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About this story: Catholic News Service is also seeking interviews with theother two presidential candidates who have qualified for federal matchingfunds--Al Gore and Patrick J. Buchanan. But as of September 22, only George W.Bush has agreed to be interviewed.

ABOARD THE BUSH CAMPAIGN PLANE, Sept. 22 (CNS)--Republican presidentialcandidate George W. Bush reiterated his strong opposition to abortion andsupport for school choice but respectfully disagreed with Catholic stands onthe death penalty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in a wide-ranginginterview with Catholic News Service and Our Sunday Visitor September 20.

The 30-minute interview aboard the Bush campaign plane traveling fromPittsburgh to Philadelphia also touched on such issues as the Medicare cutsaffecting Catholic hospitals, education, Hispanic voters, the Columbinetragedy, and the value of faith-based programs that assist the poor, teenmothers, and prisoners.

On a more personal note, the 54-year-old Texas governor talked about the"religious blend of diversity" within his own family and said his favoriteBible passage during the campaign is a reminder that "I shouldn't be takinga speck out of my brother's eye when I've got a log in my own."

Texas first lady Laura Bush sat in on the interview, but did notparticipate.

The interview followed an early morning campaign appearance at a formerCatholic church now used as a community center in the Pittsburgh suburb ofPerrysville. Taking questions from an audience of about 150 people, Bushreceived the most sustained applause of the morning when he spoke againstabortion.

"One of the things I do in my speeches," Bush said in the subsequentinterview, "and what I'll do as president is to talk about the culture oflife, the need for a welcoming society, the need for Americans--no matterwhat their personal view is on the life issue--that we can do better as asociety." He noted that this also included opposition to assisted suicide.

"I recognize that until we have a cultural shift, there's going to be a lotof folks who disagree with my pro-life position," he said. "But that's notgoing to stop me from setting the goal that the born and the unborn ought tobe welcomed in life and protected by law."

Specifically, Bush pledged to sign a partial-birth abortion ban aspresident, said he supported parental notification before a minor's abortion,and spoke against the use of tax money to fund abortions.

Another example of the need to instill a culture of life, Bush said, wasshown in the tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado and similarsituations "where young people have their hearts so filled with hate thatthey don't think in terms of the preciousness of life."

But the Republican candidate said his commitment to the culture of life doesnot extend to capital punishment, which he supports and the Catholic Churchopposes. The state of Texas leads the country in the number of executionssince 1976, with 231, and Bush has kept up the pace since becoming governorin 1994, with 35 executions in Texas in 1999 and 32 so far this year.

It's "the difference between innocence and guilt," he said. "In anabortion, the baby is innocent. The death penalty is a case of a personbeing guilty."

Bush said he has spoken with Catholic leaders, "some of the really finestAmericans I've ever met," about the issue, and "I heartily respect theirpoint of view."

"I make the case to them, though, that I believe when the death penalty isadministered surely, swiftly, and justly it saves lives, it sends a chillingsignal throughout our society that we will not tolerate...the ultimateviolent act of taking somebody's life," he added. "But I completelyunderstand the position of the Catholic leadership and I respect them forit."

Bush also spoke against the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which theCatholic bishops had urged the U.S. Senate to ratify. Although he pledged tokeep in place the current U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing, Bush said thetreaty as currently written "will not keep in check nations that want toacquire weapons of mass destruction" because it is "not verifiable."

On health care issues, Bush said he supported "restoration of many of theMedicare cuts" that resulted from the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. "I'mmindful of the pinch on hospitals," he said. "I'm mindful of what theBalanced Budget amendment did, and the cuts are beginning to be restored."

Bush also spoke of his meeting in July with Cardinal Bernard F. Law ofBoston and Catholic health leaders, the first of what the Catholic HealthAssociation hopes will be a series of meetings with major presidentialcandidates. As of September 20, Bush was the only candidate to hold such ameeting.

On education, Bush said he supported giving federal education money directlyto parents if local schools failed to educate their children.

"If schools cannot teach and will not change, the portion of the money forthat disadvantaged child from the federal government ought to go to theparents, with the parents able to make a different choice for that child,including religious schools if he or she chooses," he said.

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