Keeler writes to Clinton Cleric pledges qualified support

December 26, 1992|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler, speaking for the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States, has written to President-elect Clinton, pledging his church's support for goals it shares with the new administration but noting some strong disagreements.

Archbishop Keeler, who was elected president of the nation's nearly 300 active Catholic bishops last month, offered Governor Clinton "our prayers and best wishes" and added, "We hope that your stewardship of our nation's highest office will be years of peace and prosperity, justice and reconciliation."

Enclosing in his letter a statement adopted by the administrative board of the Catholic bishops on a range of contemporary issues, Archbishop Keeler wrote, "It includes areas of both potential common ground and disagreement between our conference and your administration."

Abortion and tax credits for parochial school students were at the top of the bishops' conflicts with announced Clinton objectives. The church opposes abortion and promotes tax credits for parochial schools.

The list of Catholic concerns "includes legal protection for unborn children, a refundable children's tax credit and child support reform, parental leave and educational choice for all families, and new policies on immigration, health care, hunger and housing, among other priorities," the archbishop wrote.

On domestic issues generally, he wrote, "We especially seek to help shape public policy to support America's families and meet the needs of our children."

On foreign policy, Archbishop Keeler told Mr. Clinton, "We strongly support creative and sustained U.S. leadership in the defense of human rights, the protection of refugees, the pursuit of peace and the commitment to global economic justice."

Despite pressing domestic needs, the archbishop said, "our nation must resist the temptation of isolationism in a still suffering and dangerous world."

The Catholic archbishop's mention of points of likely friction with the new administration is not the first that Mr. Clinton has heard from religious leaders, nor the first indication of conflicting pressures from the wide spectrum of religious points of view.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nondenominational organization based in Silver Spring, has urged the president-elect to discontinue the policy of sending a fully accredited ambassador to the Vatican, begun in the Ronald Reagan administration. The Catholic Church supports the diplomatic ties.

"If the religious liberty provisions of the First Amendment mean anything, they surely forbid the United States government from creating a continuing official relationship with one religious faith," Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the Americans United group said in a letter to Mr. Clinton.

The Southern Baptist Convention, Mr. Clinton's own denomination, also urged elimination of the post of ambassador to the Vatican.

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