Lobbying for the Bishops

It can be found in “Catholics in Political Life,” a preview to the full report that the bishops will be releasing later this year (but not until the election has already come and gone, unfortunately). The statement answers a lot of questions that have been floating around lately about the duties of Catholic politicians and our duties as Catholic voters — especially when our political and religious priorities are crossed.

The bishops touched on the hot topic of denying pro-abortion Catholic politicians Communion, but they ended up just punting it back to the individual bishops. So each bishop will have to decide how to proceed in his own diocese.

It certainly would have been nice to have something a little more concrete here. But at least the statement doesn't play down the danger pro-abortion Catholic politicians put themselves in: “To make [abortion] legal is itself wrong. …The legal system as such can be said to cooperate in evil when it fails to protect the lives of those who have no protection except the law. …Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good.”

But the most encouraging — and concrete — part comes later in the document. Regarding the public platforms that are sometimes given pro-abortion Catholic politicians, the bishops clearly state: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

This is important. As noted in an article in the June issue of CRISIS (“The Enemy inside the Gates,” by Patrick J. Reilly), numerous Catholic schools and institutions have invited pro-abortion Catholics to speak or be honored. Not only does this undermine the Church's position on important moral issues, but it also comes dangerously close to sanctioning the anti-Catholic activities of these individuals.

Now that the bishops have stated unequivocally that these politicians should never be given any kind of award, honor, or platform, we can start looking to Catholic institutions to fall in line. While I won't hold my breath on the colleges, I'm certainly happy to see the bishops taking a strong step in the right direction. And just in time considering the battle brewing right now in the Senate.

This is something that could have a huge impact on all of us. I'm referring, of course, to the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), which is a Constitutional amendment that says marriage is restricted to a man and a woman. As you may already know, the FMA will finally be put to a vote in the Senate on July 15th. That means there's little less than a month to rally the troops on this important issue in order to get the required 67 votes needed for passage. Enter the lobbyists… those individuals who try to shape public policy to reflect the positions of their particular interest group. The Catholic Church in America has its own lobbying arm, the Office of Government Liaison (OGL), directed by Frank Monahan. Headquartered at the USCCB, the Office represents the bishops' (and, in turn, Catholics') concerns before Congress.

You probably remember that a few weeks ago, Monsignor William Fay, the conference's general secretary, wrote us to insist that the bishops were fully behind the FMA and were doing everything they could to urge congressmen to support it.

Well, it's now time for the USCCB to step up to the plate and deliver on their promise. Currently, the FMA only has about 30 senators behind it, with another 23 senators undecided. As I mentioned, the bill needs 67 votes to pass, so it's still far from a sure thing. The next four weeks will be crucial in determining the ultimate success or failure of the bill, and that's where Frank Monahan and his staff come in.

While the OGL should be petitioning all senators for their support of the FMA, it's especially vital to focus on the 24 Catholic senators. Shockingly, 15 of those 24 senators are currently opposed to the bill, and four more are undecided. (I'll tell you who in a moment.)

Think about that: Only 1 in 5 senators who claim to be Catholic actually supports a bill that would enshrine marriage as the union of one man and one woman. That's truly devastating.

And that's why it's crucial that the USCCB does its very best in the next few weeks to lobby these senators — to remind them of the Church's clear teaching on marriage and their duty as senators in light of that teaching (especially on the heels of the bishops' statement from their Colorado meeting). For the record, those senators currently opposed to the bill are:

Joseph Biden (D-DE)

John Breaux (D-LA)

Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Susan Collins (R-ME)

Tom Daschle (D-SD)

Christopher Dodd (D-CT)

Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

John Kerry (D-MA)

Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

Patty Murray (D-WA)

John Reed (D-RI)

Four senators are still, astonishingly enough, undecided. They are:

Mike DeWine (R-OH)

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

John Sununu (R-NH)

George Voinovich (R-OH)

It's also important for us to recognize and appreciate those Catholic senators who have already taken a stand in support of the FMA. They are:

Jim Bunning (R-KY)

Pete Domenici (R-NM)

Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL)

Sam Brownback (R-KS)

Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Monsignor Fay, Frank Monahan, and the rest of the folks at the USCCB certainly have their work cut out for them. But we're fully behind their efforts to persuade these senators to act in line with their self-professed faith. Over the next four weeks, we'll be reporting on the conference's progress in lobbying these senators. With God's grace, they will meet with much success.

Deal Hudson is editor and publisher of CRISIS Magazine. You can reach him via email at hudson@crisismagazine.com.

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