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For Immediate Release
August 4, 2004

Media Contact:
Michelle Ringuette
+1 (202) 986 6093;
+1 (202) 550 1321


Bishops Take Extremist Position
Bishops of Atlanta, Charleston and Charlotte threaten to deny communion to prochoice Catholic politicians in highly charged election year despite overwhelming opposition from parishioners.

ATLANTA, GA—After a period of relative quiet, three bishops released a letter today announcing their intention to deny communion to “Catholics serving in public life espousing positions contrary to the teaching of the church” on reproductive rights in the jurisdictions of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Dioceses of Charlotte and Charleston.

“The decision to deny communion to pro-choice policy makers in their respective dioceses clearly places these bishops in the extreme conservative wing of their fellow bishops,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC). “Only a half dozen other bishops have indicated that they would act in similar ways; most of the nation's bishops have declined to take such extreme steps and for good reasons. Experience shows that sanctions do not result in any change in legislators’ positions and only alienate bishops from our policy makers.”

In a year when the bishops have launched an unprecedented foray into the political arena, a major poll of Catholics conducted by Belden Russonello & Stewart in summer 2004 for CFFC demonstrates that more than three quarters of Catholic voters (78%) DO NOT believe that prochoice Catholic politicians should be denied communion, including men (77%), women (78%), whites (78%), Hispanics (73%), Democrats (90%), Republicans (63%) and Independents (83%). Among frequent church attendees opposed to using the sacraments for sanctions of prochoice Catholic politicians:

• 91% of liberals
• 72% of moderates
• 48% of conservatives

Catholic support for dissent from bishops’ recommendations is pervasive. The vast majority of Catholics (83%) say they DO NOT believe that politicians who are Catholic have a religious obligation to vote on issues the way Catholic bishops recommend. Even Catholics who attend mass at least once a week and who “almost always” receive communion say Catholic politicians do not have an obligation to vote on issues the way the bishops recommend (73%). Among church-going Catholics who believe that Catholic politicians have no religious obligation:

• 91% of self-identified liberals
• 81% of self-identified moderates
• 59% of self-identified conservatives

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Catholics in Political Life: Challenges to Faith in Democracy is a project of Catholics for a Free Choice designed to reveal insights into the motivations of Catholic voters as they consider the choices in the presidential campaign and to analyze how Catholics respond to the role of the Catholic hierarchy in the elections. Visit http://www.catholicvote.net. To obtain a copy of the results, please contact Michelle Ringuette at (202) 986-6093.

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