Signs of the Times

Politicians and Bishops Call for Bipartisanship

As the second razor-thin presidential election in a row was declared a victory for President George W. Bush on Nov. 3, the candidates and the Catholic bishops of the United States looked ahead to soothing bitter partisanship from the campaign. In his concession speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the Democratic candidate, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, said he and Bush talked about the danger of division in our country and the needthe desperate need - for unity, for finding common ground and coming together. "Today, I hope we can begin the healing," he said. Kerry said he told Bush that America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion. "I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years."

Later in the day in a speech in Washington, Bush pledged to seek the support of Kerry’s voters during his second term. America has spoken, and I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens, he said. With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans. And I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president. Speaking to every person who voted for my opponent, he said, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust.


Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles was quick to offer his congratulations to Bush after Kerry conceded in a mid-morning telephone call to the president the day after the election. The partisan rhetoric of the campaign must now give way to a genuine commitment to bipartisanship and to a partnership for the common good, the cardinal said in a statement. He said all Americans must work together with the administration and Congress to strengthen the nation’s moral principles, promote human dignity, nurture the stability of families and assist those who are hungry, lack health care or need jobs.

Philadelphia’s Cardinal Justin Rigali issued a statement congratulating Bush and expressed his best wishes to Kerry and his vice presidential running mate, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, and their families. But he also called on Americans to come together to support the president as he leads the United States during the next four years.

"As citizens we may differ in our views but agree that we want what is truly best for each other, for our country and for the world," Cardinal Rigali said. He said he and his brother bishops will strive to work with the president as he deals with difficult issues facing our nation.

Catholics Go for Bush

Whereas in the past Catholics tended to be more Democratic than the nation as a whole, exit polls posted on the CNN Web site showed that this year Catholics apparently voted much the same as the overall populationfor George W. Bush. Nationwide, about 51 percent of voters chose Bush, compared to 48 percent who voted for Kerry. Among Catholics, who make up 27 percent of the electorate, Bush got 52 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Kerry.

This is the first time since before 1928 that Catholics gave a Democratic candidate a lower percentage of their vote than did the nation as a whole, although the 1 percentage point difference is statistically insignificant. In any case, it is clear that the Democratic Party can no longer depend on the Catholic vote being more Democratic. How much of this was due to publicity given to episcopal criticism of Kerry’s views on abortion is not clear.

An analysis by John Green, head of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron in Ohio, and Steven Waldman, founder of the online magazine Beliefnet, found that Catholics in the battleground states of Florida and Ohio turned out more strongly for Bush than for Kerry. In Ohio, Green found that 62 percent of Catholics who attend church weekly voted for Bush; 38 percent of them voted for Kerry.

National exit polls showed that 56 percent of self-identified weekly Catholic churchgoers voted for Bush, compared with 43 percent for Kerry. Among all voters who attend church weekly, Bush picked up 61 percent of the vote, with only 38 percent going to Kerry.

More voters (22 percent) said moral values were the most important concern behind their choice. It was followed by the economy (20 percent), terrorism (19 percent) and Iraq (15 percent). Bush’s support came from people who cited terrorism, moral values and taxes as the issues that mattered the most. Kerry’s support came from those who said they were most worried about the economy and jobs, health care, education and Iraq.

Exit polls also identified white evangelicals as an important voting bloc for Bush, who received 78 percent of their vote. From all Protestants, Bush got 59 percent of the vote; white Protestants gave him 67 percent.

Results on Gay Marriage, Stem Cell Research

Voters approved measures defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman in all 11 states where the issue was on the ballot on Nov. 2, but rejected proposals supported by Catholic leaders against embryonic stem cell research funding in California and against efforts to tighten the use of government benefits by immigrants in Arizona.

In Florida, a church-backed proposal to require parental notification before a minor undergoes an abortion was approved by 65 percent of the voters, but a ballot question on expanding gambling in Miami-Dade and Broward countiesopposed by Catholic leaderswas considered too close to call on Nov. 3.

