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SPECIAL: Catholics and Campaign 2004

by Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC


Tomorrow the 2004 American Presidential campaign really begins with the first caucus in Iowa. I believe that this current campaign is one of the most important in my lifetime. I also believe that Catholic citizens, known to often be “swing voters”, could not only decide this current Presidential election, but help lay the groundwork for a new movement for authentic social and political change in America, one that moves us beyond the tired old labels and toward a more just society, a movement that serves the common good.

I write this article as a longtime political and policy “wonk”, convinced that we who are Catholic Christians MUST fully and faithfully participate in the political process. I also write as one who knows the “lay of the land.” During the last election cycle I lived in Northern Virginia and worked for a while as a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist. I then became a political and policy “consultant” and an advisor to the Presidential campaign of then Republican candidate, Steve Forbes. As a consultant I was not employed by the campaign but worked through another group. The last Presidential campaign brought me to Iowa. I know its strategic importance.

Steve Forbes is a man I admire deeply. I first met him when I was engaged in pro-life lobbying to end partial birth abortion. I gave him a copy of “The Gospel of Life”, the seminal Encyclical letter by Pope John Paul II on life. During the course of our friendship (and throughout my later work for his campaign), I exposed him to a lot of the thinking of this extraordinary Pope. Steve is sincerely and deeply pro-life. It was an honor to stand with and for him. I will cherish the memory and experience for the rest of my life. Interestingly, this morning, when I read one more article about the brilliant use of the internet by the campaign of Howard Dean, I fondly remembered “Forbes 2000.” If one were to check the articles from 1999 and 2000, it was Steve Forbes who actually pioneered this approach to campaigning.

I write these reflections as a “private citizen”. Yes, I am a member of the Catholic clergy, a Deacon. However, I am leaving my clerical designation off of this article by design. Though I never purport to speak for the “official” hierarchy, deacons are members of that hierarchy, though at the lowest rank of Holy Orders. I want to make it particularly clear that I am writing this article as a private citizen, a Catholic, who, like many of my readers, is seeking to be what our American Bishops have called a “faithful citizen.” I am trying to abide by what I have preached, proclaimed and written about for decades. I am trying to inform my political participation by the principles derived from Catholic social teaching.

Finally, I write with only charity in my heart toward my fellow Catholics who are involved in this process and following their sincere desires to be faithful to the teaching of our Church. This last introductory assertion is of particular importance to me because some of my articles in the past have “ruffled some feathers” in certain Catholic circles, especially among those who by their own profession (or through their palate of positions) could be called “neo-conservatives.” These are good folks who are good Catholics. If I disagree with their positions (which I sometimes do) that should not be interpreted as a personal attack. Rather, it is just an honest effort to inspire reflection and informed action among fellow Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and people of good will.

Can We Talk?

I believe it was Joan Rivers, the quintessential Hollywood Gab-ette” who use to ask “Can we talk”. Well, we Catholics in America need a good “talk.”

We have not had much of an influence on our beloved Nation. For example, on the pre-eminent human rights issue of our age, the inviolable dignity of every human person and their right to life from conception to natural death, we still live in a Nation where every abortion at any time is not only “legal” but has been labeled a “right” by a Judicial branch run amok and a “choice” by a culture drunk on a counterfeit notion of “freedom” as a right to do whatever one wants and a raw power over others who are weaker than you.

Part of the blame for this lays at the feet of some Catholic citizens who have failed to recognize the full implications of the truth about life on their political participation. Some Catholics have been deluded by the siren song of the “I disagree with the killing of children but I won’t “force” that on others” heresy. Some think the pro-life position is “religious” and therefore must be kept “private” based on a current fallacious interpretation of the role of values informed by faith in our life together. They do not see that religious faith is a “good” and that ...

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