LATE CITY FINAL
NEW YORK POST, TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 1996
By Ray Kerrison
MILLIONS of American Catholics, beginning Sunday, will be asked to inundate
Congress with a postcard blizzard demanding an override of President Clinton's
veto of partial-birth abortions.
It is part of a spreading national campaign to galvanize the Catholic
population into opposing the veto, which Catholic bishops have condemned as
Because the principal target is an incumbent president up for reelection, the
anti Clinton blitz could have wide electoral repercussions.
Catholics form the largest single religious voting bloc in the United States
- and the most fluid. Electoral experts believe the Catholic swing vote could
determine the presidential election in November.
In the last presidential contest in 1992, Clinton captured a decisive
majority of Catholic votes. Representing 27 percent of the turnout, they gave
Clinton 44 percent of their vote, President Bush 35 percent, and Ross Perot 20
But this year, the Catholic hierarchy is united in voice and fury at the
Clinton abortion veto and Catholic politicians who voted for it.
In April, the nation's eight cardinals sent Clinton an unprecedented letter
of protest, charging him with promoting infanticide and warning him that "in the
weeks and months ahead," they would do everything possible to have his veto
Separately, Boston's Bernard Cardinal Law recently told Catholic politicians
that if they could not resolve their conflict between "the demands of faithful
discipleship and public service," they should resign.
"If the price of election is to deny what is true and good. then that price
is too high for any faithful disciple to pay." Cardinal Law said.
Put all this together and it amounts to war. That it falls in a presidential
election year is coincidental, but never have the Catholic bishops inserted
themselves so dramatically in a presidential year.
One of the most active -- and influential men in the campaign is Rev. Frank
Pavone, a former Staten Island priest who now heads the organization Priests for
John Cardinal O'Connor turned him loose three years ago.
A tireless traveler, broadcaster, writer and preacher, Father Pavone's
mission is to rouse the nation's 50,000 Catholic priests into an active pro-life
ministry. That translates into a potential voter audience of millions.
He has taken his cause directly to the White House, where he met with John
Hart, who among other things is Clinton's liaison to the Catholic community.
Pavone has met with many prominent politicians, including Newt Gingrich, Henry
Hyde, Christopher Smith, Bob Dornan and Michael Forbes.
But most of all, he's tapping into the grass roots. Last week, he addressed
500 priests at a conference in Steubenville, Ohio. He already has 110 other
meetings and conferences scheduled around the nation for the next few months.
"I give them all the pertinent facts they need to know about partial-birth
abortions to counteract the myths out there.' Father Pavone said.
'All told, we reach about 40,000 priests with our newsletter. More and more
priests are speaking out on abortion from the pulpit with new confidence and
Father Pavone is a repeated guest on Mother Angelica's EWTN cable TV show. He
has a seven-hour video tape series on abortion. Mother Teresa drew him to India
to address the clergy on pro-life issues. Morality and theology are Father
Pavone's special interests, but today, more than ever, those subjects brush hard
"As I go around the country, Catholics ask me why priests don't do more about
the upcoming elections, while priests think they can do less because of the
restrictions [separating church and state]," Pavone said.
"We're trying to bring both to an accurate understanding of what is possible.
The church doesn't set up voting booths, but Catholics don't cease to be members
of the church when they go into those booths.
"We think it's an obligation to vote and to get informed on the issues. A
Vatican Council document addressed the obligation to vote, and it's within our
realm to preach on it as a moral obligation."
Clinton is under severe siege on partial-birth abortions, the most barbaric
of all such procedures.
The Senate and House both voted to ban them. Nearly 80 percent of the people
want them banned. Southern Baptists have assailed the president's stand. Now the
Catholic hierarchy is conducting an unprecedented campaign to have the veto
The battle has been joined and it will affect the presidential election. How
much so is anybody's guess.
Priests for Life in the News