Bishops

Preparing Catholics for the 2016 Election

In May 2016, I gave a speech to a group of Catholic activists in Cincinnati, Ohio, gathered together by Priests for Life, on how Catholics could make THE difference in the upcoming presidential election. I specifically outlined the ways the institutional Church would try to oppose Catholic efforts on behalf of the pro-life cause.  What I predicted did, indeed, happen, and in quite dramatic fashion.  Fortunately, Catholic voters overcame clerical resistance and voted 52% to 45% for the Trump/Pence ticket.

Did the Bishops Punish Archbishop Burke?

Deal W. Hudson

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Archbishop Raymond Burke (St. Louis) lost an election at the annual meeting of the U.S. bishops last week.

Over the past three years, Burke has assumed the mantle of the late Cardinal John O’Connor in pro-life matters, challenging fellow bishops to take stronger stances in the defense of innocent life.

Nominated as chairman for the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, 60 percent of his fellow bishops preferred his opponent. As bishops’ conference expert Rev. Thomas Reese noted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, an auxiliary bishop defeating an archbishop for a conference chairmanship is “very unusual.”

Archbishop Burke’s credentials as a canonist are widely recognized. In fact, he missed the bishops’ meeting because he was in Rome as a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s highest judicial authority.

Burke has been a controversial figure since early 2004 when, as bishop of La Crosse, WI, he began to challenge pro-abortion Catholic politicians publicly on their reception of the Eucharist.

Shortly after moving to St. Louis as archbishop, Burke said he would deny Communion to Sen. John Kerry if he presented himself. Although his position has been backed up by 13 other bishops, Archbishop Burke was clearly straining the boundaries of “collegiality.”

Father Reese, former editor of America magazine, says the bishops were sending a message: “Most of the bishops don’t want communion and Catholic politicians to be a high-profile issue, and he [Burke] is seen as a man who’s pushing that issue. . . . Had he been elected, it could have been interpreted as endorsing his position.”

Archbishop Elden Curtiss (Omaha), Archbishop Sean O’Malley (Boston), and Cardinal Francis George (Chicago) went on the record denying that there was any message being sent by the bishops to Burke. And supporters of Archbishop Burke have no reason to regret the selection of Bishop Thomas Paprocki, the Chicago auxiliary, whose reputation and credentials are similar to that of Burke’s.

The question still in the air after the bishops’ meeting, however, is whether Burke is being punished for not backing down after the controversy surrounding him during the 2004 election.

In response to the Kerry and Communion controversy, the bishops formed a task force, headed by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, to study the issue and present a report. That report, “Catholics in Political Life,” differed sharply with Burke, finding that each bishop could decide for himself in such cases.

Archbishop Burke did not back down. Early this year, he published an article on Canon 915 in Italian law journal Periodica de Re Canonica arguing that the McCarrick report was incorrect.

Burke said that a bishop’s interpretation of what to do in the face of a pro-abortion Catholic politician “would hardly seem to change from place to place.” For Burke, enforcing discipline must go hand-in-hand with teaching:

No matter how often a bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices, and at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow.

He gave the names of bishops with whom he disagreed: Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Roger Mahony (Los Angeles), and Archbishop Donald Wuerl Washington, DC. Just as it’s very unusual for an archbishop to be defeated by an auxiliary bishop in an election, it’s just as unheard of for a bishop to take issue with another bishop by name.

In his article, however, Burke spread the net even wider. He argued that any Catholic who administers Communion – even a lay person – is required to withhold it from Catholic politicians who know they hold positions contrary to Church teaching.

Burke has said publicly that he will not stop addressing this issue. In an interview with Catholic News Service shortly after the 2004 election, he said:

It’s funny because some people now characterize me as a fundamentalist, or an extremist . . . . But these are questions that are at the very foundation of the life of our country. We just simply have to continue to address them.

The archbishop of St. Louis has been true to his word. His article on Canon law formalized his objection to McCarrick’s report.

If Father Reese is right, the bishops are distancing themselves from a fellow bishop who kept controversy in the air, a controversy most of them would rather see go away.

The bishops’ own document from last week, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” was a powerful indictment of Catholics who participate politically without demanding an end to abortion. Archbishop Burke, though he was not at the meeting, and though he will not chair the canonical affairs committee, must be given some credit for the strength of the bishops’ corporate voice in this statement.

