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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Monday, October 20, 2008

This Guy's Good.

Archbishop Chaput is serious about making his voice heard on the most important issue of this election -life. There is too much good stuff to quote from his address to ENDOW, and the Archbishop is careful to make clear that he speaks in his own personal capacity, and not as a representative of the Church in this address, but here are some choice quotes (hat-tip Zenit) :

Prof. Kmiec has a strong record of service to the Church and the nation in his past. He served in the Reagan administration, and he supported Mitt Romney's campaign for president before switching in a very public way to Barack Obama earlier this year. In his own book he quotes from "Render Unto Caesar" at some length. In fact, he suggests that his reasoning and mine are “not far distant on the moral inquiry necessary in the election of 2008." Unfortunately, he either misunderstands or misuses my words, and he couldn't be more mistaken.

I believe that Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the most committed "abortion-rights" presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973. Despite what Prof. Kmiec suggests, the party platform Senator Obama runs on this year is not only aggressively "pro-choice;" it has also removed any suggestion that killing an unborn child might be a regrettable thing. On the question of homicide against the unborn child -- and let's remember that the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer explicitly called abortion "murder" -- the Democratic platform that emerged from Denver in August 2008 is clearly anti-life.

Prof. Kmiec argues that there are defensible motives to support Senator Obama. Speaking for myself, I do not know any proportionate reason that could outweigh more than 40 million unborn children killed by abortion and the many millions of women deeply wounded by the loss and regret abortion creates.

To suggest -- as some Catholics do -- that Senator Obama is this year's "real" pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse. To portray the 2008 Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred "pro-life" option is to subvert what the word "pro-life" means. Anyone interested in Senator Obama's record on abortion and related issues should simply read Prof. Robert George's essay of earlier this week, "Obama's Abortion Extremism," at thepublicdiscourse.com. It says everything that needs to be said.

Of course, these are simply my personal views as an author and private citizen. But I'm grateful to Prof. Kmiec for quoting me in his book and giving me the reason to speak so clearly about our differences. I think his activism for Senator Obama, and the work of Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.

And here's the irony. None of the Catholic arguments advanced in favor of Senator Obama are new. They've been around, in one form or another, for more than 25 years. All of them seek to "get beyond" abortion, or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won't be necessary. All of them involve a misuse of the seamless garment imagery in Catholic social teaching. And all of them, in practice, seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues.

This is a great sadness. As Chicago's Cardinal Francis George said recently, too many Americans have "no recognition of the fact that children continue to be killed [by abortion], and we live therefore, in a country drenched in blood. This can't be something you start playing off pragmatically against other issues."

Meanwhile, the basic human rights violation at the heart of abortion -- the intentional destruction of an innocent, developing human life -- is wordsmithed away as a terrible crime that just can't be fixed by the law. I don't believe that. I think that argument is a fraud. And I don't think any serious believer can accept that argument without damaging his or her credibility. We still have more than a million abortions a year, and we can't blame them all on Republican social policies. After all, it was a Democratic president, not a Republican, who vetoed the partial birth abortion ban -- twice.

The truth is that for some Catholics, the abortion issue has never been a comfortable cause. It's embarrassing. It's not the kind of social justice they like to talk about. It interferes with their natural political alliances. And because the homicides involved in abortion are "little murders" -- the kind of private, legally protected murders that kill conveniently unseen lives -- it's easy to look the other way.

The one genuinely new quality to Catholic arguments for Senator Obama is their packaging. Just as the abortion lobby fostered "Catholics for a Free Choice" to challenge Catholic teaching on abortion more than two decades ago, so supporters of Senator Obama have done something similar in seeking to neutralize the witness of bishops and the pro-life movement by offering a "Catholic" alternative to the Church's priority on sanctity of life issues. I think it's an intelligent strategy. I also think it's wrong and often dishonest.

It's curious that nobody seems to worry about the "separation of Church and state," or religious interference in the public square, when the religious voices that speak up support a certain kind of candidate. In his book, Prof. Kmiec complains about the agenda and influence of what he terms RFPs -- Republican Faith Partisans. But he also seems to pay them the highest kind of compliment: imitation. If RFPs are bad, is it unreasonable to assume that DFPs -- Democratic Faith Partisans -- are equally dangerous?


Read the rest of this talk. Buy Chaput's book. Vote for life.

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