Pro-lifers On Rudy: ‘No Way’

Rudolph Giuliani is one of the strongest contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. But his stance on abortion is at odds with the party’s platform.

(photo: CNS Photo)

WASHINGTON — “Make no mistake about it, Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice.”

Those were the words of former television anchorwoman Donna Hanover, married at the time to New York City mayoral aspirant Rudolph Giuliani. Hanover was speaking in a TV advertisement for her husband’s second attempt for mayor.

Such was the political pressure of the 1993 New York mayoral race, as incumbent David Dinkins charged that Giuliani was changing his position on abortion.

Seeking the office of mayor in early 1989, Giuliani, who had won a reputation as a tough prosecutor going after organized crime, tried to avoid the issue. According to a New York Times article published that year, Giuliani cited his personal and religious opposition to abortion but would not thwart a woman’s effort to seek an abortion if it were the law of the land.

After a close loss to Democratic candidate David Dinkins, Giuliani came out more strongly in favor of abortion rights in his 1993 campaign in an attempt to win more women voters. Dinkins challenged him for flip-flopping, but New Yorkers liked Giuliani’s promise of cleaning up the Big Apple of crime and “quality of life” issues and voted him in.

Fourteen years later, some Catholics and pro-lifers are echoing Hanover’s “make no mistake” line. But now it’s a warning, urging voters not to let a strongly pro-abortion candidate become the standard bearer of a party whose platform has long been pro-life.

But others see hope in a Giuliani candidacy, which, they suspect, would downplay the candidate’s religious affiliation while winning over voters worried about national security. At the same time, some voters say, Giuliani promises “strict constructionist” judges on federal benches who would not be inclined to uphold Roe v. Wade as settled precedent.

“If Giuliani gives me the judges who will not play fast and loose with the Constitution, which is how we got into the [abortion] mess in the first place, then that’s good enough for me,” said New Yorker Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Donohue admitted that he was conflicted, echoing common sentiment that Giuliani would be preferable over Hilary Clinton. “If it’s a choice between him and her, I would support Rudy,” said Donohue, noting that the Clintons have always supported abortion. “Hilary Clinton never found an abortion she couldn’t justify.”

But Stephen Dillard, head of Catholics Against Rudy, believes that a Giuliani nomination would be disastrous for the pro-life positions in the Republican Party.

“The GOP has won five of the last seven presidential elections, in large part due to the energetic and tireless support it received at the grassroots level from faithful Catholics and evangelicals, who fervently believe in creating a culture of life in this country,” said Dillard. “If the Republican Party nominates Rudy Giuliani as its presidential candidate, a significant number of Christians will either stay home on election day or vote for a third party.”

Immigrant Catholic Story

Dillard said he started a website ( to educate Catholics about Giuliani’s “abysmal” record on non-negotiable “culture of life” issues, such as abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and traditional marriage.

In many ways, Giuliani’s early life follows a typical Catholic immigrant family’s success story. Born into an Italian immigrant family in New York, he was formed by the Church as he attended Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn and Christian Brothers-run Manhattan College in the Bronx.

Although Giuliani has avoided talking about his religion in his presidential campaign, he told Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody while campaigning in California at the end of September that he prays to Jesus for guidance. “I have very, very strong views on religion that come about from having wanted to be a priest when I was younger, having studied theology for four years in college,” he said.

But law beat out seminary, and after graduation from New York University Law School, he embarked on a successful career that led to his appointment in 1983 as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. According to an official biography on the website of the New York City Mayor’s Office, he won 4,152 convictions with only 25 reversals. Many were for drug dealers, mob figures, corrupt government officials and white-collar criminals.

Giuliani, who may face an old rival, Hilary Clinton, in the general election, continues to perform strongly in polls. While on the campaign trail, he only cautiously courts pro-life voters and values-based politics. He asserts the independence of his political platform in spite of criticism from Catholic leaders.

“I have my personal beliefs. I know what they are,” said Giuliani in a statement released by a press aide. “I’m not running for chief priest or chief minister. I’m running for president of the United States and I know the role.”

On the campaign trail recently in Iowa, he said, “My religious affiliation, my religious practices and the degree to which I am a good or not so good Catholic, I prefer to leave to the priests.”

Some religious leaders have reacted sharply.

“Rudy’s public proclamations on abortion are pathetic and confusing. Even worse, they’re hypocritical,” Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., wrote in a column in the Rhode Island Catholic.