Published at InsideCatholic.com, November 19, 2007

On Being Divisive

By Deal W. Hudson

Every group has its code words. These words serve an important social function they enable the members of the group to deliver a harsh judgment on others without accountability. In the Catholic world, when someone is called “divisive,” it means he is too conservative to be trusted. Those who are “divisive” threaten the “unity of the Church” by raising questions about the loyalty of its leaders to its teachings. Strange, isn’t it?

Not everyone understands the code, but not everyone is supposed to. The code serves to protect those who don’t want to be troubled by troubling questions. The code kept Church leaders from answering questions about the growing influence of active homosexuals in the priesthood. When Catholic publications such as Crisis raised this question, they were labeled “divisive.”

If Church unity must be protected from the Church’s teaching, then what kind of unity do we have? It is the kind of unity that keeps priests from reminding their parishioners of the Church’s position on birth control or homosexuality, the kind that allows a college to call itself Catholic while its faculty consistently misrepresent the Church’s teachings.

This arrangement may be appropriate for a big-tent political coalition. Parties form coalitions in order to achieve a majority vote; if they excluded everyone who doesn’t affirm every plank in the platform, they’d lose. But is this the kind of unity the Church should be seeking—a unity preoccupied with numbers? Such is the pseudounity of those leaders who don’t want the “divisive” influence of sound Church teaching to embarrass cafeteria Catholics.

Some will say, quite rightly, that the unity of the Church is first of all a unity in Christ—a person, not a principle. They will argue that faith is a personal journey rather than the intellectual acceptance of a creed and moral teachings. “Pastoral care” thus requires that Catholics should not be made to feel less Catholic for the rejection of this or that teaching.

Some, in fact, may use pastoral care as an excuse to ignore the content of the faith, but the moral dimension of the spiritual life cannot be dismissed. The question remains whether we will continue calling all Catholics to a full recognition of Catholic teaching. This type of evangelism—an evangelism directed to those already in the Church—risks the very divisiveness that most of the present leadership abhors. Dissent is so often encountered and so rarely challenged that is has been normalized. It begins to look imprudent—that is, divisive—even to remark on it. At least those who dissent within a political coalition are more honest about it. And political leadership rarely fears invoking the platform to pull coalition members into line.

Looming very large for our bishops is the issue of homosexuality in the priesthood. This issue will test their willingness to discuss the real causes of the sex-abuse scandal. Whether they are ready to meditate seriously on the intersection of homosexual orientation as an “objective disorder,” homosexual acts as morally evil, and the vocation of the celibate priesthood remains to be seen.

Given the obvious state of affairs in our priesthood, anyone who pushes these questions will likely be shoved aside as a divider. To borrow a phrase from St. Thomas Aquinas, now is the time to distinguish in order to unite. There is no real unity in the Church as long as its people are deceived and its teaching ignored.

Published in Crisis Magazine, September 1, 2002

Homosexuality and the Synod

Published at The Christian Review Oct. 5, 2015

The Ordinary Synod of the Bishops on the Family opened today to address the theme of “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”

The world’s media will be watching the bishops very closely, expecting them to ratify “changes” to the Church’s teaching on divorced Catholics and hoping for “changes” to the teaching on homosexuality. Journalists conveniently forget, what most of them know, that the core of Church teaching does not change. However, some of the bishops want to discuss precisely what this “core” really is. And that is unsettling.

The issue of homosexuality was raised by Pope Francis himself when he declared early in his papacy, ““If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?,” deliberately using the English word, “gay.”

This remark released an avalanche of comment both from within the Church and out that has continued unabated since it was made July 29, 2013. And to ensure this issue is brought before the synod, Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa, a member of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith since 2003, “came out” by declaring to an Italian newspaper that he was an active homosexual and living with a “partner.”

Monsignor Charamsa explained his reason for giving the interview:

“The timing is not intended to pressure anyone, but maybe a good pressure, in fact a Christian participation, a Christian voice that wants to bring to the synod the response of the homosexual believers to the questioning of Pope Francis.”

Within 24 hours, Monsignor Charamsa was fired from his Vatican post and told by his Polish ordinary that he may well be stripped of his priestly faculties.

It’s important to remember that when the US bishops released their Bennett 2004 report on the priest’s pedophile crisis, the report itself revealed it was not pedophilia that was the problem but homosexual priests having sexual contact with post-pubescent boys and teenagers. Though 90% of the 400 victims listed in the report were post-pubescent, both the bishops and the media ignored the significance of this finding.

