Beliefnet
Benedictions: The Pope in America

A week after the Catholic League’s resident megaphone–a.k.a. Bill Donohue–blasted Obama’s blue-ribbon Catholic advisory panel as a bunch of “dissidents” whose presence offends “practicing Catholics” (not to mention making them out to be Catholic versions of Jeremiah Wright) the panel has responded with a more measured (that’s not hard) but pointed rejoinder.
The statement essentially tries to defend a “consistent ethic of life” approach and argues that Obama better serves that goal–or they think he will–than any GOP administration would. And they have a good point.

As Catholics, we view abortion as a profound moral issue. But what have nearly three decades of Republican promises to end abortion accomplished? Other aspects of the conservative Republican agenda have been carried out with fervor, such as weakening of the social-safety net, privatization, deregulation, destruction of labor unions, and belligerent and aggressive foreign policy. But ending abortion remains the perennial promise, one that is too often hijacked by partisan operatives who seek only to divide voters. Many Catholics are fed up with the divisive tactics and empty promises around this issue.

But would Obama be better on abortion? That’s a big question he’ll have to answer in the general campaign. Still, the Catholic advisory committee was smart in citing the bishops own statement on Catholics’ political responsibility, which is a pretty straightforward refutation of Donohue’s Catholic priorities, a list seemingly edited to echo GOP talking points.
Be interesting to see Donohue’s response. I imagine the reaction will be that these are just the usual “liberal” Catholic suspects spouting the usual “consistent ethic of life” line. But that debate does reflect a divide in the church today, and perhaps an opening for a deeper dialogue.
I did think the statement’s walkaway an especially wise rejection of partisanship and an embrace of both Catholic tradition and personal responsibility.

Mr. Donohue, your work to fight legitimate cases of anti-Catholic bigotry in this country should be applauded. But when you smear other Catholics with whom you disagree, you betray your own cause. Our measure of what it means to be a “good” Catholic is not defined by the narrow pronouncements of partisan operatives; but rather by the rich teachings of our Church and our informed consciences.

Read the full text below…


May 8, 2008
Mr. Bill Donohue
President
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
450 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10123
Dear Mr. Donohue:
We write in our individual capacities and not on behalf of the campaign. Last week you labeled many of our friends, and some of us, as “Catholic dissidents” because we support Senator Obama.
Unlike the Catholic League, the U.S. Catholic Bishops advise careful consideration of
candidates’ positions on a broad set of issues. While abortion and other life issues are of
fundamental concern, the bishops teach that particular issues must not be misused “as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity” such as “racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care or an unjust immigration policy” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, #29). Our bishops go on to point out that “these are not optional concerns which can be dismissed.”
Across these issues Senator Obama offers much to the well-formed Catholic conscience, which helps to explain why many Catholics are supporting him.
As Catholics, we view abortion as a profound moral issue. But what have nearly three decades of Republican promises to end abortion accomplished? Other aspects of the conservative Republican agenda have been carried out with fervor, such as weakening of the social-safety net, privatization, deregulation, destruction of labor unions, and belligerent and aggressive foreign policy. But ending abortion remains the perennial promise, one that is too often hijacked by partisan operatives who seek only to divide voters. Many Catholics are fed up with the divisive tactics and empty promises around this issue.
Senator Obama recognizes that abortion presents a profound moral challenge, tied in part to a loss of the sense of the sacredness of sex and lack of parental involvement. On the campaign trail he regularly calls on parents to turn off the television and has called on fathers to meet their family responsibilities. Regrettably, these clips are not included in your press releases.
Senator Obama has also reached out to Americans on both sides of this issue and embraces
practical proposals designed to reduce the number of abortions in this country, including
comprehensive health and sex education, better health care, economic support for women, and promoting alternatives like adoption.
Like other Americans, we have watched as many candidates brought to office on a so-called prolife platform insisted on policies that have left the lives of millions more of our brothers and
sisters at risk from war, uncontrolled pollution, deeper poverty, and growing economic
inequality.
Not this year. This year, there are many Catholics – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – who won’t let that happen again.
We are proud to be counted among Senator Obama’s Catholic advisors. Collectively our
experience spans decades of scholarship and service working for and with the Catholic Church on the broad set of issues under the “consistent ethic of life.”
We were drawn into the campaign by Senator Obama’s vision for the common good, his
profound message of hope, and his ability to unite citizens across class, race, and even party
lines. We are excited about his promise as president, and we commend him to our fellow
Catholics.
Mr. Donohue, your work to fight legitimate cases of anti-Catholic bigotry in this country should
be applauded. But when you smear other Catholics with whom you disagree, you betray your
own cause. Our measure of what it means to be a “good” Catholic is not defined by the narrow pronouncements of partisan operatives; but rather by the rich teachings of our Church and our informed consciences.
Sincerely,
Former Congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana
Sr. Catherine Pinkerton, Congregation of St. Joseph
Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin
Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas
Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont
Representative Xavier Becerra of California
Representative Lacy Clay of Missouri
Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut
Representative Anna Eshoo of California
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona
Representative George Miller of California
Representative Linda Sanchez of California
Mary Jo Bane, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School
Nicholas P. Cafardi, Catholic Author and Scholar, Pittsburgh, PA
Lisa Sowle Cahill, Professor of Theology, Boston College
Tom Chabolla, Assistant to the President, Service Employees International Union
M. Shawn Copeland, Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College
Ron Cruz, Leadership Development Consultant, Burke, VA
Sharon Daly, Social Justice Advocate, Knoxville, MD
Richard Gaillardetz, Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies, University of Toledo
Grant Gallicho, Associate Editor, Commonweal Magazine
Margaret Gannon, IHM, A Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA
Don Guter, Judge Advocate General of the Navy (2000-2002); Rear Admiral, Judge Advocate
General’s Corps, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Pittsburgh, PA
Teresa Heinz, Chairman, Heinz Family Philanthropies
Cathleen Kaveny, Professor of Law and Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Victoria Reggie Kennedy, President, Common Sense About Kids and Guns
Peggy Kerry, Independent Consultant, New York, NY
Jim Kesteloot, President and Executive Director, Chicago Lighthouse
Vincent Miller, Associate Professor of Theology, Georgetown University
David O’Brien, Loyola Professor of Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross
Reverend Michael Pfleger, Pastor of Faith Community of St. Sabina, Chicago, IL
Sr. Jamie Phelps, O.P., Director and Professor of Theology, Institute for Black Catholic Studies, Xavier University
Peter Quaranto, Senior Researcher and Conflict Analyst, Resolve Uganda (Notre Dame Class of
2006)
Dave Robinson, International Peace Advocate, Erie, Pennsylvania
Vincent Rougeau, Associate Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
Mary Wright, Inter-Faith Liaison, Louisville, KY

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