Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In Portland, the Face-Off Continues

The head-to-heads between prelates and politicians on abortion has extended to Oregon -- oft-called the nation's "most unchurched state" -- where Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland launched a public protest yesterday over Gov. Ted Kulongoski's presence at the annual dinner for the abortion-rights group NARAL on Friday night, just before the archdiocese's annual Respect Life Mass Sunday morning.

In a statement, Vlazny announced an additional Mass for Life on Friday night in the Rose City's St Mary's Cathedral.
"This is a source of embarrassment for our church and a scandal for the Catholic community," Vlazny said in [his] statement. "For a Catholic governor to host an event of this sort seems a deliberate dissent from the teachings of the church."

Kulongoski spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor said that although he has nothing but admiration and respect for the archbishop, the governor has been a longtime supporter of abortion rights.

"This is not a new issue," Richter Taylor said. "In his 35 years of public service, he's always been upfront about his position as pro-choice."

Kulongoski and his wife, Mary Oberst, are honorary hosts of the 6:30 p.m. fundraiser for a national abortion-rights organization at the Portland Marriott Waterfront. Oberst, who also is Catholic, is scheduled to speak. Choice Celebration Gala 2008 is expected to draw about 500 people.

Kulongoski has not hosted the Naral dinner before, but he has been a speaker and has purchased tables for the event, Richter Taylor said.

Vlazny, who is normally reserved in his public remarks, used unusually strong language in the statement.

"For a Catholic to have a private disagreement would be one thing," [archdiocesan spokesman Bud] Bunce said, "but to be so publicly involved with this abortion-rights organization that he would actually host their gala for them, I think that prompted the language and the sense of urgency the archbishop might have had to make a statement at this time."

After a Vatican cardinal said in 2004 that politicians who support abortion rights -- such as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. -- were not fit to receive Holy Communion, Vlazny said he refused to bar Catholics who publicly disagree with church teaching from receiving communion. He did ask, however, that Catholics refrain from communion if they found themselves at serious odds with the church.

Kulongoski, who was raised by nuns in a Catholic orphanage in Missouri, now attends Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Salem. He continues to receive communion there, Richter Taylor said.