Thursday, June 3, 2004

Catholics speak out on politics and religion

The Cincinnati Enquirer asked local Catholics for their opinions on their faith and their politics. Here are some of their responses:

• Don Beeber, 71, retired, Sharonville, St. Michael Church: There is no question the church has influenced my political beliefs... However, I still struggle with political choices because there are so many "gray" issues to look at. I try to be objective, however I cannot support abortion (except for the threat of death to the mother) because of my time spent working in a hospital and because I believe in the right to life of all, from the womb to the tomb...

I plan to vote for George Bush. Why? I genuinely believe he has the best interests of the country and the world at heart. Is he perfect? No. Is he sincere? Yes. Is he the best man at this time to lead our country? Probably. I cannot support his opponent because I believe he is lacking in character. He turns things every which way to suit the pollsters. He will take any stand to be elected. I want a leader who says what he means and does what he says. I feel Kerry would be a disaster precisely because his opinions generally twist in the wind, and because of his fanatical commitment to abortion and his impatience to turn over control of our military troops to the United Nations.

• Chris Gaietto Lemmon, 46, administrative assistant, Miami Township, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church: The Catholic Church is well known for its stand on abortion. I pick my candidate according to where he/she stands on that issue. My views on abortion have nothing to do with the Catholic Church's teaching, it's because I truly believe in the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," thus, I always vote pro-life.

Should bishops deny the sacraments to Catholic politicians who oppose church teaching on social issues? Absolutely no.

And what about individual voters? Where do I begin? So a lay communion distributor denies Holy Communion to a parishioner because that parishioner has pro-choice beliefs. What's next? Prohibiting openings to the Catholic schools to students who might be of another faith or their parents are living with a partner who they're not married to?

• Pam Heydt, Wyoming, 55, social worker, Wyoming, St. Martin de Porres: I plan to vote for John Kerry because I agree with his political vision more than I do with George Bush's. I didn't know Kerry was Catholic until the bishop in St. Louis effectively excommunicated him from the diocese. Mind you, he didn't have an abortion, or do an abortion (as far as I know); he just thinks it shouldn't be illegal in every circumstance. Since the bishop didn't give him extra points for opposing the invasion of Iraq, and didn't bring up his stand on capital punishment, I see the excommunication as a partisan abuse of power and despise it. I'm reminded that Paul said that nothing could separate us from God's love. I'm reminded that Jesus brought tax collectors and sinners to his table. I remember that Jesus directed the one without sin to cast the first stone. And, God knows, I do and say enough wrong-headed things that I shouldn't shake my finger too hard at the bishop.

It still makes me angry, though, to see the singular intensity with which Catholics have attacked the abortion issue. If there were half as many anti-capital-punishment demonstrators as there are anti-abortion demonstrators, or even a quarter, I might say that the church has a political voice. If I claimed the right to get in the face of a pro-war congressperson in the name of the church, or if I ever heard of anyone being excommunicated for giving a death sentence, or injecting the poison, then I would think that the church has a political voice.

As it is, the church is a collection of people with a collection of political ideas. Even as we are deeply blessed with the Eucharist, the wisdom of the scriptures, the richness of our heritage and our worship, we are still human and fallible (with, of course, the exception of the pope ex cathedra.)

That's one of the reasons I wear my cross inside my blouse: I would hate to do something stupid, petty, or mean and have people think it's Catholic, or Christian, to do that.

• Paul Hendrick, 67, retired St. Xavier High School English teacher, Clifton, Annunciation Church: I am very concerned about the stand some bishops have taken suggesting that communion be denied to politicians - even to voters who support politicians - who believe a woman has a right to choose an abortion. To me, the church stands for much more than an anti-abortion position. If the church hierarchy is to begin judging politicians and voters on their political beliefs, then they should be looking also at this terrible war in Iraq and its civilian casualties, at capital punishment, at our treatment of the poor and the powerless in American society, etc.

My wife and I feel strongly enough about this issue that we see ourselves as possibly being separated from the sacraments. We are grateful that our local bishop has not taken a stand that would force us to leave the church or to remain silently in the pews when others are going to Communion.

We will be voting for John Kerry in November because we oppose the justification for and execution of the war in Iraq, because we hope for saner environmental policies, because we want fewer tax breaks for the wealthy (even if that hurts our personal pocketbook) and better social programs and educational opportunities for the poor. In the present administration there has been a tremendous disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality.

• Donna Eby, 45, design firm owner, Anderson Township, Guardian Angels Church: I have been very irritated with the church concerning politics for a while. All year long the teachings are about helping the poor, doing good acts, and looking out for those with no real voice like the homeless, etc. But that goes out the window the week of elections when the only issue is pro-life. Now I understand that is a dividing and important issue in our church and our country but it cannot be the only issue we base our vote on. What about politicians that push the agenda of profits only - who cut the programs for the most needy - who allow jobs to go overseas - who discriminate against women, those of color? What about the environment that God created for us to protect and take care of for the future? What about allowing corporate greed and behind the scenes corruption that is accepted if you are lobbyist or PAC? What about the death penalty? What about the working poor? What about schools that are falling down among the kids?

• Stan Neumann, 74, retired engineer, Pleasant Ridge, Nativity Church: When Catholic teaching concerns truly moral issues (10 Commandments type issues), church teaching are and should very important to everyone. The problem we have is that so many of the issues raised by the church are debatable as to their morality. Capital punishment and stem cell research are two ideas that you can make a strong case for on either side. The Pope and others tell us how bad the United States is because we are trying, at considerable costs in lives and resources, to liberate these oppressed peoples. There are some issues that are so clearly wrong (partial birth abortion), that open proponents should be censured in some manner.

• Ken Fouts Jr., 63, retired television director, Batavia, St. Louis Church in Owensville: The major issue of abortion that Kerry has spoken out in support of, is not a political issue in my mind, rather a moral issue to be decided by each individual according to his or her own beliefs. It has no place in a political campaign.

