The National Catholic Review
John F. Kavanaugh
'In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations.' -- John McCain
Image

In my last column I wrote an open letter to Senator Barack Obama. It seemed to serve as a Rorschach test for readers—ranging from people who thought I was promoting Obama to those who thought I was fixated on abortion. Among readers who sympathized with my quandary, one correspondent recommended that I write such a letter to you. Here it is.

“A lot of Democrats will vote for McCain.” So goes an advertisement on your behalf featuring a disillusioned Hillary Clinton voter. But there are also many other Democrats who would like to vote for you but are still on the fence—not because they were for Senator Clinton, but because they have other worries.

As I noted in my letter to Obama, Catholics are not a lock-step army of voters. Some are die-hard Democrats, some die-hard Republicans. Others, like me, grew up in families committed to one party but have also voted for both Republican and Democratic presidential nominees or have voted independent or by write-in. Many of us who are committed to the intrinsic value of human life have profound problems with Obama’s position on abortion, but also have profound problems with one of your positions. It is not an abortion problem—although you may want to rethink your conflicting statements that human rights begin “at conception,” and that embryonic stem cell research should be approved and funded.

Your problem is a war problem. One may hold the position that there are just wars, but this must be evidenced and argued. You still maintain that the invasion of Iraq was right and just and have intimated that you would invade Iran. You may say it was humor, when in April of 2007, you sang, “Bomb, bomb, bomb; bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of “Barbara Ann.” You may tell us to “lighten up.” But war is nothing to lighten up about. This is especially true at a time when The Jerusalem Post’s online edition of Sept. 1 runs the headline, “U.S. to Strike Iran in Coming Weeks,” based on Dutch intelligence calling off its infiltration and sabotage operations in Iran.

How can we “lighten up,” when we consider the Iraq invasion and what it has brought about: the death of more than 4,000 American combatants, with the accompanying devastation to their families, parents and children; 30,000 wounded, many of them fated to a lifetime of rehabilitation, the countless thousands with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; the 150,000 Iraqis who are now refugees; the 43,000 to one million Iraqi lives lost. (The range of the death estimate is so wide and wild because we do not know how to count or catalogue them, whether we consult the Iraqi Health Ministry report to the United Nations, the Opinion Research Business poll or the Lancet Study of June 2006. Even the Iraq Body Count figure of 80,000 civilian deaths due to coalition or insurgency military action, sectarian violence and criminal acts warns us that “many deaths will likely go unreported.”) The war brought all this on.

Pope John Paul II was prophetic when in his January 2003 address to Vatican diplomats, he called the war a “defeat for humanity,” especially in light of the “consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.”

Was the war one of “last resort” or one of “choice”? Was the war justified by solid evidence or by cooked intelligence? Was there disproportionate suffering inflicted on the innocent? Can you answer these questions? And are you able to refute Russia’s appeal to our invasion of Iraq as a justification for their invasion of Georgia? Your scolding words “In the 21st century, nations do not invade nations” are belied by the Iraq invasion. And now you are ready to bomb Iran?

There are many Catholics who have these questions, despite their admiration for you as a man of honor, your courage as a prisoner of war, your sense of decency and your admission of failure. Moreover, they appreciate your compassionate stance on illegal immigrants, your once high moral stand on torture, your willingness to collaborate with the opposing party—some of the very reasons many Republicans opposed your nomination.

Seven months ago, I wrote that I could vote for either you or Obama; and it is still that way. The situation is unchanged, except for the fact that you both are now the nominees of the major parties. Just as I would vote for Obama if he showed any curiosity and questioning of his abortion policies, so I would vote for you if you showed any reservations about your willingness to fight wars of choice.

In the matters of human life and death, you and your opponent have the shared opportunity to pose a profound question for yourselves and for the nation you would lead. It is a question that could rise from our shared humanity, but Christians might put it this way: How are we to treat the least of our brothers and sisters, whether they are unborn, undocumented or citizens of a country we are set to invade? A Roman Catholic bishop has strikingly stated that Catholics who vote for abortion-rights politicians will have to explain themselves to aborted fetuses in the afterlife. He also reportedly applied the image to the victims of war and torture. Will we be able to face the refugee, the imprisoned, the maimed, and the dead of war and say, “Yes, it was worth it. I willed and wanted it”?

