PHOTO: New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivers the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 30. His benediction included appeals for God’s blessing on the unborn, those at the end of their life, for immigrants and for all those who suffer. He also asked for a renewed respect for religious freedom. (CNS photo/Mike Segar, Reuters)
Cardinal Dolan asks presidential candidates to sign civility petition
By Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York invited the Republican and Democratic candidates for president and vice president to sign a petition seeking civil dialogue and to refrain from personal attacks during the two months remaining in the campaign leading up to the November election.
The “Civility in America” petition developed by the Knights of Columbus calls on candidates, commentators and media representatives to focus on the important issues facing the country rather than on individual personalities.
“I am writing to you and to the other candidates for president and vice president of this great nation to ask for your support of this effort, so that the upcoming campaign will remain focused on the critical issues facing our nation and not on personal attacks,” Cardinal Dolan said in letters to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic ticket, and Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominees for president and vice president, respectively.
The petition on the Knights of Columbus website had gained more than 20,000 signatures through Aug. 27.
Cardinal Dolan‘s letter said that if the candidates signed the petition he would “be most happy to convey” to Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson and to the 1.8 million members of the organization “that you have chosen to support this valuable effort.”
The cardinal cited the results of a Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll conducted July 9-11 that found 78 percent of Americans are “frustrated with the tone in politics today.” The poll also found that two-thirds of people contacted said candidates spend more time attacking their opponents than addressing key issues and that 64 percent of people believe negative campaigning harms the political process a great deal or a significant amount.
“That this perception exists cannot be healthy for our country or our democratic political process,” Cardinal Dolan‘s letter said. “‘Civility in America’ is giving voice to the desire of Americans of all backgrounds and political parties for more civil discourse during this election season.”
The cardinal, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and is to deliver the closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
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Editor’s Note: The full text of Cardinal Dolan‘s letter can be read online at www.archny.org/news-events/news-press-releases/index.cfm?i=25944.
Glendon: economic, cultural concerns make 2012 election historic
Rimini, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) – Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, believes that the 2012 presidential election will be a historic crossroads for the United States.
“I think this may be the most important election in many, many years, and the reasons for saying that are both economic and cultural,” she told CNA on Aug. 24.
Glendon says American voters face a choice between a Democratic Party that is “very devoted to and willing to give priority to what I would call the ‘lifestyle liberties,’” and a Republican Party that is more supportive of “the family and the small institutions of civil society and religion.”
As a grandmother of six, she also worries that the current level of government debt “is going to impose a burden on the next generation and the generation after that,” such that, “contrary to the American dream our children will not have a better life than we have had.”
Her analysis has led the respected professor at Harvard Law School to accept the co-chairmanship of the Catholics for Romney group.
And yet, when it comes to the American electorate, she rejects the concept of a Catholic voting bloc.
“There is nobody here but us Americans, including the Catholics, and this election is going to be a very close election. The population is divided, families are divided; it’s like the Civil War when some wore blue and some wore grey and (they) were often brothers.”
A former Democrat who left the party over its stance on life issues, Glendon is now a registered Independent. She explained that she has never joined the Republican Party because some sections within it have failed to “place a high enough priority on our need to be responsive to the needs of the poorest people in our society.”
With this in mind, she welcomes the addition of Catholic Congressman Paul Ryan to the Republican presidential ticket.
“Ryan is best known in the United States for his ability to articulate complex economic issues in a clear, understandable and, here is where Catholic social thought comes in, a humane way.”
Her greatest fears, however, are about what another four years of President Obama being in office will do to both the economy and culture of the United States.
“The current administration will regularly subordinate rights relating to human life, rights relating to religious freedom, to their agenda items on the gay rights agenda and the abortion rights agenda,” she stated.
The issue of religious liberty is of particular interest to Glendon. She was recently appointed Vice-Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
She is concerned that the Obama administration has downplayed “its statutory commitment towards promoting international religious freedom” because it comes into conflict “with a major foreign policy priority of the U.S. State Department, which is the promotion of the gay rights agenda.”
Given that a second-term president “would not be concerned about being re-elected,” Glendon fears that “these trends might become stronger” if Obama is returned to the White House in November.
Former Vatican diplomat predicts Catholic swing toward GOP
Tampa, Fla. (CNA) – Jim Nicholson, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, thinks that the Catholic vote remains an important force in modern politics and that more Catholics than in the past will vote for Romney and the Republican Party in the upcoming election.
“The Catholic vote is very relevant,” Nicholson told CNA on Aug. 29, “because there is a large number of Catholics” in the United States. The country currently has 55.6 million voting age Catholics and in swing states they make up 19 percent of the electorate, according to Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
Nicholson, who has also served as U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Chairman of the Republican National Committee, explained that the U.S. has one of the largest Catholic populations in the world.
But, he qualified, the “Catholic vote is not a monolith.” And while “Catholics are traditionally Democrat,” Nicholson says that is changing.
