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Life Issues Connector
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President & Publisher………………..J.C. Willke, M.D.
Why Clinton Got the Catholic Vote
by J.C. Willke, MD
Roman Catholics share essentially the same moral beliefs on life, marriage and family as do evangelical Christians. In this past election, evangelical Christians voted 60% for Dole, 35% for Clinton and 5% for Perot. Catholics voted 42% for Dole, 48% for Clinton and 9% for Perot. Why the striking difference?
Time was that ethnic Protestants, particularly in the South, shared with ethnic Catholics, particularly in the North, a common allegiance to the Democrat Party. That day is past, as the South is voting more conservative (and Republican), while Catholics in the North have demonstrated a different pattern. They did vote for Reagan and for Bush in ‘88. In ‘92 and ‘96, however, they voted for Mr. Clinton, the second time knowing of his veto of the partial birth abortion bill and in full knowledge of his multiple, pervasive moral problems. It would seem that his positions on abortion, homosexuality and other moral issues have clearly alienated evangelical voters, but also just as clearly did not seem to have influenced Catholic voters as much. Could it be that evangelical churches’ positions on these issues are stronger and more definitive? The answer to that, at least at leadership level, is “no”. They’re quite alike.
Let’s first look at Catholic leadership. No one on the planet has probably been more definitive in his pro-life preaching than Pope John Paul II. For him, this has been the defining moral issue of our time. He frequently quotes the Vatican II judgment, describing abortion as an “unspeakable crime”. What of the US Catholic bishops? A few years ago at their annual meeting, by unanimous vote, the US Catholic bishops condemned abortion unequivocally. They stated that it was the most important moral issue of our time. Reacting to the partial birth abortion ban veto, all of the US Cardinals stood on the steps of the US Capitol praying that the veto would be overridden. Each Cardinal in turn issued a very strong statement. Cardinal Bernard Law stated, “There is no doubt whatsoever that in the present climate all other issues must take second place to the overriding issue of the right-to-life. This is, in the words of the US bishops, `the fundamental human rights issue of our day.’”
The late “progressive” Cardinal Joseph Bernardin said, “There is no justification – medically, legally or morally – for allowing such an abhorrent procedure as partial birth abortion to be performed on any member of our human family. By your [Clinton’s] veto, however, I fear that you will send a very disturbing message to the people of this nation, one to which persons of good will must give serious consideration as they cast their ballots in November.” There were other similarly forceful statements from other Cardinals and bishops. Clearly, the leadership of the Catholic Church in Rome and in America has taken an exceedingly strong stand.
And top Evangelical leadership? This has been just as unequivocal. Think of James Dobson, Richard Land, Pat Robertson, and a host of others, reinforced by the unanimous support of Christian broadcasters. It would seem that Evangelicals largely followed these leaders and voted their convictions.
Why, then, have Catholic voters not followed their top leadership? Could it be that they rather see economic issues as governing? This would seem less than likely, as the economic situation of both Catholics and Evangelicals are not all that different. Let’s then go back to value judgments, for there is a clear difference in this area.
No, it’s not in the position of the top leadership of the churches. They are the same. But how these positions are preached to the faithful is another story entirely. Admitting that generalizations are clearly unfair to some, nevertheless let us say broadly that Evangelical pastors commonly preach forcefully about abortion, but Catholic pastors seldom do. Therein lies a clear difference. There is also another variance, or at least a serious consideration on the Catholic side, and this is in what we’ll call middle management.
First, the preaching. Those of us who lecture nationally, who constantly hear from pro-life people, all agree that it’s unusual to hear of a Catholic pastor preaching about the evil of abortion or, for that matter, of adultery, fornication, or homosexual acts. This de-emphasis and oftentimes actual watering-down of the teaching of personal morals, has unquestionably produced a great deal of confusion in prioritization of these issues among Catholics. The same is not true in fundamentalist and evangelical congregations.
