Daschle Feels the Heat from Home State, Catholic Church

HOUSTON (Talon News) -- Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has ignited a firestorm both in his home state of South Dakota and across the country with recent comments about President Bush's foreign policy and the war with Iraq. Now, it appears that Sen. Daschle has drawn the condemnation of the Catholic Church.

In a story appearing Thursday in the Weekly Standard, Jody Bottum writes that Sen. Daschle's home diocese of Sioux Falls has instructed the senator to "remove from his congressional biography and campaign documents all references to his standing as a member of the Catholic Church."

According to Bottum, the letter from Sioux Falls Bishop Robert Carlson represents a "declaration that Tom Daschle's religious identification constitutes, in technical Catholic vocabulary, a grave public scandal." Bottum goes on to write that the directive from Bishop Carlson does not represent excommunication. Bottum points out that Daschle made himself ineligible to receive communion almost 20 years ago with his divorce and remarriage to a Washington lobbyist.

" Daschle's consistent political opposition to Catholic teachings on moral issues -- abortion, in particular -- has made him such a problem for ordinary churchgoers that the Church must deny him the use of the word 'Catholic.'" Bottum writes.

Friction between Sen. Daschle and Bishop Carlson has existed for some time. Referring to Daschle's proposed "compromise" to partial-birth abortion legislation in 1997, Bottum quotes Carlson as saying that the compromise represented a "smokescreen" designed to "provide cover for pro-abortion senators and President Clinton, who wanted to avoid a veto confrontation."

Bottum cites a floor speech given by Sen. Daschle in which he claims Bishop Carlson was speaking in a way "more identified with the radical right than with thoughtful religious leadership."

The denunciation of Daschle follows on the heels of a recent release by the Vatican entitled "The Participation of Catholics in Political Life." The Doctrinal Note, produced by The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is "directed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies."

The Doctrinal Note states that in the face of fundamental and inalienable ethical demands, "Christians must recognize that what is at stake is the essence of the moral law, which concerns the integral good of the human person." Citing abortion and euthanasia in particular, the Note states, "Such laws must defend the basic right to life from conception to natural death. In the same way, it is necessary to recall the duty to respect and protect the rights of the human embryo."
Reference to this Doctrinal Note has not been exclusively reserved to condemn Daschle's positions. Bottum writes that Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento recently blasted California Gov. Gray Davis for his declared stance as a "pro-choice Catholic." Bishop Weigand in a January 22 sermon said, "As your bishop, I have to say clearly that anyone -- politician or otherwise -- who thinks it is acceptable for a Catholic to be pro-abortion is in very great error..."
Joe Cella, the Executive Director of the Ave Maria List, a Catholic political action committee, told Talon News that he welcomed the news about Daschle and Bishop Carlson. Cella said that he hopes more clergy will step forward and take their local elected officials to task.

" Brave steps such as those taken by Bishop Carlson are vital for the ongoing education of the faithful and to let our elected officials know that the Church, clergy and laity will hold them accountable for their actions," Cella wrote in a letter to supporters.
Cella told Talon News that the 2004 elections present a golden opportunity to build an "ideological majority" in the U.S. Senate.

The denunciation by the Catholic Church is just the latest in a string of criticism directed at Sen. Daschle. Daschle has come under fire for comments directed at President Bush for his foreign policy and execution of the war with Iraq. In March, Daschle was thoroughly rebuked for saying, "I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war, saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."

A recent poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates for the National Republican Senatorial Committee showed former Congressman John Thune leading Sen. Daschle in a possible match-up for the senate seat in 2004. In the poll, 91 percent of South Dakotans said they are "aware of Daschle's attack upon President Bush," and 41 percent said they are "less likely to vote for Daschle due to his harsh attack."
Referring to Daschle's comments, Thune said in a March radio interview that "people are very disappointed to hear that kind of reaction."

" That comment is more likely to come from someone from the south of France, not from South Dakota," Thune is quoted as saying in the Sioux Falls "Argus Leader."

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