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“If you can’t bring your faith into public life, what’s the use of having it?” said the Most Rev. Fabian W. Bruskewitz, bishop of Lincoln, Neb.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said, “to read consistently of Catholic senators all proclaiming their support for abortion. It’s not able to be explained by me how Catholics can do that, particularly if they go unrebuked.”

In 1996, Bishop Bruskewitz issued a list of 12 organizations — including Planned Parenthood, the liberal Catholic group Call to Action and several Masonic groups — in which membership meant automatic excommunication for Catholics.

None of the bishops on the hastily drawn-up committee would say whether guidelines would be issued in time for the 2004 elections.

“This task force is to help Catholics be more coherent,” says Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla. “You cannot separate beliefs from politics because they deal with man: his dignity and destiny. These are moral issues.”

The American Life League has a “deadly dozen” list of the most vehement pro-choice Catholic politicians. It counts 71 Catholic members of Congress and an additional 415 Catholics in state legislatures across the country in the same boat.

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Clark are pro-choice Catholics. Mr. Kucinich previously was pro-life, but reversed himself prior to announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“We ask the bishops to engage these people, make clear why this is not acceptable and give them a chance to repent,” assistant media-relations director Erik Whittington says. “Because they are so public, they could lead large numbers of Catholics to believe this is acceptable.”

But few bishops are willing to move publicly against such politicians, he said. Thus, Mr. Kerry and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, took part in the installation Mass for the Most Rev. Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

“What more scandal could you ask for than the two most ardent supporters of abortion in the Senate show up and get Communion?” Mr. Whittington asks. “The sheep who have gone off the reservation to support pro-death policies need tough love that says what they are doing is wrong.”