With just days to go before the Nov. 3 general election, Republican congressional candidate Greg Becker, widely acknowledged to be waging an uphill fight against incumbent Democrat Carolyn McCarthy, has sent out a political mailing that clearly implies he has been endorsed by Pope John Paul II.
Greg Becker, candidate for Congress, poses with Papal Blessing in hand, alongside his wife Tina and Monsignor James Lisante.
The mailing, sent to local news organizations by the Becker for Congress Committee on Oct. 19, carries a headline that reads "Greg Becker Receives Blessing from Pope John Paul II."
The first paragraph beneath that headline identifies Becker as a candidate for Congress in the 4th Congressional District, and states that he "received a blessing from Pope John Paul II for the good work he has done in his 16 years in the New York State Assembly and for the good he hopes to accomplish in Congress."
The blessing, given in the form of a plaque bearing pope's likeness, was delivered to Becker by Monsignor James Lisante, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in West Hempstead, at a political rally held at Long Island Banana in Lynbrook on Saturday, Oct. 17.
"Blessings from the pope are by no means common, you must be a special person with an incredibly good heart and strong beliefs and values," said Msgr. Lisante, who earlier this year was also considered by the Nassau County Republican Committee as a potential opponent against Carolyn McCarthy.
"Greg has all of these things, and he is worthy and deserving of our pope's blessing."
Msgr. Lisante, it should be noted has often been quite outspoken in his criticism of Congresswoman McCarthy in regard to her position on partial birth abortion.
Standing before a crowd of nearly 300 onlookers, Becker characterized the blessing as "a shot of adrenaline" coming as it did, as he began his final push toward the upcoming election.
"Recognition from Pope John Paul II is an affirmation that I am doing the right thing by serving my neighbors through government. To Pope John Paul II, I cannot adequately express in words the meaning this holds for me, but for what it's worth, thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Upon receiving the release from the Becker for Congress Committee, this newspaper contacted the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., the Vatican's Embassy in the United States.
A monsignor there, who asked that his name not be used because he did not wish to become a player in a local political brouhaha, said that while, to the best of his knowledge, the church has no written policy regarding overt political endorsements, it is unlikely that the pope sought to intercede in a race in the 4th Congressional District on Long Island.
"The Catholic Church has never endorsed anyone officially," the monsignor said. "Yes, we do endorse certain issues, but specific candidates, one over the other, no, that is just not done."
Questioned about the release, Harrison J. Edwards, Jr., the spokesman for the Becker campaign, said, "It's not an endorsement. The church cannot endorse a political candidate."
Edwards was then read back the first paragraph of the release, with emphasis placed on the phrase that states the blessing was given, in part "for the good he [Becker] hopes to accomplish in Congress."
"I apologize for the wording on that," Edwards said. "That's not what was intended. It should have said that this was a blessing for all the work Greg's done in the past and... luck for the future."