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Prochoice Catholic Senators and Supreme Court Vacancies: Problems with the Vatican Working Document on the Eucharist

July 8, 2005

Statement of Frances Kissling, President, Catholics for a Free Choice
WASHINGTON, DC—The 2004 presidential election was marred by fairly vicious attacks on John Kerry and other Catholic candidates who support keeping abortion legal. A small minority of bishops and ultra conservative Republican Catholics sought to deny these candidates, as well as prochoice Catholic elected officials, the right to receive communion.

Now as we enter one of the most critical political issues of our time—the selection of a new Supreme Court Justice—the new pope has released a working document that gives ammunition to these groups and individuals by intimating that prochoice Catholic policy makers might be committing sin or causing scandal, and thus would not be eligible to receive communion.

For prochoice Catholics senators, faced with extremely difficult political options regarding protecting the integrity of the constitution and the Courts, this will be a terrible dilemma. The fact of the matter is that there is wide latitude for American bishops to reject the Vatican notion that prochoice legislators must in every instance and in every way consider no other issue but abortion as they decide on laws or nominees.

We hope that the majority of American bishops will quickly put to rest this divisive Vatican opinion, reassert their own view that there are indeed legitimate options for Catholic senators evaluating nominees and that all options must be considered as the senators decide on support for or opposition to a candidate. Catholic Americans, as well as those of other faiths, count on the senators to follow their conscience—not the imperfect interpretation of church law put forward by lay Catholic zealots or politically motivated bishops.