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After 30 years, bishops, politicians, voters vexed by abortion

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News Analysis
The U.S. bishops' administrative committee announced Sept. 10 the bishops’ conference will take up the enduring and vexing issue of politics and abortion in America when it meets in Baltimore next November.

The meeting, which will come one week after the national elections, will take place with an urgency generated by a series of critical statements bishops have made in recent days of major Democratic Party political figures.

The announcement came as the committee, headed by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, added its weight to statements made by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairmen of the U.S. bishops' pro-life and doctrine committees. The bishops took on Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Party vice-presidential candidate, Senator Joseph Biden, for remarks they have made about abortion.

Pelosi, Niederauer meeting to spur debate, resolution or both?

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When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer to discuss Catholic teaching on abortion, at least two paths could emerge. The strongly pro-choice Catholic politician might vigorously debate Augustine and church history with her archbishop. Or the two will try to put their heads together to create a public resolution that is acceptable for everyone. Or maybe they will do both.

But two Catholic scholars who know about butting heads with the church agree on this: The controversy that brought this meeting about could have been avoided.

“I think it’s a mistake for politicians to talk theology,” said Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese, senior research fellow at Woodstock Theological Center. “Let’s just say, it’s above their pay grade.”

Pelosi not only dabbled in theology, she did it on national television just as her Democratic party was headed into its convention.

Whatís behind candidate Palinís ëGod talkí

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News Analysis
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin claims no denomination when asked what kind of Christian she is, confining her description to “Bible-believing.”

But as the Republican campaign moves from the convention venue to less formal settings, the scrutiny of Palin that everyone says is inevitable will include a look at her religious biography. And it’s a bit more complex than that simple phrase.

Palin, now governor of Alaska, was baptized a Catholic as an infant, but according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, she and her mother began attending an Assemblies of God Church, a Pentecostal denomination, when she was in her early teens. She was rebaptized as a Pentecostal, the fastest growing segment of the Christian church in the world, but in 2002, she and her family began attending a number of non-denominational evangelical churches.

Archbishop Niederauer responds to House Speakerís statements

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FRIDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 5, 2008.

(Following is the text of a statement by San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer in response to recent statements on abortion, Church teaching on the beginning of life, and other life issues made by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, congresswoman for California's Eighth District which covers most of the City and County of San Francisco.)

Last month, in two televised interviews and a subsequent statement released through her office, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a Catholic residing in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, made remarks that are in serious conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church about abortion. It is my responsibility as Archbishop of San Francisco to teach clearly what Christ in his Church teaches about faith and morals, and to oppose erroneous, misleading and confusing positions when they are advanced.

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San Francisco archbishop invites Pelosi to discuss abortion

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Calling recent nationally broadcast comments by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi “in serious conflict with the teachings of the Catholic church,” Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco in a Sept. 5 statement underscored church teaching on abortion, the beginning of human life, and the formation of conscience -- and invited the Catholic lawmaker “into a conversation with me about these matters.”

The statement was carried in the Sept. 5 issue of Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the archdiocese.

Brownback urges Catholic ëwhole life viewí for GOP

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St. Paul, Minn.

One of the most prominent Catholics in the Republican Party says that it is time for his party to stop conceding the social justice message to Democrats. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a Catholic convert who ran for his party’s nomination for president last year, told NCR that his party is still hesitant to passionately embrace some aspects of Catholic social teaching.

“There is a bit of a philosophical difference,” Brownback says of his party. “Catholics really are more given to the whole life view. But I see that changing.”

The GOP has embraced Catholics themselves as part of the faith-based leadership, Brownback says. Despite his own short run as a presidential hopeful -- Brownback pulled out before the first primary -- he says there’s no doubt a Catholic could be a Republican president.

“It could happen now,” Brownback says. “I don’t think there’s any blockage there.”

Palin criticized for mocking community organizing

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The group Catholic Democrats today issued a strong rebuke of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s sarcastic mocking of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer during the 1980s.

“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities,” Palin, former mayor of a small town in Alaska, said during her speech to the Republican National Convention Sept. 3 in St. Paul, Minn.

The speech by Palin, currently governor of Alaska, followed one by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who also belittled Obama’s work as a community organizer, drawing laughs from the assembled Republicans.

“It is shocking that a vice presidential candidate would disparage an essential component of the Catholic social tradition with her condescending attack on urban community organizing,” said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, an association of state-based groups advancing understanding of Catholic social teaching.

Criminalizing versus reducing: The abortion debate continues

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St. Paul, Minn.

Wednesday, in a conference call from Washington, D.C., Catholics United unveiled a new study stating that overturning Roe v. Wade would not be an effective way to reduce the number of abortions.

But back in St. Paul, Minn., where the Republican National Convention reaches its final day today, the study was not exactly dampening passions about making abortion illegal. Just as Catholics United was finishing up their call, the Catholic Working Group was beginning a meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown St. Paul. The speakers at that meeting made it clear that changing the makeup of federal courts, and passing antiabortion laws at the state and federal, will remain a top priority.

“This is the human rights issue of this generation,” Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., told the group of approximately 200 attendees. “We must do everything we can to defend life at every level.”

Conservative Christians energized by McCain-Palin ticket

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St. Paul, Minn.
Evidence that conservative Christians might sit out the 2008 election appears to be crumbling here at the Republican National Convention. As the first full day of the delayed convention got under way, evangelicals and Catholic delegates were expressing new excitement over John McCain.

The sentiment was repeated over and over: a “homerun” performance at Saddleback Church -- where Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain answered questions last month -- and the addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as vice presidential nominee, convinced the religious right that McCain really was one of them.

McCain to make full-throttle push for Catholic vote

ST. PAUL, Minn.

At 67 million strong and packed into must-win states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, U.S. Catholics are the ultimate electoral prize for any candidate seeking the White House.

Since 1976, winning the Catholic vote has meant winning the Oval Office -- except for Al Gore, who narrowly carried Catholics by two points but nonetheless lost 2000's disputed election to George W. Bush.

Catholics are, to put it simply, the ultimate swing vote.

Yet with their size and diversity -- think Ted Kennedy and Mel Gibson, Catholics both -- they are notoriously hard to fit into one partisan profile. Which is why John McCain and the GOP aren't willing to lose the Catholics to Barack Obama -- at least not without a fight.

Here at the Republican National Convention, Catholic members of the GOP are confident McCain can win the Catholic vote, especially with the help of his staunchly anti-abortion running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

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