The Health-Care Issue

Where Bush & Kerry differ

There are crystal-clear differences between the two major presidential candidates on the issue of life in its earliest stages-differences that give Catholics reason to avoid a vote for John Kerry. Senator Kerry takes the strongest possible prochoice position. President George W. Bush articulates a strong prolife message and has signed into law a partial-birth abortion ban. The candidates are equally divided on other life issues: embryonic stem-cell research and cloning. On all of these issues, Kerry stakes out positions diametrically opposed to clear Catholic moral and social teaching. Bush, if not strictly in agreement with the church’s stances, comes close.

Does the preceding paragraph say all that a Catholic voter needs to know to cast one’s ballot? Not necessarily. Implicitly, the bishops teach that other issues can be important in determining one’s vote. In their quadrennial guide to Catholic political responsibility, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, they contend that the “central question” should be: “How can ‘we’-all of us, especially the weak and vulnerable-be better off in the years ahead? How can we protect and promote human life and dignity? How can we pursue greater justice and peace?” In short, episcopal teaching holds that conscientious Catholics may vote on abortion alone, but they do not have to be single-issue voters. This is not to advocate a vote for or...

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About the Author

Clarke E. Cochran is professor of political science at Texas Tech University. His most recent book (with David Carroll Cochran) is Catholics, Politics, and Public Policy: Beyond Left and Right (Orbis).