I do not believe the church or any representative should publicly admonish any politician for his or her believes, or prevent them from receiving the Sacrament. How many Catholics that approach the altar every Sunday to receive the Holy Sacrament have either sin on their soul or beliefs opposing Vatican doctrine. Keep religion out of politics and in the hearts of believers.

• James Broz, 58, system engineer, Oakwood, St. Albert the Great Church in Kettering: There is significant room for dissention on the social issues in the Catholic Church. It is simply the question of what works socially and what has failed to work. The Catholic Church is on both sides of all social issues because there are positives and negatives in these social issues.

Bishops have the right to deny the sacraments to "Catholic" politicians who oppose the church's moral teaching because to be a Catholic is accept these teachings. These are not social issues that the church is dealing with but moral issues. Abortion is not a social issue it is a moral issue. If you openly vote or oppose a defined moral issue of the church then you are in conflict with the moral teaching of the church therefore you are not a Catholic.

• Barbara O'Brien Vieth, 45, investment adviser, West Chester, St. Susanna Church in Mason: I vote for the candidate that is pro-life. That supercedes anything else. Plain and simple. This is coming from a college educated, well read and well traveled 45-year-old woman who grew up in the 70's.

I don't think the Catholic Church should step in and voice that a candidate should abstain from getting sacraments. It comes off as too judgmental. The same holds true with individual voters. That person answers to God ultimately, not to a priest or the "church."

I am not voting for Kerry. I despise that he is pro-choice and wonder how he calls himself a Catholic. It's not religion, per se, that is a character issue, rather how a person acts and what they say that defines character. Former President Clinton attended church, and yet, he seemingly lacks character. They don't necessarily go hand in hand.

I am voting for President George Bush. Why? I appreciate his pro-life stance and overall value system. I saw him at Cincinnati Gardens and felt his sincerity when he spoke about family values. That hit home and rang true.

•  Rich Leonardi, 36, information technology, Hyde Park, St. Mary Church: Some suggest that the church's respect for the freedom of conscience allows them to put aside church teachings when they enter the voting booth. But conscience is not the same as opinions or feelings. If you're Catholic, the freedom of conscience comes with a duty to inform your conscience by the light of natural law and church teaching.

This duty is especially relevant during this election cycle, since a pro-abortion Catholic candidate for President is asserting that his "freedom of conscience" allows him to defy church teaching and still be "a Catholic in good standing."

That's simply not true. The church's teaching on abortion is crystal clear: it has been unequivocally condemned since the first century. It is at the very heart of the church's moral teaching. As Pope John Paul II has said, the right to life is 'the first right, on which all the others are based, and which cannot be recuperated once it is lost." Thus, to defy the church's teaching on this matter is to compromise all other rights.

The church teaches that abortion is "never" permissible. That is what distinguishes it from issues like the death penalty, which is permissible albeit in "rare" circumstances. Thus, Catholics should view abortion as a "disqualifying issue" for any candidate who supports it.

Although this may surprise many American Catholics, there is no room in the church for dissent on matters of doctrine. You will search in vain for a recognized right of dissent in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or in any other church document. In fact, to defy the church on matters of doctrine is sinful. To dissent from such a truth of the faith is to separate oneself from communion with "the body of Christ."

Moreover, the church teaches that the sin of scandal applies to those who by their bad example lead others into sin. When pro-abortion Catholic politicians state that they are Catholics in good standing despite their defiance, there is a great risk that others will believe they too are free to ignore what the church teaches. Bishops are duty-bound to protect their flock by clarifying church teaching and denying Communion to those who have already separated themselves from "communion" with the church by their actions.

There is also the matter of Canon law. Canon 915 states that those "who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion." Given the unquestionably grave subject matter of abortion, the overt nature of Kerry's public defiance of church teaching, and his obstinate persistence that he will continue doing so, the bishops should refuse Kerry Communion as a matter of Canon law.

•  Tom Steele, 45, chief financial officer, Deerfield Township, St. Margaret of York: I believe that there exists great dissent within the Catholic population regarding social issues, particularly in America. I don't believe that the church is confused; the teachings are very clear. However, in practice many Catholics do not know church teachings, do not understand the reasoning or basis for the teachings and are caught up in worldly concerns. We are a product of the "Me" culture and our opinions can be selfish and arrogant. We think we know more than the church or the pope.

I think only a bishop can decide when and where to deny a sacrament. Again, people are so quick to express their opinion and then assume that they are right. Technically, any Catholic who has sin which prevents them from receiving Jesus with a pure heart at Mass should deny themselves. This includes all of us without the benefit of the sacrament of reconciliation. It used to be that confession before mass was a regular activity as well as many more Catholics attending mass but not receiving communion. I think some bishops hope that the Catholic politicians who are opposed to church teachings will make the decision themselves to refrain from taking communion due to the scandal that it can cause. Again, to be selfless not prideful. The public actions of several of these professed "catholic" politicians reflect total unmitigated pride.

•  Meg Paul, 45, human resources manager, Westwood, St. Catharine of Siena: I've found that most Catholics today just pick and choose the social teachings they want to have guide their life choices and ignore those they don't like (i.e. birth control, the whole concept of "the common good" - looking closely at your actions and seeing what affect they may have on those around you). These folks don't seem to care what the church thinks. I see more Catholics being "Americans" first, "Catholics" second. Should these folks be denied the sacraments (and politicians as well)? No, I don't think so. I think it should be up to the individual to determine if they are deserving of the sacraments. One of the big things we're taught is that God gave us "free will" mainly because love can't be forced or coerced -- it must be given willingly and freely. And that "free will" applies to all that we do. I believe the church and bishops should be there to help guide each individual with this choice, but not to make it for them.

