Journalist Joe Feuerherd says that according to many Roman Catholic Bishops, he may have put his soul at risk when he voted in a recent presidential primary.
Like most Maryland Democrats, I voted for Sen. Barack Obama in the recent Potomac Primary. By doing so, according to the leaders of my church, I put my soul at risk. That's right, says the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- tap the touch screen for a pro-abortion-rights candidate, and you're probably punching your ticket to Hell.
For a church that "thinks in centuries," things sure are moving quickly. Back in 2004, as Washington correspondent for the independent National Catholic Reporter, I covered what Comedy Central's Jon Stewart dubbed the "wafer wars." A handful of conservative bishops warned Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, a pro-abortion rights Catholic, that they would deny him Communion should he attempt to receive the church's most sacred sacrament.
Now the bishops have raised the stakes: It's not only lawmakers and candidates who risk damnation, 98 percent of the U.S. bishops agreed last November, but the voters who put them in office.
Why should non-Catholic Americans care about the bishops' right-wing lurch?
Because the bishops can influence a good number of the faithful, many of whom happen to be concentrated in large, electoral-vote-rich states. In the key swing state of Ohio in 2004, for example, bishops vigorously supported an anti-same-sex marriage amendment to the state constitution, which helped drive Republican voters to the polls. Bush won 55 percent of the Catholic vote in the Buckeye State, up from 50 percent in 2000 and enough to provide his margin of victory.
There's little hope, unfortunately, that the bishops will adopt a more pragmatic approach to achieving their aims anytime soon. Younger American priests, the pool from which future bishops will be chosen, overwhelmingly embrace the agenda enunciated by John Paul II.
So what's a pro-life, pro-family, antiwar, pro-immigrant, pro-economic-justice Catholic like me supposed to do in November? That's an easy one. True to my faith, I'll vote for the candidate who offers the best hope of ending an unjust war, who promotes human dignity through universal health care and immigration reform, and whose policies strengthen families and provide alternatives to those in desperate situations.
Read: The Washington Post: I Voted for Obama. Will I Go Straight to. . . ?.
Mr. Feuerherd covered the U.S. bishops and the 2004 presidential race as Washington correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.