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Statement of Frances Kissling, President, Catholics for a Free Choice, in response to comments of Texas Gov. George W. Bush

May 26, 2000

Washington, DC–In the latest stop on his Bob Jones University redemption tour, Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his campaign once again played the Catholic card. In an attempt to please the Catholic bishops, the governor took a swipe at The “See Change” Campaign. He mischaracterized it as an effort to silence the voice of the Catholic church in the UN by calling for a revocation of its Permanent Observer status. Nothing could be further from the truth. What troubles the more than 525 organizations worldwide who endorsed The “See Change” Campaign is not the Vatican’s Permanent Observer status, but the Roman Catholic church’s status as a state. Catholics for a Free Choice, which is the initiator of the campaign, has clearly stated that it has no objection to the Vatican continuing to hold Permanent Observer status. The campaign’s concern is that the Roman Catholic church, under the title of the Holy See, is the only religion to be recognized by the United Nations as a state. The campaign seeks a level playing field for all religious institutions within the UN.

Not only is the governor misinformed about The “See Change” Campaign, he is clearly ignorant of Catholic social teaching and views on a range of “prolife” issues. Opposition to legal abortion may make the nation’s 300 plus Catholic bishops happy, but it will not win the support of the nation’s 65 million Catholics, most of whom are prochoice. And, once the governor moves from abortion to other “life” issues, he is hopelessly out of sync with the views of both the bishops and American Catholics. The governor seems to forget that even in official Catholic circles, to be prolife means to be more than against abortion. Having presided over more than 130 executions, the governor is hardly an exemplar of the “culture of life.”

Gov. Bush is in deep trouble if he thinks Catholic people will be fooled by pandering. There has been far too much pandering to the so-called Catholic vote.  The governor is mistaken if he thinks he can use the Vatican’s status at the UN as a way of distinguishing himself as a friend of Catholics. For most Americans, Catholic and otherwise, the question of the Vatican’s status at the UN is not even on the radar screen. Catholics are concerned about access to health care, quality education for their children and the acceptance of government responsibility for those the less fortunate. To attract Catholic voters, the governor is going to have to deal with real issues.

–Statement ends–

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