Catholics Vote Conscience Over Bishops’ Objections


As Americans participated in
the historic election of Barack Obama and Joseph Biden as the next president
and vice president of the United States, Catholic voters also made a
significant statement about their willingness to ignore their bishops
when considering how to cast their ballot. Once again, Catholic voters
showed that as goes the Catholic vote, so goes the election. According
to exit polls, Catholics voted 54 percent for President-Elect Barack
Obama and 45 percent for Senator John McCain. As the bishops meet this
week in Baltimore at their annual fall assembly, we hope they will spend
some time reflecting on the will of Catholic voters and where those
few bishops who huffed and puffed their way through the election and
pushed a hard-line approach went wrong.

As shown in our poll, "The Catholic
Voter in Summer 2008,"

Catholic voters, like all voters around the country, are most concerned
with the bread-and-butter issues that effect all Americans. Catholics
showed once again that the most important factors in their decision
about who should be the next president and the issues they want him
to focus on were improving the economy, affordable health care, ending
the war in Iraq and keeping the country safe from terrorism. Catholics
represented the largest swing in religious voters in this presidential
election, with seven percent more Catholics voting for the Democratic
candidate as compared to 2004. 

Catholics voted their conscience
over the objections of their bishops who issued statements and lobbied
against the candidacy of Barack Obama because of his prochoice stance.
This wasn’t always easy; on the eve of the election, Bishop Robert
Finn of Kansas City-St, Joseph, appearing on a radio show, said to Catholics
considering a vote for the Democratic candidate: "Give consideration
to your eternal salvation."  

While it was a small minority
of the bishops across the country, there were several who pushed the
message that the issue of abortion should trump all others for Catholic
voters on Election Day. A letter from Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann and
Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell called abortion "intrinsically evil"
and said that it is "morally impermissible" for Catholics to vote
for prochoice candidates over pro-life candidates. Bishop Arthur J.
Serratelli from Patterson, NJ criticized President-Elect Obama’s support
of the Freedom of Choice Act writing that, "We choose our leaders
who make our laws. Every vote counts. Today, either we choose to respect
and protect life, especially the life of the child in the womb of the
mother or we sanction the loss of our most basic freedoms. At this point,
we are still free to choose!"

Many Catholics were rightly
turned off by this overt electioneering. In our poll of likely Catholic
voters, 70 percent said that the views of Catholic bishops are unimportant
to them in deciding for whom to vote and 73 percent said they believe
they are under no religious obligation to vote on issues the way the
bishops recommend. On Election Day, Catholic voters held firm to those
views and showed just how misguided those few bishops and conservative
Catholics are who claimed the issue of abortion must trump all others. 

Despite the hierarchy’s claims
that abortion needed to be the one issue that Catholics voted on, and
in direct contradiction to alarmist claims made by a few reporters and
headline writers, Catholics overwhelmingly disagreed with the idea that
abortion should be the deciding factor this election. Those bishops
who didn’t interfere in this election cycle are to be commended for
not going the old route of communion wars and threats of excommunications.
There is change in the air and more and more public officials recognize
that the views of the hierarchy do not reflect the views or votes of
their constituents.  

Those few bishops who sought
to make the election about abortion, and abortion alone, showed how
out of touch they are with most Catholics. We hope that, as the bishops
come together this week, they do not bend to those ultra-conservative
bishops but instead temper the dialogue, seeking to bring their flocks
with them and not push them away. The bishops should not spend this
week attempting to spin doctor their way out of a crushing defeat. Instead
they should focus on a pastoral approach to the common good that speaks
to the majority of Catholics who voted in favor of a president who shares
their values on sexual and reproductive health-as well as many other
issues.

As prochoice Catholics, we
celebrate the election of a prochoice president who has been a strong
supporter of abortion rights, comprehensive sexuality education and
access to reproductive health care. The next administration will have
to work hard to repair the damage done to reproductive right during
the last eight years: the Global Gag Rule, abstinence-only-until-marriage
programs, subordinating science to personal belief, and a pervasive
program against family-planning efforts. Undoubtedly, concerns about
America’s economic security and military engagements overseas will
garner a great deal of attention. However, we urge the next administration
and Congress to also work for advances in reproductive health care in
the US and abroad.

Catholic voters overwhelmingly
endorsed an agenda that includes access to family planning, comprehensive
age-appropriate sex education and caring adoption programs in order
to reduce the need for abortion. We will continue to stand with this
majority of Catholics worldwide who disagree with the dictates of the
Vatican on matters related to sexuality, contraception and parenthood.
We are excited about the prospect of working with the new administration
and Congress to effect change for the better on issues of sexual and
reproductive health and rights, both domestically and internationally. 

Read the Catholics for Choice statement on the bishops’ gathering in Baltimore here.

