Donations from Georgetown employees to President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign ranked high among other college and universities, despite the candidate’s pro-choice stance, which is inconsistent with the university’s Catholic identity and view of the issue.

A study conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education published last month stated that total donations from Georgetown University employees to the Obama campaign ranked seventh nationwide among higher education institutions. Georgetown is also the only Catholic university in the top 10. The university’s Jesuit community did not publicly support either candidate.

“The Catholic tradition in the U.S. has been that priests do not endorse or campaign for candidates,” said Father Thomas Reese, S.J., senior fellow at Georgetown’s Woodstock Theological Center. “As a priest, I can give advice to anyone who asks, but I should not get involved in telling people how to vote or publicly campaigning.”

While many of them are not Catholic, university employees, according to Georgetown’s Web site, are expected to “strengthen and affirm Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit character in a variety of ways.”

Widespread support for Obama among employees could be considered to be in conflict with the university’s stance against abortion rights and birth control – demonstrated by Georgetown’s lack of recognition for H*yas for Choice and the absence of contraceptive options on campus.

However, in 2007, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that in some cases it is permissible for Catholics to support a pro-choice candidate.

“There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons,” the bishops wrote in a report titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore fundamental moral evil.”

Vincent Miller, an associate professor in the theology department and a member of Obama’s Catholic Advisory Committee, said Obama’s campaign transcended single-issue voting.

“Obama won Catholic votes because he spoke constructively to a range of issues of concern to them. On abortion he fought to include in the platform abortion reduction programs that attempt to reduce unplanned pregnancies and support pregnant women in difficult situations,” Miller said. “He promised common ground on this divisive issue, and voters responded.”

Earlier this month, President-elect Obama was able to win over 54 percent of the national Catholic vote, which went for George W. Bush in 2004.

“Obama’s background in Catholic-sponsored community organizing resonated in the deeply Catholic vision of government he offered: individual and collective responsibility working together for the common good,” Miller said. “Life issues hold preeminence for Catholics, but the Bishops Conference has long made clear that these are not the only issues that Catholic voters must consider.”

According to Reese, some pro-life constituents believe that attempts to restrict abortions through legislation have proven to be ineffective, and that providing assistance to struggling pregnant women and their families will have a greater impact on reducing the number of abortions.

“Catholics did not vote for Obama because they like abortions,” Reese said. “They concluded that politically there was no future in legal restrictions and therefore opted for supporting candidates who would enact economic, social and educational programs that would reduce the number of abortions.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.