Three years after a few outspoken U.S. Roman Catholic bishops tied together presidential politics, abortion and the Communion rail, leaders of the nation’s largest denomination are starting to speak out again.
Only this time, the political climate is much different.
The Catholic presidential hopeful under criticism for championing abortion rights is a Republican instead of a Democrat, the general election might pit two candidates who believe abortion should remain legal, Democrats control both chambers of Congress and immigration reform has surfaced as a major issue.
As most of the nation’s 268 active Catholic bishops met for a private retreat this week in New Mexico, questions were building about how prominent their voices will be in the 2008 race.
Will some follow the example of Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., who last month called the pro-abortion rights position of Catholic GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani, “pathetic and confusing?” Will abortion dominate the bishops’ statements on the election, or will immigration and poverty?
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput said in an interview with The Associated Press that official Catholic involvement depends on which candidates and issues emerge from primary season. A vocal proponent of calling on Catholic politicians and voters to follow church teachings, Chaput also made it clear he thinks the time for behind-the-scenes diplomacy with politicians is over.