•  Marilyn Reinstatler, 57, retired medical transcriptionist, Green Township, St. Teresa of Avila: I am a registered Republican, but I vote issues, not party. I vote for the man or woman who stands firm against abortion, gay/lesbian marriages, and stem cell research. I voted for President George Bush and will continue to vote for him. I believe that God's laws come before man's laws. Therefore, I will vote according to the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church.

Some Catholics have said to me: "there are other issues that are of great importance." My response is: "God does not care about the economy or space exploration, etc. He cares about the babies being slaughtered in the womb."

The bishops in the Catholic Church have a difficult position, but, again they are to stand up for the laws of the church first and foremost, whether they are popular decisions or not. A Catholic that is not in good standing with the Catholic Church should not be receiving the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist.

I am sad for Mr. John Kerry because he is in a position of being very influential to all Catholics, especially the young. He has taken a stand against the church's laws and God's laws. Catholics are not allowed to pick and choose what laws of the church they want to follow.

•  Debbi Borchers, 47, pediatrician, Fort Mitchell, St. Anthony in Madisonville: I grew up in a family with two aunts who became nuns and an uncle who became a priest. Despite that traditional influence, my parents taught me to be socially conscious and to look for a closeness to God through my faith, through the Mass, prayer and fellowship with other Christians.

While a young adult, one of my (non-nun) aunts was incensed that a family member was choosing to vote for a politician who was not pro-life. This is a dilemma in which I often find myself: no one candidate represents the political views that I hold, nor those that are generally espoused by the Catholic Church. For example, I am very strongly pro-life, but I am also strongly against capital punishment and pro gun control. This means that on may issues, I walk both sides of the Republican and Democratic platforms. My beliefs are based in Christianity, in my strong love of God and the world He has created. Interestingly enough, some of the issues I just mentioned are exactly what is taught by the Catholic Church.

As a parent, I am trying to teach my children that God is the ultimate judge that knows what is in our hearts and souls. I believe strongly in God's forgiveness and love. I see the dilemma that the bishops are in (with respect to the communion question) when the abortion issue is spoken about from the pulpit so strongly, but I don't believe that this is man's issue; it is God's issue. By making such a statement about it, I believe that this will emphasize to the world the rigidity of Catholicism instead of the message of God's love for us always, despite the times when we stray or choose not to listen to His word.

•  Cynthia Reinhart, 47, psychotherapist, Forest Park, St. John Neumann Church: Perhaps because I was raised in a parish that was more progressive, quicker to include changes that have occurred in the church, I see more room for dissent and conflicting opinion. That is, I saw at a young age that people within the church could have different opinions, that differences could be worked out, and change could happen. I was there and remember the changes created by Vatican II; I remember switching from Latin to English; the introduction of guitars and other instruments, and more varied styles, to the music; communion in the hand; and the inclusion of girls as alter servers. Attending a Catholic college, I took a class on the Vatican II documents, and was inspired by the part that stated that, if a person prayerfully came to a conclusion that differed from church doctrine, that person should follow his or her conscience. If we can differ on church doctrine, of course we can differ on social issues. Perhaps I am also influenced greatly by being raised in a country that values freedom of speech, but I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a bishop excommunicating Catholic politicians for their stated views on issues that conflict with church teaching. I wouldn't want individual people, including my neighbors or myself, excommunicated for expressing an opinion, and it doesn't seem right to do that to public figures.

•  John F. Kippley, 73, unemployed, Westwood, St. Martin of Tours Church in Cheviot: Unfortunately, from my perspective, there is no such thing as a Catholic voting bloc. There are Catholics who take the Catholic faith seriously because they believe that the Catholic Church was founded in history by Jesus Christ upon Peter. They believe that Jesus has remained true to His promise to be with his church until He returns. These Catholics take the teachings of the church seriously, and most of them are capable of distinguishing those teachings that create a specific moral imperative from those that are more general in nature. They know that the church teaches that abortion is an abomination because it kills an innocent human person. The deliberate taking of innocent human life is incompatible with being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and it is behavior that puts one on the path to hell. Since the church tries to save people from hell, it warns against such behavior. Excommunication is such a final warning. So the church warns that those who do and promote abortion excommunicate themselves from the church and cannot receive the sacraments. So also for those who promote abortion through laws to facilitate abortion.

There are other Catholics whose opinions are formed almost entirely by liberal media. They reject Catholic teaching that they think will be difficult to follow. They want to be entertained at Sunday Mass. They do not give evidence of understanding and accepting Christian discipleship. They seem to be more like liberal Protestants than Catholic. So "Catholic" covers a multitude including those trying to be the saints they are called to be and those who are proud to call their sins acts of virtue.

•  Laurie Balbach-Taylor, 48, Catholic book publisher, Mt. Repose, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Milford: President John F. Kennedy was not so "Catholic" after all. He denied that he would let God's laws as revealed through the church he appeared to embrace guide his political decisions. That was a betrayal of God for the sake of political expediency. That so many American Catholics supported Mr. Kennedy does not demonstrate that the church is an irrelevancy; rather, it demonstrates that too many Americans who call themselves Catholic have a poor idea of what being Catholic entails. Being Catholic means that we are to be counter-cultural signs of contradiction in the world. We are supposed to defend God's rights above all else, and by doing that, we are also always defending the legitimate God-given rights of people.

There is no room in the church for dissent on social issues about which the church has clearly indicated moral boundaries. When the church speaks, she speaks with the authority of almighty God Himself. Who can possibly be so arrogant as to believe they know more than God?

Bishops and priests absolutely should deny the sacraments to Catholic politicians who are showing by any of their actions that they refuse to live in communion with the church. In fact, I wonder why those politicians want to continue calling themselves Catholic when they do not accept the church's teachings, social and otherwise, unless they consider it politically expedient. It is the ultimate in hypocrisy.

Individual voters who demonstrate publicly by their actions that they choose to live in mortal sin and are contemptuous of the church should also not be welcomed to the sacraments.