Voters in California, which led the nation with 16 of the nation’s 162 initiatives in the 2004 elections, also turned down a proposal to limit the state’s three strikes law to certain violent and/or serious felonies, a limit the California Catholic Conference had supported.

In Maine a proposal to cap property taxes was soundly defeated by voters, with 37 percent in favor and 63 percent against. Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland had taken no position on the ballot measure but reminded Catholics that to place our own selfish interest above the needs of those less fortunate violates justice.

South Dakota voters approved a constitutional amendment permitting state-funded school transportation and food services for children who attend parochial and private schools, a longstanding practice in the state.

The margin of approval for state constitutional amendments opposing same-sex marriage ranged from 56 percent to 44 percent in Oregon to 86 percent to 14 percent in Mississippi. In Michigan, where the Catholic Church had given an estimated $500,000 to the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage campaign, the amendment against same-sex marriage was approved 64 percent to 36 percent.

Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit said in a statement on Nov. 3 that passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment was about affirming the very fabric of our society, adding, The Catholic Church stands opposed to any unjust discrimination and will continue to work for justice and equality for the rights of all people.

Bishop George H. Niederauer of Salt Lake City did not endorse the proposed constitutional amendment in Utah, saying that he believed state law already prohibited same-sex marriages. He said he shared concerns voiced by all three candidates for attorney general about the amendment’s stipulation that no other domestic union may be recognized as a marriage given the same or substantially equal legal effect.

The Utah proposal was approved 66 percent to 34 percent. Other states that approved amendments against same-sex marriage, with the percentages, were: Arkansas (75-25), Georgia (77-23), Kentucky (75-25), Montana (66-34), North Dakota (73-27), Ohio (62-38) and Oklahoma (76-24). Voters in Missouri and Louisiana approved similar proposals earlier this year, although a Louisiana judge has declared that state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

California’s Proposition 71, the Embryo Cloning and Stem-Cell Research Bond Act, won 59 percent to 41 percent. Strongly opposed by the state’s Catholic bishops but backed by scientists, entertainers, financiers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is Catholic, Proposition 71 establishes a constitutional right for scientists to pursue stem cell research and funds embryonic stem cell research to the tune of $3 billion.

We are not opposed to stem cell research, the California Catholic Conference said in a statement before the vote. We approve and encourage research that uses cells derived from adults and umbilical-cord blood, and we rejoice at the phenomenal cures that some have experienced because of that research.

In addition to citing the moral problems posed by the destruction of embryos for stem cell research, the bishops called it socially unjust to launch a $3 billion new state bureaucracy when vital programs for health, education, police and fire services are being cut.

In California, the bishops also had supported Proposition 66 to revise the state’s three strikes law, saying that the causes of crime are complicated, and simplistic sentencing solutions are not an adequate answer. The proposal failed, 47 percent to 53 percent.

Catholic Charities of California had called for passage of Proposition 63, which would impose an additional 1 percent tax on personal income above $1 million to expand funding of mental health services in the state, and urged defeat of two proposals that would expand casino gambling in the state. The mental health surtax was approved, 54 percent to 46 percent, and the gambling measures were defeated.

Catholic health care leaders in the state had backed Proposition 72, which would require employers in large and medium-size companies to pay 80 percent of the cost of health insurance for their workers. It was defeated in a close vote.

Arizona’s Proposition 200, which was expected to face an immediate court challenge, won 56 percent to 44 percent despite the opposition of the Catholic bishops of Phoenix, Tucson and Gallup, N.M., whose diocese includes northeastern Arizona, and a bipartisan statewide coalition. The measure requires anyone registering to vote to provide proof of citizenship and obliges state workers to verify that anyone seeking government benefits is not in the United States illegally.

