Democrats tried to attract Catholic voters in Denver. Republicans tried to attract them in St. Paul. As the excitement at the end of the Republican National Convention affected Catholic Republicans as much as it did other delegates, they may have succeeded. Polls and TV ratings suggest Sen. John McCain of Arizona and his vice-presidential candidate running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin ended the convention way ahead of where they started.

In his acceptance speech, McCain electrified Catholics by speaking about a culture of life, funding for private schools and America’s newest Catholics, immigrants.

“From the boy whose descendants arrived on the Mayflower to the Latina daughter of migrant workers,” he said, “We’re all God’s children, and we’re all Americans.”

Arizona delegate Ed Sanchez has known and supported McCain since 1988. He said he is attracted to the Republican ticket because of family values and faith.

“Faith plays a big role for me because all of my values and principles are based on my faith,” said Sanchez. “It’s where you start.

“Marriage is the core base of America,” said Sanchez, who is a Hispanic father of three. “That provides the whole foundation for who we are and what we do.”

He and others like him are working to build bridges between Latinos and the Republican Party.

“Most Latinos don’t realize that the Republican Party is closer to their values,” said Xavier Rivas, host of a popular talk show that airs on KRLV in Las Vegas.

“Latinos as a whole vote for the individual, not the party,” said Rosario Marin, former U.S. treasurer in the George W. Bush administration. “Significant numbers voted for Reagan and for Bush twice. I come from a highly Democratic city, but the majority voted for me.”

Catholic Outreach

Catholics were out in full force throughout the week at the convention, hosting outreach events for local Catholics and delegates, encouraging them to do what they can to mobilize the vote for the McCain-Palin ticket. Supporters highlighted the party’s strong pro-life and pro-family platform and positions of McCain and Palin to evidence the ticket’s affinity with Catholic voters.

The Catholic Working Group, coordinated by Republican mother and homemaker Lisa Correnti, hosted various panel discussions and forums throughout the week and rented a skybox at the Xcel Energy Center where prominent leaders could socialize and watch the convention.

Among the many who gathered there were Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Thomas Melady. Also present were Ralph Reed, founder of the Christian Coalition, Manuel Miranda, a former aide to ex-Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and Catholic activist Deal Hudson.

Catholic outreach began the day that many of the delegates arrived. On Sunday evening, Aug. 31, St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt celebrated a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul for delegates and others, followed by a reception.

On Wednesday, Sept. 3, a public forum titled “Render Unto Caesar” focused on Catholic outreach and faith in the public square. Jeff Cavins, director of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute in St. Paul, moderated the event, which was held at the Hilton Garden Inn in St. Paul. Brownback, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele and former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson spoke. Approximately 300 people attended the forum.

Supreme Decisions

Brownback said that the next president’s nominations to the Supreme Court is a paramount question for Catholic voters.

Referring to the way candidates answered a question posed by the Rev. Rick Warren during a recent forum at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., Brownback pointed out that McCain said he liked the appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic presidential candidate, expressed his preference for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

“Obama said he wants a Warren court,” Brownback said. “That means he wants an activist court that looks at the Constitution as a living document. That’s what got us Roe.

“We are only one vote away from overturning Roe v. Wade and turning the question back to the states where it was before Roe,” added Brownback.

“Obama has criticized the U.S. for its moral and empathy deficit,” said Congressman Smith. He questioned how Obama could be calling for greater empathy while “denying unborn and newly born children the right to protection.”

Brownback, Nicholson and former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating are co-chairmen of the National Catholics for McCain Committee, which is engaged in campaign-related activities to reach out to Catholics.

Pro-Life Party Platform

Phyllis Schlafly, who founded the Republican National Coalition for Life in 1990, said that the 2008 Republican Party platform contains some of the strongest pro-life language ever.

“Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” says the platform. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life.”

A recent ATI-News/Zogby poll asked voters if they would oppose a president who didn’t know when life began. Fifty-five percent of likely voters said they would oppose such a candidate. Among Catholics, 67% said they would oppose a president who didn’t know when life begins.

Pro-life issues were prominent among delegates at the convention. Many delegates pointed to McCain’s strong showing in the televised conversations at Saddleback in August and of Barack Obama’s inability to answer a question about when an unborn baby deserves human rights.

“The Saddleback conversation was a turning point in how it contrasted the candidates,” said Mike Garrett, a delegate from Bridgeport, Conn. “Obama’s silly comment about the question of human rights attaching to a human being ‘above his pay grade.’ Senator McCain had no problem answering that question.”

“My faith shows me the way to go,” said Garrett. “I believe that first, last and always, life begins at conception. That’s how the McCain-Palin ticket believes. I also believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. They support that.”

Tim Drake filed this story

from the Republican National

Convention in St. Paul, Minn.