South Dakota Bishop Rejects Daschle's 'Extreme Position'

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:29pm EDT

Capitol Hill ( - The Roman Catholic Bishop who shepherds Rapid City, S.D., says that state's senior senator has declared Tuesday's election to be a referendum on abortion. The Most Rev. Blase Cupich spoke out on the issue in a letter read to parishioners this weekend.

Cupich is upset over an Oct. 31, fundraising email message written by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on behalf of one of the nation's largest pro-abortion lobbies, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). As previously reported Daschle's "urgent" appeal entitled "Last Chance to Keep Pro-Choice Leadership in the Senate," urged recipients to support NARAL financially five times in the eight paragraph message.

"Rarely has so much been at stake for a woman's right to choose in a U.S. Senate Election," Daschle wrote. "If you and thousands of other pro-choice Americans like you don't act today by giving to NARAL's Save the Senate Campaign, the U.S. Senate could fall into anti-choice hands on November 6th - the first day after the election."

Cupich told Rapid City Catholics that a careful reading of Daschle's message could lead to only one conclusion.

"It is clear that the senator has not only aligned himself with the strident position of NARAL, but he has also made abortion THE issue of this year's campaign," Cupich wrote. "The senator regrettably has crossed the line and I cannot let it go unanswered."

The bishop noted that he and his follow clergy have encouraged their congregants and all voters to cast their ballots "taking into consideration all the issues that promote the dignity of the human person."

Those issues, Cupich said, include the education and upbringing of children, equal work opportunities, healthcare and elder care, civil rights, and, "most importantly," protecting human life in the womb.

"However, since Senator Daschle has now decided to frame this year's election uniquely as a referendum on abortion, he should know that there are citizens of good will in both parties who reject this extreme position and who cannot let it go unchallenged," the bishop continued.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, called Cupich's message "very important."

"Because in South Dakota, there is a Senate race underway in which the incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, who has voted for abortion, has been trying to sound like a pro-lifer," Johnson said.

The bishop's message, combined with the content of Daschle's NARAL fundraising appeal, has "torn the mask off in South Dakota," Johnson added.

"Catholic people are not single-issue voters," Cupich explained. "But if the senator, as the leader of his party, wants to make abortion the single issue in this year's election, then we are ready to let him and those who support him know this week and in the months and years to come where we stand."

The bishop concluded his message by encouraging "all eligible voters to go to the polls" Tuesday.

Jayd Henricks, congressional liaison with the Family Research Council, told Tuesday that Cupich's message is an "amazing response" to Daschle's pro-abortion fundraising.

"We applaud the bishop in his leadership to inform the conscience of the faithful," Henricks said. "We are encouraged that he so clearly responded to positions and actions that are clearly in opposition to the very mission of the church to uphold the dignity of life."

Although some may question Cupich's strong political statement, Henricks believes Daschle and other similar politicians opened the door.

"Because abortion, or other social issues, happen to also have a political angle to them does not then push the church out," Henricks declared. "They both have a place there, but the politicians cannot and should not push the mind and the voice of the church out of issues that have really come to define the fabric of our moral culture."

While he does not challenge Daschle's claim to the Catholic faith, Henricks said politicians who use their religion "as some sort of cover giving themselves legitimacy in the political venue" open themselves to criticism.

"When somebody calls themselves, for example, as Daschle calls himself Catholic and yet is so firmly opposed to most of what the church upholds," Henricks concluded, "I think one can legitimately question the integrity of their beliefs."

Johnson feels Cupich's message is both justified and effective.

"Thousands of pro-life people in South Dakota have seen this now, and I think it is going to have some effect on the election there," he said.

Calls to Daschle's office regarding this article were not returned prior to publication.

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