When the report was released at the National Press Club, I asked then USCCB president, Bishop Wilton Gregory, why the ramifications of this statistic were not highlighted in the report. The bishop acknowledged the statistic and then asked for another question.

Bishop Gregory’s determination to look away from the problem is not unique — it appears most of the leadership and laity in the Church have wanted to ignore it as well. Why? Because it would force them to ask, just what percentage of Catholic clergy are homosexual? And, how many of those homosexual priests are active? Most importantly, they would be led to ask whether or not either answer makes any difference to them.

Some years ago I surveyed all the available data on the percentage of homosexuals in the priesthood. When I published my findings and reported on them at a meeting of DC conservatives, I was castigated in a way that totally surprised me. Even my friends at the meeting told me I was out of line, in spite of the fact that I done the research. I will not repeat my findings here, rather I will only state the obvious: The percentage of homosexual priests in the Catholic Church is substantial, so substantial that the drama now underway at the Vatican synod was inevitable.

The July, 2013 comment of Pope Francis pricked a balloon that was ready to burst, and now we are watching as the air which came out slowly at first is forming a wind sweeping through the Church.

Here is what most Catholics know about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality:

Homosexuality is an “objective disorder” of the human person (CCC #2358).
Homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and, therefore, always sinful (CCC #2357).
Homosexual attraction, in itself, is not sinful, but is evidence of an “objective disorder” (CCC #2358).
Homosexuals are “called to chastity” (CCC #2359).
Homosexual men with “transitory” homosexual desire may be ordained deacons after three years of prayer and chastity.
Homosexual men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” or who are sexually active cannot be ordained.
(For #5 and #6 see “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders,” a document published in November 2005 by the Congregation for Catholic Education.)

Since the Church’s policy toward the ordination of homosexual men is an “Instruction,” it is subject to change, which I am sure is on the mind those bishops hoping for “changes,” led by Cardinal Kasper, at the synod. However, the Church cannot, and will not, change its teachings on #1-4, a fact which I am confident Pope Francis will confirm at the synod.

It’s important to notice the prudential nature of the Church’s instruction regarding the ordination of homosexuals. The matter is not presented as black and white, the Church recognizes that the individual circumstances of each man should be respected, and any decisions regarding suitability for ministry should be based upon the individual, not caricatures of homosexual lifestyles.

I’m sure I am not the only Catholic who knows holy priests who have received the grace of chastity and have served the Church both generously and sacrificially. Thus, I would oppose any attempt to bar all men with homosexual tendencies from the priesthood. This would not only deny the heroism of countless priests but also the grace of God available to all of us to govern sinful desire.

But it’s clear, at least to me, that Cardinal Kasper and his co-conspirators are pressing for changes to the unchangeable, namely, the nature of homosexual desire, the moral state of homosexual acts, and, finally, the licitness of homosexual unions.

I doubt if Pope Francis realized his common sense call to charity and compassion towards homosexuals would bring him to face to face with his bishops over the fundament of Church teaching. I, for one, believe the Pope will do exactly what his role as Vicar of Christ calls for — to protect and promulgate the “sacred deposit” of Church teaching.

A Catholic Church Without Hell? Where We Are Headed.

Published at The Christian Review Nov. 3, 2015

There were many controversial pronouncements made at the Synod on the Family, but it was the “what-would-Jesus-do” comment made by Cardinal Wuerl afterward that really got my attention.

In an Oct. 25 interview with Religion News Service, the cardinal was asked about the final document’s lack of specific recommendations regarding how bishops and priests should change their pastoral care of certain people, such as active homosexuals and divorced Catholics, for example, by allowing them to receive Communion.

Cardinal Wuerl answered,

“The frame of reference now is no longer the Code of Canon Law. The frame of reference is now going to be, ‘What does the gospel really say here?’ But I think the Holy Father has a whole range of opportunities before him. I think we just have to wait and see what he chooses.”

I don’t think I was the only reader of the cardinal’s response who found it classically Protestant.

Wuerl’s answer could be fairly unpacked this way: Catholics should not first look to the Code of Canon Law on guidance on how to regard homosexuality, homosexual acts, the sacrament of marriage, divorce, or annulment. Rather, Catholics should first consider the Gospels to figure out what to think about these now controversial moral matters, as well as the sacrament of marriage.

