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U.S. bishops see 'ray of light' in Prop 8 outcome

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Amid what many American bishops saw as a rather dismal election with regard to traditional “faith and values” issues, several prelates during their recent meeting in Baltimore pointed to Proposition 8 in California as a ray of light.

“Strengthening marriage” is one of five top priorities the U.S. bishops have identified through 2011. The success of an anti-gay marriage measure in California, usually seen as among the “bluest” of the blue states, seemed to embolden the bishops in defense of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“Marriage is not an institution created by the church, or by the state,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in remarks to reporters in Baltimore. “It’s a natural institution, a universal institution.”

“To imagine that we can change it by a vote or by a court decision is an example of hubris,” George said, arguing that the victory of Proposition 8 shows that “people recognize that … people feel that.”

Legal challenges grow in wake of Proposition 8 passage

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SAN FRANCISCO
The NAACP and a coalition of racial justice groups weighed in on the side of gay marriage Friday and brought a new argument to the table. They filed their own legal challenge to California's Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment voters just approved that rescinds same-sex marriage.

"This is a very powerful and dramatic turn of events," said Shannon Minter, an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "The message behind the petition filed today is that a threat to one is a threat to all."

(John Allen on U.S. bishops reaction to passage of Proposition 8.).

(California bishops' official statement after passage of Propostion 8.)

'Special responsibilities of pro-life, pro-Obama supporters'

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Kansas City, MO.
Catholics of good will, acting in good faith, have - and will continue – to differ on how best to respond to the tragedy of abortion in the United States. Some, of course, have placed their overriding focus on overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973. Others, the NCR editors included, have advocated rooting out the causes that lead women to have abortions.

We criticized the U.S. bishops for holding to the former path while seemingly forsaking most other political issues with a moral component.

For example, in an editorial in the Oct. 31st issue, we wrote:

“Another presidential election cycle is nearly ended, and once again the Catholic bishops in the United States have sadly distinguished themselves for the narrowness and, in too many cases, barely concealed partisanship, of their political views.

'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.

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