmiec endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president, conservative Catholic blogs buzzed with outrage. How could a conservative known for his public opposition to abortion rights support a pro-choice liberal? In a recent Catholic Online column, Mr. Kmiec describes how he was declared "self-ex-communicated" by many fellow Catholics. He writes that at a recent Mass, an angry college chaplain denounced his "Obama heresy" from the pulpit and denied him Communion.


In Kansas City, Kan., Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann has ordered Ms. Sebelius, also an Obama supporter, not to receive Communion after she vetoed abortion legislation riddled with constitutional red flags. The bill in question made it easier for prosecutors to search private medical records, allowed family members to seek court orders to stop abortions and failed to include exceptions to save the life of the mother. Along with many public officials, Ms. Sebelius recognizes the profound moral gravity of abortion. She has supported prudent public policies that have reduced abortions in Kansas by investing in adoption services, prenatal health care and social safety nets for families. But in his diocesan newspaper, the archbishop blasted the governor over her "spiritually lethal" message and her obligation to recognize the "legitimate authority within the Church."


The archbishop has a right and indeed an obligation to speak out against abortion. But he is on dangerous ground telling a democratically elected official - accountable to federal laws and a diverse citizenry - how to govern when it comes to the particulars of specific legislation. The proper application of moral principles in a pluralistic society rarely allows for absolutes.


Using a holy sacrament to punish Catholics has troubling political implications during an election year. St. Louis Archbishop Raymond L. Burke warned Sen. John Kerry - a Catholic whose record reflects his faith's commitment to economic justice, universal health care and concern for the poor - not to receive Communion during the 2004 presidential race because of his support for abortion rights. In a New York Times interview just a month before the election, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver gave signals that Catholics who voted for a pro-choice candidate were cooperating in evil. Mr. Kerry narrowly lost the Catholic vote to President Bush.


Catholics make up a quarter of the American electorate and are swing voters in key battleground states that will play a decisive role in electing our next president. It's essential that these voters recognize Catholicism defies easy partisan labels and is not a single-issue faith.


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warns in an election-year guide that particular issues must not be misused as a way of ignoring "other serious threats to human life and dignity." These threats identified by the bishops include racism, the death penalty, war, torture, lack of health care and an unjust immigration policy. These broad Catholic values challenge Democrats and Republicans alike to put the common good before narrow partisan agendas.


If we remain silent when respected Catholic leaders are publicly attacked and denied Communion, the proper role of faith in our public square is grossly distorted. This election year, let's have a better debate about faith and political responsibility that reclaims the vital role religion has often played in renewing our most cherished democratic values.


David O'Brien, the Loyola professor of Catholic studies at the College of the Holy Cross, has written books about the history of American Catholicism. Lisa Sowle Cahill is a professor of theology at Boston College and a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Catholic College Kids Invite You to Join Facebook Group for Obama


Dear Fellow Catholics for Obama,

Our names are Jamie Kralovec and Oscar Abello, and we believe that Barack Obama embodies the Catholic values that motivate us to work for a more just and humane world. Given this conviction, we launched a new group on Facebook.com, entitled 'Catholics for Obama United.' Facebook.com is a widely used social networking site for students and young people. We wanted to personally share the news and tell you that we had over 100 members in the first 24 hours!

Jamie graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2006 and Oscar is currently a graduating senior at Villanova University. We have concluded that the polarizing debate so common in our politics is also present in our parishes and schools. We feel that a place to share our ideas and help unite Catholic supporters would help us elevate that debate; or at least be prepared for it. We believe launching Catholics for Obama United is a first step to grow such a Catholic movement for Barack; however, we can't do it without your help.

We may not agree on every issue, but we stand together in our belief that Senator Obama's unique vision for the common good offers the best opportunity to build a more just and humane society consistent with our values. We share a commitment to respect human dignity; to work for a more peaceful and safe world; to build a just economy that respect the rights and dignity of working families; to stand with the poor and to be good stewards of our environment.

