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For several years now I've been wondering when moderate Christians would crank up the nerve to stand up against the Bush propaganda machine. There have been few cracks in the massive wall of conservative Christianity that the Bush machine has erected, hand-molded and hammered into a formidable political machine, primarily in the red states, and more specifically the south.

Since its' inception, this administration has molded and re-defined Christianity in the United States to revolve around two basic premises; dislike, if not actual hatred of gay people, and elimination of women's reproductive choices. The Pat Robertsons, Jerry Falwells, Franklin Grahams and James Dobsons have hijacked religion in this country, hand-fitting it to achieve their sometimes-anything-but-Christian political ambitions, with the implicit help of the Bush administration, primarily through the machinations of Karl Rove.

I sense things are a-changin,' and it's way past time that they did.

At the end of February, 55 Catholic Democratic members of the House of Representatives finally had enough. In a Statement of Principles, signed by all of these members, they stated:

"We are committed to making real the basic principals that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching: helping the poor and disadvantaged, protecting the most venerable amongst us, and ensuring that all Americans of every faith are given meaningful opportunities to share in the blessings of this great country"(which) includes reducing the rising rates of poverty; increasing access to education for all; pressing for increased access to health care; and taking serious the decision to go to war."

Back in 1960, while running for the presidency in a sea of anti-Catholic bigotry, John F. Kennedy told a group of protestant ministers in Houston, "I do not speak for my church on public matters---and the church does not speak for me." Kennedy kept his word, and kept separation of church and state as a basic tenet of his foreshortened life.

Our current president has done anything but that, and has continually attempted to, and often succeeded in blurring this long-respected separation, certainly to the advantage of his political career, and in opposition to the opinions of a majority of constitutional experts.

Congresswoman Rose DeLauro of Connecticut, one of the signers of the new statement, was quoted as saying, "People"were angry that ideologues were using the church for their own purpose."

In addition, the signees succinctly and clearly addressed the most difficult issue, by stating that:

"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. We believe this includes promoting alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, and improving access to children's healthcare and child care""

Most significantly, Catholics from both side of the debate regarding choice signed the statement of principle. By doing so, they made a statement that they worry this one principle is crowding out all other principles of Catholic social teaching.

The importance of this statement cannot be overemphasized. These people are saying that, while they certainly respect the teaching of their own faith, they recognize that there must be, there has to be room for primacy of conscience, as well as the freedom to use their intellect in dealing with subjects such as this.

I could not agree more with their statement. While I happen to share their faith, I will always be unwilling to surrender my intellect to hard, inflexible dogma.

It is crucial for a group of reasonable, moderate Catholic politicians to offset the extremity of such organizations as the Family Research Council, who recently commented, through FRC Vice-President Tom McClusky that, "Issues such as helping the poor, the death penalty, views on war"aren't tenets of the Catholic Church."

McClusky's comments were expressed in a Washington Post article on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. They seem particularly odd, in view of the fact that on the same day, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Lenten message, stated that:

"It is quite impossible to separate the response to people's material and social needs from the fulfillment of the profound desires of their hearts. This has to be emphasized all the more in today's rapidly changing world, in which our responsibility towards the poor emerges with ever greater clarity and urgency."

Father Jim Hug, SJ, Director of the Center of Concern and a participant in the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good, said, "The Church's present leadership has been unequivocal in its condemnation of the death penalty in the U.S., and has repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns over the Iraq war"It's disappointing that Mr. McCluskey would use his position to suggest otherwise."

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Thomas L. Walsh graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Communications/Journalism degree in 1962. Following a successful business career, he retired to Idaho's Teton Valley in 1999, where he works as a free-lance writer. Walsh and his (more...)
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