A number of Roman Catholic bishops are making forceful last-minute appeals to their flock to vote on Election Day, and their exhortations are increasingly sounding like calls to support Republican challenger Mitt Romney over President Obama.
The most recent example: a letter from Illinois Bishop Daniel Jenky accusing the administration of an unprecedented “assault upon our religious freedom” and implying that Catholics who pull the lever for Democrats who support abortion rights are like those who condemned Jesus to death.
“Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present,” Jenky writes in the letter, which he ordered priests in his Peoria diocese to read at all Masses on Sunday (Nov. 4).
In the letter, Jenky blames Obama and the Democratic majority in the Senate for trampling on the Catholic Church’s rights and moral convictions by requiring health insurers to provide contraception coverage. Jenky also compares abortion rights supporters to the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem that pledged loyalty to the Roman Empire and demanded that Pontius Pilate crucify Jesus.
“For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life,” Jenky writes.
Jenky’s broadside is especially powerful and – to his critics – partisan. But it is not an isolated case.
On Thursday, the bishops of Pennsylvania – a crucial battleground state where most Catholics are currently supporting Obama – released a letter to voters declaring that policies on contraception, abortion and gay rights backed by the White House and Democrats meant the nation was “losing its soul by little steps.”
In Wisconsin, Green Bay Bishop David Ricken wrote an Oct. 24 letter saying that the Democratic platform’s support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage and other “intrinsic evils” made it impossible for Catholics to support the party without putting their souls at risk.
That same day, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s column in the diocesan newspaper said that voting for a candidate who supports policies on contraception coverage and abortion rights — as Obama does — “stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option.”
Across the continent in Alaska, Juneau Bishop Edward J. Burns wrote a column in the local newspaper on Oct. 27 comparing Vice President Joe Biden’s support for abortion rights to supporting slave owners in the antebellum South, and he questioned Biden’s character and Catholic faith.
Numerous other bishops, from Newark, N.J. to Springfield, Illinois to Colorado Springs have made similar appeals. They always stress that they are not endorsing any particular candidate but they frame their statements by listing a set of “non-negotiable” issues that start with opposition to abortion and go on to include other policies that Republicans generally support and Democrats generally oppose.
Source: Religion News Service
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