The Republican National Commitee has launched a nationwide effort to win Catholics over to the GOP. We think that's great, insofar as it makes the GOP more friendly to Catholics … and not just vice versa.

There are many misconceptions about political parties, because commitment to a party isn't usually just based on reason. Party identification is often learned as a child and colors our outlook on national events.

The win-and-loss coverage our media gives to national elections only heightens our lack of objectivity. We root for our candidate and cheer his victory or mourn his defeat. Our support for our party can become as unrelated to rationality as support for a favorite football team.

Thus, many Catholics consider themselves either Democrats or Republicans for reasons which may have little to do with the parties as they actually operate.

Ask a Catholic why he's a Democrat, and he'll tell you that the Democratic Party is the party that favors the poor, is more likely to oppose war-mongering and the death penalty, and is better for the environment.

Yet Democrats block school vouchers for poor children. And poverty rose under Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs, fell in the ‘80s, and rose again in the ‘90s, says the Census Bureau. Democratic presidents dropped the A-Bomb, took us to Vietnam, got us involved in conflicts all over the globe for the past eight years, and brought us the first federal death sentence in memory. And, as the senior editor of the liberal magazine The New Republic recently pointed out, President Bush's plans for the environment are almost identical to Clinton's.

Then ask another Catholic why she's Republican, and she'll tell you it's the party that favors life, is better for Catholic education, is more likely to enforce decency standards in media and schools and is more willing to give faith a voice in public places.

Yet Republican presidents gave us a pro-abortion Supreme Court majority, and Republican Congresses pressed partial-birth abortion only when it could embarrass Clinton, but have tabled it when it can actually get signed into law. Republicans have all but eliminated voucher proposals from education plans. They failed to take on even the National Endowment for the Arts for funding pornography, and have blithely accepted church/state theories that say only atheism deserves a public voice.

Given all this, we shouldn't ask which party we should support, but which party we are more likely to change.

Today's Democratic Party platform, heartbreakingly, calls abortion “a fundamental constitutional liberty.” Whatever the party's strengths elsewhere, this posture is frightening and antithetical to America's founding principles.

And the total and unapologetic way that Democratic leaders in Washington apply this principle is sad and tragic. They have defended partial-birth abortion by saying that a baby isn't human until parents bring it home. They even opposed giving the unborn children killed in Oklahoma City's federal building the same legal status they would have if they were killed in Oklahoma City's state building.

Millions of women will suffer for the rest of their lives because they acted on the cold logic of abortion that Democratic leaders vehemently endorse.

Republicans, yes, have curtailed the culture of death in some ways. But even though they have the White House and Congress now, Republicans are busy repeating the mantra that abortion isn't a priority yet.

And now they want to win Catholics to their cause.

Well, Republican National Committee, if you're serious about wanting to attract Catholics, then you'll do the one thing that can make us take you seriously.

Show us that you're willing to defend life with the same passion and intensity your opponents show when they defend “choice.”