It is too early to be sure, but I will probably vote for Mr. Michael Anthony Peroutka of the Constitution Party. I do not know his religious affiliation, but his stands on the issues seem largely consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

•  Mary Ann Bowling, 65, retired saleswoman, St. John the Baptist, Colerain Township: My vote goes to the politician who most closely reflects my morals, whether it's his views on abortion or taxes.

As far as the church, the church after all is the people and as the people change so does the church. Yet no matter what the people profess or believe the basic beliefs of the church cannot and will not change. Murder is murder and we all must always follow the greatest commandment "to love your neighbor as yourself, and to, love the Lord your God above all else" and if we follow this all else will fall into place. Should the bishops deny the sacraments to politicians who flaunt the church's teaching? You bet they should, and anyone else who openly flaunts the church's teaching. After all our Christian brethren are not suppose to receive the sacraments, especially if they do not accept all our beliefs. So why should cafeteria Catholics think that they are any different?

Bush will get my vote, he reflects my beliefs morally and otherwise. Say what you may, Kerry's not going to fix much of anything.

•  Marcy Schutte, 55, nurse, Milford, St. Andrew Church: If a well informed Catholic is aware of the church's teachings, practices and doctrine, then he will be aware of the consequences for not living life as a devoted Catholic. The church's thinking on some issues is very different from the church's doctrine. People often times don't know that difference.

I will vote for Bush. He seems to be a good son, husband, and father from what I can tell. He believes in God. He is not afraid to take the heat from those who cast aspersions. Those are all admirable qualities to me. I also think he has strong relations with others in the middle East and in the long run those countries respect him as well.

• Ginny Garza, 57, inventory control manager, Springfield Township, St. Bartholomew Church: My parents were both Democrats and when it came time to register to vote, I of course, registered as a Democrat. However, times have changed and I have certainly matured since I first registered to vote. Our society and politics have become so muddied with doubletalk and half-truths that if voters do not take the time to listen carefully, and research the candidates, we may well end up being a nation who will be duped by the slickest flimflam candidate.

I believed so much in George W. Bush that in the year 2000 I officially switched political parties and became a Republican. This doesn't mean that I will always vote strictly Republican, for each candidate needs to earn my support. They gain my support by proving to me what they stand for and more importantly their ethics and their honesty. If they are truly strong in their faith in God, I believe this trait is most important of all. This candidate will then certainly have the same ideals as I. He will also have the most important attribute for the common good of all Americans. For a President who bases his decisions on his faith in God can only move forward in a positive manner for all Americans.

John Kerry can claim to be Catholic, claim to be a war hero or whatever other claims he may invent. However, I will not tolerate a candidate who changes his stance to suit the audience before him. I find him to be weak and transparent. He may well be that flim-flam man if we are not well read or truly vigilant on the candidates before us.

I cannot judge whether Kerry or any individual should be denied the sacraments because of their stance on social issues. We will all be judged by our actions and words when our days on Earth have come to an end. I can only have faith in God and continue to pray that we as a nation take our roles as citizens seriously and select a candidate who will lead us to the best of his God-given abilities.

•  TeresaMaria Davis, 39, insurance, Anderson Township, St. Anthony Church: I am the last of the "boomers" (those who turn 40 this year) thus, the original fervor of religion and politics in the 1960's brings a smile to my face. Did folks really think the pope would run the White House? How bizarre. However, in that there is fervor from within now to determine who should receive the sacraments due to their political affiliation or stance on an issue, equally is bizarre. Did a bishop really threaten not to give John Kerry the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus, because of public knowledge of Kerry's abortion-rights stance? I must shake my head.

I am Catholic first and foremost; how I vote is shaped by my living out the Catholic faith. To do that, I cannot serve two masters, thus, I strongly believe in separation of church and state. I do not trust government vouchers in Christian schools -- that means that the government may or may not tell a school how to run their program.

I am a Democrat; liberal, some say. However, in balancing the issues, programs and directions set forth by the Republicans vs. Democrats, I find the Democrats have the closest balance to my Catholic social teachings.

There is plenty good room for dissent regarding social issues within the Catholic Church. Any bishop who denies someone the sacraments due to their political stance - especially, Eucharist - should be ashamed of himself. Indeed, there is a Latin phrase that deals with just this which says, the greater sin is denying the Eucharist; that bishop cannot know what is in a person's heart.

Further, and more frustrating, I wish the bishops would talk about the Catholic stance on executions in this country, how about, starving children in this country. Cardinal Bernadin said it best. Those who defend the right to life of the weakest of us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us - the old and the young, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker. Such a quality of life posture translates into specific political and economic positions on tax policy, employment generation, welfare policy, nutrition and feeding programs and health care. We cannot urge a compassionate society and vigorous public policy to protect the rights of the unborn and then argue that compassion and significant public programs on behalf of the needy undermine the moral fiber of the society or are beyond the proper scope of governmental responsibility. Life is inside and outside of the womb.

Unless that priest knows the heart of that person standing in front of them; every inch of their being and their personal relationship with God, you cannot in good conscious deny the blood and body of Christ. There is a slippery-slope leading away from sacramental living when "sins" are determined publicly or privately by a priest who does not know the person. This issue drives me insane with anger.

If a politician or public policy does not fit into church teachings, I ignore it or them. Notably, back to abortion - just because it is legal does not make it right. Folks forget about that part of the church; we don't have to change the law we are to change hearts. I don't care if it's legal; I don't want abortion clinics to have customers. To do that, we need to live out the Gospel.

•  Rob Schutte, 38, market researcher, Madeira, St. Gertrude Church: My positions on political issues related to faith, morals and ethics (such as being anti-Apartheid, pro-life, anti-death penalty, etc) are in line with the teachings of the church. This is not simply out of obedience that I hold such positions, but because after careful study of the world, I have come to see that society functions best when based upon Judeo-Christian teachings. To be Christian is to believe Christ is God, and the rules we have been given are there not as repressive restrictions, but to provide the structure upon which humanity will best thrive in this world. If Catholic teachings on sexual ethics were universally followed to the letter, there would be no incest, no rape, no abortion, no unwed mothers, no prostitution, and no sexually transmitted diseases.

