WASHINGTON — When the Democratic Party won control of Congress in the Nov. 7 elections, pro-life and pro-family advocates warned that the future looked grim.

And now that the Democratic leadership for the next Congress has taken shape, their fears have deepened. Even though many of the key Democrats are Catholic, their recent political records have been consistently anti-life, and they have evinced little interest in defending traditional marriage.

“I don’t think you’re going to see them bring these topics up from a Catholic perspective,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. “You will not see marriage defined as a man and a woman, and you will not see life being brought up for votes for protection.”

The four top House Democrats in the incoming Congress — Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina and Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois — all received 100% ratings from the pro-abortion lobby NARAL Pro-Choice America for their Congressional voting records in 2005.

In the Senate, the three top Democrat leaders — incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin of Illinois and Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer of New York — also received 100% records from NARAL in 2005.

Most of the incoming chairmen of key congressional committees are also strong abortion-rights supporters, such as Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Michigan Rep. John Conyers, who are tipped to head the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who will head the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who is in line to head the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

Pelosi, Leahy, Kennedy and Rangel are all Catholics.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life Committee, said that overall the pro-life side lost about 12 votes in the House and four or five in the Senate, depending on how pro-life newly elected Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania turns out to be.

That means that there would likely still be a pro-life majority on many issues, given that pro-life bills gained as many as 270 votes in the 435-seat House in the current Congress.

But with the Democratic leadership so overwhelmingly pro-abortion, Johnson said that there’s little chance of any new pro-life legislation being allowed to advance.

And Johnson predicted the Democratic leadership would try to overturn several pro-life riders that are attached to spending bills that must be reaffirmed by Congress each year in appropriations bills. The most prominent of these is the Hyde Amendment, which excludes abortion from federally funded Medicaid services.

Said Johnson, “There could be a fight on that next year.”

As for specific anti-life legislation that might be in store, Johnson noted that Pelosi has already announced that she will introduce a bill to overturn President Bush’s restrictions on funding of embryonic stem-cell research in the “first hundred hours” of the new Congress.

“They’ve already announced that,” Johnson said. “They haven’t announced a lot of other plans, but I’m sure that they’re cooking them up.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, agreed that the pro-life appropriation riders and the stem cell issue will be high on the Democrats’ pro-abortion agenda.

Another problem area, Smith said, is a proposed bill that would increase Title X family planning funds. He expects the Democratic leadership to push hard for increased Title X expenditures, which he says have served as a “spigot of funding” for Planned Parenthood and other major abortion providers.

Said Smith, “I think what most Americans need to realize is that when pro-abortion members (of Congress) get those strategically important gatekeeper positions, lives will be lost.”

Another key area is judicial appointments. Most pro-life observers believe Leahy will block any presidential nominations of pro-life judges after he takes control of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Leahy spokesman David Carle, however, denied that Leahy intends to block all pro-life nominees.

“He has no litmus test for judicial nominees; he believes that nominees for these lifetime positions should be fair, and they should be qualified,” Carle told the Register via e-mail.

Similarly, Reid spokesman Jim Manley said via e-mail that the new leader of the Senate “doesn’t believe in litmus tests for judicial nominees.”

However, both Reid and Leahy were leaders of the efforts by Senate Democrats to block a number of Bush’s key pro-life judicial appointments since 2000. And in a Nov. 15 statement, Leahy criticized Bush’s decision to re-nominate several blocked pro-life nominees.

“It’s going to be very difficult for a pro-life judicial nominee to make it through the Judiciary Committee,” predicted Sen. Brownback, although he said that such nominees will have a “decent chance” of confirmation if any are allowed to proceed to a Senate floor vote.

Marriage

Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance For Marriage, said that the Democratic leadership is hostile to protecting the traditional definition of marriage.

“They know that saying that in public is unpopular with the American people,” Daniels said, citing the string of victories traditional marriage initiatives have won in state referendums. “So what they’re going to do is they are going to pay lip service to the concept of marriage while doing nothing to stop the courts from destroying marriage.”

Daniels said that Catholics should be particularly troubled by the Democrats’ approach. He noted that the U.S. bishops’ conference has endorsed the Alliance for Marriage’s proposal for a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

In contrast, Daniels said, Democratic leaders like Conyers have called the proposed amendment “divisive and discriminatory.”

Said Daniels, “What they are saying is that the position of the bishops of the United States, and of all Catholics who are in support of this marriage amendment, is actually a form of hatred.”

Pelosi, Leahy, Kennedy and Rangel all declined to reply to Register questions about whether their positions on the definition of marriage conflict with Church teachings.

Other Issues

On topics like the war in Iraq, immigration and some economic and social issues like raising the minimum wage, even prominent Republicans like Smith concede that the Democratic Party may be closer in some areas to the policies promoted by the U.S. bishops.

But Smith said that these issues are much less significant than the Democratic Party’s continuing commitment to legalized abortion, which has killed tens of millions of unborn children since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

“All of those things are important,” Smith said, “but the slaughter of the unborn is far more important and has a moral weight that far eclipses those things.”

       

Tom McFeely is based in

Victoria, British Columbia.

The Communion Question

WASHINGTON — In mid-November, just one week after the Democratic Party’s triumph in the mid-term elections, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a new document on the reception of Communion.

And while the document is not targeted exclusively at the hot-button question of whether Catholic politicians who support abortion and homosexual “marriage” should be barred from receiving the Eucharist, it does imply that they should not present themselves for Communion.

The document is entitled “‘Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper’: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist,” and is available on the Internet at usccb.org/dpp/Eucharist.pdf.

It states, “If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to reject the defined doctrines of the Church, or knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definitive teaching on moral issues, however, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.”

In connection with the new document, the Register contacted the offices of four Catholic Democratic members of Congress: Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi of California, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. All four Catholic politicians received favorable ratings from NARAL in 2005 for their pro-abortion voting records.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Since the first century, the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271).

The Register asked via e-mail if the four pro-abortion Democratic politicians now intend to refrain from receiving Communion, in light of the U.S. bishops’ new document. None of the four replied to the question.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is also Catholic. Brownback said that he hoped the bishops’ “strong statement” on reception of Communion would influence the public actions of Catholic politicians.

“This is about the Catholic politician, but it’s more about their soul than it is even about their political position,” Brownback said. “And I would hope that people in public life would look at that as a statement for them to examine regarding their own soul.”

Added Brownback, “I just think it’s important for us, as individuals with eternal souls, to look at anything that we do that impacts that soul. And here’s a statement from leaders in the Church that is very strong about the impact of taking defined positions away from clear doctrine of the Church, and its impact on our souls as elected leaders.”    — Tom McFeely