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Posted Thursday, April 29, 2004 at 12:15 p.m. CDT

Bishops not partisan for Bush, cardinal says
'Questions of life are primary, but look at everything'

By John L. Allen Jr.
ROME

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, who is leading a bishops' committee to study the possibility of sanctions against pro-choice politicians, has denied that this is part of a strategy on the part of the bishops to support the reelection of President George W. Bush.

"Absolutely not," McCarrick said in an exclusive April 28 interview with NCR in Rome.

McCarrick said that while he appreciates Bush's stands on human life, Catholic education, and HIV/AIDS relief, he has reservations about the president's policies in Iraq and the Middle East.

"I hope that [Catholics] really study the issues," McCarrick said. "Look at the questions of life that are primary, but look at everything." The full text of the NCR interview is here: McCarrick interview.

McCarrick, in Rome for his ad limina visit to the pope, said he spoke with Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who said at a Vatican news conference last week (see NCRonline.org Breaking News, April 23) that a pro-abortion politician should be denied Communion. The comment was widely taken as support for a stance against pro-choice Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

"When he reported to me what had happened, this was not something that he reported as an official statement whatever he might personally believe," McCarrick said. "The cardinal's position was that this is the teaching of the church, and the bishops of the United States should figure out what they ought to do."

McCarrick said that without commenting on Kerry he agrees with the principle that a politician who holds a position opposed to church teaching should not come forward for Communion.

McCarrick said he is aware this frustrates some Catholics, who complain that sanctions are not being contemplated for Catholic politicians who differ with the church on issues such as war and peace or concern for the poor.

"All these other human rights mean nothing unless you're alive," he said. "If a person is put to death before they have a chance to live, then none of those other rights come into play."

McCarrick said these other issues, while important, "are not black-and-white in the way that abortion is."

That does not mean, McCarrick insisted, that the bishops are backing Bush.

"As you look at the foreign policy of the United States, I have some concerns," he said.

"I have concerns about Iraq, about the beginning of the war, about how we don't seem to have a real exit strategy. In the Middle East, the Palestinian situation, we've moved away from the roadmap, which is of grave concern to all us with regard to peace in the Holy Land."

McCarrick said he believes that whether or not the war in Iraq was ultimately just, the United States was not justified going in.

"I do see the benefit in ending a cruel dictatorship, and preventing the mass murders that had been present," he said. "But that did not seem at the time to be the reason that we went in. Therefore, I'm not sure it was justified. It may or may not have been just for the good of the people over there."

McCarrick also agreed with the Vatican's insistence that the United Nations should play the lead role in authorizing future conflicts.

"It seems to me that the United Nations is the only instrumentality that can bring the nations together at this time," he said.

John L. Allen Jr. is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is jallen@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, April 29, 2004

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