Catholic voters agree that Giuliani’s tarnished personal and political record does not allow him much room to talk about faith.

“I don’t blame him for taking that position; he doesn’t have a lot of choices,” said Donohue. “Rudy is not wearing his Catholicism on his sleeve, and everybody knows the reason why.”

Many critics fault the public nature of Giuliani’s divorce from his second wife, Donna Hanover. While admiring Giuliani’s ability as mayor, many New Yorkers winced when he called a press conference in May 2000 to announce his divorce from Hanover and to introduce his mistress, Judith Nathan.

This was a clear departure from a seemingly repentant Giuliani, who sought an annulment from the Church of his first marriage to Regina Peruggi, his second cousin, in order to marry Hanover in a Catholic ceremony.

“Giuliani conducted his personal life in public, and there was no reason for that,” said Donohue. “He could have handled it more discreetly.”

Because of Giuliani’s marital situation, he is unable to receive Communion.

Rough Record

As mayor of New York City, Giuliani had a rocky relationship with Church leaders. In 1996, he criticized Pope John Paul II for denouncing President Clinton’s veto of a partial-birth abortion ban. “Such direct involvement in politics is not a good idea, because I think it confuses people,” Giuliani was quoted in The Times.

During the controversy, the outspoken archbishop of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor, defended the Church’s right to criticize the veto. “It is a not-so-clever way of trying to muzzle the Church,” the cardinal said, as reported in The Times.

Yet when Pope John Paul visited New York in 1995, the mayor was gracious and welcomed the Pope’s position on immigration.

“I think his words on immigration come at a time when America really needs that advice: that people shouldn’t be afraid of differences,” Giuliani said at the time.”

After a successful reelection campaign, Giuliani proposed a bill in 1998 to offer homosexual couples the same housing and death benefits as married spouses. Cardinal O’Connor denounced the bill as a threat to the institution of marriage. The Times reported that “Giuliani said he thought ‘marriage matters greatly,’ but he defended the measure because of what he called his secular ‘analysis of the Constitution, the laws.’”

In spite of Giuliani’s differences with Catholic leaders, he worked with Cardinal O’Connor after the cardinal offered to educate failing students from suffering public schools.

Giuliani also worked with Catholic activists in 1999 and early 2001, condemning publicly funded anti-Catholic art and proposing a decency panel for future art exhibits. The fight that ensued quickly became political while Giuliani was considering a run for U.S. Senate. His opponent, until he dropped out for prostate cancer treatment, was Hillary Clinton.

President Giuliani?

Pro-life organizations and faith leaders agree that a Giuliani nomination would raise a lot of issues within the Republican party.

With Giuliani’s marked departure from Church teaching, Catholic leaders may be facing similar issues that they faced with Catholic Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput showed remarkable foresight during the last election in an interview with The New York Times about Catholic voters.

“I think if the Republican candidate is pro-life, he will attract a whole lot of Catholic voters. If a Democrat candidate is pro-life, he’ll attract a whole lot of Catholic voters,” said Archbishop Chaput at the time. “But if Rudy Giuliani is a Republican nominee the next go around, you’re going to see the Republicans screaming at the Church for making such a big issue of a pro-life matter, because — if I understand Mr. Giuliani’s position — he is in favor of abortion.”

David O’Steen, executive director of National Right to Life, stated that it would be devastating should Giuliani win the Republican nomination.

“There are many other issues that the president has tremendous authority over within the executive branch, to make appointments at various levels that will affect the pro-life issue in the course of policy in a wide variety of areas,” said O’Steen, citing a number of successful pro-life advances that have been made under the Bush administration. “It makes a world of difference when the president is pro-life.”

O’Steen added that the Republican Party was still very pro-life, and would not accept Giuliani.

“His record is that of a strong pro-abortion advocate, and I predict that he won’t get the nomination,” O’Steen said, pointing out that the pro-life vote is currently split between the other Republican candidates. “The pro-abortion side will unite under a Democratic candidate, and a Republic0an pro-abortion candidate would divide pro-life voters.”

Charlie Spiering writes from

Washington, D.C.

Thomas’ Promises

Christopher Wolfe co-directs the Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies at Notre Dame. But now he is setting off on a new venture: starting a college that will give students a “unified, integrated conception of reality” based on the scholarship of Thomas Aquinas. By Monta Hernon.