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Grandinetti's Advocacy of Planned Parenthood Flies in the Face of Runningate Touma' s Leadership Role in Local Catholic Parish Abortion issue may divide candidates

The 2013 City Council primary is shaping up as one for the record books. But as record-breaking as it appears, no political observer would have declared the contest to be a matter of life and death…until now.

That’s because abortion politics has reared its head.

Kristen Grandinetti is seeking a second term on the council. Political rookie Andrew Touma is seeking a first term on the council. Grandinetti and Touma, both grade school teachers, are united philosophically in their political outlook. They are joined at the hip in their dislike of Councilman Sam Fruscione and they are equally united in their admiration for Mayor Paul Dyster.

But simmering beneath the surface of the coordinated Grandinetti - Touma honeymoon candidacy is an issue of life and death: abortion. The abortion issue is now poised to explode in the candidate’s respective camps much like a hand grenade - or perhaps more accurately - like a time bomb whose clock began ticking four years ago.

The matter has already set off shockwaves in the Niagara Falls Catholic community. Touma holds a position of prominence in a Catholic parish and Grandinetti, according to her past campaign literature, is a Catholic.

Inconveniently, Kristen Grandinetti is also a significant player in Planned Parenthood politics. In fact, her play is so substantial that Buffalo Planned Parenthood honored her with presentation of the William B. Hoyt Advocacy for Choice Award. The presentation took place at the Planned Parenthood annual fundraiser and awards event on May 13, 2009 at Kleinhan’s Music Hall. Flown in from Hollywood to make the presentation to Ms. Grandinetti was film and television star Wendie Malick, a native of Amherst, N, Y.

Grandinetti was also a member of the board of the Niagara Falls branch of Planned Parenthood.

And in August, 2011, Grandinetti hosted a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood called "Rockin' for Choice" set at the Wine on Third restaurant and which, at $30 per person, was a buffet and dance party.

For its billed "rockin' music," according to the Facebook page, it featured the "cool sounds of 'The Tune Babes.'"

While some might not find it insensitive to go out and dance for the right to be able to have abortions, or even to do it to the cool sounds of all names, the Tune Babes, some, including many Catholics, might find Grandinetti's party insulting.

They tend to think of abortion as the murder of babies.

On top of that, Grandinetti worked in 2009 to award cash from the city’s Community Development Department to Planned Parenthood of Niagara Falls. Much to Kristen’s disappointment, her substantial efforts to give taxpayer dollars to the local Planned Parenthood office failed.

On the other hand, her running mate, Democratic council candidate Andrew Touma, is the president of the St. John De LaSalle Parish Council. The St. John De LaSalle Catholic community is a much respected and highly regarded group of faithful Catholics. The parish runs a popular annual spring carnival and the parish has been an anchor of religious and social work in the greater LaSalle neighborhood for more than a century.

Several years ago, the St. John De LaSalle parish had a close brush with closure but the parish rallied to the challenge of their viability and convinced the Buffalo Catholic Diocese to allow it to remain open. That the parish is a vibrant religious family with an active membership and sincere volunteer base is beyond question.

Influential individuals within the St. John De LaSalle parish are now asking how the president of a local Catholic parish can partner politically with the pro-Planned Parenthood and 'pro-abortion' Grandinetti. Some believe that the contradiction is so great and the issue of abortion so critical to the very fabric of the Catholic faith that Touma must either separate from candidate Grandinetti or resign his leadership position at St. John De LaSalle.

“The conflict is just so incredibly stark,” said a local Catholic who declined to be identified at this time. “As a Catholic we are called to give witness to our faith and we are called to live that faith. I see only one path for Andrew and that is to move away from the politics of death, to move away from candidate Grandinetti.”

The Grandinetti supporters who claim that, “Planned Parenthood and abortion have nothing to do with being a city council member and it shouldn’t be part of the political debate,” should be aware of one thing: Grandinetti worked in 2009 to give taxpayer dollars - through the city Community Development Department - to the Planned Parenthood office in Niagara Falls. Based on this fact alone it would be reasonable to expect Grandinetti to blend her reproductive politics and her elected position in the future. In fact her friendship with Seth Piccirillo, current director of Community Development, could make such a move all the more likely.

Grandinetti and Touma have pointed accusing fingers at candidate Fruscione as they criticized him for selling T-shirts with the image of Stefano Magaddino. The glaring hypocrisy of candidate Touma bristling at Fruscione’s shirt sales while hooking up with pro-abortion Grandinetti in order to gain political office has not gone unnoticed.

“It’s a classic case of public scandal,” said our Catholic source. “The Church teaches that the life of a practicing Catholic lived in open opposition to the major teachings of the Church creates a condition of ‘public scandal.’ Planned Parenthood provides abortions services, plain and simple. Politicians can have it both ways on any number of social issues because they seek office in the secular world. But to be a Catholic in good standing, you must believe in something, and that something is the teachings of the Catholic Church. A person cannot - cannot - sit as the president of a Catholic parish council while turning a convenient blind eye to the politics of abortion which is the politics of death.”

The source went on to add, “A person who claims to be a Catholic can’t work as an organizer of Planned Parenthood which provides abortion services, and claim to be following the teachings of Jesus. As a politician fine, do what you want, but as a Catholic, it’s grossly hypocritical. A person should never make a claim to their Catholicity as subterfuge to collect votes.”

This writer and the Niagara Falls Reporter make no editorial or moral judgment regarding the issue of abortion. Abortion is an intensely personal issue that goes to individual conscience and particular religious beliefs regarding the interpretation of when life begins. We do, however, see abortion politics and the question of life and death - as embodied in the timeless abortion debate - as going to the heart of a political hypocrisy exhibited by Kristen Grandinetti and, if he does nothing, Andrew Touma whose signs are paired with Grandinetti throughout the city.

A member of the Catholic Church is called to live their faith. A candidate for political office is called to live their political beliefs. Here, between religious faith and political thought is where Touma and Grandinetti must explain themselves if they wish to remain viable candidates.

We have heard from Mr. Touma and Ms. Grandinetti regarding a Buffalo businessman building his hotel in our downtown. And we have seen their respective photos on anonymous political literature attacking a fellow candidate for selling T-shirts.

Now, we anxiously wait for them to share their thoughts on an issue that is, for many souls in the Niagara Falls community, a matter of life and death: the politics of abortion.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

AUG 20, 2013