Read Douglas W. Kmiecs response to Father Kavanaughs open letter to Barack Obama.

John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., is a professor of philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

Comments

Sues Krebs | 12/21/2008 - 7:22pm
Timing is a crucial element of decision processing when it comes to military battles. Did we move too fast? Yes Were we misled about the reasoning for the war? Possibly. But those questions don't help us now that we are in the battleground. "Is there an end in sight?" And "What will the country be like if we pull out troops now?" are the real questions. With the losses and injuries, as well as the newly trained our hopes are for peace and safe return.
RICHARD ESCOBALES | 10/6/2008 - 10:38am
I read with great interest the two letters by Fr. Kavanaugh “Dear Senator Obama” and “Dear Senator McCain.” Each candidate would do well to read both of Fr. Kavanaugh’s letters. Because of his truly extreme position on abortion rights, I am unable vote for Senator Obama. How “pro-choice” is Senator Obama? A September 21st editorial of the New York Times quotes Senator Obama as promising to make “‘ preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as president .’” While Fr. Kavanaugh’s recommendations in his letter to Senator Obama are good first steps, Fr. Kavanaugh’s recommendations do not go nearly far enough. Roe v. Wade and the other Supreme Court decisions supporting legalized abortion have launched an unprecedented assault on basic constitutional protections. As the ugly stepsister of legalized abortion continues to try to force her foot into the constitutional glass slipper, that glass slipper will eventually shatter. Ironically, the very day that of the appearance of the above New York Times editorial, pro -choice, billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York made the following remarkable statement on Meet The Press. “ We have a birth rate that’s too low to support Social Security.” Certainly, if the nearly 50 million Americans destroyed by legalized abortion since Roe v. Wade had been allowed to live, the American birth rate might not be so low, and Social Security might not be in such great danger. Voters who are not billionaires like Michael Bloomberg would do well to think long and hard before voting for a candidate like Senator Obama who aggressively supports abortion rights. For Senator Obama preserving abortion rights trumps the security of Social Security. There have been other disturbing consequences of abortion legalization, largely ignored by the national media. In a landmark study published in The Journal of Legal Studies in June 2003, authors Jonathan Klick and Thomas Stratmann concluded that “Legalizing abortion provided extra incentives to engage in risky sexual activity.” Using established statistical methods of experimental design, these authors conclude that the spike in the rates of syphilis and gonorrhea as a result of abortion legalization was “causal.” These authors remark: “ Our regression results show that abortion legalization led to an increase of sexually transmitted diseases [STDs]; this result is robust to a wide range of time periods and covariates and is constant across the sexes . The point estimates indicate that legalization caused an increase in the gonorrhea and syphilis rates potentially as large as 25 percent.” And, that’s the good news. The bad news is that only data limitations prevented Professors Klick and Stratmann from addressing the abortion effect on other STDs. Ironically, the incompetent but sweeping Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade facilitated a “double quasi experiment” used by these authors. Data for the study was obtained from the Center for Disease Control. An Obama presidency would be disastrous for both unborn Hispanic Americans and unborn African Americans. In an article by Rob Stein in the September 23rd, 2008 Washington Post one reads the following. “In 2004, there were 10.5 abortions per 1,000 white women ages 15 to 44, compared with 28 per 1,000 Hispanic women of that age and 50 per 1,000 black women. That translates into approximately 1 percent of white women having an abortion in 2004, compared with 3 percent of Hispanic women and 5 percent of black women.” There appears to be little sadness on Senator Obama’s part for this frightful destruction of unborn human life. No, as we have seen, preserving Roe v. Wade would be for Senator Obama “a priority as president.” While I cannot vote for Senator Obama, I am disturbed that Senator McCain seems to have surrounded himself with neoconservative advisers who would counsel him to become a Rehoboam to Bush’s Solomon. Despite its comedic potent
David Pasinski | 9/30/2008 - 4:27pm
