NEW YORK – Roman Catholics should campaign hard for Protestant President Bush, "the candidate who shares the values Catholics hold dear," rather than for Catholic challenger John Kerry (search), Republican leaders told activists at a rally near the GOP convention on Thursday
The rally, attended by 300 party workers at a hotel, highlighted Republican Party stands opposing gay marriage and abortion and supporting federal money for religious so chairman of the Republican National Committee (search), told the rally, "President Bush is the candidate who shares the values Catholics hold dear."
About the same time as the rally, Bush was attending a nondenominational service at the Church of the Saviour, a Catholic church not far away.
Minnesota Rep. Mark Kennedy told the activists that a 2003 Vatican pronouncement on Catholics in public life meant "we're no longer allowed to believe one way and vote another way," in particular on abortion.
Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, said, "I ask you to talk to 10 people a day" about moral issues. "This is about life. This is about marriage," he said.
Catholics make up about a fourth of the electorate and are regarded as a swing voting bloc in important battleground states. Gillespie said an estimated one-third of eligible Catholics aren't registered to vote, and the meeting was told that the Republicans' Catholic Outreach office has enlisted 50,000 volunteers to work on registration and turnout.
Kerry's differences with church statements on abortion and homosexuality have been a running controversy this year, though Democrats say on other matters he's closer to U.S. bishops' pronouncements than Bush is.
Abortion is a major issue for many Catholic leaders. Bishop Rene Gracida, retired head of the Corpus Christi, Texas, diocese who gave the convention's closing prayer Wednesday night, told the rally, "This heresy that human life is not sacred" is a threat comparable to denials of Jesus' divinity.
Gracida prayed that God would "help them to achieve the election of George W. Bush."
Without naming the president, the Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life prayed that those attending would "mobilize countless others to vote and to vote correctly."
Cardinal Edward Egan was giving the benediction at the convention following Bush's acceptance speech Thursday night.