I could describe my reaction to this in two ways, first, as being baffled, like Alice in Wonderland, or, second, of being betrayed. I spent ten years reading and praying my way into the Catholic Church before being received at age 34. Central to that journey was the affirmation that the Church drew its teaching from both Scripture and Tradition, rather than the sola scriptura espoused by the Reformers.

Tradition itself, I learned, grew organically out of Scripture, the revealed Word of God, providing the faithful with a reliable guide to answer the question posed by Cardinal Wuerl, “What does the gospel really say here?”

I had been raised Presbyterian, became a Southern Baptist in college, and attended Princeton Theological Seminary before becoming a Baptist minister in Atlanta. My journey was not merely intellectual but was provoked, in part, by experiences in a Christian denomination that sought to draw its teaching from the immediacy of Biblical encounter, with a minimal amount of mediation sought from either theology or philosophy. Biblical interpretation and Biblical theology were encouraged, but systematic theology, philosophical theology, or even apologetics were viewed as veering away from the Word.*

I had already read various comments during the Synod about Catholics putting too much emphasis on doctrine. During a press conference after the second day, Archbishop Durocher answered a question about possible changes to the reception of the Eucharist by divorced Catholics by saying,

“Let’s be honest. Is that a question of doctrine or is that a question of discipline? I think that’s probably going to be one of the questions that will be debated in the small groups. . . . If you want doctrine, go read Denzinger.”

“Denzinger” refers to the The Sources of Catholic Dogma first published in 1854 by Heinrich Joseph Dominicus Denzinger (1819-1883), continuously updated ever since, becoming the accepted research guide to the development of Catholic doctrine. Archbishop Durocher’s comment was clearly dismissive and was taken as such.

I assume this is not what Pope Francis himself meant when he said at the opening session that the Church should not be a “museum of memories.” It’s impossible, at least in my mind, to viewing Tradition as something arising from the past into the present and moving towards the future. If fixed doctrine means a concept that has not changed over many centuries — “We believe in one God” — then it has something of a “museum” quality about it.

But, if Cardinal Wuerl has accurately represented the substance of the Synod’s discussions and direction the Holy Father is taking the Church then this question arises in my mind: Are we heading towards a Catholic Church without Hell?

This may seem a large leap, and perhaps it is, but consider the following points. Up for discussion at the Synod were two kinds of mortal sin, homosexual acts and the taking of Communion while being married outside the Church.

Mortal sins, of course, are those “grave matters” committed with full knowledge, both of the sin and of the gravity of the offense, and committed with deliberate and complete consent, enough for it to have been a personal decision to commit the sin (#1859 Catechism of the Catholic Church). If a mortal sin is not forgiven, the Church teaches a person will be condemned to Hell after death (#1033 CCC).

Being barred from receiving the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin (#1457 CCC) is a prefigurement of the Hell that awaits the unrepentant, unforgiven mortal sinner.

Orthodox Catholics often say that fundamental Church doctrine cannot be changed, even by a pontiff. Thus, they would argue, whatever the huffing and puffing of the recent Synod, and whatever Pope Francis may write as a consequence, homosexual acts and marrying outside the Church will remain mortal sins, as least according to Denziger, the Catechism, and the Code of Canon Law!

Yet, after the Synod, there was also the widespread comment that pastoral care had already de facto removed homosexual acts and marriage outside the Church from classification as mortal sin. (I’m sure this is an exaggeration but assume it applies to many dioceses around the world, especially in Europe.)

As I see it, the present situation is this:

–There are Church “regions” where what the Church officially teaches as mortal sin is not treated as mortal sin in the name of “pastoral care.”

–In those regions, the belief of being separated from God by mortal sin, and facing the threat of Hell, is being replaced de facto by the view of an All-Loving God Whose Love cannot be confined to doctrinal strictures, such as the “intrinsic evil” of homosexual acts. The Cardinals from these regions were those who attempted to use the Synod to codify their practices.

–The cardinals from the Church’s other regions, especially Africa, defended the Church’s teaching and practice, while agreeing that pastoral care should never be withheld from anyone, regardless of the gravity of sin.

–As a result of what I’ve described, the Catholic Church is facing the possibility of a schism. The movement towards schism has been in the making for quite a long time, but the election of Pope Francis allowed the long-held frenzied hatred for John Paul II and Benedict XVI among bishops and Cardinals to find an institutional outlet.