The philosophical trends of relativism and subjectivism have been wrongly adapted by many Catholics today under the improper belief they can pick and choose from the teachings of the Catholic Church and still remain in full communion with the church. Such people are mistaken, because the Catholic Church has a final authority (the pope) and it is not a cafeteria religion.

When it comes to issues such as gay marriage and abortion, the church has always taught that these are grave sins. A Catholic elected to public office is not expected to be a servant of the Pope first and his country second, but that person will be accountable to God for the position they take on issues of faith, morals and ethics.

For example, John Kerry's adamant support of abortion is a grave sin, and every Catholic is supposed to confess and amend all grave sins before receiving Holy Communion or else they eat and drink a condemnation upon themselves (to paraphrase St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians). To have voted for abortion every time the issue is placed before him, is to show that he is not in communion with the teaching of the church. In a similar way, the church does not give Holy Communion to our separated Protestant brethren because they do not accept the teachings and authority of the Magisterium.

Though some will perceive this as the church trying to influence politics, that is not what the bishops are trying to do. They are preserving the integrity of Holy Communion and preventing scandal, for those devout Catholics who see known supporters of abortion and gay marriage receiving Holy Communion are scandalized.

• Paul Hinkel, 37, engineer, White Oak, St. Therese of Little Flower Church, Mount Airy: When a person publicly speaks contrary to 2,000 years of teaching and then claims that, "I wouldn't do it personally but if you want to that's O.K." - that is like giving the keys to a bank robber and expecting not to be held accountable when the bank gets robbed, that's foolish. We will be held accountable to God for the way we vote. If I vote for a politician, of any level, that supports killing of babies (at any stage of life), or promoting homosexual acts, that is the same as me giving them the keys to the bank. Public dissent should not be tolerated because it causes confusion among the faithful. And if the bishops and priest were united on this idea, this would send a clear message to the faithful and non-Catholic that the Catholic church does not promote or accept teachings contrary to the church and in this case against God's natural law. By claiming that I am a Catholic, that means that I am accepting all the dogmas, teachings, rules, and guidelines that is passed down from Rome. To deny or purposely ignore the teachings, this is a contraction in itself. Either you're Catholic and you accept it or you're not!

I pray for the Catholics and non-Catholics that teach and act contrary to the church. It's my greatest wish that they make it, all of them, to Heaven. And the best way to show that they are loved, is not to ignore their sins but prayerfully and charitable bring them back to the truth.

• John G. Wenker, 45, financial executive, Milford, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church: "Social issues," however one defines that term, change; however, church teachings are constant. A century ago, so called greenhouse gases were not even discussed (at least not by the population in general), but now their claimed impact on the environment are a major topic of discussion and a "social issue." The church can voice their thoughts on such matters; however, Catholics are not bound by these opinions. This is contrasted with church doctrine (e.g. the sanctity of life) that remains constant. The church teaches life begins at conception and must be protected. If one defends, indeed fights for, the "right" to murder an innocent unborn child, they are ignoring the very precepts of the church and are, by definition, not a Catholic. No one seems to argue that Jews or Muslims should be allowed to accept Holy Communion, then why should a non-Catholic, simply because they call themselves Catholic, take this most holy sacrament?

Whether politician or individual voter makes no difference.

• Peggy Feirstine, 58, part-time nanny, Forest Park, St. Matthias the Apostle Church: Having grown up on the east coast I for many years was an avowed Democrat. The church's teachings and much of the Democratic platform were parallel to one another. Then several years ago these policies became divergent and I could no longer embrace their platform. Was church teaching influential in this process? Of course! We as Catholics are to live our faith in all aspects of our lives not just on Sundays in church.

If a Catholic is firmly grounded in his church's teachings and understands the reasoning behind them one would find very little to disagree with as far as social issues are concerned. I, in my mind, consider these issues to be not just social issues, but moral issues. Who, but the church, is better equip to influence our thinking on matters of faith and morals? I firmly believe that when the Pope teaches on these issues that he is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Who could possibly disagree with the Holy Spirit? I think that Americans are so fiercely independent that we sometimes forget what the purpose of our church really is. It is meant to lead and teach us how to become good, moral human beings who will be able to discern what is good and what is evil. One cannot pick and choose what one wishes to believe

Personally I am pleased that some of our bishops have chosen to speak out about politicians who claim to Catholic and yet publicly espouse beliefs that are contrary to church teaching.

One cannot be Catholic and be pro-abortion! Individual voters have to deal with this question between themselves and God. In most cases a priest, or bishop would never know what is in that person's heart unless they reveal it to them. Politicians, on the other hand, are public figures. They have influence, stature and a public forum. They can make laws that can change people's lives forever. Our bishops are our shepherds and teachers, who better to reprimand one of his flock that has strayed.

• Delores Bruggeman, 69, retired, Bond Hill, St. Agnes Church: First, all the people do is vote so women can choose. This is not agreeing with having an abortion. I think it is scandalous what Bush does. Why don't the news people go after him using our government to put forth a particular religion all for his own political good? We do live in interesting times.

 John Eby, 42, electrical engineer, Westwood, St. Catharine of Siena: I base my vote mostly on a candidates political platform and their character, not their religion.

However, it has been refreshing to hear a politician who is not afraid to speak openly about his religion and how it has enhanced his life. If you listen to President Bush and how he speaks about his religious beliefs you can tell that he lives his faith. He's comfortable talking about his personal relationship with God and doesn't shy away from questions about his religion. That speaks volumes to me about how he lives his life. It tells me that he is the type of man who has faith in others and that he thinks about others before himself.

