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 CNS Story:

ANDERSON-RESPONSE Sep-26-2008 (600 words) xxxn

Two Catholic groups critical of supreme knight's letter to Biden

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic organizations have raised questions about a Sept. 19 letter from the international leader of the Knights of Columbus that challenged Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden's unwillingness to end legal abortion.

Taking different approaches to the letter from Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, Catholics United and Catholic Democrats made their disagreements with the Knights' leader public in statements issued after the letter was published in five East Coast newspapers where Biden has roots or a strong following.

Anderson's letter invited Biden to meet him as one lay Catholic to another to discuss why the senator from Delaware is unwilling to bring his views on abortion to the public policy arena.

The ads came in response to statements Biden made during a Sept. 7 broadcast of "Meet the Press" in which he said he accepted Catholic teaching that life begins at conception but that he could not impose his beliefs on public policy. Biden supported his view by citing the 13th-century writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, who discussed when a developing child in the womb received a soul and thus could be considered fully human.

Catholics United, which describes itself as a nonpartisan organization that promotes justice and the common good as expressed in Catholic social teaching, charged in a statement issued hours after Anderson's letter was published that the ads distract voters from key issues in the Nov. 4 election.

"Obviously, Sen. Biden's statements were unfortunate," Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United, told Catholic News Service Sept. 26. "Equally unfortunate is the Knights' decision to focus on those comments.

"We can have the discussion on theology after the election. We must look at the real issues that protect and defend human life," he said.

"From what I read (in the letter), they're focused more on this conversation about when life begins. We need to start talking about policy. ... The point is we've spent 35 years discussing whether we should overturn Roe v. Wade and obviously it hasn't been very effective," Korzen added.

Catholic Democrats took a far more political stance in a Sept. 24 statement. The group called Anderson's letter a "hypocritical and partisan attack" on Biden while noting the supreme knight's work in the administration of President Ronald Reagan and his efforts to support President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

Speaking with CNS Sept. 26, Patrick Whelan, the group's president, charged that Anderson ignored Biden's support for programs that would reduce abortion, such as increasing access to health care for pregnant women, and for programs to help single mothers raise their children.

"Sen. Biden is not pro-abortion," Whelan said.

"It seems to me that conservatives in the church have been under tremendous pressure from Republicans and conservative organizations outside the church to advance a political agenda. I thought in this particular case that Carl Anderson, for whom I have tremendous respect, represented himself as speaking for the entire Knights of Columbus for one presidential candidate," he added.

Whelan said his organization has received about a dozen calls or e-mail messages from Knights of Columbus members who were upset with the ads and asked for ideas on how to promote their stance in support of the Democratic ticket of Sen. Barack Obama and Biden.

The Catholic Democrats statement quotes two Knights, Jesuit Father John Montag, and Thomas P. O'Neill III, former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, who said Anderson's letter risks making the organization a tool of political partisanship and ignores the economic, health care and social concerns voters are facing.


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