I am surprised that you would let your vote be determined by that single issue presented to each candidate around a life value. I think that governance is much more complex and to offer your vote if one considers another position sounds very simplified to me.
David Pasinski | 9/30/2008 - 4:22pm
I am surprised that you would let your vote be determined by that single issue presented to each candidate around a life value. I think that governance is much more complex and to offer your vote if one considers another position sounds very simplified to me.
MICHAEL LYDON | 9/28/2008 - 1:23pm
Fr. Kavanaugh's Open Letter to John McCain rightly challenges the notion that our invasion of Iraq was "just" in the tradition of Catholic theological reflection. It was not justified using the criteria of just war. Wars of pre-emption are disallowed outright. And I agree with Fr. Kavanaugh's wonderment about all the collateral deaths, displacements, etc. that have occurred to the Iraqi people as a result of our invasion. I also see, based on some reader's commments, that while our "culture of death" legally supports a woman's right to choose abortion at any time, I do not pay for her abortion as a taxpayer, nor do I agree with it. Plus, no one is forcing her to obtain an abortion, as in China or Japan. But in the case of war, I do pay for it as a taxpayer. So, am I complicit in the deaths of innocent Iraqis who died "collaterally"? I am afraid, in the matter of this war, every taxpayer has innocent blood on her or his hands.
Fr. Louis Arceneaux, c.m. | 9/25/2008 - 4:01pm
People certainly have strong feelings and convictions on this issue of what issue(s) is decisive in determining who is the better candidate. My one question to those who are opposed to Obama and say he is pro-abortion is this. Are you aware of one person whom Obama forced to have an abortion? No one is forced to have an abortion. As Catholics I think we ought to use our voices to convince people that our Faith, and not our government laws, ought to motiviate us to not have abortions and to promote life for all from conception to the grave. On the other hand, when one supports war, as McCain does, he is not offering a choice. He is saying we are going to kill people. I prefer to stand with Catholics for Obama and his efforts to provide the resources that will encourage more and more people to give birth and not choose to have abortions. Some of us have a cynical opinion that many Republicans really don't want the abortion issue to go away. If it goes away, they will lose their selling point with pro-life people. How strongly have they pushed for the overthrow of Roe vs Wade? Think about that. Peace!
NY E.Patrick Mosman | 12/31/1969 - 7:00pm
As Father Kavanaugh is entering the realm of politics in his letters to the candidates the following is a a political response. Barack Obama and Abortion Douglas W. Kmiec
E.Patrick Mosman | 9/24/2008 - 7:18am
By referencing 'cooked intelligence' Father Kavanaugh is either unaware or ignoring the input of the intelligence services of England, France, Germany and others or more likely proposing an international conspiracy of intelligence agencies bent on going to war against Saddam Hussein. This is an imaginative stretch for even the most ardent antiwar advocates. Since we now know that Saddam Husssein possessed 550 tons of uranium 'yellowcake' "http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/07/07/iraq.uranium/index.html 500 tons of uranium shipped from Iraq, Pentagon says" July 7, 2008 Story Highlights Pentagon: -U.S. secretly shipped Iraq's low-grade uranium dating back to Hussein era Officials: -U.S. military spent $70 million for the transport of materials to Canada -"Yellowcake" uranium transfer was requested by the Iraqi government" perhaps Father Kavanaugh could look into the present day with Saddam Hussein still in power, unfettered by any UN sanctions and in possession of at least 550 tons of uranium, free to acquire more, and predict what the situation would be in Iraq. It is the Pope's duty to speak against war and it is the duty of the civilian leaders of nations to protect their citizens , even by
ROSALINO DIZON MS | 9/22/2008 - 11:14am
The responses to Father Kavanaugh demonstrate, I think, how sadly polarized Americans are, including American Catholics, regarding moral issues under discussion. I get the sense in the responses, however, that party affiliation trumps moral consideration and determines the position one takes on the issues. Given such polarization, I see little hope of even American Catholics truly devoting “themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” and being genuinly “of one heart and mind” (Acts 2:42; 4:32). On second thought, maybe, like the divided early Christians, we can overcome our differences and come to some agreement by being “mindful of the poor” (cf. Acts 11:1-18; 15:1-31; Gal. 2:1-14).
Edward Visel | 9/21/2008 - 12:32am