I hasten to point out that this is not always true in Catholic churches. During the month prior to the election, in three different places, I was told by very pleased Catholic parishioners that their priest had “finally” devoted a sermon to the abortion issue, in each instance being charitable toward the woman but strongly condemning the action of abortion. In each of these cases, the individual told me (with great pleasure) of an absolutely unprecedented happening in these three congregations. When the sermon was finished, the congregation rose in a standing ovation – something that had never happened in those churches before. Clearly, those congregations were hungry for preaching on this issue and deeply appreciative when it finally happened.
In middle management, we include the Chancery offices of the Bishops, and the priests and staff at that level. Here the “seamless garment” has had a profound impact. The seamless garment, first put forth by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, pointed to the fact that socially conscious Catholics should be aware of, not one or two, but many of the different social ills that confront us in society today. These include capital punishment, homelessness, poverty, etc. Catholics are to take all of these issues into account when evaluating which candidates to support, which issues to work for, contribute to, etc.
For some time, controversy raged as to the prioritization of these issues. How much weight was to be given to any one of these problems? No one less than Cardinal Bernardin himself, the originator of the “garment”, on a number of occasions stated that, beyond question of a doubt, the central issue was abortion and human life. The Pope, in Detroit before leaving the United States several years ago, was quite clear in saying exactly the same thing. More recently, Cardinal Bernard Law, Chairman of the Bishops’ Pro Life Committee, as noted above, echoed the American bishops in stating that abortion was “the fundamental human rights issue of our time.”
So top leadership had spoken, but down the line the acceptance of the priority of abortion was quite mixed. And here we may face the central reason why Catholics have not given the same weight to the moral issue of abortion that Evangelicals have. Down the line there has been a clear disagreement on prioritization. This has been evident in the actions of many bishops, and overtly evident in the staffs of Chancery offices, those who actually run a Catholic diocese in its day-to-day operations. Sadly, this has been notably evident among some nuns in high places in Chancery offices whose feminist convictions have dominated on this subject. Undoubtedly this has also played a role, perhaps a major one, among parish priests. Those placing sharply different priorities on social issues are commonly referred to by frustrated pro-lifers as “peace and justice people”. Let me give some examples that have been repeated in varying forms across the United States.
A letter from a Chancery office instructed the churches of that diocese that they should not allow the distribution of right-to-life or Christian Coalition candidate voting records and positions on issues in the Catholic churches. These, according to many such instructions, were “too political”. This in spite of the fact that prototype newsletters have gone all the way to the Supreme Court and have been judged by it to be well within freedom of speech and to not in any way jeopardize the tax status of churches. Clearly, the reason for exclusion was not fear of tax repercussions, at least not among those well informed, but (pro-lifers generally assume) rather it was a value judgment against the messages regarding candidates’ abortion positions in such publications.
There was an insert in a Catholic Church bulletin, two weeks prior to the national election. The pages were divided into four quarters — the first discussed housing, human rights, immigration, the UN and international relations. On page two, euthanasia, families and children, food and agriculture, and health aids/substance abuse were discussed. Page three detailed refugees, East and Central Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America/Caribbean. Page four covered Africa, welfare reform and violence, leaving a quarter-page blank. This discussed fifteen social issues in all, but one was missing. You guessed it. Abortion was not even listed!
In some Peace and Justice publications, abortion was listed first, as subjects were alphabetical. In other publications it was not. In the above it was omitted. To cite another instance — one diocese suddenly, in October of ‘96, found it necessary to devote much time and effort to the issue of capital punishment. Why at this particular time? Was it to prioritize capital punishment and thereby to minimize abortion? The effort seemed transparent.
A voter guide from Washington’s US Catholic Conference was circulated “to untold numbers of Catholics….Here is what the guide printed as Clinton’s abortion position: ‘As Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton signed a bill barring third trimester abortions except for life or health. If Congress sends him a bill barring third trimester abortions with an appropriate exception for life or health, he would sign it.’ (emphasis added) As all eight Cardinals stated in a letter to Clinton earlier, ‘health means almost any reason at all and would have no effect at all.’” [Human Events, 11/15/96]. Why did the Central Bishops’ Office repeat the misleading statement that the Bishops had already criticized Clinton for?