Kerry on the other hand seems uncomfortable and clumsy when questions of religion arise. Kerry never brings it up and he almost cringes when the conversation turns in that direction. He is uncomfortable with his religion and that tells me that he has no faith in anyone but himself.

I think that my political views were influenced more by the nuns that taught us in grade school than by our parish Priest. Nuns are amazing women. I didn't realize it back in grade school, but I do today.

When I look back at how I was influenced by the religious people in my life I would say I learned these lessons. Work hard, volunteer your time and talent, be polite, respect life, practice your faith in all facets of your life, be compassionate, learn to forgive and never forget that God loves you. When I look at political candidates I look to see if they possess most of these traits.

• David Merkowitz, 26, doctoral student in history, Clifton, St. Monica-St. George Church: There can be dissent, so long as that dissent does not begin to break the foundation of the faith. Deciding where exactly that line is hard to delineate. In fact, there should be a vigorous discourse within the Catholic community, but that discourse must founded on a general assent to certain vital components of the faith, otherwise it is not productive dissent.

Evangelical Christians tend to see the world too much in black and white and tend to take a too literal reading of many social issues. And finally, they tend to overemphasize that activity of God in their life.

One has to have a core set of beliefs that inform their actions, pragmatism is not one of those, particularly in the realm of politics. It is less important, which religion or no religion they have but they need a moral and ethical code that does not easily bend to their will.

President Bush is currently the lesser of two evils.

• Anne C. Fredrickson, 47, elderly advocate, Loveland, St. Columban Church: First of all, I would never vote for a candidate based on religious preference. I feel that religion is a personal choice and part of one's value system.

I do believe that having a religious affiliation as a political candidate helps make the candidate more real to me be it Christian, Jew or Muslim. I do consider a candidate more seriously that does practice their faith, whatever that may be!

As for Kerry and is affiliation with the Catholic Church, I believe really he is no different than many Catholics today with regard to having been divorced or differed on any other issues that many Catholics have faced in today's Catholic Church

I do believe folks have a right to their opinion be it a Catholic or whatever religion. And no, I don't believe a bishop should deny a candidate the right to the sacraments because he or she disagrees with the practicing of the Catholic Church. For every bishop that might deny Kerry access to the sacraments I would imagine you would find another bishop that would allow Kerry access! Believe me the Catholic Church is as political as any other institution in our world today!

I will probably vote for Bush as I think he is a strong leader. I actually didn't even know Kerry was Catholic until in the recent months.

• Frank Labmeier, 85, retired, Green Township, St. Teresa Church of Avila Church: I don't believe politicians should label themselves as members in good standing with any religion. Too often we are influenced by their outward behavior while we really don't know what is in their hearts. Case in point is John F. Kennedy who wore his Catholicism as a badge of honor while he was president, basking in the adulations of duped and betrayed Catholics. And all the while this adulterer was sneaking women in the back door of the White House. What a hypocrite!

I am 85 years old and I spent half of my life Pre-Vatican II. What a difference from today! The pastor ruled the roost and he had a great influence on his congregation, and if he suggested that a certain politician was not worthy, his parishioners generally followed his advice and voted as he directed.

Since Vatican II this subservience is no longer in vogue. Following one's conscience is the rule now and this often conflicts with some of the teaching of the church. For example, polls indicate that most Catholic families practice birth control and a majority of Catholics support ordaining married men to the priesthood.

Kerry calls himself a Catholic. But he picks and chooses what to believe. For example, he accepts abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage. All of which are contrary to church teachings. This makes him a cafeteria Catholic. He is selective in his beliefs. However he is not unique in this respect, because an overwhelming number of Catholics do the same thing. This is one of the unintended consequences of Vatican II, which reduced the authority of the clergy and brought to the fore the following of one's conscience, but with the caveat that in following one's conscience one may never do evil so that good may result from it.

It is my opinion that the bishops should again meet privately with Kerry and try to show him the error of his ways. Of course Kerry will ignore this advice, and then it will be up to the Catholic voters to make up their minds, but it is obvious to me that his stance on these contentious issues will not have a great effect on the way they will vote. The war and the economy will trump them every time.

Whom will I vote for in November? Well, I don't know just yet. I like to consider myself an independent, being a conservative on moral issues, and liberal on social issues, so it is possible that I may just cast a protest vote for Ralph Nader or simply drop a blank ballot in the box, saying a pox on both your houses.

 Savio Russo, 60, nurse manager, Pleasant Ridge, Nativity Church: As a Catholic, I essentially think and vote according to a standard: who would be the best candidate for our country in these troubled times. My feeling is that the church does not shape and color whom I vote for since that takes away individuality and accountability for your own actions. Gone are the days when the church dictates how its members should vote and hence a "Catholic block vote" is a thing of the past. We were so gung-ho on Kennedy as Catholics. History taught us plenty about him -- at least I hope so.

The church is now attempting to shape and influence those who dissent with the stand that they will not be able to receive the sacraments and, more strongly, one bishop even says he will refuse to give the Eucharist to Kerry. Does the church really know what is in his heart and if he approaches the table of the Lord, doesn't that speak about his relationship with the Lord as well as anyone else.

• Stan Barczak, 46, baggage handler, Richwood, Ky., All Saints Church: How can you separate your faith from who you are? My faith is an intrinsic part of me and to try and separate my faith from my daily life would make a sham of it. This is where I have a problem with so called "pro-choice" Catholics. You are either Catholic or you aren't. If you can't adhere to what the church teaches, then why do you continue to say that is your faith? The "choice" these Catholics think one should be free to make is the killing of innocent life. They're no more "pro-choice" than those who supported the Missouri Compromise. You can't advocate "choice" in slavery nor in taking innocent life. When something is wrong and evil, there is no choice. You can't euphemistically call an evil good because you can freely choose it.