I have long been an admirer of your column; these two letters have been no exception. That said, I think that in large part all of us as Catholics could use a large dose of practicality in our political opinions. This leads me to three critiques: 1. Give specifics. Yes, presumably John McCain supports the war, but certainly not in the way that George Bush does, nor in the way Obama opposes it, though their exit strategies are less different than one would think. Part of the difficulty with McCain is figuring out what he will be if he gets elected. He has remarkably transformed his image in the last two years, but how much have his ideas and opinions changed? We can only really tell through his actions and votes. 2. A fact largely unrealized: overturning Roe v. Wade would not make abortion illegal; it would simply return the decision to the states. By the polls, blue states would not change, and it is actually unlikely most red ones would, either, though some might. Constitutionally, overturning Roe would be a good move; it is one of the most awfully written decisions since Dred Scott, and an example of legislating from the bench at its worst. In practical terms, it will never happen. Like it or not, abortion is here to stay. The pro-life margin is simply too small, and changes (by either party) would be political suicide. There will be marginal legislation (partial-birth bans, informance rules, etc.) for the forseeable future, but no major changes. It is time for single-issue voters to mature and move on. 3. These letters are about individual issues. This isn't bad, but it is a disservice to paint a candidate in terms of a single issue. These are important ones, yes, but we need to look beyond the popular issues into the meat of their platforms to be truly informed voters. They are both available on their respective websites. I encourage everyone to go take a good look before they vote. Being an ethical Catholic in the modern world is complicated; it is much more than listening to sermons and doing what the Pope says. "Ethics Notebook" has consistently been a helpful aide in examining our world, our doctrine, and our consciences in the course of coming to conclusions. I, for one, appreciate the help, as a young independent Catholic.
MICHAEL CALLAHAN MR | 9/16/2008 - 11:23am
Dear Father Kavanaugh, thank you for taking the time and the intellectual honesty to dialogue about the many conflicts in the issues of voting this year in America. The "black and white", one issue voting is for those who do not read and think about the whole circle of concerns for many of us. Thank you for giving "voice" tothe whole circle of the human life issues for many of us. I wish the other issues of poverty,constitutional rights, health care and education would be addressed in this dialogue forum you provide here. thank you for your work for all of us. Joanne Callahan
| 9/15/2008 - 4:57pm
Why does all this "liberal" name calling mantra come out whenever anybody questions the moral justification for our attacking Iraq. Let me make an analogy and perhaps you can extrapolate to the question of "was any war worthy of being fought in your mind?" Lt's say somebody breaks into my home. Yes, I am morally justified if I blast the invader with my .20 g. double barrel. However, if I run around the neighborhood and decide to start shooting all of my neighbors because I "suspect" they had something to do with breaking into my home, then I am a murderer, and maybe insane, or perhaps both. Yes 9-11 was bad, but that does not justify "blasting" an inoocent party just out of revenge.
Mitch | 9/15/2008 - 3:29pm
I HATE VIOLENCE. AS A POLICE OFFICER (NOW RETIRED), I OCCASIONALLY USED NECESSARY FORCE TO PROTECT MYSELF OR OTHERS FROM HARM. THE CHURCH ALLOWS THE USE OF FORCE TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT. PRIOR TO THE WAR, IRAC OFTEN BOMBED AND GASED MANY OF IT'S OWN CITIZENS WHILE THE REST OF THE WORLD WATCHED. SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE. I BELIEVE THE WAR IN IRAC WAS JUSTIFIED IF ONLY TO STOP THE KILLING OF IT'S OWN PEOPLE. THERE ARE PEOPLE IN OUR COUNTRY THAT ARE WILLING TO TURN THEIR BACKS ON GENECIDE AND OTHERS WHO WILL ONLY GET ENVOLVED TO HELP PROMOTE THEIR OWN AGENDA. WE SHOULD STRIVE TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT NO MATTER WHERE THEY MAY BE. I BELIEVE THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE THIS NOVEMBER IS NOT WAR BUT THAT OF ABORTION AND PROTECTING THE INNOCENT UNBORN.
Gary McElroy | 9/15/2008 - 1:34pm
McCain scares me with his sabre-rattling, with his scare tactics, with his flip=flopping on issues. This is not a careful thinker, but a gut-responder who appeals to the same instinct in the public. Those who think the "right to life" applies mostly to fetuses, and not to victims in senseless wars, need to have their consciences examined. You come close to approaching this, but I wish you would draw it out to its logical conclusion: right to life means rights of born human beings as much as the unborn.
