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Politics

'Freedom of Choice Act' nightmare for bishops, pro-lifers

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Baltimore
America’s Catholic bishops have been talking about abortion and politics at least since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but their discussion this week in Baltimore had a special sense of urgency – driven by what many bishops and their pro-life advisors regard as a looming nightmare scenario under the new Obama administration in the “Freedom of Choice Act,” or FOCA.

Candidate Obama pledged to support the Freedom of Choice Act, which was first introduced in congress in 2004 but to date has not made it out of the committee stage. It acknowledges a “fundamental right” to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy and at subsequent stages for health reasons. It would also bar discrimination in the exercise of the right “in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.”

Freedom of Choic Act central to bishops' concerns

BALTIMORE
Fears about laws and changes in regulations on abortion that might advance under a new Democratic-run Congress and White House are the central focus of a statement approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 12 during their annual fall meeting in Baltimore.

The majority of the 830-word, untitled statement focuses on concerns about the possible passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, calling it "an evil law that would further divide our country" and adding that the church "should be intent on opposing evil."

It warns against interpreting the outcome of the Nov. 4 elections as "a referendum on abortion" and says "aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans."

The statement was crafted during the bishop's meeting and involved a total of nearly three hours of discussion on the topic during executive and public sessions Nov. 11. Under USCCB policies, statements drafted outside the usual committee approval process may be issued by the conference president on behalf of the bishops.

Bishops in agreement - and not in agreement - on abortion

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Baltimore
Two things seem clear from the U.S. bishops’ much-anticipated discussion of abortion and politics during their fall meeting in Baltimore: The bishops are united in making the fight against abortion their top political priority, but they’re no closer to agreement on what to do about Catholics, especially Catholic politicians, who won’t fall in line.

Yesterday, the bishops asked Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the conference, to issue a statement on the “present political situation,” meaning the reality of an Obama administration, which clearly identifies abortion – especially the prospect of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would bar legal restrictions on abortion at the state and federal level – as their towering concern.

Tom Perriello: better than Goode

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Thirty-four-year-old Tom Perriello -- Congressional candidate and Catholic activist extraordinaire -- is a winner. And that’s regardless of whether or not he squeaks out a victory in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.

The vote for the seat first held by James Madison keeps shifting. At 11:30 a.m. Nov. 5, the day after the election, the state Elections Board reported Perriello trailing six-term incumbent Virgil Goode by 145 votes. By 2:30 p.m. Goode’s lead had dwindled to just six votes. Thirty-five minutes later, the Board reported Perriello up 30 votes. By Thursday morning, Nov. 6, Perriello led by 31 votes.

A recount will decide the contest.

The electoral strategy of Perriello’s opponent, Goode, was one part pork and two parts fear. Goode touted the bacon he said he brought back to the district, including landing the bottled water distribution account on Capitol Hill for a local company. Meanwhile, he told Virginians that Perriello, a Yale-educated lawyer, was really a New Yorker, though the Democrat was born and raised in Virginia’s Albemarle County.

Election '08: Obama Catholics will influence new administration

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Catholics, who gave 54 percent of their vote to the Democratic presidential nominee, were an essential element in the Obama victory. His campaign strategists knew it would be the case: Obama’s was the first-ever Democratic presidential campaign to mount an outreach effort directed specifically to Catholics. Meanwhile, grass-roots groups such as “Catholics for Obama” helped make the case for Obama to their coreligionists. One result: The Catholic presence will be felt at the highest echelons of government over the next four years, including from Vice President-elect Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Some Catholics will likely be more equal than others in an Obama administration. Among them will be Obama supporters who took a chance, who backed Obama during the Democratic primaries when they could have remained silent without political consequence or who bring a level of expertise the new president is likely to find useful.

Among them:

The Catholic Vote: Complex, significant but no realignment

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Obama won among 'all Catholics’; McCain won regular churchgoers

As the election of Barack Obama is slid under the microscope, it’s already clear that Catholics played a significant and complex role. According to exit polls, those who identified themselves as Catholics voted for Obama 52 to 45 percent, a seven-point improvement for the Democratic candidate from the elections in 2004. That is the largest shift this election of any religiously affiliated group.

But does it represent a sea change in the Catholic political consciousness? Not necessarily, says John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“It really doesn’t look to me like a realignment,” Green said in a media conference call Nov. 4. “I see this as a variation on the existing themes. We see the same structure. It’s just that Obama made this work for the Democrats.”

He was referring to the larger religious landscape, but was including Catholics in that equation. As much as anything, it appears an infusion of non-white voters from all religious points of view made the difference for Obama.

Re-energized religious left delivers for Obama

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Obama made faith outreach central to his campaign

WASHINGTON -- After Tuesday's election of Democrat Barack Obama as president, you might expect religious progressives to start polishing their resumes for prominent Washington posts.

But liberal faith leaders said they have little interest in securing White House sinecures, and even less in forming a political machine to match the religious right. They're more concerned, they say, in keeping Obama honest.

"Let's put it this way," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, a leading progressive evangelical, "the prophets of God were always more comfortable in the wilderness than in the corridors of power."

According to exit polls, Obama, aided by a new cadre of liberal and centrist religious groups, made gains over past Democratic presidential candidates with a host of faith voters.

In moment of hope comes the challenge of accountability

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Editorial
Readers of a certain age might remember the story, c. 1967, in which a disillusioned conservative voter recalls the previous presidential election. “They told me if I voted for Goldwater, we’d have half-a-million troops in Vietnam. Well, I did –- and they were right.”

Democracy is a gamble. Presidents promise peace and deliver war, advocate humility and practice arrogance, promote morality and act corruptly.

Still, elections, like second marriages, represent the triumph of hope over experience. Through our votes we place our trust in a flawed human being and pray our victorious candidate will embody in correct proportions the virtues of prudence and wisdom, charity and courage, foresight and empathy, right reason and determination. Let it be so.

President-elect Obama based his campaign on “hope,” which made him subject to both ridicule (the term being far too ambiguous to his many critics) and praise, particularly for those who saw the first credible African-American presidential candidate as a personal embodiment of the change this country needs.

Catholic views divided on election's meaning

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The Obama presidency will provoke "a church in resistance" -- with the U.S. bishops and priests in the pulpit battling the new administration’s pro-abortion rights agenda at every turn. Or, alternatively, "the Obama moment will force all Catholics to ask whether the common good of the human family, at home and across the world, truly matters."

So say two prominent Catholic intellectuals -- one conservative, one liberal -- providing initial clues as to how American Catholics may respond to the Obama administration.

Politics could get ugly in parish parking lots this weekend

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This final weekend before the 2008 Election Day could see parishioners, police and political activists mingling in church parking lots as the struggle to influence the highly valued Catholic vote takes on new urgency in the waning days of this election.

One group, Priests for Life, an antiabortion group founded and head by Fr. Frank Pavone, has called on supporters to use weekend Masses to distribute leaflets in the parking lots and streets around Catholic churches this weekend.

Priests for Life hosted a teleconference call to supporters Oct. 27 with detailed instructions on what to do this weekend. The group said more than 3,000 people were on the line. Listeners were told: “Go to politicalrespondibilty.com (one of the group’s web sites) and download the nonpartisan voters’ guide that is available for distribution there.

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