If you have a Facebook account, you can just search for the group and join. If you don't, you can start one at www.Facebook.com.

Our hope is that this can become a space where Catholics for Obama United, can grow our numbers, share ideas, and learn more about getting involved with the Obama campaign. We already have members from across the country, reflecting the diversity and richness of the Catholic experience. Can you help us spread the word and grow our numbers?

Thank you for your support. Together, we can build a unified Catholic movement that says YES WE CAN!

Best,

Peter James Kralovec and Oscar Abello
Chairpersons, Catholics for Obama United

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More from Conservative Catholic Scholar Doug Kmiec


DOUG KMIEC: Catholic Reasons for Hope in the General Election

By Douglas W. Kmiec
6/7/2008
http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=28158

MALIBU, CA (Catholic Online) - Now that the two major parties have identified their nominees for President, Catholics must undertake the serious task of discerning whether there are faith-based reasons to support one candidate over another.

Deacon Keith Fournier has written that he cannot endorse either Senator Obama or Senator McCain at this point. I have endorsed Senator Obama. The distinguished Catholic politics scholar, Robert George of Princeton, has endorsed Senator McCain.

As a matter of Catholic teaching, who’s right? None of us. Who’s wrong? Also, none of us. Catholic teaching simply does not supply a single, definitive answer.

The Catholic Church does not presume to tell citizens how to vote, or endorse particular candidates, but it does outline important moral considerations, including the admonition that no Catholic can choose a candidate for the purpose of advancing a moral evil such as abortion or racism. A Catholic without that intent is free to support either Senator Obama or McCain or anyone.

Deacon Keith Fournier observes that even though Senator Obama “has regularly spoken of and demonstrated in his public interest work a concern for the poor,” he needs “to expand his message of hope to include giving the hope of birth to our littlest neighbors.” From a Catholic perspective, this is sound advice.

Likewise, Deacon Fournier notes in relation to the “support [of] deadly research and experimentation on human embryonic life[,] Senator McCain tries to justify this barbarism with reference to the fact that these human embryos will inevitably die in this unethical research, calling them ‘spare embryos’. We need to help him see the error of that position.” Amen to that as well.

However, in raising “other considerations,” Deacon Fournier comments that “the next occupant of the White House will choose at least one Supreme Court Justice. That choice will, at least in this Constitutional lawyers mind, determine whether the current ‘culture of death’ hiding under the profane precedent of Roe v Wade will take another generation of our children before they are able to breathe our air and be welcomed into our family.”

Those are heart-felt words, but for the reasons discussed below, they assume – mistakenly – what the overturning of Roe would actually mean. Given that abortion is an intrinsic evil without justification, thinking the overturning of Roe “solves” the abortion problem, when it does not, can mislead Catholics into the erroneous conclusion that any candidate unwilling to pledge reversal of Roe is categorically unworthy of support. I suspect that this is why the Deacon “dreads” the beginning of the campaign since both of the major candidates fall short of the Catholic ideal on the issue of the protection of human life.

So let’s examine the nettlesome tragedy of abortion and the insufficient approaches of both candidates to date. Senator Obama’s position accepts the existing legal regime which leaves the abortion decision with the mother as a “constitutional right.” Senator McCain's position would leave the decision with the individual states. Neither position is fully pro-life, both are pro-choice, with the former focused on the individual and the latter focused on the right of the states. Senator McCain's position is sometimes described as pro-life, but in truth, it is merely pro-federalism (states being free under the McCain position to decide to permit or disallow abortion as they see fit).

Independent of my Catholic faith, as a constitutional law teacher, I respectfully disagree with both Senator Obama and Senator McCain since the Constitution was intended as a means to enforce and guarantee the unalienable right to life recited in the Declaration of Independence, where of course it is explicitly traced to our Creator. Since neither candidate presents a position fully compatible with Catholic teaching recognizing abortion for the intrinsic evil that it is, Catholic teaching asks us to work for the reduction of the incidence of abortion through the most prudent way possible.