Mr. John Carr, Sect. US Bishops Dept. of Social Development & World Peace, said that voting on a single issue was not the only legitimate option. First Things, Nov. ‘96, p. 87, commented, “What the Catholic Church, although apparently not Mr. Carr’s office, actually does is inform consciences with authoritative teaching that abortion is an unspeakable crime and that it is morally impermissible to support or vote for the specious `right’ to kill unborn children. It seems that Evangelium Vitae (the encyclical on Human Life) is not required reading in some bureaus of the Bishops Conference.”
The one thing all of these had in common was a leveling. These evaluations sent, to the Catholic in the pew, a definite message — that abortion is no more important than any of the other fifteen issues listed. Perhaps, then, it is not surprising, when a loyal Catholic evaluated presidential candidates, senators, etc., that abortion had no priority over the other social issues, and there was no compulsion to see abortion as a disqualifying issue at the ballot box.
Of course, there have always been, and this reaches to the highest level of leadership in any religious body, those who have been more loyal to a political party than to moral issues. Catholic clergy are probably no exception to this. But then we find this true also among Baptists, Presbyterians and others. Does loyalty to the Democrat Party, from which most Catholic priests and bishops spring, have that influence? Perhaps, but certainly no collective judgment can be made. This one is for each one’s conscience.
Should abortion be a single issue? No, the pro-life movement has never insisted upon that. Pro-life leadership has, however, seen it as a disqualifying issue. What would we think of a candidate who, on the stand, campaigned openly for legalization of child abuse, arguing that government shouldn’t interfere with families? Would we vote for that candidate? Obviously not. Why? Because the heinousness of that evil would be such that we would consider that candidate disqualified from holding public office because of his or her views on this subject. So it is that pro-lifers see the issue of abortion, and most emphatically partial birth infanticide. Just as obviously, however, many middle management Catholics do not see this as true. I would suggest that herein lies the crux of the difference between Evangelicals and Catholics in voting for pro-abortion as compared to pro-life candidates.
In the Catholic fold, the top leadership has been right on target, while middle management has been very divided. In the Catholic fold, many in the pews are hungry for definitive preaching on the sanctity of human life but seldom receive it. The result has been a watering down of a broad spectrum of traditional moral values and, with this, the acceptance of some candidates who have totally disqualified themselves from holding public office.
On the positive side, we see Father Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, who indefatigably is traveling the country speaking to clergy conferences on this issue. We also see a slow and steady replacement of liberal bishops by more orthodox ones since the advent of Pope John Paul II to the papacy. There are, of course, many priests who do realize the primacy of abortion, who do preach on it and on other moral issues. The problem is, they are a small minority. Certainly on the positive side, we see vast numbers of faithful Catholics who, in spite of the lack of nourishment on this from their clergy, still lead very moral lives and use their time and effort in their communities to try to do everything possible to stop the plague of abortion and of the other moral debaucheries so pervasive in our time. Is this author concerned about this situation? Yes. Frustrated? Yes. Hopeful? Yes.
A Needed New Video
The Procedure – The Whole Truth About Partial Birth Abortion is the title of a newly released video. There has been a great deal written, spoken and filmed on this issue in the last year-and-a-half. Has the last thing been said? Not really, for this video adds a powerful new voice to the controversy. Its producer, Mr. Dan Donehey, has been steadily increasing his expertise over the last decade, and this is one of his best. Its 30-minute length moves quickly. He incorporates the comments of many well known political figures. Central to it is the personal testimony of Brenda Pratt Shaffer, with her chilling description of the procedure, as she first witnessed it.
Authoritative comments by Drs. C. Everett Koop and John Willke add to its effectiveness. Considering the fact that the new Congress is going to take up this issue and vote once again on a ban of partial birth abortion (or, more accurately, partial birth infanticide), here’s one you should get. It’s available for $19.95 from Donehey & Associates, 2117 Princess Anne Street, Suite 202-A, Fredericksburg, VA 22401, (201) 490-4000. We highly recommend it.