The possible schism itself can be described in the distinction drawn by Cardinal Wuerl between consulting the Code of Canon Law and the Gospels. In other words, some regions of the Church may simply admit they’ve decided to jettison certain uncomfortable portions of Catholic doctrine and become Protestant.

Other regions may not announce any formal break with the Roman Church but pursue and recommend pastoral practices that ignore moral teaching of the Church, especially regarding sex and marriage. This will very likely also include the ordination of women and removing the ban against contraception. (After all, we know that if Jesus lived in the 21st century he would have recognized the injustice of excluding women from the priesthood and view over-population as the primary source of global warming!)

Are we heading towards a Catholic Church without Hell? The true Catholic Church will always teach there is a Hell, because not to do so would be to strip the human person of the imago Dei, the free will impressed into his nature by God at creation. But the ersatz church, which is on the rise in Europe and some parts of the Americas, will find that Hell no longer matters to persons whose moral acts cannot separate them from the love of God.

Evangelical Protestants, of course, still believe in Hell. Thus, it’s important to point out that the Protestant gesture heard in Wuerl’s comment did not posit any specific content, but was a distancing from strict adherence to the “rule books” such as the Code of Canon Law and, presumably, the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

As I said, a schism in the Catholic Church can be avoided, but if not confronted head-on the present situation will eventually cause the Church to splinter. It’s a decisive moment for the people of God who must exert their proper leadership by making their voices heard.

I believe in the good intentions of Pope Francis but fear that he has unwittingly let the Protestant genie out of the bottle, and only with our help, and guided by the Holy Spirit, can the slippery rascal be put back in.

*My conversion memoir, An American Conversion: One’s Man’s Search for Truth and Beauty in a Time of Crisis, was published in 2003.

A Portrait of Catholic Clergy

Deal W. Hudson

Published December 1, 2002

In a survey of 1,854 Catholic priests, the Los Angeles Times has provided a fascinating—and troubling—report on the state of the priesthood. The poll tells us that our priests are more satisfied with the priesthood than is generally assumed but lack conviction about central moral teachings of their Church.

The Los Angeles Times poll was the most extensive survey of Catholic priests since its last poll in the mid-1990s. Questions were sent out to 5,000 priests, a representative sample of the nation’s 45,382 Catholic clergy. The questions were comprehensive, covering fundamental attitudes toward Catholic teaching, the sexual-abuse crisis, and the leadership of Pope John Paul II. Partial results can be viewed at http://www.latimes.com; the Times promises to release the full results at a later date.

The good news is that priests are not demoralized in the wake of the sexual-abuse scandal. Ninety-one percent of all respondents report being satisfied with their way of life as a priest. Those who think celibacy is a negative factor for priestly life should note that only 2 percent of all priests regard celibacy as “not relevant to [their] priesthood.”

As many Catholics have surely noticed, younger clergy are much more faithful to the magisterium than priests from the baby boom generation. In the poll, four in ten priests under the age of 41 described themselves as conservative while three-fourths said they are “religiously orthodox.” Younger priests evince more appreciation for the Holy Father, his moral teachings, and the magisterium of the Church in general.

But, not surprisingly, among Vatican II–generation priests between the ages of 42 and 59, 51 percent support the ordination of women, 72 percent say Catholics can disagree with Church teachings and “remain faithful,” and only 60 percent say John Paul II’s moral views are “about right.”

The results of questions about homosexuality in the priesthood were mixed but telling. Thirty-one percent of those ordained within the last 21 years said there was a homosexual subculture at their seminary. Reports from older generations of priests were markedly lower. Sixty-seven percent of all respondents said they were definitely heterosexual, while 28 percent reported being either somewhere in between or definitely homosexual (5 percent refused to answer).

While many of these statistics reflect what we might have already assumed about the state of the American priesthood, some of the numbers in the poll are shocking. For years we have been saying that the Catholic laity would be better off if only their priests would teach them. As it turns out, many priests do not themselves accept the moral teaching of the Church on culture-of-life issues. Take, for example, the following numbers:

• Only 71 percent agreed that abortion is always a sin.

• Only 59 percent agreed that committing suicide if suffering from a debilitating disease is always a sin.

• Only 49 percent agreed that homosexual behavior is always a sin.

