Yesterday, I made a quick reference to a religion story that has not dominated campaign coverage, to the say the least. That story is Roman Catholic bishops speaking out in defense of their church's teaching in response to statements from pro-choice Catholic politicians and in response to statements from pro-choice candidates in general. Now there have been articles, most notably after the comments made by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Joe Biden. But I had no idea just how widespread the phenomenon was. It turns out that over 110 bishops have spoken out about church teachings with regard to the election.
The reader, Dan, who pointed this out to me wrote:
It is quite a remarkable contrast to 2004 and could have been a major story if one quarter of the energy devoted to knocking Palin were devoted instead to knocking Obama.
It is a remarkable shift from 2004 and not only because so many more bishops, I believe, are speaking out in defense of church teaching as it relates to the sanctity of life. It's also a shift in that the media paid quite a bit of attention to those bishops who said that then-Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry should not take communion given his public support for abortion rights.
The list of bishops includes five cardinals and 12 archbishops and represents over a third of the dioceses in the country.
I really do think this is newsworthy and am curious why it hasn't been covered more. Take two of the most recent bishops to speak out. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City said yesterday:
I would say, "Give consideration to your eternal salvation." Because to vote for a person who has expressed a fanatical determination to not only support abortion as it exists now but to remove all limitations on it through the Freedom of Choice Act, and to extend it without any recourse, throwing out all of the efforts of citizens over the last 35 years to place reasonable limits on abortion, that voting for a person who has expressed his determination to do this to Planned Parenthood, to NARAL -- that you make yourself a participant in the act of abortion. That's gravely wrong, and you mustn't do it because your eternal salvation is tied up in that important choice.
I mean, those are pretty strong words, right? And yet the statement was only covered in the Catholic press. Why is that? Wouldn't they be of interest to Catholics and other people concerned about abortion issues?
And this weekend Bishop Ronald Gainer of Lexington had a letter read at every mass in the diocese this weekend in response to a statement made by a Catholic legislator asserting that church teaching requires Catholics to vote based on a variety of moral concerns. The letter was covered on Peter Smith's religion news blog for the Louisville Courier-Journal as well as the Lexington Herald Leader:
Gainer said that many Catholics have said they can't base their vote on a single issue. But his letter goes on to say that if someone broke in to your home, held a scalpel to your throat and threatened to kill you, "I suspect you would in that moment become a single-issue person . . . Many of the unborn are precisely in that situation," Gainer wrote.
Gainer said he realizes not everyone in the Diocese agrees with him.
"I would be naive to think that I wouldn't get push-back," he said.
Gainer said the church has long been a force for change and its voice should be heard.
"If you look at the 20th century, the great movements have come from the church. Where did the push come to change segregation? It came from the church," Gainer said. "We have a right to raise our voices in the public square."
Most of the time when Catholic leaders have spoken about the issue, it's been covered by the local press. And that's great. And they have actually done a good job with the matter. But reporters joke that three instances make a trend. If that's true, this story should have been getting much more significant coverage a long time ago.