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To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • invalid-0

    Women do NOT like to be told what to do with their bodies by a bunch of old out of touch men. I voted my conscience, my old ex church (Catholic) has no right to tell me or anyone else how to vote. If they try, Don’t listen!! The rare times that I will go to church, I will still take communion. It is more of a sin, I think, to want to take away the autonomy of women. It is more of a sin, to support war mongering, out of touch old men. It is more of a sin, to expect a pregnant teen to carry a fetus to term, without resources or any way to take care of a baby that is born. My definition of life is not at conception but at birth, when the fetus is wanted, named and can be loved and properly taken care of. The bishops and priests cannot by law tell us how to vote, but they do try, and they should get their tax exempt status taken away for that. It is ridiculous the things that they say to try to get us not to vote for pro-choice candidates. It’s a good thing that there is nothing that they can do and have no way of knowing how their congregants vote, but shame on them for not seeing world poverty or war or the enviornment as more important than a blob of cells. the stance of these Bishops is more discrimination than anything else, and they discriminate against the lives and the ability of women to control their reproduction, and that is wrong!! There is a seperation of church and state in this country- when will these Bishops get that, if ever??

  • invalid-0

    Anyone who uses the argument of “its my body, my choice” is either completely ignorant or choosing to ignore the organism possessing separate and disntinct human DNA. It is not your body and it is not just a mass of cells. Once the organism has 46 chromosomes, it is its own human entity, however dependent it is on the mother. It will have a beating heart and complex organ system before the mother realizes she is pregnant. The only choice that the pro-choice movement chooses is to ignore modern science. As a woman, as a Catholic, and scientist, I am ashamed that my country continues to deny its most vulnerable their constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  • invalid-0

    to say that my body is no longer my body because they know when human life begins is most definitely ignorant, and is choosing to ignore my REAL rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as privacy.
    you’re a scientist? you say that pro-choicers ignore modern science…um, do you mean modern science circa 1843 or something? you state that it will have a beating heart and a complex organ system before the woman even knows she’s pregnant. maybe i wouldn’t have a problem with that statement if you’d added a realistic “sometimes”. as a scientist in tune with modern science, how are you not aware that the heart doesn’t even begin to form until the 4th week, and that it doesn’t begin beating until the 5th?
    as an intelligent woman who would never consider forcing her religious beliefs on anyone else, i am ashamed that any american citizen could be so theocratically-minded as to believe a fertilized egg/zygote/blastocyst is protected under my country’s constitution. and even more ashamed that such theocratically-minded people believe that my consitutional rights are instantly superceded at the moment of conception by the fertilized egg.

  • invalid-0

    It is not it’s own entity, it is, as you say, dependent on the body of the mother. Birth is when it is it’s OWN entity and has a constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. NOT before!! It does NOT have a beating heart and complex organ system before the woman realizes she is pregnant, in most cases. You use a lot of anti choice talking points but as usual, they don’t make much sense. You say that you are ashamed of your country, but most countries of the world are pro choice. You have the right to your opinion, however, you don’t have the right to force your opinion and religion on others as laws!! Abortion, from our painful lessons when abortion was illegal of young poor and middle class women dying from botched abortions of the past, will ALWAYS exist.(were you ashamed of your country then? When beautiful women who were born and grown and NAMED died by the thousands from botched ILLEGAL abortions??) The question is, do we want to criminalize it, where only the very rich can get them safely and legally in other countries that they can afford to fly to, or do we want to keep it safe and legal for all women? I choose safe and legal!! I CHOOSE women’s LIVES over a blob of tissue!!

  • invalid-0

    By the way, I highly doubt that you are any kind of scientist. If you are a scientist, then I am a doctor and rocket scientist!. NOT!! Anyone can say they are anything, but your ignorance shows me a more uneducated person than you claim to be. Most educated women are pro-choice.

    • invalid-0

      I will unpopularly quote Jesus:

      “I praise Thee Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and learned, and hast revealed them unto babes. Yes Father, for such was Your glorious will.”

      If you can watch “The Silent Scream” with the 1st trimester baby trying desperately to escape the vacuum, it’s heart rate rapidly increasing, and not see the evil in abortion, you are extremely blind. A kid can see it.