While Proposition 200 does nothing to control our borders or solve the complex immigration problems in our state, it will potentially make criminals out of well-meaning government workers and deny basic rights to undocumented immigrants, the bishops said before the election. Consequently, we believe that such legislation is bad public policy.

Florida’s bishops had strongly supported the state’s Amendment 1, which would permit the Legislature to pass legislation requiring notification of at least one parent before a minor undergoes an abortion. Young people who are considering an abortion should have the benefit of the wisdom and guidance of their parents when making this life-changing decision, the bishops said before the vote. The measure passed, 65 percent to 35 percent.

Pope Says European Union Needs Gospel Values

European Christians must bring Gospel values to the European Union and its institutions in order to promote peace and the common good of the continent’s peoples, Pope John Paul II said. The prime ministers and heads of state of the 25 countries signed the European Constitution on Oct. 29 in a fresco-covered hall on Rome’s Capitoline Hill. The Vatican and Catholic bishops throughout Europe had lobbied hard for the constitution to contain a specific reference to Europe’s Judeo-Christian roots, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The constitution now refers only to the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe. Despite this, the pope said the signing of the constitution was a highly significant moment in the construction of the new Europe,’ to which we continue to look with hope.

News Briefs

The Christian population in the Holy Land decreased from 18 percent in 1948 to less than 2 percent today, reports the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, whose mission is to increase awareness among Western Christians of the urgent needs of Christians in the Holy Land.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, called on Nov. 1 for the international community to renew efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians to follow the road map to peace. The reluctance of the international community to challenge the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to negotiate in good faith has contributed to the fact that the road map has not taken off, he said at U.N. headquarters in New York.

As the winter flu season approached, Bishop Kenneth A. Angell of Burlington has asked Vermont Catholics not to receive Communion from a common cup for the next few months and not to shake hands when exchanging a sign of peace. The Diocese of Cleveland suggested added health precautions, such as having ministers of Communion wash their hands just before Mass.

Catholic Charities USA has received a $1.97 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will fund the housing counseling programs of 40 local Catholic Charities agencies.

The chief education official of the Diocese of Brooklyn said some Catholic elementary schools in the diocese will have to close next year after successive enrollment drops of nearly 4,000 and 3,000 over the past two years.

The National Review Board, which monitors church compliance with child sex abuse prevention policies, has asked research organizations to bid on doing a comprehensive study on the causes and context of the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne cited Canon 763 of the Code of Canon Law to force Bishop Jacques Gaillot to withdraw from a speaking engagement in the archdiocese. Canon 763 allows bishops to prevent other bishops from preaching in their dioceses, but only in particular instances and for a serious reason, for example, that the bishop is known to be preaching error or folly. Bishop Gaillot was removed as head of the Diocese of Evreux, France, in 1995 for opposing official church positions on issues like celibacy, women priests and the use of condoms to prevent AIDS.

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and others in calling for a clear U.N. mandate for the African Union to protect innocent civilians in western Sudan’s Darfur region and for other financial and logistical support from the international community.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Screengrab from a viral video showcasing a confrontation between a Native American drummer and a group of Catholic high school students in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 18, 2019. Screenshot via YouTube.
Several clips of the encounter circulating on social media show a small group of Native American drummers, who were in Washington for the Indigenous People’s March, being surrounded by a much larger band of teenagers.
Pope Francis has suppressed the Ecclesia Dei Commission, a significant decision with consequences for the Holy See’s relations with the priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 19, 2019
Photo: IMDB
A new Netflix miniseries brings out the story’s aspects of adventure and conflict, with occasionally pulse-pounding results.
Rob Weinert-KendtJanuary 19, 2019
Protestors march to support a U.N. anti-corruption commission in Guatemala City on Jan. 6. Photo by Jackie McVicar.
“What they are doing not only puts Guatemala at risk but the entire region. Bit by bit, for more than a year, they have been trying to divide us. The elections are at risk. We are six months away.”
Jackie McVicarJanuary 18, 2019