To me, John Kerry is Catholic in name only. It is embarrassing to see that the large number of Catholics in politics who are pro-abortion, for assisted suicide, and for gay "marriage." It is even more embarrassing to see the timidity of the Catholic Church in America in dealing with these Catholic politicians. I can't understand how they can't realize the scandal they give to their people as well as the public. What signal does it send to the person in the pew, when people who vote for and promote the destruction of innocent life share in the sacraments - God's life, and are even given places of honor (i.e. Leon Panetta chosen by the bishops to serve on the Sex Abuse Committee)? Would there be any hesitation to withhold the sacraments or even excommunicate a politician who advocates choice in slavery, child abuse, or racism?

The upcoming election is not an easy choice for me. Though George Bush is head and shoulders above John Kerry on the life issues, I will probably be holding my nose when I vote for him. Bush will not make a commitment to appoint only pro-life judges and he hasn't. I look at his appointments to the Texas State Supreme Court, when he was Governor and I'm not too hopeful. He abandoned his promise not to use of embryonic stem cells for research, and he has many pro-abortion policy makers in his cabinet, and among his advisors - Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Andy Card.

For me the choice between Kerry and Bush is like sitting down for lunch and having two sandwiches in front of you. The first sandwich smells like rotten eggs and the meat has maggots crawling out of it (John Kerry), and second one smells O.K., but the bread is moldy green (George Bush). You have to choose between the two because for the next four years that's all you'll be able to eat. Both of the choices look disgusting, and both of them will probably make you sick, but I'll take my chances with the moldy bread.

• Jim Bush, 43, information technology manager, Miami Township, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church: One wonders why someone would belong to a church to which he adamantly opposes its core philosophical views.

Religion is not as much of a character issue. Religious practice, on the other hand, is very much a character issue. A man could tell everyone he is Catholic. He could brag about his upbringing as a Catholic, and his education as a Catholic. But, if he doesn't really believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and is our savior, and that the church that Jesus founded is in error, then I think that in reality, he's not practicing Catholic philosophy and therefore he isn't really a Catholic.

I plan on voting for the man who best represents my personal moral codes and political philosophies - George W. Bush (no relation to me, by the way).

Christians (Catholics in particular), seem to be favorite targets of the media. Actually, anyone with a strong moral code that differentiates right from wrong who wants to enshrine that sense of rightness and wrongness in our laws is a media target. Therefore, it seems that some Catholic politicians, in their zeal to get elected, run away from the strong sense of right and wrong that their church espouses. Ted Kennedy, (former) Gov. Gray Davis of California, Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan definitely come to mind.

John Kerry is on this list also. That's not to say all Catholic politicians are this way. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, Ohio's 66th district state representative, Jean Schmidt, are Catholics who remain true to their faith while running for office. Nevertheless, the media tend to portray those Catholics (and others) who have a strong sense of morals as medieval, backwards, hillbilly-esque. Those Christians who have a weaker sense of morals (example: "I personally oppose abortion but...") are touted by the media as intelligent, open-minded natural born leaders.

• Rosemary Bosco, 55, instructional aide in kindergarten, Hyde Park, St. Mary Church: I was 11 when Kennedy was running for president. I implored my father to vote for him, as a good Catholic schoolgirl who, growing up in New York City, had been influenced by the nuns in school! My father was furious, that I would even consider mentioning to him which candidate to choose. For two reasons: first he thought I was too young to even talk about it with him, secondly he figured the nuns were behind my plea. I don't have to tell you whom he voted for! I was naive enough at the time to ask him.

At this point in my life, I would feel put upon if my children or grandchildren begged me to vote for the Catholic candidate. I really don't know if Kerry is as Catholic as he'd like us to believe. I am not voting for him. I am going to vote for Bush. I think he's doing a pretty good job. I am not in a hurry to change things.

I don't believe that the bishops should refuse Communion to anyone. I think that is up to the individual. At this point with all of the scandal in our church (sadly), I think the bishop, who is without sin should ... and you know the rest!

• Susan M. Greve, 61, publisher and homemaker, White Oak, St. John Bosco Chapel / Our Lady of Perpetual Help Community: I believe in the doctrines of my faith. Therefore everything that I think and do is examined in the light of faith. Is the candidate an honorable man? This would be determined by his position on the issues that I believe to be important:

1. Abortion - the killing of a human being created by God.

2. Same sex marriage - a violation of the natural order and a direct attack on the sanctification of the family in society.

3. Equal rights for all - We are all created in the image and likeness of God. We should have the freedom for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In that pursuit of happiness I am not in favor of people trampling on the freedoms of others in the attempt to be happy. That is why we have civil laws for the protection of those rights.

4. Public lewdness, pornographic magazines and movies, sacrilegious and prurient art that offends the innocence of children and adults should be contained with laws for the good of society.

5. Racial prejudice and differences - fairness and kindness toward all - extending to those with special needs. Our color describes us; it does not define who we are.

6. Right and ownership of private property. Caring for the environment---teaching children and adults to respect the property of others.

7. A fair wage and decent work place -applying the principle of subsidiarity.

8. Honesty in business practices.

9. An inclusion of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and in courthouses, city law, in government-does not violate the separation of church and state.

10. Special rights for homosexuals--- they should be protected as you and I are under the current law. Special rights should not be extended if they include the sexual practice of a homosexual life style. This is promoting an unnatural vice and only brings that individual to ruin -morally and physically. Also, their recruitment for that life style is extremely dangerous to our youth. They should be "assisted to order rightly their affections, to discipline their desires, in accord with God's plan." (Catholic Catechism)

11. (A ban on) Stem cell research from aborted fetuses and in vitro fertilization.

• Joyce Giesler, 63, retired nurse and paralegal, Columbia-Tusculum, St. Bernard Church in Winton Place: Some think that Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry isn't Catholic enough, and doesn't follow church teaching on abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research. I don't understand what it means to be "not Catholic enough." These issues are moral issues not just for Catholics but for all mankind. Sen. Kerry doesn't show himself as having strong character in moral law encompassing these grave issues.