There is no single answer on the most effective manner to reduce abortion either. My experience, and that of others whom I greatly respect for their tireless efforts in parish work and with Project Rachel and Catholic pregnancy centers, suggest that Senator Obama’s emphasis on personal responsibility (conveying especially to young people the need to understand the maturity and commitment needed for sexual intimacy) is the course most likely to make a difference.

I respect the views of my fellow Catholics who would place greater emphasis upon new legal prohibition or restriction, but my experience is that the more effective way to actually protect life is to work directly face to face with someone facing the awful thought of taking an innocent life. This is imperfect I know, but this path calls upon us – personally – to meet as best one is able the social and economic and religious reassurance needed by the individual children of God (mother and unborn child) that touch our lives.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver rightly reminds Catholics that whether we favor personal or legal efforts to reduce abortion or some combination, our efforts must be more than just talk and that Catholics must "keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn"? Again, sound advice. All Catholics regardless of party or preferred candidate are instructed by Evangelium Vitae to work for greater recognition and respect for the culture of life.

Since neither of the major political parties have acceptable positions, lobbying -- and a good deal of prayer -- is required to be directed for them both.

Again, it is my own conclusion that Senator Obama would be more open to these considerations since he is more dedicated toward reducing the partisanship of the past, has very responsibly and very consistently called upon our better natures, and has articulated -- long before he sought the presidency -- a genuine appreciation for the importance of faith in the public square. Others will find greater potential in Senator McCain’s personal life experience as an adoptive father. Obama or McCain, Catholics must always give each other the benefit of the doubt that in reaching our conclusion, we stand upon the common ground of deepening the protection of human life.

Which ever candidate ultimately merits our approval, we should break out of the complacency of the past that seems to be inspired by thinking that we are merely one vote away from protecting life if only the right candidate “controls” the composition of the Supreme Court.

First, I think it's wrong to understand court appointments in this fashion as it indulges the pernicious notion of the rule of men rather than the rule of law. But, putting that law teacher's objection to one side, in truth, there is not a single member of the present Court willing to affirm the unalienable right to life from the moment of conception, as opposed to merely reversing a single court decision such as Roe, which, as best as I can tell, would directly save no unborn life.

Thus, we are actually nine votes away from the Catholic position, and that in itself is enough to convince me that change on the Supreme Court, after 20-some long years of working for and praying for such change, cannot be the only way in which respect for life is expressed.

So why then be filled with hope, rather than dread, as the general campaign begins in earnest? Because intelligently informed writing on this site and more widely between pro-life Republicans and pro-life Democrats is occurring at an unprecedented and civilized level.

My unfortunate experience of being denied communion by a well-meaning, but theologically mistaken, college chaplain is the exception, not the rule. The present thoughtful discussion has been inspired most directly by the American Catholic bishops and their very helpful discussion in a “Call for Faithful Citizenship,” which is recommended reading for all Catholics in the United States before they exercise the franchise.

This document building upon the teaching of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, reminds us that our obligation as Catholics extends well beyond any single issue, even as there are some, like abortion and racism that we can never accept.

The bishops’ discussion reveals that it is possible to understand that there is often more than one way to address, and reduce the incidence of, an intrinsic moral evil without in any way endorsing that evil.

The on-going intelligent and civil discussion also allows us to grasp how no candidate who merely checks a pro-life box in a superficial way should be permitted to blind us from the balance of Catholic social teaching, including the strengthening of the family with a family wage and tax structure that is responsive to the needs of the average family; the ending of an unjust and disproportionate war; the care and stewardship of the human environment; and the structuring of society to look after the most vulnerable among us, including especially the elderly, the poor, and of course those whose voice can only be heard through ours.

