The guidelines for Catholic voters

Brooklyn's Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has continued his campaign of support for the Brooklyn Democratic boss, despite the politician's record in favor of abortion rights.As I wrote last year, it is a curious thing, since Bishop DiMarzio, chairman of the bishops' committee that had drafted "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," had in the past stressed how important an issue he considered abortion to be for Catholic voters. In the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign, the bishop, having failed to secure a correction to an article on Joseph Biden, had a letter in The New York Times that said the newspaper had erred in stating that the "Faithful Citizenship" guidelines explicitly allow Catholics to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights if they do so for other reasons.Contrast that with the article appearing this weekend in DiMarzio's diocesan newspaper. It praises the help that Brooklyn Democratic leader and Assemblyman Vito Lopez provided for local Catholic parishes, citing examples that "point to the effectiveness of Vito Lopez, the political leader" and "point to Vito Lopez, the person, the social worker always ready to do good for the community and lend support when needed."Lopez is facing a primary next Tuesday for his Democratic district leader post, so it is very valuable to have the local diocesan paper picture him on the front page this weekend above the caption, "Lopez Assists Catholic Concerns." It is tantamount to an endorsement. It is not mentioned that NARAL, which is angling for a bill that would advance abortion rights in New York State, has endorsed Lopez in his Assembly campaign.The article is not bylined, a clear indication that it comes from the bishop's office and not from the paper's staff.Msgr. Kieran Harrington, diocesan spokesman and associate publisher of the newspaper, defended the article. He said he was aware of the primary challenge Lopez is facing, but that there was no intent to help him in the election."The fact of the matter is that in the last two years, Vito has been moving in a direction which is very helpful to the church on education, on certain housing, certainly various other legislation," he said. "The way you get politicians to move in your direction is by saying the good things theyve done."If that is truly the case, then why did the bishop denounce the University of Notre Dame for honoring President Obama despite his record on abortion?It's just politics. Lopez helped Bishop DiMarzio defeat a bill that would have changed the statute of limitations on lawsuits over sexual abuse, and this is payback at election time. Are those the real guidelines for Catholic voters?

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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