Friday, September 10, 1999

Editorials & Opinions

Al Gore’s appearance a travesty for church

By Larry Giroux

When the news broke last week that Vice-President Al Gore was scheduled to be honored at Sacred Heart Church in Detroit during the Labor Day weekend, I was among many who called Cardinal Adam Maida’s office to ask that the event be cancelled .

   No person who publicly promotes abortion has a rightful place of honor in a Catholic setting. The Catholic Church, including all recent popes, the U.S. bishops and even Maida himself, teach that abortion is the taking of human life, what the second Vatican Council termed a “heinous crime.”

   Gore participated in a special Sept. 5 mass at Sacred Heart Church near Eastern Market designed to commemorate Labor Day. He appeared with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and several other local Catholic politicians.

   The widely publicized invitation to Gore is simply noxious to Catholics who try to abide by the teaching of the church on the “life issues.”

   By virtue of his position, and the job he is campaigning for, president of the United States, Gore is the innocent unborn child’s worst nightmare. Both as a U.S. senator and as vice-president, Gore has campaigned for unrestricted abortion and even the most noxious of all styles of murder in America, partial-birth abortion, which requires that a baby be completely delivered except for its forehead, then her skull is punctured and her brain sucked out to more easily crush her skull.

   Gore’s stance shows no sign of softening. Here’s what Gore told the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League on Jan. 22, 1997: “America’s women have the right to choose, and no one will steal that right away. The right to choose is fundamental, lodged in our Constitution, affirmed by our Supreme Court. And, on behalf of President Clinton, I vow to you here, and to all listening, that we will never ever let anyone take that right away.”

   To be sure, Sacred Heart is no typical parish, which makes this event particularly significant. Its pastor is Fr. Norman Thomas, a veteran of both politics and controversy. Fr. Thomas is one of four priest-advisers to the Catholic Caucus, the aggressively liberal lobbying group formed nine years ago by Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.

   Yes, that was Fr. Thomas’ smiling face you saw repeatedly on TV last year in those paid political advertisements endorsing Geoffrey Fieger for governor. If you have a really long memory, you will recall that Fr. Norman Thomas almost a dozen years ago was repeatedly quoted in the local newspapers criticizing Cardinal Edmund Szoka for his closing of 26 parishes in Detroit. You could say he’s an independent sort of guy, accustomed to defying authority.

   So it seemed obvious that Gore’s visit was going to be thoroughly political. And it was.

   Yet, from start to finish in this unfortunate fiasco, Cardinal Maida, through his various spokesmen, defended Gore’s right to be at Sacred Heart. Complainers were told, correctly, that the church welcomes everyone to the altar of God. But some of those who called to complain were told emphatically that Gore was not going to speak in the church and that this was not a special mass, but a regular 10:30 Sunday morning mass.

   Events showed that Gore was not a visitor but the central figure in the two-hour event. Gore arrived at least 30 minutes late, and Fr. Thomas held up the proceedings for his arrival. When Gore and his contingent of politicians arrived, Fr. Thomas met them at the back of the church. Gore and the pastor then proceeded side by side to the front of the church, where Gore sat in the front row.

   Gore spoke at the pulpit during mass after the homily for a good 15 to 20 minutes, which is a violation of liturgical law, which says only an ordained person may speak at the time of the homily. News clips of his talk were broadcast around the country, including photos of Gore on the pulpit and outside the church with several priests.

   There was virtually no response to this sacrilege from the Catholic or pro-life community. I counted only 14 protesters, including me, who were forced to stand 500 feet away.

   What can someone like me say to my seven children who all know what abortion is?

Larry Giroux, a 27-year member of the Detroit Building Trades union from Sterling Heights, was a chairman of Cardinal Maida’s Pro-Life Leadership Forum. Write letters to The Detroit News, Editorial Page, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, Mich. 48226, or fax us at (313) 222-6417, or send an e-mail to

Copyright 1999, The Detroit News
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