May God bless our efforts and our nation, as our founders said in settling this land, “so long as we keep His covenant.”


Doug Kmiec, Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University; former Dean and St. Thomas More Professor, The Catholic University of America

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What the Pundits Are Saying on the Horserace


Jack Germond: "Dutrow may not be the most lovable trainer in the horse world, but his horse has done it all and will complete the Triple Crown. Again, however, a win ticket will be more valuable as a souvenir than at the window. I will play exactas and triples with Denis of Cork, Casino Drive and Anak Nakal. If you want a longshot, there is Ready's Echo, Pletcher's horse with John Velasquez riding, as good as it gets. If I don't cash a big ticket, I'll take it to the credentials committee."

Readers Digest's/ex-National Journal's Carl Cannon: "It's hard to pick against Big Brown, and racing fans would love to see a Triple Crown winner. I would too, but...there's an old saying at the racetrack: 'Ain't a man alive, Who paid the mortgage At 8 to 5.' Well, Big Brown is going to the post at odds that are much lower than 8-5 -- more like 1-5 -- and that's no way to make money, so I might put a couple of quid on Casino Drive, the colt from Japan with only two lifetime starts (!), and a little bit more on the horse with the Irish name -- the one that ran third in the Derby. Wish me luck, 'cause I'll need it against big bad Big Brown."

GOP strategist Jim Dornan: "The racing gods seem to be conspiring against Big Brown (2-5) and his bid for the Triple Crown. First, he sustains a minor hoof injury. Then, he draws the rail to start the race, where other horses could pin him in unless he uses some of his speed early in this mile and a half marathon. Couple that with the fact that the LAST TEN winners of both the Derby and the Preakness have failed in their Triple Crown bids and you've got a recipe for a losing ticket on the prohibitive favorite. The second choice, Casino Drive (7-2) is a solid horse, but I don't see him winning the Belmont after just 2 races. So, I'm going to go with three long shot closers, one of whom will nip Big Brown at the wire: Put Denis of Cork (12-1), Tale of Ekati (20-1), and Icabad Crane (20-1) over the favorite in an exacta part wheel."

Craig Edelman: "History will be made on Saturday afternoon as Big Brown (2-5) rolls to victory. His final workout on Tuesday, 5 furlongs in a minute flat, shows he remains in top form and all systems are go. The quarter crack in his hoof should pose no problem as he navigates Belmont's sweeping mile and a half oval and the inside post position he drew is also of no concern. The only questions remaining are his winning margin and who follows him to the wire. There's no real money to be won on this race, but the trifecta I'll play will have Tale of Ekati (20-1) getting up for the place and Casino Drive (7-2) rounding it out in 3rd place. This has been a tough season, but there's no better way to cap it off than with the first Triple Crown winner in a generation. Let's hope that all the jocks and horses get home safely and we'll see you this summer in Saratoga for the Travers."

THE OTHER HORSERACE
McCain strategists have begun making their initial decisions as to which states they will contest in the fall. VT, MA, RI, NY, MD, DC, IL and HI were never under consideration for a Republican campaign (88 EV). Initial talk of trying to contest CA and NJ has also fallen off the wayside (70 EV). McCain has also decided to throw in the towel in ME, CT, and DE (14 EV). Yesterday's media buys and staff assignments by the McCain campaign suggest WA (11) is the latest state McCain simply does not have the juice to fight for. Polling data confirms McCain has little chance there.

This is 183 EV in the bag for Barack Obama before the campaign even starts. Obama has a decent and consistent lead in the polls in OR, MN, WI and PA (48 EV). Battleground states include MI, OH, MO, IA, CO, NM, NH, NV, VA and FL. The McCain campaign is even spending resources in the states of LA, NC, GA, MS and MT. Polls show Obama behind in these states but not by so much as to allow the GOP to consider them safe. Given McCain's fundraising problems, the need to spend money in these states, even if successful in the end, is troubling for his national effort.