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 CNS Story:

GOP-CATHOLICS Sep-5-2008 (600 words) With photo posted Sept. 4. xxxn

Republicans rally fellow Catholics to support McCain-Palin ticket

By Maria Wiering
Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Catholic Republican politicians emphasized their party's pro-life platform at a Sept. 3 event held at the Hilton Garden Inn-St. Paul City Center in conjunction with the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson each spoke at the event, which was hosted by Catholics for McCain and the Catholic Working Group.

Titled "Render Unto Caesar," the reception and panel focused on rallying Catholics to support Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

"Are you pumped up yet?" Brownback asked the crowd of about 300 people as he took the stage. He immediately praised McCain's choice of Palin, which was announced Aug. 29.

"The lady is a real lady, a believer in the pro-life movement," he said. "She lives it. She is it."

Members of the pro-life movement have praised Palin's decision to give birth to her youngest child, Trig, who has Down syndrome, and her support of her pregnant 17-year-old daughter, Bristol.

The next president may have the opportunity to appoint one to three new U.S. Supreme Court justices, Brownback said, adding that if conservative justices are selected they may be able to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

Republicans cannot concede "social justice ground," Brownback said, drawing attention to McCain's concern for genocide issues in Africa. "We are a pro-life and whole-life party."

The Catholic vote is a critical vote in swing states, Brownback said. He encouraged Catholics to support McCain by talking to 10 people each day about him -- and one's spouse doesn't count, he joked.

Smith said Catholics should not be discouraged this election year. He criticized Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama's position on abortion, saying he would be "the abortion president."

Abortion tops the hierarchy of issues, he said in response to a question. It is not "just another social issue," like housing.

"Protection of life is the ultimate issue upon (which) all others must rest," he said. "Abortion is an act of violence. That's child abuse of an extreme order."

Steele, chairman of GOPAC, a national organization working to elect Republicans to state and local offices, focused on the importance of Catholics engaging in political life, and said their faith should be evident.

"In public life, you can't fit faith in a ... box," he said.

He encouraged Catholics to ask themselves how they were a sign of faith in daily life, to "be a contradiction" in society.

"I cannot separate my faith from my public life and my decisions," he said. "My faith is who I am."

Nicholson, who also recently served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, challenged those at the gathering to fight what Pope Benedict XVI has called "the tyranny of relativism."

Clergy and bishops should not be afraid to speak about political matters and the Catholic Church's values, he said.

Catholics should also pray, he said. "I don't pray John McCain will be elected. I pray that God's will be done," he said.

The event, moderated by Catholic author and speaker Jeff Cavins, also featured a video of McCain focusing on the values of courage, faith and patriotism.

The event's title was inspired by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput's new book, "Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life."


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