Church Chastised for Endorsing Candidate

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe said fliers it circulated highlighting the gubernatorial candidates' records on abortion were not meant as a political endorsement.

The fliers, published by Right to Life of New Mexico and sent to the archdiocese's 92 parishes for distribution, criticize Democrat Bill Richardson for his voting record on abortion rights while portraying Republican John Sanchez as supportive of an anti-abortion position.

The Rev. Bennett J. Voorhies, chancellor of the archdiocese, said late Tuesday that he apologizes if the fliers were construed by anyone as the church's endorsement of a candidate.

The fliers detail Richardson's record from 1984-1997 as a New Mexico congressman and state: "Richardson's record shows a lack of respect for human life. As governor, he would not serve the people of New Mexico on the life issues any better than he did as a congressman.''

Richardson has said he is a Catholic and is personally opposed to abortion.

"But he feels equally strongly that that decision should be left up to the woman, her priest or preacher and her God,'' said Richardson's spokesman, Billy Sparks. "It's not a decision that should be made by politicians and bureaucrats.''

The flier also mentioned Sanchez's abortion voting record, saying he has a "100 percent pro-life voting record.''

Whitney Cheshire, a spokeswoman for Sanchez's campaign, said the candidate does not have an opinion about the appropriateness of the church handing out the fliers.

On Wednesday, Washington, D.C.-based Catholics for a Free Choice released a report that the group said shows 66 percent of Catholic voters support legal abortion. Overall, the study shows Catholic voters are more likely to stand with other Americans than with the Vatican, the group said.

The report, "Beyond the Spin,'' shows Catholics share other voters' interests in such issues as Social Security, health care and education, and do not vote as a bloc, the group said.