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CAMPAIGN-MAGAZINE Sep-21-2004 (850 words) xxxn

Catholic magazines continue debate on Catholic voters, abortion

By Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The Catholic vote and abortion continues to be a hotly debated topic in the pages of Catholic publications during the 2004 presidential election campaign.

Two influential Catholic magazines in September paired off opposing writers on the issues of the influence one's moral convictions on abortion should have in public policy; and on whether Republican President George W. Bush or Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, his Democratic rival, is the better presidential candidate for Catholics.

Facing off in the Sept. 27 issue of America, New York-based Catholic weekly magazine, were:

-- George Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Policy Center and author of a papal biography, urging Catholics to vote for Bush.

-- James Kelly, Fordham University sociology professor, favoring Kerry.

Kelly said he is a "pro-life" Catholic voting for Kerry, a Catholic who supports keeping abortion legal, because voting involves "prudential judgments" looking at facts, not candidate promises.

"I believe that President Bush, if re-elected, will not deliver on his promises and that a Kerry administration would support economic programs that would in fact reduce the number of abortions," he said.

Kelly was skeptical of any major curbs on abortions under Republicans or that the Supreme Court will "recriminalize all abortions."

He said that although Republicans nominated six of the seven replacements for the Supreme Court judges who voted to legalize abortion in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade case, four of those voted in 1992 to uphold the Roe decision.

"Studies show that Republican donors are overwhelmingly fiscal conservatives but social liberals, favoring both free market and free abortion choices," said Kelly.

"Pro-life sponsored federal legislation is successful not when it directly attacks Roe, but when it emphasizes real choices and alternatives to abortion," he said.

"In a Republican Party contest between moral and fiscal conservatism, abortion funding for alternatives will be placed 'on the back burner,'" said Kelly.

Weigel said that Bush, a Methodist, "has a clearer understanding of, and a more serious commitment to, the Catholic vision of the free and virtuous society than his Catholic opponent."

Bush "pushed through the partial-birth abortion ban that John Kerry sought to override," he said.

Federal judicial appoints under Kerry would "dash any hope for legal protection for the unborn" for a long time, he said.

Republicans are forging a new longterm majority based "in part on the 'new ecumenism' of Catholics and evangelical Protestants" committed to "priority life issues" and "informed by the riches of Catholic social doctrine."

In the Sept. 24 issue of Commonweal, New York-based national Catholic weekly magazine:

-- Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said that a strong moral conviction against abortion "based on faith and not pure intellect" is not enough to build a national consensus to ban all abortions.

-- Ken Woodward, author and former Newsweek religion editor, said outlawing abortion as "a defense of the human rights of the unborn" is a public policy issue and not an effort to impose a sectarian view on society.

Cuomo and Woodward updated the debate over a 1984 Cuomo speech at the University of Notre Dame in which Cuomo defended the position that there are times when a Catholic officeholder who is morally opposed to abortion can opt not to promote laws prohibiting abortion.

In 1984 as now, the church has failed to create a widespread consensus among Catholics and the U.S. public in general that abortion should be illegal because human life begins at conception, said Cuomo.

The proposition that human life begins at conception currently "is considered at best an article of faith accepted by only some of the faithful," he said.

Faith alone is not enough to build a consensus in U.S. society, he said.

"Our laws should be based upon intelligence, wisdom, history, philosophy, the sciences and the natural reason shared by the thinking people of the community," said Cuomo.

Cuomo answered criticisms that he has been more vigorous in opposing the death penalty than abortion. He said that "the obvious difference is that the death penalty deals -- unarguably -- with the life of a mature, and usually adult, human being."

Cuomo criticized "the handful of bishops who have set their sights on John Kerry ... while failing to mention the unjust war that rages in Iraq."

Woodward disputed Cuomo's argument that there is no public consensus against abortion rights.

"This April, a Zogby poll found that 56 percent of all Americans would abolish or severely restrict abortion rights -- a figure that reached 60.5 percent among those 18 to 29 years of age," he said.

Cuomo wants to have it both ways by defending his adherence to church teachings while justifying his actions against them, said Woodward.

"He has convinced himself, it seems to me, that 'moral' arguments can proceed only from what he calls religious 'dogmas,' and thus cannot be used in making arguments in the public square," said Woodward.

"This is precisely the kind of reasoning that sustains the pro-choice position of this year's most prominent Catholic politician, John Kerry," said Woodward.

"The Catholic argument is broader, advancing philosophical, political and even biological warrants," he said.


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