He observed that Church leaders are strongly “imploring the people to look at the values espoused by the candidates for office and see how they align with Catholic values.”
“And in the case of the president, they don’t align at all,” he said. “There’s a mal-alignment.”
Nicholson predicted that there will be “a lot more Catholics voting for Governor Romney this election than you’ve seen vote Republican recently.”
In recent months, Church leaders in the U.S. have clashed sharply with the Obama administration over a federal mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the mandate and the threat it poses to religious freedom. Dozens of colleges, hospitals and private businesses have brought lawsuits against the administration challenging the mandate.
Nicholson said that he was “heartened” by the political and religious diversity of those who have objected to the mandate and by “the intensity of the resistance of the Catholic bishops,” who have “really locked arms together in unanimity in their opposition to this.”
“And so have the leaders of many other religious institutions,” he added, pointing to Muslim, Jewish and Protestant groups and individuals who have joined with Catholics in protesting the mandate. This unity indicates the importance of the issue, he said.
“It’s all about the freedom of religion, the freedom of conscience, which is the first freedom in the Bill of Rights,” he noted.
Nicholson believes that the battle over the mandate “is far from over.”
“It’s a very egregious, unprecedented invasion of the freedom of the American people under our constitution,” he said.
“It’s not about birth control. It’s not about contraceptives,” he added. “It’s about freedom. It’s about a principle.”
No matter what the outcome of the election is, Nicholson believes that religious liberty will continue to be an important issue for the U.S. Church in the coming years.
Church leaders will be vigilant in watching for possible threats to religious freedom, realizing that this fundamental liberty cannot be taken for granted, he said.
“Some things you wouldn’t think imaginable a few years ago are now happening,” he explained, pointing to the recent Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC Supreme Court case, in which the Obama administration tried to impose upon a church’s right to determine its own ministers.
“And the Supreme Court knocked that down, 9-0, which was encouraging,” he said. “But now we have these mandates that have come right on the heels of that.”
Nicholson said that he was “proud” of the Republican Party’s recent decision to adopt a plank on religious liberty into its official 2012 platform. He explained that the move is an “affirmation of the importance of religious freedom.”
“That shouldn’t even be controversial, but that’s where we are,” he said. “And that’s why it’s so important that people dig in their heels and start taking this stuff seriously.”
Obama’s pitch to women misses important issues, Alvare says
Tampa, Fla. (CNA/EWTN News) – A law professor at George Mason University believes that in the upcoming election women will focus on more than abortion and contraception, and will consider issues that pertain to the family, the economy and the condition of the American culture when they vote.
Women’s concerns are varied and include issues of “justice at home and justice in the workplace,” said Helen M. Alvaré, who also serves as a consultant to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Alvaré told CNA on Aug. 29 that her experience has shown her women have broad interests and are not solely concerned with reproductive issues.
In seeking the women’s vote, President Barack Obama is “staking almost his entire message to women on abortion and free contraception,” she observed.
“The pitch he’s making is so narrow,” Alvaré remarked, noting that Obama’s approach is also surprising because polls indicate women are generally slightly more pro-life than men are.
The president’s decision to focus on abortion has the additional effect of drawing extreme followers and attracting criticism that he might not otherwise have to face, the law professor observed.
Highlighting abortion draws attention to Obama’s own extreme record, she said, including his vote as an Illinois senator to permit the infanticide of children who survived an abortion and his failure to condemn late-term and sex-selective abortions.
In February, Alvaré helped initiate an open letter to the Obama administration on behalf of women who wanted to speak for themselves about the controversial HHS mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs.
The mandate has drawn strong criticism for forcing religious organizations and individuals to violate their sincerely held beliefs.
In the letter, Alvaré said that the Obama administration should not assume that all women support the mandate.
Within weeks, the letter was signed by thousands of women of different political and religious backgrounds, including lawyers, teachers, doctors, mothers, business owners and community volunteers.
Alvaré said that the letter has turned into an ongoing “conversation” with 33,000 women expressing their concerns and discussing their experiences with the various issues facing them.
Based on her many discussions with these women, Alvaré said that there are other issues at home and in the workplace that are on women’s minds.
One important issue facing modern women is the need to “balance” a job and family, she explained.
Women do not earn Social Security for their work in the home, she observed, and there are no strong governmental efforts to encourage companies to help women achieve the balance they are seeking.
Another important issue for women is “economic security for families,” Alvaré said. High unemployment rates for both men and women can have a negative impact on families, and this is a serious concern for many Americans.
Furthermore, Alvaré added, “women are really concerned about the toxic culture.”
She pointed to negative influences in the media, a push against abstinence education and the close relationship between the federal government and Planned Parenthood.
“I hear a ton about that,” she said.
By limiting his scope on women’s issues to abortion and contraception, President Obama is sending the message that “all women need is the right to have uncommitted sex and the right to not have babies,” she said.
But not all women agree with this point of view, she observed, and many find it problematic.