Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review June 7, 2004 / 18 Sivan, 5764

John Leo

John Leo
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Kerry's abortion problem | It looks as though more than 90 percent of America's Roman Catholic bishops want no confrontation with John Kerry over his support of abortion rights — so far, only four of the 300-odd bishops said they would deny him Communion, and 15 others indicated serious concern over the issue. I think Catholic objections to Kerry on abortion are sound. If you proclaim yourself a member of any faith, you ought to be able to stand up on the well-defined moral issues that your faith considers crucial. This goes for Catholic pro-choice Republicans, too. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudolph Giuliani, and George Pataki never seem to get around to talking about abortion as a moral issue. But the bishops are in a weakened position because they mishandled the clerical sex scandals for so many years. And they are fully aware that a dramatic election-year move against John Kerry, the first Catholic presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy, would surely look as though the church were aligning itself fully with the Republican Party. That would very likely harm the church at least as much as Kerry.

Besides, the bishops have already made their point. The voters will judge for themselves. A Zogby poll last week showed Kerry getting low support among America's 51 million Catholics on issues where he opposes the church's position. Kerry received only 23 percent support from Catholics on the question dealing with unrestricted stem-cell research and also 23 percent on favoring homosexual unions. Two thirds of Catholics would be less likely to support a Catholic presidential candidate who would use a Roe v. Wade litmus test to appoint pro-choice judges. The poll reports the "startling" finding that Catholics in "blue" states (those won by Al Gore in 2000) are much less likely to vote for a Catholic candidate who is pro-choice. However, there is doubt about whether these issues will dominate among Catholic voters, who tend to be a pretty diverse group. The pollster, John Zogby, played down his own findings. He thinks the economy, the war, and healthcare will be more important to Catholic voters, and to everyone else as well.

A few points must be conceded to Kerry. There was no thunderbolt from Rome about denying Communion to pro-choice politicians, though some news media seemed to think so. The Vatican statement by Cardinal Francis Arinze was an off-the-cuff remark, referring to "unambiguously pro-abortion" Catholic politicians. Whatever one thinks of "personally opposed" pro-choice politicians like Kerry, it's a stretch to argue that they "unambiguously" favor abortion. In addition, the Catholic Church has procedures for denying Communion. Bishops are supposed to discuss their objections with the person involved, then make an effort to understand his thinking and inform him in writing if a sanction is being imposed. It's not clear that the Communion-denying bishops followed this procedure.

Yet, it's easy to understand the frustration of the bishops. They have been saying the same thing to Catholic politicians for many years, with no result. They don't understand why a Congress that contains so many Catholics can't shake the stranglehold of the abortion lobby (I don't understand it either). NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Organization for Women are surely the most radical abortion groups on the planet. Their positions, such as backing "partial-birth" abortion, go way beyond what the American people are prepared to support. Yet Catholic pols seem impotent on the issue. Some, like Kerry, appear at NARAL conventions, egging the activists on with "we must take this issue to the people" rhetoric.

Donate to JWR

Consent? Kerry even voted to allow pregnant girls to be whisked across state lines to get an abortion, thus evading state law. Odds are he would have voted no if the bill had been about taking young girls to a dentist without a parent's knowledge.

Why do Catholic pols behave so oddly on abortion? Is it because they have no real grasp of their own religion, or is it that they are simply terrified by the abortion lobby? Probably both, with emphasis on the latter. The abortion lobby made an example of Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey in 1992. Casey was a great governor, liberal on every issue of interest to Democrats except abortion. So he was pointedly banned from speaking at the 1992 convention. To rub it in, one of his most bitter opponents in Pennsylvania, a pro-abortion Republican, was given a speaking role. The liberal Village Voice was so upset by the crass treatment that it offered Casey a forum in New York. But he was drowned out by an alliance of abortion-rights supporters and free-Mumia leftists.

Presumably the Kennedys and Kerrys remember the Casey lesson. Such is the culture of the Democratic Party today. And there are no important Democratic Catholic pols willing to stand against it.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Incorrect Thoughts: Notes on Our Wayward Culture. Send your comments by clicking here.


John Leo Archives

Copyright ©2002 Universal Press Syndicate

  Click here for more John Leo