Thursday, November 18, 2004

Bishops Prove Key to Mobilizing Catholic Vote

Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2004 10:58 p.m. EST
Bishops Prove Key to Mobilizing Catholic Vote's Fr. Michael Reilly explains why Catholics turned out to vote
in record numbers in this year's presidential election.

It has been reported that the president's huge gains among Catholic voters
played a major role in capturing both Florida and Ohio, but little has been
said about the role of Catholic voters in Colorado and Massachusetts.

President Bush increased his share of the Catholic vote in Colorado by 10
points over his 2000 performance. Exit polling shows that his share of the
Catholic vote in Colorado jumped from 42 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in

In Massachusetts, a state that Bush was bound to lose, he actually increased
his share of the Catholic vote by 17 points - to 49 percent - despite the
fact that his opponent was a favorite son.

While this increase is indicative of Bush's 5 percent improvement
nationwide, why did Bush do so much better among Catholics in Colorado and

Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice may have the answer. In a
statement explaining her complaint to the IRS against Denver Archbishop
Charles Chaput, she laments that Chaput "has repeatedly engaged in voter
instruction by explicitly urging Catholics to vote against candidates who
support abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research."

Kissling continues:

"In fourteen of 28 of his columns in the archdiocese's weekly newspaper,
Archbishop Chaput has repeatedly and continuously urged voters to reject
candidates opposed to the organization's views. ... The archbishop has also
attempted to influence voters during public speeches, interviews and on
Friday, October 22, in an op-ed in the New York Times."

In other words, he tried to lead his flock.

On a national level, the Republicans have been very successful in reaching
Catholic voters. They mobilized 55,000 volunteers, hired 30 coordinators,
and distributed 76 million voter guides.

They set up a Web site,, and ran ads in Ohio and
Pennsylvania. Catholics Against Kerry also ran radio ads in key battleground

In Massachusetts, Archbishop O'Malley enlisted the help of former Boston
mayor Ray Flynn, who worked to inform Catholic voters.

"This was the perfect example of how lay Catholics should respond to the
challenge of defending our values," Flynn said. "It's not the intention to
make the Church or the Bishops more political, but to make lay Catholics
more involved."

Clearly, exit polls show, however, that the efforts of laymen are most
successful when they are reinforced by church leaders.