Catholic Politicians


In 2004, it was hard for Catholics to read a newspaper or turn on the television without hearing debates about their political responsibilities. As the election approached, many Catholics were inundated with voter guides that argued no Catholic in good conscience could vote for a candidate whose positions were at odds with “nonnegotiable” Catholic teaching. Whether this argument convinced many Catholic voters is debatable, but the desired result-a majority of votes for John Kerry’s opponent-was obtained.

Now that the election is over, what responsibilities do Catholics have? If Catholic Democrats are going to be asked to confront their party’s intransigence on abortion, should Catholic Republicans bear a similar responsibility on other issues with respect to the GOP?

Consider the recent debate-or lack thereof-over the president’s nomination of Alberto Gonzales for attorney general. Gonzales was a key player in the Bush administration’s internal discussions about what qualified as torture, a term he apparently did not think applied to techniques like “waterboarding,” which causes a powerful sensation of drowning. While the scandals of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay cannot be laid solely at Gonzales’s doorstep, there is no question that his efforts contributed to a weakening of legal and moral constraints against the use of torture by intelligence officers and military personnel. The Washington Post, which...

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About the Author

J. Peter Nixon is a senior director at Kaiser Permanente, an integrated health-care delivery system based in Oakland, California. His views are his own.