Many Catholics react favorably to Brown’s election

BOSTON -- In what many are describing as a come from behind victory, Brown defeated Democrat challenger Martha Coakley in the Jan. 19 special election to fill the seat formerly held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Brown garnered 52-percent of the vote, compared to 47-percent for Coakley.

Brown’s victory marks the first time since 1953 that the seat is in Republican hands.

“The result of Tuesday’s special election was very surprising. It has captured the attention of the world because no one ever suspected that someone who was not a Democrat would be able to be elected to the seat that Sen. Ted Kennedy held for nearly 50 years,” Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said. “Several commentators have noted that the election has significance beyond Massachusetts -- specifically, that it points to deeply felt anxiety about the economy, unemployment and the health care debate.”

“Personally, I think that it is refreshing that the people of Massachusetts have voted independent of their party affiliation,” Cardinal O’Malley added. “In the Church we have always encouraged the people to look at issues rather than just vote party-line or vote for sectarian reasons.”

Many in the Catholic community reacted positively to Brown’s election though his track record is mixed on issues of importance to the Catholic Church. Brown opposes most rights for undocumented immigrants and favors capital punishment.

At the same time, he favors limits on abortion, favors conscience clauses for health care workers and believes that marriage should be limited to the union between one man and one woman.

Jane Koehr, who worships at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, said that Brown’s victory impresses upon Washington the need for the health care industry to be reformed with respect to the cost for future generations.

“People feel there is a huge disconnect between the representation in Washington and the local arena, and they voiced that,” Koehr said. “I think that health care needs to be reformed, but it needs to be reformed in an educational process -- not with backroom dealings and horse trading between senators.”

According to Victor Pap, executive director of the Woburn-based Catholic Citizenship, Brown’s victory indicates that politicians can resonate with the public by opposing abortion and defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

“Scott Brown’s unlikely victory demonstrated in a very clear, real way that candidates who take a center-right approach to abortion politics (i.e., vocal opposition to public funding, strengthening informed consent and maintaining the ban on partial-birth procedures) can transcend this ‘third rail’ and appeal to independents and many Democrats who oppose abortion,” Pap said in a press release.

“Likewise, Scott Brown’s victory signals a major triumph for the traditional marriage movement, which has just elected its first solid candidate to a Massachusetts statewide office since the issue came to a head in 2007,” Pap added. “Despite its reputation as a Democratic state, Tuesday’s election showcases a strong and growing moral undercurrent in the state’s population.”

C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, said Brown’s win puts the candidate more closely in line with the Church’s teaching on abortion into national office.

“We dodged a bullet by avoiding someone who would do great harm to the pro-life movement,” said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts.