Knight leader: 'Obama more forthright on religion than McCain'

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The leader of the Knights of Columbus said one reason why Barack Obama won the presidential election may be that he was more forthright than John McCain concerning his religious beliefs.

"Sen. Obama gives every impression of being serious about his religion, that religion is important to him, that Christianity changed his life," Carl Anderson said Nov. 6 at a news conference preceding a speech in Columbus.

"Perhaps he made a stronger case for that than John Kerry or Al Gore (the losing candidates in the preceding two presidential elections) did. I don't believe Sen. McCain made quite the same case as President (George W.) Bush did in his two elections and President (Ronald) Reagan did earlier," said Anderson, supreme knight of the 1.75-million-member international organization of Catholic men.

Anderson, who was a presidential assistant during the Reagan administration, said this does not mean the Democratic senator from Illinois is a better Christian than his Republican opponent. He said Obama made a stronger public presentation of his faith, while "McCain was more reticent about it."

"Perhaps he (Obama) was forced to do so because it became urgent for him" to explain his ties with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor, Anderson said.

Obama attended Rev. Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for several years. During the campaign, he denounced remarks Rev. Wright had made last year which some people viewed as anti-American and racist. Rev. Wright retired as pastor earlier this year, before the remarks gained widespread attention.

Anderson also said that during the coming Obama administration he hoped Catholics would be more assertive in the public arena concerning core values related to marriage, family and pro-life issues.

"Catholics need to make clear what those values are and take a strong stand that every major political party reflect those values," he said. "That would be the best way to encourage a change in society" and promote the culture of life which has been a theme of the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

He said that, 25 years after the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand, most Americans, though describing themselves in polls as "pro-choice," do not favor the concept of abortion on demand.

Anderson noted that in a nationwide poll taken for the Knights in late September and early October by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, 8 percent of the 813 people responding said they favored abortion at any time during a pregnancy, for any reason.

"A large majority, whether describing themselves as pro-life or pro-choice, would agree with some significant type of restriction," he said. Those restrictions would involve either banning all abortions or limiting them to instances involving situations in which the life of the mother is at stake, or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

He also urged that Bible reading be more readily integrated into familiar Catholic devotion through devices such as the scriptural rosary, in which each decade of the traditional prayer is linked to a verse of Scripture.

Anderson, an observer at the recent world Synod of Bishops on the Bible at the Vatican, said the bishops should consider drafting a book that would link Scripture readings at Sunday Masses to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and writings of the early church fathers.

"We (the Knights) may do this ourselves," he said when discussing the suggestion at the news conference. "This would go a long way in enhancing Sunday homilies. Most Catholics get their adult education from the Sunday sermon."

He also urged Catholic colleges to include Scripture study in their core requirements that generally include theology and philosophy courses. "Why not a requirement that they (students) read the New Testament?" he asked. "It's not that big a book.

"Every student on a Catholic campus should read the New Testament," he said. "It may change the ethos on campuses and make them more Christian communities."

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