Steele reaffirms Catholic values

Likely GOP U.S. Senate nominee asserts link between faith and public service


Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the likely Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, affirmed his allegiance to Roman Catholic teachings yesterday as he addressed a conference of Catholic families at the Baltimore Convention Center.

"You will find that you cannot divorce your faith from your public service," Steele said, as the audience, primarily composed of parents who home-school their children, applauded. "There can be no conflict between God's will and my duty as a public servant."

Steele, who spent three years in the early 1980s in an Augustinian monastery, has stated publicly that, unlike Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., he opposes abortion and the death penalty. Although he has marched in anti-abortion demonstrations, Steele has not openly lobbied to change the state's abortion laws while in office.

Steele did break with the church to support legalizing slot machines at Maryland's racetracks, a key part of the governor's platform in the 2002 election.

"You can't please everyone, but you can certainly make them all mad at you at the same time," Steele said, as the audience chuckled. "As an African-American Catholic Republican, I'm pretty good at ticking everyone off."

Several hundred adults and children attended Steele's talk yesterday as part of the four-day Catholic Family Expo. Sessions included "The Accelerating Assault on Purity: Understand Reality, Then Protect Your Kids," "Home Schooling for the Large Family," "Spiritual Warfare: The Reality of the Devil and How Catholics Can Protect Ourselves and Our Families" and, for young people, "How Cool is it to be Catholic?"

Tim Hill, who with his wife, Miki, home-schooled their nine children, said they founded the conference 17 years ago as a way for Catholic parents who home-school to trade advice and techniques. Home schooling was new for Catholics, who traditionally sent their children to Catholic schools, Hill said. Over the years, the focus of the conference expanded to Catholic spirituality and family dynamics, and more Catholics who were not home-schooling began to attend, he said. About 2,000 people attended the conference this year, he said.

Yesterday, Steele urged the crowd to stand up for their Catholic beliefs as a "sign of contradiction" against what many in society say is relevant.

"You have to choose, ladies and gentlemen, you have to make the choice, one or the other, to be relevant or be a sign of contradiction," Steele said.

"You can't be a sign of contradiction and be `personally opposed, but ... ,'" Steele said, referring to Catholics who oppose abortion but do not take an anti-abortion political stance. "You have to be a sign of contradiction in moments like that."

Steele criticized Catholic politicians who support policies that violate the church's teachings on issues such as "the degrading of holy institutions like marriage."

Audience members, who greeted Steele with a standing ovation, said they were grateful that the Senate candidate does not shy away from his Catholic values.

"I was very pleased that someone in the political arena would come out and be true to his religious beliefs and understand that when you're true to your religious beliefs, that enables you to be true to your political beliefs," said Kathy MacMillan of Olney, who attended the conference with her husband and her five daughters.

"He is very open with his faith and it's really an encouragement," said Keith Knaide of Bel Air, who was holding his young son. "He was living it just by being here, I suppose."

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