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Hudson and Fournier: Catholic Countdown to Election 2012, Day 29. Joy Allen on Fox and Friends and Those Voter Guides

By Deal W Hudson and Keith A Fournier
October 8th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

On Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at 6:15 AM (EST) Joy Allen of Pittsburgh appeared on the popular morning program "Fox and Friends". She told of her double down experience of push calls from a group associated with the Obama campaign who are reaching out to Catholics with deception.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at 6:15 AM (EST) Joy Allen of Pittsburgh appeared on the popular morning program "Fox and Friends". She told of her double down experience of push calls from a group associated with the Obama campaign who are reaching out to Catholics with deception.

As we reported twice, each of the callers began to read from exactly the same script.  The script contained claims that President Obama was not pro-abortion and that Planned Parenthood did not emphasis its abortion services (no kidding!).

But the part of the story that found traction in the mainstream media was this question from the script: "How can you support a "Mormon" who does not believe in Jesus Christ?"

This activity of 'playing the Mormon card' is a tactic which the both the president and his campaign manager promised would not be employed. In fact, since we broke the story, the Obama campaign has issued a release denying these push calls even occurred.

We knew what Joy would say, and how she would be recieved, if given the chance to tell of her experience on National Television. She was given that chance on Monday, and told of her experience with such obvious credibility. No response from the Obama campaign, yet. Stay tuned!

With the release of election voter guides by some state Catholic conferences listing issues in alphabetical order, we are now witnessing the most important story about Catholic voters, thus far, in the 2012 campaign. 

As we wrote in yesterday's Countdown, these voter guides appear to completely ignore the specific instructions of the bishops as published in the "New Introduction" to their "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship".

In the "New Introduction", the bishops underscored the importance of not treating policy issues in a "quantitative" manner, that is, as if they were all of equal value.  That is precisely what the state Catholic conference voter guide seems to have done, and quite a few Catholics, clergy, lay and religious, are upset about it. 

In our view, it might have been preferable for the conferences to issue no voter guides at all than to issue one that may be construed as confusing, inaccurate or misleading to voters in need of help understanding their obligations as faithful citizens.

We have no desire to pick a fight with any particular conference, least of all with any individual of responsibility in a conference.  However, Catholics should know the rationale being offered by staff from some of these conferences in defense of the alphabetical voter guides. 

What follows is a list of responses sent to us, and several others, by a person of responsibility within a state conference.  We have not quoted the email verbatim but have retained the basic arguments as presented.  After each argument, presented in bold type, we provide a short comment.  

1. The voter guide is not intended to provide guidance on differences between the moral importance of the issues.

In our opinion, a Catholic voter guide is not authentically Catholic, that is, true to the teaching of the Church, if it fails to distinguish between those issues that are settled, or non-negotiable, and those that are matters calling for the application of prudential judgement.  Such a voter guide misrepresents Catholic moral and social teaching, pure and simple.

2. A state Catholic conference is not legally permitted to provide guidance on the moral importance of the issues due to the Church's 501(c)(3) status.

If the Church cannot act as the Church because of its 501(c)(3) status then consideration should be given to voluntarily giving it up.  However, that is not necessary.  There is nothing in the IRS regulations regarding a 501(c)(3) organization that keeps the Church, or any of its laity, its bishops, other clergy or conferences from educating membership about the moral tenets of its faith -- even if one or more of those tenets might have a probable impact on an election.

3. The Church does provide guidance on differences in moral gravity among issues, but it cannot legally do so through voter-education documents on candidate positions, such as surveys and side-by-side comparisons.

If the problem is calling the document a "voter guide" then the conferences can solve this simply by issuing a document with a different title, such as "Moral and Social Issues in the Public Policy Debate"; one that does not do a side by side comparison of candidates by name.  On one sheet of paper, the front could contain a list of settled issues -- life, marriage, euthanasia, embryonic fetal stem cell research, and religious liberty -- and the back could contain prudential issues such as immigration, poverty assistance, the environment, war, health care, education, national security, etc. There is still time to do so. 

4. "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" does discuss the differences in moral gravity among the issues -- specifically, the duty to oppose intrinsically evil acts -- which the bishops and their conferences communicate to Catholics throughout the year.  It's the job of all Catholics to educate and be educated on this difference in moral gravity.

This is the strangest argument of all: If the Church is continually instructing its members about differences in moral gravity of political issues, why does the Church suddenly have to stop during an election season? That simply makes no sense to us.  If this sudden silence is due to a perceived threat from the IRS then that can be resolved in the ways we have suggested above: Either call the document something else or, if it becomes necessary, ditch tax-exempt status for the sake of being the Church.

5. An alphabetical listing of issues was used four years ago and the same protocol was employed this time.

Not only was the alphabetical listing of issues criticized in 2008, but the "New Introduction" of "Faithful Citizenship" -- prepared for the 2012 election -- specifically asks that Catholics not be presented issues in a "quantitative" manner. 

In summary, these state Catholic conference voter guides ignore the wishes of the bishops they represent! That is a very big story, and a sad one.

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