A Guide for Catholic Voters

Abortion Is Not the Only Issue


The 2004 presidential election saw a handful of U.S. Catholic bishops involve themselves in partisan politics in an extraordinary way. They admonished Catholic candidates publicly for their views and in some cases advocated refusing Communion to prochoice politicians and those who voted for them. Now, two years later-and weeks before a midterm election-the question of how Catholics should approach the challenge of voting remains a contentious one. Republican partisans within the church have typically zeroed in on four controversial issues: gay marriage, euthanasia, stem-cell research, and abortion. Of these four, abortion provides the most fuel for political advocacy and action. On gay marriage, the parties don’t differ all that much; the Democratic Party’s most recent platform, for example, stops well short of endorsing homosexual nuptials. On stem-cell research, Republicans generally oppose federal funding while Democrats typically support it, but there are dissenters in both parties, neither of which has called for its outright prohibition. Finally, physician-assisted suicide has been legalized in only one state and is more of a cultural bogeyman than a live political issue. That leaves abortion to do the heavy lifting for Republican activists who are trying to capture the Catholic vote. On that score, the logic of Republican Party apologists is as follows. The issues where traditionally Democratic policy...

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.