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Obama and McCain Woo Catholics

By Anita Crane

We Catholics find ourselves at a very interesting point in history. Once again, presidential elections are upon us and we represent the largest bloc of religious voters at an estimated 25% of America ’s registered voting population. Therefore, Senators Obama and McCain are out to get our votes.

On the one hand, signatories of Roman Catholics for Obama ’08 claim, “We are real, honest-to-goodness, practicing Catholics who embrace and call attention to Catholic Social Teaching…”

This is unbelievable given Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) record, especially his infamous crusade against the Illinois version of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which was passed and signed into law before he made it to Congress.

Yet, like Obama, many of his nominally Catholic endorsers have violated the most fundamental human rights taught and defended by the Catholic Church because, as the Church defines it, they cooperated in abortions and human embryonic stem cell research. These evils are so grave that the Vatican ’s Cardinal Angelo Amato called them “terrorism.”

One of Obama’s Catholics, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius (D), was personally and publicly informed by Kansas City ’s Archbishop Joseph Naumann that she disqualifies herself from Holy Communion and she should “take the difficult political step, but necessary moral step, of repudiating her past actions in support of legalized abortion.”

The Denver Post headlines another of Obama’s Catholics, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), as “Pro-life senator to address DNC.” In truth, Casey voted for the National Abortion Rights Action League’s (NARAL) agenda 65% of the time, but apparently the Post wants to attract unaware Catholics to the Democratic National Committee’s schema during its convention there.

Speaking of Denver , Roman Catholics for Obama used a partial statement by the renowned Archbishop Charles Chaput to mislead the public, but he denounced their claims on May 19.

On the other hand, John McCain 2008 strategists established the National Catholics for McCain Committee, co-chaired by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating (R).

Nevertheless, a growing number of Catholics are upset because the McCain campaign attempts to court us with flyers declaring that he has “a stellar 25-year pro-life voting record in the Congress.”

In reality, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) voted for embryonic stem cell research both times ESCR bills were passed by Congress – and the only reason that our federal tax dollars do not currently fund this type of terrorism is because President George W. Bush vetoed the bills.

Thus, scientists, physicians and pro-life leaders have been educating Sen. McCain’s campaign managers about stem cell research, but they wonder if the facts are getting through to him.

Inside the campaign

In the interest of disclosure, I am registered Republican.

That said, I am not a member of Catholics for McCain, but I accepted their invitation to join a July 30 conference call conducted by Gov. Frank Keating and McCain’s Catholic outreach director, Josh Lynch.

Consequently, I was able to ask the first question, stating upfront, “As a Catholic journalist, I think that Catholics and all people deserve an explanation for certain claims that are made by the McCain campaign.”

I cited Sen. McCain’s votes for embryonic stem cell research and inquired, “So, why does the Catholic outreach pamphlet say that John McCain has a stellar pro-life voting record in Congress?”

In brief, Gov. Keating said that the pro-life claim applies only to Sen. McCain’s record against abortion; Keating and Lynch urged us to compare McCain’s record to Sen. Obama’s pro-abortion record; they said that we can count on McCain to nominate good judges; and Gov. Keating thinks that the embryonic stem cell issue “is going to go away” because of “the skin cell” technology.

Stunning science

Gov. Keating was referring to the experiments by scientists who had “reprogrammed” adult skin cells into “embryo-like” stem cells and released articles on their findings last November.

One scientist was Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan .

The other scientist was James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin , who some call “the father of embryonic research.”

While many were celebrating these supposedly ethical breakthroughs, Theresa Deisher, scientist and founding researcher of AVM Biotechnology in Seattle , revealed several problems in the March-April 2008 issue of Celebrate Life. She said that kidney cells from an electively-aborted human fetus were among the ingredients used by both men. While Deisher explained that there are moral options to obtain the same reprogramming result, she saw no victory in that result because “Reprogrammed adult cells display this embryonic characteristic: they form fatal tumors in adults.”

David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences at Family Research Council and coauthor of FRC’s Adult Stem Cell Success Stories 2008 Update, also evaluated Yamanaka’s and Thomson’s trials. He said, “Even when they overcome the problems of using fetal tissue to make iPS cells, the cells still won’t help anyone. Only adult stem cells are helping people now and only adult stem cells will help people in the future. It’s all about the patients.”

James Sherley, a medical doctor and a senior stem cell scientist at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, confirmed that embryonic stem cells are incompatible with anyone other than the embryonic persons to whom they belong. He said, “While embryonic stem cell research advocates argue that we should make use of ‘extra embryos,’ the bitter, bitter irony is that human embryonic stem cells cannot be used at all because they form tumors and lack essential properties needed to maintain mature tissues. Thus, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars to fund human ESCR.”

Sherley further stated, “Human embryonic stem cell research is equivalent to abortion because, in both cases, innocent human beings are killed.”

Policy contradictions

Despite Gov. Keating’s hopes, the embryonic stem cell research agenda has taken on a life of its own.

On the July 30 call, Paula Westwood, executive director of the independent organization Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, expressed distress about McCain’s stem cell policy.

Afterwards, Westwood reacted to Gov. Keating’s explanations in detail. She said, “It is inconsistent for John McCain to claim to be pro-life and not protect human embryos from experimentation and death. Claims that McCain is ‘orthodox pro-life’ in opposing abortion, but that embryonic research is relatively new and thus need not be seriously addressed are unacceptable.”

At Ohio hearings, Westwood witnessed that stem cell researchers are more interested in unlimited public funding for their experiments than they are in helping patients with legitimate treatments. She knows of privately-funded cloning and ESCR, and she fears that the U.S. will follow Britain in passing a license to make human-animal hybrids.

“Whoever is elected president,” said Westwood, “Congress is poised to override the Bush standard and push for federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research that involves the deaths of countless human beings – in addition to those who are already dying in private research.”

Even James Thomson admitted these crises, but he tried to justify them with a contradiction in terms. In the Dec. 3, 2007 Washington Post, Thomson wrote, “Discomfort with the notion of extracting stem cells from embryos is understandable… [But] we hope Congress will override the president’s veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.”

Then again, Paula Westwood said, “Americans should protect innocent human beings at every stage of development and ability, and we need a president who realizes this.”

A campaign’s invitation

On July 30, Josh Lynch pointed out that John McCain is a cosponsor of the U.S. Senate’s proposed Human Cloning Prohibition Act and he called for Catholics to e-mail their concerns.

By the end of that conference call, Gov. Keating said, “We need your guidance and advice. “I know there’s disagreement – we had several callers who were concerned about McCain’s support for embryonic stem cell research. I’m against it. I’m not panicking on the subject because I think John is warm and wonderful and humble and open and right down the line on the rights of the vulnerable. I think we’ll get there,” he said.

Well, here we are now. In his Catholic outreach brochure, Sen. McCain claims to be “a man of compassion who fights for human rights worldwide” and “a pro-life Reagan conservative ready to lead America as president on day one.”

We can’t believe that or his promise to “cut taxes and eliminate all wasteful spending,” unless he commits to vetoing embryonic stem cell research.

The e-mail address for McCain’s Catholic outreach staff is

Anita Crane is a freelance writer and editor. She is former senior editor of the national pro-life magazine, Celebrate Life.