Presidential contenders Chris Dodd and Sam Brownback - one Democrat, one Republican - demonstrated Monday how their political differences are rooted in their varying interpretations of their shared Catholic faith.
The two senators, appearing jointly at a Boston College forum on faith and politics, differed on abortion rights, civil unions for gay couples and embryonic stem cell research. Nonetheless, they used modest tones to suggest that Democrats and Republicans could bridge such gaps with more tolerance for their opponents' positions.
While the two Catholics agreed that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman - not gay couples - they differed in talking about their views on homosexuality.
Dodd, the father of two young girls, said, "I think it's a good question to ask how you would like your children treated."
Brownback, however, called homosexual acts immoral - as has the Catholic church - and said sanctioning them threatens the stability of traditional marriage.
"When you take away the sacredness or the uniqueness of marriage and you start redefining it, a lot of people just say, `Well, the institution doesn't have the meaning to me,'" Brownback said.
In a moment of agreement, Dodd, D-Conn., and Brownback, R-Kan., urged President Bush to work with Congress to devise a solution for Iraq.
Brownback said he told Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley last week that the administration should consider a "three-state, one-country" solution in which Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis live independently but under the banner of a federal city in Baghdad.
Neither Cheney nor Hadley reacted to the proposal, Brownback said.
"I'm frustrated that both parties have gotten to more in the way of fighting than trying to figure out what we can do," he said afterward during an interview with The Associated Press.
Dodd, who voted in 2002 to authorize military action in Iraq, said he now felt the war was wrong and called the Bush administration's justifications "fabricated."
Brownback said, "I don't think it's fair to the troops on the ground to second-guess it four years later."