Church Politics - Catholic Congressmen?

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The 141 Catholic senators and representatives in the present Congress provide Catholics with more cause for grief and joy. Although many Catholic congressmen have faithfully struggled to defend the lives of the unborn, a paramount Catholic interest, many others have acquiesced in the slaughter of the innocent.

According to the 1987 March for Life Program Journal, six of the 19 Catholics in the Senate have never voted against abortion. They are: Senators Christopher Dodd (Connecticut), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts), John Kerry (Massachusetts), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (New York) and Patrick Leahy (Vermont). A seventh, newly elected Barbara Mikulski, while she served in the House and 27 chances to support the unborn. She never did.

Still in their first term, Harkin has cast seven anti-life ballots and Kerry eight; the veterans have completed far more opportunities, e.g. (Dodd) 23, (Kennedy) 35, (Moynihan) 36, and (Leahy) 36.

In the House, 12 Catholics have never supported pro-life legislation. They are: California: Douglas Bosco, George Miller, Edward Roybal and Matthew Martinez; Connecticut: Barbara Kennelly; Illinois: Lynn Martin; Indiana: Peter Visclosky; Missouri: Billy Clay; New York: Charles Rangel; Ohio: James Trafficant; Rhode Island: Claudine Schneider and Texas: Mickey Leland.

With exception of Visclosky and Trafficant who had not yet been elected, these representatives voted for the Boxer Amendment to the Treasury, Post Office and General Government Appropriations Act of 1985 which called for the restoration of abortion funding under the Federal employees' insurance plan. They were joined by the following Catholics: California: Tony Coelho and Leon E. Panetta; Illinois: Lane Evans; Indiana: Andres Jacobs, Jr.; Massachusetts: Edward J. Markey; Michigan: John D. Dingell; Minnesota: Bruce F. Vento; Montana: Pat Williams; New Jersey: James Howard; New York: Maria Biaggi and Sherwood Boehlert; Ohio: Dennis Eckart and Edward Feighan; Pennsylvania: Thomas Foglietta and Doug Walgren; Texas: Henry Gonzalez and Wisconsin: Thomas Foley.

Earlier, on September 30, 1982, the House voted on the Dannemeyer Amendment to the Health research Extension Act. The amendment prohibited the National Institutes of Health from conducting or supporting experimentation on a living human fetus unless such research would be done for the purpose of insuring the survival of the fetus or infant. Bosco, Martinez, Visclosky and Trafficant were not in office, but the remaining seven rejected the amendment. Here is the complete roster of Catholics who voted against Dannemeyer: California: Miller, Coelho, Panetta and Roybal; Connecticut: Kennelly; Florida: Daniel James Howard, James J. Florio, Bernard J. Dwyer, Peter W. Rodino, Jr. and Frank J. Guarini; New York: Charles Rangel, Matthew F. McHugh, John J. LaFalce and Henry Nowak; Rhode Island: Claudine Schneider and Texas: Mickey Leland and Henry B. Gonzalez. When he was in the House, South Dakota Senator Thomas A. Dashle voted against Dannemeyer and for Boxer.

Although none of them voted for Boxer or against Dannemeyer, the following Catholics have cast pro-life ballots less than seventy percent of the time: Jim Slattery (Kansas), Albert Bustamente (Texas), Bill Richardson (New Mexico, Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), David Obey (Wisconsin), tom Ridge (Pennsylvania) and William Coyne (Pennsylvania). Conversely, LaFalce and Nowak, who opposed Dannemeyer, have voted better than seventy-five percent for pro-life legislation.

Of the 111 Catholics in the House who voted in the last Congress, 42, or thirty-seven point eight percent did not have a seventy percent pro-life voting record. Thirty-eight of these are Democrats; four are Republicans. Twenty-five of the 42 voted against pro-life legislation eighty percent of the time. In the Senate eight of the 19 Catholics have opposed pro-life legislation eighty percent of the time. (Dashle while in the House cast five out of 28 ballots against abortion.)

Perhaps many of these congressmen have long ago ceased to practice their faith. Those, however, who continue to attend mass and receive communion despite publicly advocating abortion and fetal experimentation dramatize the weakness of the Catholic Church in the United States.

When the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina recently passed a measure aimed at legalizing divorce, the Permanent Commission of the Argentina Hierarchy issued a strong denunciation stating that no Catholic deputy could go to communion until he had publicly acknowledged his mistake and atoned for giving serious scandal. By contrast, American Catholic congressmen can - without fear of episcopal reprisal - vote to tear apart the bodies of the unborn on Wednesday and receive the Body of Christ on Sunday.

More bizarre, Catholic institutions have provided a forum for pro-abortion congressmen and even awarded them with honors. David Obey, for example, spoke at Holy Trinity in Georgetown. Mickey Leland has been published in the Jesuit weekly America. Tom Harkin and Peter Rodino were honored by Catholic University, Barbara Mikulski by Loyola of Baltimore and Barbara Kennelly by Saint Mary's of South Bend, Indiana.

Since the hierarchy is reluctant to impose penalties and Catholic institutions are ready to welcome pro-abortion congressmen, the words of Pius XI are honored in the breach: "Those who hold the reins of government," the pontiff said, "should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother's womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cries from earth to Heaven."

-Reverend James Buckley, S.D.S