CNN Misleads on Catholic Bishops’ Abortion Views, Quotes Only Liberal Dissenters

November 16th, 2007 11:38 AM

CNN, during a report on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," mislead its viewers by reporting that a new document issued by the Catholic bishops on voting stated that "the candidate who supports abortion rights shouldn't necessarily be counted out for your vote." Besides this misrepresentation, the report also highlighted the issue of denying pro-abortion politicians Communion. CNN correspondent Mary Snow reported that some "critics" state that "the Communion question was created by extremists, and they hope they're shut out of this election cycle." Speaking of "shutting out," conservative and faithful Catholics were not featured at all in the report. Instead, Snow played two sound bites from prominent liberal Catholics.

Video (2:26): Real (1.79 MB) or Windows (1.50 MB), plus MP3 (1.11 MB)

One such liberal Catholic is Jon O’Brien, president of the Ted Turner-funded organization "Catholics for a Free Choice." Before becoming president of this organization, O’Brien used to work for the International Planned Parenthood Federation. "Catholics for a Free Choice" is no mainstream Catholic organization. In December 2001, they marked World AIDS Day by running ads on the Washington, DC-area Metro system that accused Catholic bishops of causing the deaths of innocent people due to "banning condoms."

Besides the sound bite from O’Brien, the report, which aired 40 minutes into the 4 pm hour of "The Situation Room." featured a clip from Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit who resigned from his post as editor of the liberal Catholic publication "America" after Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005. Fr. Reese’s sound bite: "If there are serious moral reasons for voting for a candidate who is pro-choice, then it would be legitimate for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate."

Both Reese and CNN do not actually quote from the new document, which was approved by the bishops’ conference on November 14. The document was actually unequivocal on the abortion issue. Two excerpts from the document, which were featured in a press release from the conference, stand out. "The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life…is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed."Also, "a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support." In the longer form of the document, the language is even stronger.

A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

As you might expect, CNN left out that last part from its report. The impression it wants to leave is that the bishops "opened a door to supporting abortion-rights candidates."

The full transcript of the report from Thursday’s "The Situation Room:"

WOLF BLITZER: Right now, some Catholic bishops want you to know this. The candidate who supports abortion rights shouldn't necessarily be counted out for your vote. It involves some new guidance for Catholic voters. Mary Snow is watching all of this unfold in New York. Mary, it shows us some flexibility. What's going on?

MARY SNOW (on-camera): Well Wolf, you're right, it does. Catholic bishops say they're not supporting any candidate or party in 2008, but they are asking Catholic voters to apply moral principles to a host of issues, issues like abortion, the war in Iraq, and immigration.

SNOW (voice-over): It's a message about politics from the pulpit. U.S. Catholic bishops met and approved guidelines for Catholic voters. High on the list, opposition to abortion, which the church calls 'intrinsically evil.' But the bishops opened a door to supporting abortion-rights candidates. Father Thomas Reese, a Catholic scholar, who attended the conference, explains that bishops are telling voters to weigh their decisions on a number of moral issues, such as war.

FATHER THOMAS REESE, S.J., GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: If there are serious moral reasons for voting for a candidate who is pro-choice, then it would be legitimate for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate.

SNOW: But the bishops didn't mention is whether abortion rights Catholic candidates should be denied Communion. In the 2004 presidential election, then-Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry was thrust into a firestorm when a Catholic bishop in St. Louis said he would deny Kerry Communion. That same bishop recently suggested in a newspaper article that he'd also deny Communion to Republican Rudy Giuliani. Besides Giuliani, other Catholic presidential candidates supporting abortion rights: Democrats Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Bill Richardson, and Dennis Kucinich. Some critics say the Communion question was created by extremists, and they hope they're shut out of this election cycle.

JON O'BRIEN, CATHOLICS FOR A FREE CHOICE: I think there's nothing worse, there's nothing that turns the Catholic people off as much as when we see the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, something that we believe in very strongly, when we see an attempt to try to politicize that by denying Communion.

SNOW: Along with abortion, the Iraq war was also high on the list. Bishops urged the U.S. for a quick transition to end the war in Iraq.


SNOW (on-camera): The bishops' conference has been issuing guidelines like this since 1976, but this was the first time the full body of 200-plus bishops considered the document. Wolf?

BLITZER: Mary Snow watching this story. Thank you Mary. The Ccatholic voters, by the way, make up a large block of voters out there. In the last presidential election, 27% of all voters were Catholic. In 2000, they made up 26%. As for who those Catholics actually voted for, the last time around, 47% of Catholic voters backed John Kerry, 52% backed President Bush. And looking for the same numbers for the 2000 election, 49% of Catholics voted for Al Gore, 47% voted for George Bush.