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argue about how much of a difference Catholic voters made in the outcome
of the 2004 election.
But most agree that the outlook is better today in Congress and perhaps,
eventually, in the Supreme Court for Catholic values regarding marriage,
human life, and education.
"I think we dodged a major bullet with this election," Jimmy
Akin of Catholic Answers and of JimmyAkin.org
The voters rejection of staunchly pro-abortion Democratic presidential
candidate John Kerry was critical, says Supreme Court historian James
"I think if Kerry had won we could have said the culture wars are
over," Hitchcock said Friday. Instead, observers are pinpointing
"moral values" as the biggest factor in the election. Many believe
a massive voter turnout of Evangelical Protestants and pro-life Catholics
put President George W. Bush back in the White House.
IgnatiusInsight.com asked several prominent political activists, opinion-makers,
and public leaders how they see Catholic beliefs and values faring during
the second administration of President Bush, especially with a more Republican
Senate and House.
These experts are divided about how influential "the Catholic vote"
itself was, but all agree that Catholic beliefs, particularly regarding
abortion and assisted suicide, have a better chance during the 2005-2007
Some believe that as many as four new Supreme Court justices will be named
in the next four years and that this situation could determine the shape
of law for years to come. "Here we get an excellent chance if Bush
is willing to fight for it," notes Hitchcock.
Princeton University Press just published the St. Louis University professors
two-volume history of the Supreme Court, The Supreme Court and Religion
in American Life: The
Odyssey of the Religion Clauses (Vol. 1) and From
"Higher Law" to "Sectarian Scruples" (Vol.
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who spoke
out before the election on the importance of life as a foundational
principle in voters decisions, says Catholics cannot relax after
"I hope it rapidly affects judicial appointments. Catholic Democrats
now need to press their party to change its disastrous pro-abortion and
anti-marriage policies," Chaput said Friday. "Catholic Republicans
need to press the second Bush Administration to find a way out of Iraq
and seriously attend to issues like education, immigration, support for
the elderly and families, and help for the poor."
Louise Zwick, a founder of the Houston Catholic Worker House, told IgnatiusInsight.com
that this election shows Catholics can affect an election. "However,
abortion, while a very important life issue is not the only one, as John
Paul II has pointed out. War and economics are also life issues,"
said Zwick, who with her husband Mark founded the House in 1980 to work
with homeless immigrants, the poor and refugees. "The consistent
life ethic endorsed by the Holy Father should be the challenge for us
The question for most is what this election will mean for the makeup of
the Supreme Court. Akin is confident that Bush will appoint, as he has
said, "strict constructionists" to judgeships. A strict constructionist
does not see a right to abortion in the Constitution, Akin said, and thus
the chance to overturn Roe v. Wade could increase.
The defeat of South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, who as Senate Minority
leader effectively blocked ten of Bushs judicial nominees, was critical
to changing the balance of power. So was increasing the Republican majority
in the Senate from 51 to 55. This may diminish the clout of Republican
pro-choice Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Lincoln Chaffee (R.I.), and Susan
Some observers said that depending on the makeup of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, expected incoming chair and pro-choice Senator Arlen Specter
may be out-voted if he opposes Bush nominees. It takes sixty votes to
end a filibuster and the Wall Street Journal in July dubbed Daschles
Senate "the dead zone" because of his effective use of the tactic
to block judges and legislation.
"Under a Tom Daschle/John Kerry Washington, pro-life Catholics, Evangelicals,
people of faith, would have a very hard time, particularly when nominated
as judges," said Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National
Review Online. "Obstructionist Daschle gone from the U.S.
Senate is a huge victory for religious Americans." However, a November
5 ABC news story indicates that Democrats will continue with Daschles
"Everything stays the same, and the ball's in the president's court,"
said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was just overwhelmingly re-elected
to another six-year term. "I don't see the Democrats backing down
on this issue."
The U.S. Catholic bishops by policy have not made recommendations about
nominations, said Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of prolife activities
for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
"Certainly we feel very strongly that nominees that are prolife must
not be discriminated against," Doerflinger said. "In terms of
what we do about that, weve have to see how overtly that discrimination
rears its ugly head."
But Culture of Life changes that can be enacted without an overhaul of
the nations highest court have a much better chance now, Doerflinger
said. "I am cautiously optimistic," he told IgnatiusInsight.
A conscience clause for hospitals and medical workers opposed to abortion
may actually be enacted this fall as part of appropriations legislation,
after failing to get any traction for years in a Senate held hostage by
Daschle-led filibusters, Doerflinger said.
A law requiring Catholic hospitals to refer for and provide abortions
was narrowly defeated by four votes recently in the California legislature.
Such a law would effectively put Catholic hospitals out of business and
is a top priority of pro-abortionists.
"They dont recognize the existence of a valid conscience in
anyone who disagrees with them," Doerflinger said. "Its
amazing that they continue to call themselves pro-choice."
With the changes brought by the election, the Churchs legislative
agenda has a much better chance with this Senateand it already was
doing well in the House, Doerflinger noted. The legislative wish list
also includes legislation to bar non-guardians from taking minors across
state lines for abortions to avoid state parental notification laws, a
federal ban on human cloning, restrictions on fetal tissue research, and
a fetal pain bill.
The last would require abortion clinics to inform women of fetuses
ability to feel pain after twenty weeks and would give women the option
of providing anesthesia for their child before aborting him or her. A
federal human cloning ban is the best hope of blocking Californias
newly passed Proposition 71, which enshrines human cloning in the states
constitution at an incredible
cost to the states budget.
In addition, with the re-election of President Bush, the federal appeal
of Oregons assisted suicide law can go forward. Doerflinger said
that appeal would require federal law banning the use of controlled substances
in assisted suicides to be applied.
The outlook is good for those who espouse Catholic values, Lopez said.
"Republicans, it seems, registered new voters who have some greater
purpose in voting, people who want to secure a culture of life and who
see the value in protecting marriageand that beats people who registered
because Michael Moore gave them free microwaveable noodles any day in
my book," Lopez said.
Akin agrees that more Catholics voted on principle: "I dont
want to see Catholics reflexively Republican either. I want to see them
becoming principled rather than partisan."
And the final word from Archbishop Chaput: "Elected and appointed
officials have amazingly short memories. If Catholics ease up their pressure
on key issues, nothing will get done. So the real work lies ahead."
Read Part 1: "Did
The 'Catholic Vote' Count?"
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight.com.
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