Religious opponents of abortion, led by the Catholic Church, are mobilizing against Proposition 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot. But the numbers in fundraising and in the polls are against them.
From the pulpit of the bright and airy Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, Father Bao Thai delivered a homily on a recent Sunday morning, urging his congregation to vote against Proposition 1, a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot that would enshrine the right to abortion in California’s constitution.
“A steward is entrusted to care for the master’s property until his return,” he preached. “What precious goods has the creator placed in our care? Do they include the innocent and sacred lives of the unborn and children to be born?”
A few weeks earlier, at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Pacifica, two congregants spoke at weekend masses to ask attendees to support the campaign against the “harmful” Prop. 1 with prayers, fasting and money.
Bishops and other clergy from California’s dozen Catholic dioceses and archdioceses — spanning Sacramento to Fresno, Monterey to San Bernardino — have released videos to speak directly to the faithful, sometimes in multiple languages, about their concerns that the initiative would remove all existing restrictions on abortion in the state.
“Life is precious from the very moment of conception,” Father Michael Mahoney of Our Lady of Angels Parish in Burlingame said in a recent message filmed at the site of a future parish garden, where he encouraged families to take home “No Prop 1” signs for their yards. “This is against everything that we believe in as Catholics.”
Fundraising by the opposition campaign is trailing significantly, in a state where a clear majority of adults regularly express support for abortion rights. So the success of a long-shot effort to defeat Prop. 1 may rest primarily on outreach by faith leaders and their ability to mobilize followers from the pews to the polls….
The most significant push so far has come from the Catholic Church.Over the summer, it started training clergy and parishioners, registering voters and developing educational resources about Prop. 1, which it calls the “most egregious expansion of abortion this country has ever seen.”
A novena led by the California bishops — nine days of prayer to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary for the defeat of the initiative — began Thursday, ahead of Respect Life Month during October, an annual Catholic program to advocate against abortion and support women dealing with unexpected pregnancies.
Nearly one in three Californians is Catholic, providing the church an immense platform from which to try to shift the tide on Prop. 1. An August poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found 71% of registered voters were prepared to support the measure….
And its arguments against the measure are entirely secular: The campaign dismisses Prop. 1, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, as a cynical attempt by Democrats to boost voter turnout that is unnecessary to guarantee abortion access in California, where the procedure is already protected by law.
But spreading that message through traditional electoral methods, such as digital advertising and mailers, has been challenging. The campaign has reported raising $1.1 million so far, most of it in the final week of September. Hadro declined to discuss the specifics of the opposition strategy.
A separate effort, led by groups affiliated with the evangelical Christian movement, has raised about $73,000.
Proponents of Prop. 1, by comparison, have reported $11.8 million in contributions, including a $5 million donation by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
Nearly 60% of what the No on Prop. 1 campaign has reported raising so far comes from the Catholic Church and affiliated donors, including $500,000 from the Knights of Columbus, a national Catholic fraternal organization. Officials at its Connecticut headquarters did not respond to an interview request.
Priests, deacons and other church employees, largely in Orange County, have directly donated $20,000 to the campaign. Another $105,000 so far has come from the California Catholic Conference and half a dozen of the dioceses and archdioceses, which Domingo said are in-kind contributions for the extensive work that the church has done on its No on Prop 1 campaign.
That includes developing bilingual fliers and pew cards in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean to distribute at masses, as well as suggested weekly bulletin announcements (“Don’t hand lawmakers a blank check to pay for abortions, and don’t let them make California an ‘abortion sanctuary’”) and homily helps for pastors that recommend readings from the Bible and how to connect them to Prop. 1 (“the abortion industry has been as clever as a fox in its self-interest, like the dishonest steward who acted to preserve his income by immorally manipulating his master’s debtors, at the master’s expense”)….
Father Bruce Patterson, episcopal vicar for priests in the Diocese of Orange, invoked the Parable of the Prodigal Son to reflect on how Catholics could change minds and win the “uphill battle” of ending abortion by not treating their opponents as enemies.
“To ever persuade them, we need to apply the same patience, love and clarity that the father used to retrieve his lost and disarm his angry son,” Patterson said. “In doing so, we must remind ourselves that many who support abortion are, like St. Paul, acting out of ignorance and, yes, they remain our brothers and sisters.”
CalMatters reached out to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Bishops Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento, Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange and Daniel Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey, who were identified in a July memorandum as the leadership team for the Catholic campaign against Prop. 1.
Representatives for Soto and Garcia did not return numerous calls and emails. Representatives for Cordileone and Vann initially expressed a willingness to connect CalMatters with diocesan leaders active in the campaign, but subsequently declined because they were told to direct all inquiries through Domingo of the California Catholic Conference….
Other faith communities in the state have also begun outreach against Prop. 1 through their networks, though none is yet as extensive as the Catholic Church’s campaign. Many of the leaders recognize that they face long odds to stop the measure, but say they feel a moral imperative to fight to uphold what limits still remain on abortion in California.
“For many of us who have a Biblical view, this is very alarming,” said Tanner DiBella, president of The American Council, an organization he founded two years ago to bring evangelical voters into state politics….
The above comes from an Oct. 3 posting on CalMatters.
England said polling shows that voters overwhelmingly oppose “late-term abortions,” referring to those after fetal viability, so their campaign aims to inform the public that Prop. 1 is a sneaky attempt to open the door to unlimited abortions. Many of their materials are designed for churches, including a letter to pastors, a guide on what types of political activity are legally allowed and door hangers they can print and distribute.
“We want to make sure we reach them with our limited time and that is a natural place to go with a community of people,” England said.
‘Moved by the moral imperative’
Not every religious leader speaking out against Prop. 1 is motivated primarily by defeating the measure at the ballot box.
Bishop Eric Menees of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin does not expect California voters will reject the measure, but said he has felt compelled to condemn abortion since early in his career, when he prayed with a woman who was facing pressure from her boyfriend and family to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and she chose adoption instead.
“It became very real for me,” he said.
Menees plans to send a letter to his diocese on Tuesday, the Feast of St. Francis, asking people to vote no on Prop. 1, pray for its defeat and share the word about the initiative. He is working with churches in the Fresno area, where he is based, on a day of prayer in late October to ask for God’s intervention.
“As a Christian, I’m always hopeful. I pray that hearts and minds will be changed. Maybe people are so sure that Prop. 1 is going to pass that they won’t show up to the voting booth,” he said. “But I’m primarily moved by the moral imperative.”
Mahoney, the priest in Burlingame, said the question of protecting life that drives the Catholic Church is much larger than this initiative.
The debate over abortion obscures other efforts to get women the resources they need to carry their pregnancies to term and take care of their babies after birth, he said. His parish collects baby clothes and other supplies for young mothers who could not otherwise afford them.
With Prop. 1 appearing likely to pass, Mahoney, who preached against the measure at a recent Sunday mass, said his ultimate goal is to shift the entire notion of what it means to give women a choice. Rather than pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into shoring up abortion providers, he said California should direct that money to programs that support poor mothers or to expanding access to adoption.
“What we are trying to do is to say, ‘Look, there are options,’” Mahoney said. “I would love to change the conversation, because we have no chance whatsoever” to defeat Prop. 1.