Reaching Women & Men at College
According to 1992 Planned Parenthood statistics on abortion clientele, women 18 to 24 years of age underwent almost half (49%) of all of the 130,844 abortions performed by them. It comes as no surprise that Planned Parenthood often locates their abortion clinics within easy access to universities across the country.
This grisly news is compounded by statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood. They estimate that during the same year, 44.7% of all abortions were repeat abortions, meaning two or more. As a result, the nation’s colleges and universities provide lucrative, fertile ground for the abortion industry.
Feminists for Life of America (FFL) have developed a program to counter the high number of abortions among college-age women. The “Send a Kit to Campus” project was established to acquaint women with the many choices, besides abortion, to unexpected pregnancies.
Serrin Foster, FFL Executive Director, said, “Women should not be forced to choose between their children and their education. Colleges and universities will be challenged to provide housing for pregnant women, mothers and babies; on-site child care; and maternity coverage in the student health care plan. For the first time, women will be offered real reasons to question abortion.”
FFL’s efforts don’t end with women. They will also be educating fathers regarding new laws pertaining to paternity establishment and child support enforcement. According to Foster, “Partners will no longer be able to threaten women and abandon their children by offering to pay for an abortion but refusing to pay a dime in child support. …they have entered into an invisible contract to care for their children for the next 18 years.”
The kits contain instructions regarding pregnancy-related counseling, a Rolodex card with resources and FFL’s new brochure You’re Not Alone. They are to be sent to residential, health and psychological counselors on campuses. In addition, they have developed striking new print ads for college and university publications which encourage students to question abortion.
Also available is a second kit, FFL’s Pro-Life Feminist History Kit, stressing the strong pro-life positions of early, famous feminists.
If you or an organization is interested in obtaining this packet, or if you would like additional information, contact: FFL, 733 15th St., NW, Ste. 1100, Washington, DC 20005. Phone (202) 737-3352. Or visit their Web site at http:\www.serve.comfem4life
Life Issues Today
with Dr. J. C. Willke
The Illusive Human Life Amendment
In this post-election time, perhaps it might be wise to look at how the issue of a Human Life Amendment to the US Constitution has been handled and how to do it in the future. First, let’s be very definite. There is no question but that a federal Human Life Amendment, dating from fertilization, is the ultimate goal of the pro-life movement in the United States. There should be no backing away from this.
The key word here, however, is “ultimate”, and the most important thing to be said is to have people thoroughly understand what would be involved in obtaining such an amendment.
Columnist John Leo, to mention a person who has been generally supportive of the pro-life movement, in US News & World Report, Nov. 25, offered a view that has also been expressed in other circles. “This problem was on display during the Republican platform fight over abortion. Abortion opponents couldn’t drop the demand for an amendment without looking as though their commitment was fading. They were locked into a strategy that clearly helped their opponents. Instead of capitalizing on the rising moral objections to abortion, which centers on the barbarity of `partial-birth’ abortions (71 percent disapproval in polls), they had to defend an unlikely amendment that the public strongly resists (only 26 percent approval in polls).”
To respond to this we must review the mechanism of amending the US Constitution – a mechanism that is torturous and difficult. An amendment typically has originated in the US Senate and House. In order to be “reported out”, the same wording must pass both Houses by a two-thirds vote. This alone is a very difficult task, and pro-life strength, to date, has not been sufficient to jump this first hurdle. Then – of crucial importance – the amendment bypasses the President. The President has no veto power. He may well exert leadership, moral persuasion and other political pressure, but he has no direct legislative impact. Accordingly, we should have stated again and again that the opinion or actions of the President regarding such an amendment were basically irrelevant. This was never heard during the last campaign.
But then the big job still lies ahead, for this very same wording must be ratified by three-fourths, or 38, of the 50 states. Ratification is accomplished by majority votes in both Houses of each one of the state legislative bodies. To put it mildly, this is an extremely difficult goal to achieve. All veterans of this battle are only too well aware of the fact that sometimes even one person (a speaker of the House, a chairman of judiciary committee, the president of the Senate, etc.) has enough power to block action in a particular state and to maintain that blockage over a period of several years.
