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megimoo
10-21-2008, 06:45 PM
Bishop urges Catholics to stay away from Obama

In his weekly column last week, Bishop Arthur Serratelli urged Catholics against voting for Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, based on his pro-abortion stance.

"Every vote counts. Today, either we choose to respect and protect life, especially the life of the child in the womb of the mother or we sanction the loss of our most basic freedoms," wrote Serratelli in his column that appeared on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson Web site.

Stopping short of mentioning the Illinois senator by name, Serratelli, nevertheless, criticized his legislative voting record on abortion issues.

"In 2002, as an Illinois legislator, the present Democratic candidate voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act," wrote Serratelli. The bill, which was defeated in the Illinois Legislature, addressed the status of a fetus born alive during an abortion procedure.

The bishop's move has rankled some who argue for a clear separation of church and state. Religious and educational institutions that receive federal tax-exempt status are not permitted to make public statements that endorse or oppose candidates.

"His statement clearly goes over a forbidden line by urging opposition to a candidate," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Lynn, who read Serratelli's column, said he will file a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service.

In dioceses nationwide, a battle for the Catholic vote is ensuing between conservative and liberal Catholic groups. Serratelli is among several Catholic bishops, including the bishop of Scranton, who have stepped into the political arena by issuing statements against voting for a candidate who supports abortion rights.

Serratelli, in his column, also compares Obama to Herod, a murderous Roman ruler who beheaded John the Baptist based on a promise the disciple made.

If elected president, Obama has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, a bill that would expand abortion rights.

At the same time, liberal Catholics are using this election to highlight high-impact issues such as poverty, ending the war in Iraq and the environment.

Catholics across the Paterson Diocese were divided about how much prominence to give abortion over other political issues.

Most agreed that the political opinions of Catholic clergy do not influence their voting decisions.

Jerry Flach, a Catholic from North Haledon who supports Obama, said she was angry after reading Serratelli's column.

"I was upset first and foremost that he brought politics into the mix," she said.

Flach, who supports abortion rights but also attends Catholic Mass every Sunday and takes Holy Communion, said supporting life goes beyond the abortion debate.

"What about food for families, an energy policy that supports the future, and the war in Iraq?" she questioned.

William and Frances Gulino, a retired Wayne couple, said they can't support Obama because of their strong opposition to abortion.

William, who hasn't decided whether he will vote for Republican presidential nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain, said he never hears political sermons from the Catholic pulpit. But occasionally, the weekly church bulletin publishes columns stating that abortion is wrong.

When deciding how to vote, Joe Manzo of Paterson said he follows his own conscience. Manzo said there are many other pressing issues beyond abortion, which he is opposed to.

"Judging from the terrible destruction of the past eight years, we're due for change," he said.

Manzo said his Catholic friends all say that life is sacred and should be protected, but they disagree with how abortion should be legislated.

"If you make it illegal, it will go underground and will result in more deaths," he said.

Geraldo Alcartara of Paterson is strongly opposed to abortion, but will vote for Obama in November, because of other pressing issues such as the Iraq war and the downturn in the economy.

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