CommunityPam's House Blend

Maureen Dowd is angry, and rightfully so at Catholic bishops that are telling their flock that a vote for Kerry puts them in the hell express lane.

First Dick Cheney said that supporting John Kerry could lead to another terrorist attack.

Then Dennis Hastert said Al Qaeda would be more successful under a Kerry presidency than under President Bush.

Now the Catholic bishops have upped the ante, indicating that voting for a candidate with Mr. Kerry’s policies could lead to eternal damnation.

Conservative bishops and conservative Republicans are working hard to spread the gospel that anyone who supports the Catholic candidate and onetime Boston altar boy who carries a rosary and a Bible with him on the trail is aligned with the forces of evil.

In an interview with The Times’s David Kirkpatrick, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said a knowing vote for a candidate like Mr. Kerry who supports abortion rights or embryonic stem cell research would be a sin that would have to be confessed before receiving communion. “If you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil?” the archbishop asked. “Now, if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes.”

As Mr. Kirkpatrick and Laurie Goodstein wrote, Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate, many concentrated in swing states. These bishops and like-minded Catholic groups are organizing voter registration and blanketing churches with voter guides that often ignore traditional Catholic concerns about the death penalty and war – the pope opposed the invasion of Iraq – while calling abortion, gay marriage and the stem cell debate “nonnegotiable.”

“Never before have so many bishops so explicitly warned Catholics so close to an election that to vote a certain way was to commit a sin,” the Times article said.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding