- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry votes more in line with Catholic teachings than his Catholic colleagues, says a survey of votes by one Democratic senator.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois released a report compiled by his office staff that found when issues other than the church’s pro-life stance are taken into account, Catholic Democratic senators voted more in line with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) positions than their Catholic Republican counterparts did.

Mr. Durbin, a Catholic who has been criticized by a monsignor in his hometown for voting to support abortion rights, hopes his report will show that “there is more than one issue associated with Catholic teaching.”

Mr. Kerry had an overall score of 60.9 percent when rated on domestic issues, international issues and pro-life issues. That was tops among the 24 Catholic senators. Overall, Mr. Durbin’s report found Catholic Senate Democrats scored 54 percent, and their Catholic Republican colleagues scored 43 percent.

But Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican and a Catholic who scored 40.8 percent overall, said Mr. Durbin is “trying to put a political spin that all of these issues have moral equivalency, and that’s simply not the case.”

He said the Catholic Church places higher moral importance on pro-life issues than it does on other issues Mr. Durbin rated, so, “any attempt to give the two equal weight is just an attempt to confuse.”

USCCB spokesman Bill Ryan referred voters to a document his group compiled on Catholics and political responsibility, but did not want to comment further.

On pro-life issues, Catholic Republicans matched the bishops’ positions 72 percent of the time, compared with the Democrats’ 12 percent. However, Democrats did better on domestic issues, such as favoring gun control and increasing the minimum wage, scoring 79 percent, while Republicans scored 34 percent.

Mr. Durbin’s aides began by examining 101 issues laid out by the USCCB in its legislative report for the first session of the 108th Congress. They also combed the conference Web site to find other alerts and letters in which the conference staked out a position on an issue before Congress. The aides boiled that down to 24 issues, which most of the report was based on.

But on some topics, such as immigration and the death penalty, the report gave credit when senators’ sponsored bills the conference had endorsed, even if those bills have not yet received a Senate vote.

Still, Mr. Durbin chose not to count senators’ support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex “marriage,” which the conference endorsed last fall, but has not yet received a vote, or senators’ support for school vouchers.

Monsignor Kevin Vann has said he would not serve Communion to Mr. Durbin because of his pro-choice voting record, the Illinois State-Journal Register reported in April.