A recent survey by Maryknoll magazine, a journal published by a Roman Catholic missionary group, responded to an editorial calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The response to the editorial reflected the sharp division in the country, not just among Catholics but among all Americans regardless of religion.
A total of 125 readers favored the position, 115 were opposed, and five said they agreed "in part."
The magazine published excerpts from some of the letters mailed in after the editorial was published. A letter from Clare Gaston of Hays, Kan., caught my eye.
Gaston said the United States (and the Bush administration, I might add) got into this mess with the aid of Catholic organizations. She explained that in local interviews with two priests just 48 hours before the 2004 election, the priests said no Catholic should vote for "anyone who was not strictly antiabortion."
The message was clear: Democrat John Kerry is Catholic and pro-choice , George W. Bush is Protestant and not pro-choice. Gaston concluded that "when Catholics are told they should be one-issue voters, other human rights fall to the wayside."
Gaston is absolutely right.
While abortion is a legitimate issue for debate in politics and has been for decades, it is far from the only one. The war in Iraq, the economy, immigration, and tax policy are other hot issues, to mention a few.
As a practicing Catholic, I am also pro-choice and make no apology for it. Poll after poll shows that Catholics are split almost down the middle despite the views from pulpits. Remember the official stance of the church also opposes the death penalty, but some firebrands on abortion see no hypocrisy in their favoring capital punishment.
What was upsetting before the last election was that some bishops declared that politicians who are pro-choice should not receive Holy Communion. Some even said that the rest of us should also be denied Communion.
Catholics should resist being single-issue voters in any election. One-issue voters, to put it bluntly, are being narrow-minded in the extreme. I will make up my own mind at the polls without direct influence by any cleric in my church. And I will resent any interference.