  • invalid-0

    lee, you are obviously painfully ignorant of science when it comes to fetal development. no fetus can try desperately to escape the vacuum. my god, you really ought to be ashamed of how brainwashed you are.
    but, if i were you, and i was feeling oh so proud of my spirituality, i’d be very careful about that. and how do i know you are yet another holier-than-thou supposed “christian”? by your not so clever wording of “i will unpopularly quote jesus”. “f” you, lee. your assumption that people on this site, people who know that a woman has the right to control her own body, that we are not christian – that smacks of a little bit of sin to me. i personally suspect judgement day is not going to be as joyous as you prideful sinners and religion-hijackers think it will be. let’s see, how does that verse go i’m trying to recall, the one regarding people who have the nerve to point out what they consider sins in others, when they themselves can NOT be perfect, as god made NO ONE perfect…hmmmm, what is that verse again, you know, by that unpopular guy who is worshipped by right wingers and republicans only…the god that liberals NEVER believe in….oh, yeah, JESUS, and the verse goes something like this, hypocr…i mean, lee:

    “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you’ll see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    that’s luke 6:42, lee, and when you’re done 100% adhering to that, THEN please come back and speak to me about what you, lee, consider a sin.

    in the meantime, i’ll be praying for you, lee, praying god opens your eyes to how mired in spiritual pride you’ve been, and pray that god forgives you for this sin.

  • invalid-0

    Ok, I do apologize for assuming that people on this site are opposed to quoting Jesus. I’m used to forums that are a little hostile to the Bible.

    But that doesn’t change my point. I saw the movie, and I saw the 12-week-old fetus/baby on the ultrasound violently “jumping” in the womb, trying to get away from the suction device the abortionist uses to perform the abortion, with the heart-rate visibly increasing to 200bpm.
    I’m not a scientist; but my point is, you don’t have to be to see the evil in that.

    It’s not wrong to call good, “good,” and evil, “evil.” That’s not the kind of judgment the Jesus condemns. Self-righteous or hypocritical judgment is what He condemns. If I were an abortionist or a woman who was having abortions, it would be hypocritical for me to tell others that abortion is wrong, until I “removed the beam from my own eye” – IE confessed my sin, turned from it, and started doing justly in that area. The only sign of self-righteousness I’ve given has already been acknowledged and apologized for – the assumption I made in my previous post.

    “Hate what is evil; cleave to what is good.” Romans 12:9

  • invalid-0

    The assumption being that it was “unpopular” to quote Jesus.

  • invalid-0

    Lee, I strongly encourage you to conduct a little experiment. Find a newborn or even a child up to 6 months of age, stand over said child with a knife or other sharp instrument and see if the child tries to get away. Would you really expect a first trimester fetus to exhibit behaviours that a newborn or older infant would not? That being said, “The Silent Scream” is an admitted hoax. The creator of that film admitted to manipulating the video by speeding up and slowing down the speed of the playback to give the impression that the fetus was trying to struggle or get away. Not everything you see is real or accurate.

    • invalid-0

      I should stick to what I know, then (which is more than you probably think at this point). I did tell you I’m not a scientist…

      I am a Catholic, however, and will say that being a Catholic is completely incompatible with supporting abortion. It’s also incompatible with rejecting the authority of the Pope and the Vatican. It’s impossible to be in communion with a Church whose central authority you reject. It’s quite a preposterous claim, really, when you think about it.
      “As pro-choice Catholics…”
      It’s an oxymoron.
      I’m not trying to insult, I’m just stating a fact. It’s like saying “I’m an evolutionist, but I reject the theory of evolution,” or “I belong to the NRA, but I believe all guns should be confiscated and banned.”
      Abortion, according to Catholic doctrine, is an intrinsic evil, a mortal sin, and grounds for excommunication for those who have one.
      The Catechism of the Catholic church makes this clear. The Pope makes it clear. Quoting a recent article: “Speaking in Portuguese, he said he’s certain that the bishops will reinforce “the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature.””
      I’m not sure how many Catholics are here on this site – but I know the author of the above article claims to be.
      All I want to say is, be consistent – accept the Catholic Church’s teachings on faith and morals, or stop being hypocritical and go find some church that is compatible with your views.

  • invalid-0

    A kid is also unlikely to be aware of how thoroughly the Silent Scream has been debunked.

  • invalid-0

    or stating your view of something that was written by a human in, what was it, 1992?
    but, aside from my opinion about some human writing – i find it offensive that any human being thinks they could tell another human being what religion they should or shouldn’t be.
    maybe it never occurred to you that there are actually many intelligent, well-educated people, of many different religions, who ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND that this is NOT a theocracy. therefore, you are more than welcome to never, ever, ever have an abortion – but, how dare you desire laws that reflect your personal belief in god? of course, i do not expect you to understand and/or respect that very basic point regarding the constitution of the united states. still, one more time, lee, and maybe it might kinda sorta sink in:

    THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS NOT A THEOCRACY!

  • invalid-0

    That sort of logic has given our country a war criminal and fascist-wannabe as President of the United States. It has given our country an unnecessary war, and is now having us teetering on the edge of economic collapse. People voted for this man because he claimed to be against abortion. And we were supposed to vote for a mentally unstable man with anger issues and a religious extremist because they were pro-life? No. And if the Bishops don’t like that they should retire from their ministries.