What this boils down to, then, is the simple fact that, in order to achieve these super-majorities in the US House and Senate and among the 50 states, there must be overwhelming support among citizens for the goal of this amendment. This was never mentioned during the past campaign.
Rather, we were led to believe that a Human Life Amendment was something like an act of God that could surprise us all by suddenly being adopted and dropped in the midst of a surprised and unsupportive citizenry. The inference was clear that there was not majority support for this, but that it somehow or other could magically materialize as the law of the land, provoking a “return to the back alley” and worse. Such is obviously a far cry from reality.
In summary, then, a Human Life Amendment from fertilization must remain the ultimate goal of our pro-life movement. We should be honest in saying it’s not going to happen in this century, and maybe not for some years into the next. An absolute prerequisite for it will be a much broader base of support than exists at present. Accordingly, our job is to gird our loins, knuckle down and continue the education and changing of minds that has been slowly happening since Roe vs. Wade.
Our ultimate goal, then, is a Human Life Amendment. Our intermediate goal, a reversal of Roe vs. Wade and return of this decision-making process to each individual state. Our current goals, as long as Roe still stands, must be to do all the things that are permitted us at this time — defunding abortion with our tax dollars, right-to-know laws, parental notification and consent, clinic regulations, forbid partial-birth abortions, etc. First we crawl, then we walk, and someday we will run.
“Life Jewels” a New Tool in Pro-Life Education
Since 1984, hundreds of Christian radio stations (and a few secular ones) have been airing Dr. Willke’s five-minute daily commentary. For 12 years Dr. Willke has informed and educated hundreds of millions of listeners to the reality and after-effects of abortion. As a result, people are changing the way they view abortion in our society today.
In the wake of advanced technology and trends in radio broadcasting, Life Issues Institute saw the need to offer to stations a pro-life message in a briefer format. While talking with many station owners and managers, we found that some broadcasters needed the added flexibility to air a sixty-second message. In addition, we realized that there were those local right-to-life chapters who had better success raising money and securing sixty seconds of air time versus a four-and-a-half-minute program to educate their community.
To facilitate these needs, Life Issues Institute developed Life Jewels, 58 sixty-second spots recorded onto a compact disc. The topics range from fetal development to euthanasia. In addition, special spots were recorded for major holidays, making this CD truly a year-round educational tool.
Nearly 1,000 CDs were sent to Christian radio stations, free of charge, and the response from the radio broadcasting industry has been overwhelmingly positive. Life Jewels has filled a need of sound educational information where there has previously been none. The CD format is very user friendly, and as a result, station personnel are airing the spots multiple times each day, educating a new audience every time.
The results clearly demonstrate that this program has truly been an educational success. Life Jewels has more than doubled the number of communities that now hear Dr. Willke’s pro-life message, and the total continues to climb. It has also proved to be the most economical way to disseminate educational information. For just 21 cents a day — less than the cost of a postage stamp — a pro-life message can be aired, multiple times a day, in a community.
In addition to the spots, the CD has a sample of Life Issues, Dr. Willke’s regular 4 1/2-minute program. Several stations, acknowledging the benefit of a longer program, have begun to air the longer version for the first time. Available in Spanish.
Life Issues Institute is also pleased to announce that Life Jewels is now also available in Spanish. Joyas de la Vida will be made available to Spanish-speaking radio stations throughout the United States. In addition, it will be aired in various parts of the world where Spanish-speaking populations reside, such as: Spain, Puerto Rico, Central and South America and Mexico.
If you are aware of a radio station willing to air Life Jewels or Joyas de la Vida please contact our office. We will assist you in bringing a quality pro-life message to your community — helping to save the lives of unborn babies and spare their mothers the often devastating aftermath of abortion.
Teaching the Pro-Life Story
Methods of teaching the pro-life cause that were effective 10 and 20 years ago, while still valid, nevertheless have lost some of their effectiveness. New approaches may work better. Accordingly, let us briefly explore how we have taught in the past and how we must now teach in the 90’s.
