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Miami Herald

Pope’s comments on politicians and abortion spark debate in America


Pope’s comments on politicians and abortion spark debate in America

Pope Benedict XVI’s pronouncement that politicians who support legalizing abortion excommunicate themselves has added fuel to the controversy among American Catholics over how far church leaders should go in mixing church doctrine and politics.

”Is this a significant escalation in the whole controversy? Yes. Was there also an eye to the 2008 election? Yes,” said Edward Sunshine, an associate professor of theology at Barry University in Miami Shores.

The Rev. Jordi Rivero, spiritual director of the Respect Life Office for the Archdiocese of Miami, said the pope’s comments were consistent with church teachings.

”Anyone who procures an abortion or participates in an abortion is automatically excommunicated,” he said. “Their actions are contradicting the very foundation of the Catholic faith.”

The pope’s comments may not find many sympathetic ears in the United States, where polls show that about half of Catholics say abortion should be legal in all or most cases — a percentage that mirrors the attitudes of non-Catholics.

”Demonizing women who make these tough choices, and the politicians who are sympathetic to their situations, is neither pastoral nor productive,” Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said Wednesday in a statement.

The question of whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should receive communion became a contentious issue during the 2004 presidential campaign, when a handful of U.S. bishops said they would deny communion to Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic who favors abortion rights.

The issue will likely arise again during the 2008 presidential elections, particularly with the candidacy of Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican and Catholic who supports abortion rights.

”This is something that candidates in both parties who are Roman Catholic are going to have to deal with in the future,” said David Masci, a senior research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life who conducts research on abortion, gay marriage and other social issues.

This article was originally posted on the Miami Herald website on May 9, 2007.

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