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Bishop Points toward Bush


Newark Archbishop John J. Myers is strongly suggesting that Catholics should vote for President Bush in the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Myers doesn’t name names, but he declares in today’s edition of The Catholic Advocate that abortion is more important than any other political issue, including the war in Iraq.

“Certainly policies on welfare, national security, the war in Iraq, Social Security or taxes, taken singly or in any combination, do not provide a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate,” Myers declared in the article, which initially ran Sept. 17 in The Wall Street Journal.

If applied to this year’s election, the statement would seem to discourage Catholics from voting for Sen. John F. Kerry, who is pro-choice.

Myers, one of the most conservative bishops in the nation, has long preached a hard-line abortion stance, and last spring declared that pro-choice politicians should abstain from seeking Communion.

But critics say his latest statement, coming less than a month before the election, plunges the archbishop into the political arena. The president of a liberal Catholic group said Myers is possibly violating election law governing non-profit agencies.

“He didn’t tell people to vote for Bush, but he did say they cannot vote for someone who has Kerry’s position,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice. “That is a pretty explicit statement of opposition, and if he did it in his capacity as archbishop, it’s illegal.”

Kissling said she turned the article over to a lawyer for further review.

A state senator from Hudson County, who left the church over Myers’ stance on Communion, said he was stunned by the archbishop’s latest statement.

“He’s saying, ‘You may like Kerry’s position on a variety of issues, but you still can’t vote for him because he is pro-choice,’Ÿ” said Sen. Bernard Kenny, a Democrat. “It seems the church is intruding into politics.”

A spokesman for Myers, Jim Goodness, said the statement was meant to clarify church teachings, not to endorse a particular candidate.

“He is not telling anyone how to vote,” Goodness said Tuesday. “He wants to help Catholics understand church teachings and how to apply them in determining who the best choice is.”

A legal scholar said he doubted the article constituted a violation because it doesn’t name candidates or specifically refer to the Nov. 2 election.

“It seems like a standard instruction on issues rather than an endorsement,” said Robert Tuttle, a law professor at George Washington University.

Myers wrote that there are two circumstances in which a Catholic may vote for a pro-choice candidate. The first is when both candidates are pro-choice. The second, he said, is when the anti-abortion candidate supports “evils of a gravity and magnitude beyond that of 1.3 million yearly abortions.”

Myers goes on to say that there is no other comparable evil in contemporary America that would justify voting for a pro-choice candidate.

Catholics may legitimately disagree on the Iraq war, even though Pope John Paul II opposed the military action, Myers said.

The pope “did not bind the conscience of Catholics to agree with his judgment on the matter,” he said

This article originally appeared in the 6 October 2004 edition of the Bergen County Record.

Catholics for Choice