Your vote/your choice/your freedom

I read that certain Catholic bishops have stated that John Kerry cannot receive Communion because of his political stance on abortion. War and the death penalty, state-sanctioned killings, are also choice life issues. Since the pope has spoken out against capital punishment and the war in Iraq, would it logically follow that any Catholic in favor of the death penalty or the war be forbidden to receive Communion as well? I am reminded of what my father often said to me when I was growing up Catholic. “The Church has existed for thousands of years not because of their clergy, but despite them!”

We have freedom of choice to vote for people with whom our church politically disagrees. I hear some clergy’s none-too-subtle focus on abortion as the ultimate presidential campaign issue. Are they unaware that abortion can only be politically changed at the state level? Abortion will remain a matter of political choice or conscience, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The issue will not be affected by what the president or other nationally elected members believe.

What strange bedfellows politics make! Certain members of the Catholic clergy have now sided with other fundamentalist clerics in aligning with the so-called Christian (my apology to Jesus for another political misuse of His Holy Name) Coalition. Besides playing “my God is better than your god,” another kind of holy war with Muslim fundamentalists, their use of the term “Christian” often divides and diminishes the beliefs among even fellow Christians. Some use the word “Christian” as an adjective to define what one must believe. I prefer the use of the word “Christian” as a noun, as one of many who defines his belief as a follower of Jesus, the Christ, involved in a personal relationship with his Savior. “Christian” as a noun is inclusive. “Christian” as an adjective tends to often be used to separate and control those who profess a belief in Jesus’ words and example. Focus instead on the barbaric anti-life issue called war, and on policies that reflect disdain and insensitivity to the poor, the elderly, the children and the environment. Some will continually preach their commitment to life, until that life is born, it seems. Then responsibilities that assure decent education, health care, and other pro-life issues seem to vanish. “Protect the fetus” is their mantra! Once it is born, apparently, it is on its own!

I, too, favor seeking other methods of birth control than abortion. A fetus can develop into a beautiful baby. But I, in no way, will mandate my view. Nor will I claim to speak for what all Christians must believe. I, however, strongly value providing education, health care, and other vital human needs for the fetus and its family once it is born. It is here that I apparently split from some pro-life Christians. The precedence of the abortion issue during a presidential race distracts the voter from other vital issues that national politicians can affect—war, poverty, health care, jobs and education. Whatever your faith, refocus your attention on these issues, not the issues that serve 30-second sound bytes that emote and, subsequently, distract you from the consequences of your vote. My vote will signal a refocus on what I expect my nationally elected leaders can and ought to do once they are elected. Your vote ought to do the same.

Michael Cannariato is a local resident.

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