From The Weekly Standard, September 29 edition, by Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things…
Do they think this is a debate they’re actually going to win? Do they imagine the Catholic theologians of America – from Avery Cardinal Dulles all the way to Sister Sara Butler – are suddenly going to whack their heads and say, “My God, we never thought of that”? What impulse makes Catholic politicians try to argue theology with their own church?…
On and on it went, as stylized as a Kabuki performance – until, with his typical impatience, Denver’s archbishop, Charles Chaput, summed up: “Meet the Press has become a national window on the flawed moral reasoning of some Catholic public servants.” Fourteen bishops have now issued public statements on the Pelosi and Biden gaffes….
The default position used to be the one established by Mario Cuomo, in a famous talk he gave at Notre Dame in 1984, which claimed that Catholic officials may resist Church teaching by being personally opposed to abortion even though they publicly support it….
Now, however, the position seems to have become the notion that Catholic officials must resist Catholic teaching, since opposition to abortion is inherently religious – a matter solely of narrow sectarian definition, like not eating meat on Fridays. The fact that the Catholic Church holds a view has become the reason that Catholic politicians are required to oppose it. As Biden told Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press, “I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view.” Perhaps one shouldn’t read too much into those particular comments, for the babbling brook that is Joe Biden often overflows its banks.
Campaigning in MO, for example, he noted the praise that has come to Sarah Palin for her care for her Down syndrome baby, and he demanded that Republicans be asked, “If you care about it, why don’t you support stem cell research?”
Leave aside the fact that, even back in the 2004 glory days of overinflated claims for stem cells, no one seriously claimed they would soon cure Down syndrome. Leave aside, as well, the fact that the use of embryonic stem cells is what the pro-life community rejects. Leave aside, for that matter, the fact that the recent scientific breakthroughs with reprogrammed cells taken from adults have pushed much of the issue off the political table. Consider just the fact that Biden was declaring his own Catholic position on embryonic stem cells to be uncaring. As the philosopher Francis Beckwith observed of the incident, this is a man who won’t even force his beliefs on himself.
But Joe Biden – like Nancy Pelosi and other Catholic supporters of the Obama campaign – are caught in a bind that is, in many ways, even tighter this year than the one that squeezed John Kerry and his Catholic followers 4 years ago….
So what’s Joe Biden to do? What, for that matter, is any Catholic supporter of Obama to do? The ledge on which they are trying to stand is crumbling beneath their feet. Douglas Kmiec, a former legal counsel in the Reagan administration, has gotten the most publicity for his Catholic praise of the Democratic ticket. Indeed, he’s made a new career for himself out of being a Catholic Republican who supports Obama: pouring out op-eds, delivering speeches, and penning a just-released book, Can a Catholic Support Him?–Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama.
The title is a tease, as you might expect. “What’s wrong,” he writes, “is for Republican partisans to claim” that support for abortion is Obama’s position. “It’s not. Rather, Obama believes there are alternative ways to promote the ‘culture of life,’ even given the law’s sanction of abortion.” The trouble, of course, is that Obama has given little indication he believes anything of the sort, and, in the months Kmiec spent writing the book, the Democrats have systematically undermined its premise by explicitly endorsing Roe v. Wade and refusing any concessions that abortion might be even a necessary evil.
In response to it all, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden were reduced to the idiocy of trying to argue theology on the Sunday morning shows, and Kmiec’s claims have dwindled down to a kind of old-fashioned double-effect argument: The Republicans are so wrong about other issues, especially the Iraq war and the economy, that Catholics should vote for the Democratic party and accept the Democrats’ support for legalized abortion as an unintended consequence….
Things have tightened over the last few years, the Catholic position is firmer in the public’s mind – firmer in the Catholic mind, for that matter. McCain was a long way from the pro-lifers’ first choice for a Republican nominee, but the Democrats this election cycle are determined to force the issue. They’ve pushed, and they’ve pushed, and they’ve pushed, until Catholics are falling off the cliff. Poor Doug Kmiec and his sad question, “Can a Catholic Support Him?” As a matter of good conscience, the answer looks increasingly like no, a Catholic can’t support Obama….
This was a great column to read in its entirety.
[HT: moderator Carder]