My political beliefs stem from study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (use it as a reference book much like a dictionary) listening to homilies, family influence, educational studies, personal interests, social interactions, reading about political issues, listening to other's political points of view, listening to talk radio shows, and last but not least, watching and listening to Fox "Fair and Balanced" News! I don't like spins because spins confuse facts!

Of course, there is room in the church for dissent regarding social issues; there is always more than one process to resolve social issues. I believe The church takes umbrage and cries out when a social issue resolution process includes methods and legislation contrary to moral law.

I don't believe bishops should deny sacraments to Catholic politicians who oppose the church's teaching on social issues that are contrary to moral law. I believe such politicians are aware of their contempt, defiance, arrogance and or weakness. The consequences of their behaviors are between the politician and God. It shows me that the politician, while making a mockery of the sacraments, is weak in moral character and I simply will not support or vote for the politician. It also shows me there is a flaw in the priorities of such a politician; this is in the sense of desiring prestige and power over personal integrity. It shows me that the politician has disrespect for the church he/she is attending. One could conclude he/she has little self-respect and most likely disrespect and disdain for others. I don't consider such a politician a high-quality role model or possessing good leadership traits.

I will be voting for George Bush because, between the two candidates, he is the closet candidate showing regard for moral absolutes.

• Rev. James E. Shappelle, 79, pastor, St. Bernard Church, Winton Place: Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry hold deeply flawed moral positions.

A voter's choice this year is for what is less immoral.

Mr. Kerry nearly "broke a leg" tripping over other Democratic hopefuls rushing to the embrace of the abortion-rights women at their banquet.

Mr. Bush has involved us in a very immoral war which both the United Nations and the pope refused to sanction (Mr. Bush wanted the blessings of both).

Mr. Bush has closed his eyes to the enormity of the environmental pollution to which our country is contributing.

Since I am not a "Communion Cop" or a "Sacramental Spy," I have no right to pry into the consciences of either man. I can only judge their actions. Theoretically, (assuming they were both Catholic), should they come to communion, I would give them communion. I am not their God to judge their conscience.

Once I start judging each person in the communion line, where do I draw the line? Do I ask this person: "Are you still bringing up pornography on the Internet?" "Are you still in favor of the death penalty?" (The pope isn't.) "Did you behave on your date last night?" "Have you paid your child support this month?" "Were you drunk again last week?" (Or to a Walton or a Lindner:) "How do you reconcile what Jesus said about riches with the fabulous wealth that you have?"

• Paul F. Brinker, 74, retired soldier and teacher, Sharonville, Nativity Church: Since many of my own life decisions are based on what I believe is right and since my religion assists me in determining right and wrong I would say that it certainly influences how I vote. However, even church rules and guidance are open to interpretation and that produces differences in how two persons of the same faith may vote.

There is room for dissent on social issues in the church. We must recognize that no matter how strongly we support an issue, another person may not agree with us because their experiences and viewpoints may be entirely different than ours. To deny a Catholic politician the sacraments because of a moral position is rather drastic unless you know the relationship of the politician and God. I would say this is a judgment difficult to make by another human being. When the politician trumpets his dissent as a challenge as Kerry has done, it may require such action. In turn, that can be accomplished without a statement to the press.

I plan to vote for President Bush because, in spite of his flaws, he seems to be an honest person... Sen. Kerry does not impress me as an honest person. His vacillation on major issues and his criticism of actions after the fact are not traits of a strong national leader. Lastly, as a Vietnam veteran I would not vote for anyone who includes Jane Fonda as part of their entourage.

• Gayle Rolfes, 48, dental hygienist, Harrison, St. John the Baptist: The church has not influenced my political views at all, for I feel that one must have their own set of beliefs, even if it differs from the church. I was brought up United Methodist, and only became a Catholic in 1996, after my son was born. My husband had been a Catholic all his life, and I embraced his faith so our son would have only one church to attend.

I feel the church should follow the Bible, not their own set of laws. This leaves little room for dissent on social issues as abortion and homosexuality. As far as the church denying sacraments to anyone who opposes them, I feel they should not. The individual person will have to give an account of themselves someday before God, not the church.

I will vote for the candidate in any election who has the most fundamental conservative beliefs. It doesn't matter to me which party they represent. I feel that if they claim to be a Christian, their life will show it, as President Bush's does. He is a man of high character and morals. In the election in November, I plan to vote for him.

• Len Weibel, 69, mechanical engineering consultant, Blue Ash, All Saints Church: I believe that the magisterium of the Catholic Church is the definitive teacher of faith and morals as applied to Catholic everyday life. This position trumps political correctness, appeal or for that matter political allegiance. There is no room for dissent from the magisterium.

Catholic bishops have a duty to uphold their oaths to protect the church from scandal as might become the case if a practicing Catholic openly opposes the teaching of the magisterium as, for example in the case of public officials openly supporting abortion, gay lifestyles, etc. Bishops' duties in cases such as these are clearly spelled out and appropriate remedies defined. Check out the Catholic canon law.

Social issues don't excuse politicians from being faithful Catholics. I feel confident that Catholics in Nazi Germany who supported Hitler found their last judgment by God to be at best uncomfortable.

All Catholics including clergy are not necessarily good people, therefore being Catholic is not always a valid reason to vote for a candidate. The same applies to Bush. I am more likely, however, to vote for a religious person regardless of their denomination, if they have character, are pro-life and practice their beliefs.

Individual voters will be judged by God at each person's end time regarding their culpability in matters relating to all sin. They will be judged on what they knew of God's teaching and how faithfully they adhered to it.

I will probably vote for George Bush or vote not at all. Abortion is a political candidate litmus test issue for my candidate selection process and always has been as such.

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