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Statement of Catholics for a Free Choice President Jon O’Brien on the Adoption of “Faithful Citizenship” by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

November 14, 2007

Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for a Free Choice, issued the following statement about the document that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted today, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”:

“This is very much of the same-old, same-old from the bishops. They may think they are being radical in stepping up their antichoice rhetoric, but the reality is that Catholics have not listened to them in the past, and will likely not listen to them now.

“From the outset-with the bishops seeking to “form” our consciences for us, a hopeless task if ever there was one-the bishops hit wrong note after wrong note.

“For example, the bishops do not seem to have considered whether many Catholics are actually looking for the bishops’ input. Despite regular lectures from the pulpit, Catholics have not always gone along with what their bishops said. In fact, one might hazard that they have rarely gone along with it. In the last election cycle, a major poll of Catholics found that 70% said the views of their bishops were not important when it came to deciding for whom to vote. A mere seven percent said the views of the bishops were “very important,” while 40% said they are “not at all important.” In addition, 83% believed that Catholic politicians did not have an obligation to vote the way the bishops recommended and fully 78% objected to threats to deny communion to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion.

“Those figures are not a flash in the pan. If we consider the coming election, we already see that significant numbers of Catholic voters are considering voting for candidates who, one imagines, will not meet the bishops’ approval. Among Catholics considering the Republican candidate, the thrice-married, prochoice and pro-gay rights Rudy Giuliani has attracted 39% support; among Catholics leaning toward the Democratic Party, 45% support the similarly prochoice, pro-gay rights Hillary Clinton.

“Obviously these numbers are fluid and will change, but they indicate that Catholics have a refreshing independence when it comes to listening to their spiritual leaders. And as we know, that independence is not reserved for party politics: while Catholics tend to vote in line with the rest of the population, they also support access to safe and legal abortion, contraception and sexuality education. Catholic women terminate pregnancies at the same rate as the general population and over 96% of Catholic women have used a method of contraception banned by the hierarchy.

“The bishops have a right to their opinion, but American Catholics will do as they have done in every election and vote with their consciences.”

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