by Gail Quinn
September 29, 2000
With the November elections just weeks away, there is a perceptible electoral "buzz." While Senate, House and local races factor in, the lion's share of attention is focused on the presidential race. And maybe the U.S. Senate race in New York.
The presidential debates will likely lend more fodder to the morning, noon and night talkathons with actors and athletes joining political pundits to discuss issues and candidates. At times things are fast and furious. Charges and countercharges. Getting the correct spin is the political brass ring.
Omnipresent are the interest groups with deep pockets enabling them to wage campaigns to defeat candidates they oppose and elect those who support their issues. The American Federation of Labor headed by John Sweeney, for example, is campaigning for Vice President Gore because it likes his stand on labor issues. The National Right to Life PAC, headed by David O'Steen, strongly favors George W. Bush because of his pro-life stance. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) supports Gore and other candidates for public office who promise to support abortion and oppose all pro-life initiatives.
Kate Michelman, President of NARAL, recently announced plans for an all-out campaign "aggressively seeking to defeat" presidential candidate George W. Bush as well as other pro-life candidates in Senate and House races in 15 states (CA, FL, IA, MI, MO, MN, MO, NH, NM, NJ, NY, OH, PA, WA and WI).
The plan is for NARAL operatives to call "pro-choice" Independent and Republican women in key states, to persuade them to vote for Gore. Michelman says NARAL's job is "to educate them, to persuade them and to mobilize them to vote." NARAL reports it will spend $5 million trying to defeat Bush and other pro-life candidates. According to Michelman, their research indicates that when they tell women voters who support abortion that the next president of the United States could impact the makeup of the Supreme Court, according to Michelman, "they move like lightning to Gore." The Vice President has promised, if elected, to make sure that anyone he nominates for the Supreme Court or other federal courts will support legal abortion.
Many serious issues are on the table in the coming elections. And each of us has a responsibility to know the issues, and to know how they relate to our faith. To help Catholics understand the issues and to see them through the lens of faith, the bishops have made available two important documents. The first is Living the Gospel of Life (to read, see www.usccb.org/prolife/gospel.shtml), based on Pope John Paul II's encyclical, The Gospel of Life; the other is Faithful Citizenship (see www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship). The bishops' conference will likely publish as well responses to a presidential candidates' questionnaire through which candidates explain their positions on critical issues. These are all helpful documents. I urge readers to consult them.
For a full understanding of the issues from a faith perspective, the documents issued by the bishops are ideal; election-related materials from other sources are likely to cover different issues or leave important issues out. For example, Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization run by women religious has a Vote 2000 Election Chart. This provides information about presidential candidates' positions on numerous issues--but does not mention their positions on the intentional destruction of innocent human life. Thus Network's election-related materials pointedly ignore what the bishops of the United States have described as "the fundamental human rights issue" of our time. So for a full understanding of the issues and how they reflect Church teaching, read the documents issued by the bishops themselves.
As citizens of this nation, we have an opportunity to help choose the person who will become one of the most powerful leaders in the world--a person who will help to determine our nation's direction in the coming years. A person who, for good or ill, will have an enormous impact on our culture. Will we be a nation that shows compassion for those who are poor? A nation that protects innocent human life? A nation that sees even in a convicted murderer, a child of God with innate human dignity?
Don't tune out. Tune in. A lot is at stake, and every vote and every voter makes a difference.
Gail Quinn is executive director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.