Catholic parishes plan anti-referendum collection Goal is to defeat abortion-rights law

September 13, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

When a special basket is passed in many Maryland Catholic churches today, the proceeds will go to a political campaign -- the Vote kNOw Coalition, which is leading the drive to defeat the abortion-rights law on referendum in November.

Churches in the archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington have been asked to preach about the campaign's need for funds and to hold an extra collection at Sunday services, according to parish priests and parishioners.

Officials at the Baltimore archdiocese would not return phone calls. A spokeswoman for the Washington archdiocese confirmed that collections would be taken in Prince George's and Montgomery county parishes this weekend.

The collection apparently is part of a multiple-week campaign in Catholic churches against the law, which would keep most abortions in Maryland legal. In many Catholic parishes last weekend, a Vote kNOw brochure was handed out along with church bulletins.

The Vote kNOw Coalition also has prepared a campaign videotape that may be used in fund raising.

Some priests said yesterday that they had been urged to show the tape during Mass but declined. Instead, some parishes will show the tape in church basements or community rooms.

The videotape carefully points out that, because of laws regulating campaign contributions, each donor must write a name and address on the envelope, to ensure proper campaign accounting.

The fund-raising goal is $3 million before Election Day, Nov. 3, according to the tape.

There is nothing new in the Catholic Church's position against abortion. But some Catholics who believe in abortion rights say that the church's role in a political campaign is improper.

"This is stepping beyond the boundaries of what the church should do," says Susan Gray, a member of Catholics for a Free Choice. "I would hope most people would respond as I have, that they're just disgusted that they're standing up there and telling me how to vote."

A priest who declined to give his name at St. Casimir's parish in Baltimore said that the collection does not mean the church is mixing politics and religion.

"It's not the church that is collecting," he said. "It's the coalition. The money isn't coming from a church. It's coming from parishioners.

"How can it be political?" the priest asked. "We're fortunate thatwe have the people in church and we're guiding them on what they should do."

Tom Berriman, a spokesman for the Vote kNOw Coalition, said, "We have checked, and this process is entirely above-board and legal."

Maryland for Choice, the group leading the campaign to win passage of the new abortion-rights law, has religious groups among its members. But any fund raising by religious groups will be far more modest than what Catholic parishes can collect in a weekend, said Maura Keefe, a Maryland for Choice spokeswoman.

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