Is it surprising that a large part of the laity dissents from the Church’s moral teaching when the clergy themselves don’t believe it? No wonder we don’t often hear homilies on abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia—many of our priests lack a firm conviction that these acts are intrinsically sinful. It is possible that by using the word “sinful” rather than, say, “wrong,” the Times invited a confused response; as they are formulated, the questions seem to elide the important distinction between personal culpability and objective evil. Perhaps the low numbers reflect an appropriate hesitation on that point. But it is also possible—and all too likely—that they reflect the popularity of situational ethics, which has nothing to do with Catholic moral theology.

“Cafeteria Catholicism” evidently exists among the teachers of the faith as well as among those who learn from them. But we shouldn’t despair quite yet. After all, perhaps the most important fact about this poll is that these numbers are actually better than the ones from the Times’s earlier poll. I have no doubt that this is in part due to the tenacity of the Holy Father in his commitment to speak the truth at all costs. The other good news is that the fervor and fidelity of our young priests is helping to rejuvenate the Church across the country. Let’s hope this trend continues.

The U.S. Catholic Conference Strikes Again

Published December 1, 2000
DEAL W. HUDSON

Catholics must wonder sometimes why the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) exists. On October 16, Catholic News Service (CNS) of the USCC issued a story with the headline, “Gore sees hope for ‘common ground’ movement on abortion.” Written by Patricia Zapor, based on an interview with the vice president, the article serves to provide official Catholic cover for a pro-abortion presidential candidate whose most ardent supporters are the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood.

The phrase “common ground,” of course, was brought into Catholic parlance by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago, who wanted to provide a forum for Catholics to discuss their differences on issues like Church authority and the role of the priesthood. Abortion was never put on the common ground table: To seek common ground on abortion is to accept that some number of innocent lives can be taken. This is Gore’s position. Cardinal Bernadin would have never accepted such a compromise with the culture of death.

The fact that such a story would come out of CNS makes one wonder how much the culture of death has a grip on the USCC. That those who edit these stories and write their headlines would not immediately reject such a wording indicates a serious lack of Catholic judgment at CNS. It is not the case that Zapor was simply quoting Gore with comment; she uses his language without quotation in the middle of the article: “Gore said he sees a bourgeoning grassroots movement seeking common ground on abortion.”

Anyone who is in the business of Catholic journalism knows full well that to use the phrase “common ground” is to draw on the moral and spiritual capital of Cardinal Bernadin’s legacy. I suppose we can look forward to further CNS articles on the search for common ground on euthanasia and partial-birth abortion.

The USCC also raised numerous eyebrows with the release of its presidential candidate questionnaire on October 17. The first nine pages of the questionnaire were released that morning, with the remaining eleven pages inexplicably added the next afternoon. For legal reasons, the USCC explains, the questionnaire contains “verbatim responses and comments” of candidates to questions posed by the conference. Legal arguments aside, the result is unfortunate, because once again a pro-abortion candidate is provided an official Catholic forum to mislead the Catholic public.

On partial-birth abortion, Gore is quoted as saying, “Al Gore opposes late-term abortion and the procedure of partial-birth abortion…. Al Gore believes that any law prohibiting the partial-birth abortion procedure must be narrowly tailored, and should include protections for the life and health of the mother.” (Note that Gore sent his comments to the USCC in the third person, which makes them appear written by the bishops, while Bush’s comments were published in the first person.) The leadership at the

USCC knows that the health exception effectively negates the partial-birth abortion ban, but the format allows Gore to mislead Catholics who are not fully informed on this issue.

This is a repeat of the 1996 USCC candidate questionnaire that allowed Clinton to get away with the same misrepresentation of his position on abortion. Catholics helped to elect Clinton, and the unborn have been his victims. Protests were lodged then, so this time the conference action is surely intentional. If the USCC cannot present the candidates’ views in a way that truthfully informs the Catholic public, then the conference should stop issuing questionnaires altogether.

There is no doubt in my mind that the USCC legal department is overly cautious: I am sure that Catholic bishops have the constitutional right to inform Catholics how a candidate’s position stands in relation to a clearly defined moral teaching of the Church. Moral guidance is a bishop’s job, and as far as I know, the IRS cannot and will not object. Such judgments do not constitute partisan activity, although they may affect the voting behavior of Catholic voters.

There are many issues of public policy where common ground should be sought between Democrats and Republicans in relation to Catholic social teaching—abortion is not one of them. Catholics depend on the USCC for accuracy in promulgating the teachings of the Church and representing them to those in the media and to Congress. These events during the crucial final weeks before the election demand scrutiny of the CNS and a reassessment of future candidate questionnaires.