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Op-Ed Anti-Hillary crowd exploits church’s pro-life message

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Father Sean McManus

In conscience, in faith, in logic and in philosophy (particularly the philosophy of nonviolence), I fully accept the teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion.

However, it appears that some Catholics (but not, I emphasize, members of the Catholic Hierarchy) are trying to impose a strange doctrine on me that if I accept Catholic teaching on abortion I cannot at the same time speak the truth about justice and peace in Ireland. Indeed, these individuals would seem to want me to tell lies about the record of the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on justice and peace in Ireland. In fact, they seem to argue that because I’m a Catholic priest, there’s an extra-special responsibility on me to lie.

The truth

I spoke the truth about Hillary’s record on justice and peace in Ireland when the Irish PAC endorsed her. I cited her extraordinary and unique record. Never in all of American history has a first lady shown such a deep, personal interest in justice and peace in Ireland.

Any fair-minded person would accept that that is not only the truth, but a self-evident, indisputable fact.

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One criterion

The Irish PAC is the Political Action Committee of the Irish National Caucus. PAC activity only represents a small part of our work, as we do not endorse many candidates.

The PAC’s sole criterion in endorsing candidates is whether they have a good record on justice and peace in Ireland. We do not consider their record on abortion, the death penalty, race relations, family values, the poor, the imprisoned, the homeless, nuclear weapons, war and peace, or their record on American foreign policy in any part of the world other than Ireland.

We are neither Republican nor Democrat, conservative nor liberal. We endorse candidates from both parties — if they have a good record on justice and peace in Ireland. For example, we’ve supported Republican Rep. Peter King of New York even though I personally disagree with his support of the death penalty, which is also against the teaching of the Catholic Church. Indeed, I can hardly think of one Member of Congress who has the complete Catholic position on human life.

One mission

In more than 20 years on Capitol Hill I’ve never had a conversation with a politician on anything other than justice and peace in Ireland. That is my mission — justice and peace in Ireland. That is my Special Ministry. It is based on the teaching of the Catholic Church, " . . . action on behalf of justice . . . [is] a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel." (Justice in the World, Nov. 30, 1971 Synod of Bishops, Rome).

I do not for one moment say my mission is more important than other work of the Gospel. But it is my mission and it is the only reason I’m on Capitol Hill. And I like to think that after all that Irish priests have given to the Catholic Church in the United States, no Catholic should begrudge the fact that just one Irish Catholic priest is in a full-time Special Ministry for justice and peace in Ireland.

One issue

So why are some Catholics upset by my endorsement?

My critics cannot rationally dispute my claim that Hillary Rodham Clinton has an excellent record on justice and peace in Ireland. So they want to make the issue about something else. In effect they want to blackmail me into silence: "You cannot say anything good about Hillary — even if it’s true. And if you do, we will misrepresent you and claim you are supporting abortion." That, of course, is not a pro-life position at all — just an anti-Hillary position.

The Catholic bishops in the U.S. have wisely never tried to tell Catholics how to vote. Now some Catholics are presuming to tell me whom I cannot support. I will not allow anyone to impose on me an anti-Hillary agenda disguised as Catholic doctrine.

To me the Senate race in New York is not about abortion — and the Irish PAC’s endorsement is not about abortion. Irish-Americans have every right to know about Hillary’s record on Ireland, and I’ve every right to inform them. Her record is a splendid one and she deserves the support of all Irish-Americans who want to see the U.S. Congress maintain its vitally important support for the Irish peace process.

The alternative is for Irish Americans to support Rudy Giuliani, who has the same position on abortion but no record on Ireland (except his notorious pursuit of Joe Doherty at the behest of the British government).

So what are my critics saying: It’s OK to vote for Rudy, but if you vote for Hillary you are a bad Catholic?

(The writer is the president of the Irish PAC, which is the Political Action Committee of the Irish National Caucus.)

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