When abortion was legalized, few knew much about fetal development or abortion. Most objections to abortion arose from religious beliefs. Understanding this, the most effective methods of education then centered upon two major objectives, both of which were directly related to knowledge of fetal development.
Religious Belief Vs. Civil Rights
Opposition to abortion stemming from one’s religious beliefs is a very important and effective motivating factor. It, however, applies directly only to those persons who share similar religious beliefs. Their counter argument is very effective. “If you oppose abortion because you think it’s against God’s will, I respect that and you should live by that. But I have a different religious belief (or non-belief). I do not think that it is against God’s will and therefore you should respect my approval of abortion. You should not impose your religious belief on me.”
They had a point. The answer was, “Medical and biologic science has proven that this is a living human from conception.” Our founding fathers spoke clearly stating “they are endowed…. with certain unalienable rights — of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The pro-life response was “religious belief is a powerful motivator for the individual. But this is not only a religious issue; it is primarily a human rights, a civil rights issue, and our nation makes laws to protect civil and human rights.”
The second major goal was to teach fetal development. A typical lecturer would spend half of the time giving a scientific presentation proving that human life began at fertilization. Typically this was by slides, 16 mm movie or video. If the audience was convinced, their reasoning was: “Abortion obviously kills a living human. Abortion is bad. Therefore we must stop abortion.”
Accordingly, teaching placed primary emphasis on fetal development. This worked beautifully. For two decades this method convinced millions that abortion was a human rights issue and that it must be stopped.
Changed the Question
Then pro-abortion leaders made a momentous change in their tactics. Unable to win, debating the issue as they saw it on pro-life terms, they cleverly changed the question from “Is abortion right or wrong?” to “Who decides, the woman or the government? The government should stay out of this very private matter. The real question is a woman’s right to choose.” This is an entirely different question. In the early 90’s, and for several years, by paid ads, by all pro-abortion leaders using the same party line, and by the enthusiastic cooperation of the liberal media, they succeeded in changing the terms of the debate.
Many were led to believe that the sleeping “pro-choice giant” had awakened and would now sweep all before it. Judging this to be a turning of the tide, many nominally pro-life politicians became openly pro-abortion. With this there was a loss of pro-life political strength, and by 1992 the earlier pro-life majority in the US House of Representatives had been reversed.
But the field of battle did not remain static. A thorough going re-evaluation of the situation was needed. This was accomplished using, as they had done, market research. It was revealed that there had been a tidal change in public opinion.
Simply stated, the change was as follows. Only a few years ago, when a person was convinced that this was a baby, they then concluded that abortion must be stopped. Now, because of the “pro-choice” argumentation, even though they know it’s a baby, that person says that abortion should be allowed. This held potentially catastrophic effects. What was to be done?
Further research demonstrated that this conflicted middle has a negative opinion of pro-life people. To take it to its extreme, they believe that we are right-wing religious zealots, that we shoot abortionists and burn down clinics, that we are fetus-lovers and care little for the woman after she delivers. Coloring everything in terms of public opinion, we discovered that a significant percent of the public feels that pro-lifers are not compassionate to women. Because of this, many of them are turning a deaf ear and are no longer listening to us. Therein lay our challenge.
Further research and educational test marketing revealed that therein also lay the solution to countering the pro-choice argumentation. Pro-lifers, more than others in our culture, and certainly far beyond abortion proponents, are compassionate to women. What is needed, therefore, is to shout from the housetops the details of the pro-life movement’s obvious compassion for women. When done, the “conflicted” again listen to us. Herein lies the educational strategy needed for the coming years. This has led to this new book.
Love Them Both?
We now also have a one-liner that has proven its effectiveness in countering and reversing their “pro-choice” argumentation. “Why not love them both?” has proven to be the key in the lock that is needed to counter their changing of the question. Just as their one-liner has been “a woman has the right to choose”, the pro-life one-liner should be “why not love them both?”
Excerpted from Chapter 3 of Why Not Love Them Both?
The official quarterly publication of Life Issues Institute. Vol. 6 Number 13 Subscription $25. Copyright Life Issues Institute, Inc. 1997. Used with permission. Last updated: 11/03/06
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