The House's Catholic Democrats Detail Role Religion Plays

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Still reeling from the attacks on Sen. John F. Kerry's brand of Roman Catholicism during the 2004 presidential race, 55 House Democrats issued a joint statement yesterday on the central role that the Catholic faith plays in their public lives.

The signers said they were fed up with being labeled "good Catholics" or "bad Catholics" based on one issue -- abortion. They said their religion infuses their positions on many issues: poverty, war, health care and education.

"Some of us are pro-choice and some of us are pro-life," said Rep. William J. Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.). "But we respect each other and we're going to defend each other, because we're all operating in good conscience."

The statement stressed that all of the Catholic Democrats share the goal of reducing the incidence of abortion.

"We envision a world in which every child belongs to a loving family and agree with the Catholic Church about the value of human life and the undesirability of abortion -- we do not celebrate its practice," the statement said. "Each of us is committed to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term."

The statement also said that though the Catholic Democrats "seek the Church's guidance and assistance," they "accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas."

Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) said the Catholic Democrats "have decided to stop letting others define us." But Tom McClusky, a Catholic who is acting vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council, predicted they would fail.

"What is at the core of being Catholic is the life issue, and that's something the pope has never strayed from," he said. "While other issues are important -- such as helping the poor, the death penalty, views on war -- these are things that aren't tenets of the Catholic Church."

Dissatisfaction With Robertson Grows

If evidence is needed that the Rev. Pat Robertson's shoot-from-the-hip approach to world affairs has embarrassed some of his fellow evangelicals, it comes from the recently concluded convention of the National Religious Broadcasters.

Robertson, 75, a longtime member of the NRB's board of directors, failed to win reelection despite good odds: He was one of about 36 candidates running for 33 seats, NRB President Frank Wright said.

Wright said the elections usually hinge on the relative strength of radio, television and Internet broadcasters, so Robertson might have lost simply because he is a TV guy. But Wright acknowledged that there also was dissatisfaction with Robertson's recent call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his assertion that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was God's punishment for the ceding of land to the Palestinians.

"I would say that there was broad dismay with some of Pat's comments and a feeling they were not helpful to Christian broadcasters in general, but by no means was there any broad effort in our association to dissociate ourselves with him," Wright said.

Robertson did not reply to calls for comment.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company