Marie Rehbein | 9/15/2008 - 12:34pm
Dear Leonard, It seems to me that the Supreme Court interpretation of the Second Amendment would be sufficient protection for gun ownership rights in the US, and that what happened in England would not likely happen here.
onlein | 9/15/2008 - 9:44am
Of course I erred in my earlier post (#19). We have been in Iraq longer than we were in WWII, but not twice as long. I stand corrected by myself. Once you send these things, they are sent. I've always been a slow editor of what I write, catching things a bit too late. That said, I do hope Catholics can resist dividing ourselves into categories like "prolife" and "prochoice." Both sides of the abortion rights debate tend to overlook the obvious: the pregnant woman, not the unborn or the woman but both-in-one, the woman-with-child. This is where our focus should be. Show these women Christian love. Do our best to understand them. Help them to choose life. Even God gives us a choice. His Son came and did not advocate war or revenge or new earthly laws, only his new law of love. We all know that Jesus would be there for pregnant women today who face a culture unreceptive to their condition and their promise within. I know I'm not doing enough, or much at all, to help these women -- except speaking out like this and trying to understand them and arguing against a strict anti-abortion stance. I admire those who picket and speak out openly; they are more action-oriented than I. Yet I think that we on both sides of the debate can join in the WWJD effort of more support, understanding and help for pregnant women, including tempering the predominant pro-business, anti-life culture we live in.
Leonard | 9/14/2008 - 6:52pm
Dear Marie: Perhps "no Democrat" wants to totally ban guns but that is no reason to be complacent. (In fact Dennis Kucinich has proposed just that, and there are anti-gun Republicans.) England started the 20th century with virtually no gun laws, little crime, and considerable complacenly that "nobody wants to take our guns." Today guns are almost totally banned in England, crime is through the roof and former complacent English sportsmen and homeowners are left wondering how it happened. Yes, firearms prohibition can happen here.
Kathleen McGourty | 9/14/2008 - 5:59pm
Thank you for your letter to John McCain. This is not a single issue election and you highlight two very important issues that our leaders need to address. Life, from womb to tomb, should be protected, dignified and treasured.
Edison Woods | 9/14/2008 - 4:38pm
I regret Mr. McCain's position on embryonic stem cell research. It is not consistent with a position that life begins at conception. Surely a embryo deserves protection at any stage of development. As for those who support stem cell research, I remind them that an embryo is a living human being and as such deserving of life not death not even for the sake of medical science! After all surely if it is wrong to execute a criminal for his or her crimes then it is equally wrong to murder an unborn child in the name of medical progress!
Lori Amann-Chetcuti | 9/14/2008 - 11:19am
Thank you, Father Kavanaugh, for pointing out that Catholics of good conscience have problems with both parties. I was dismayed to hear a deacon in my church refer to the Republican Convention as creating "a great week for Pro-life," with nary a mention of the war in Iraq, which was a war of choice. I understand it's painful for those with sons and daughters in Iraq to hear that this was an unnecessary, unjust war. To hold this opinion does not denigrate their service. We owe it to our servicemen and women to hold our government to the highest standards.
joe | 9/14/2008 - 8:17am
Father Kavanaugh has given us another excellent summation of our frustration this election year. I look at these two candidates and wander along a spectrum between resignation and heartache. We have a choice between Obama, the aggressively pro-abortion candidate who has swallowed whole the concept of absolute individual liberty without responsibility, when it comes to the profoundly violent death of a human life inside the womb. And McCain, who thinks the Iraq war that has cost thousands of American lives, and killed or ruined a couple of million Iraqi lives, can somehow be justified as a preemptive act of "self-defense." We are standing between two pillars of Orwell's "1984". Now we know how Samson felt.
Jim Belna | 9/14/2008 - 2:45am
It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic that a Jesuit academic, who in his entire adult life has never been called upon to make a decision more important than choosing red or white wine with dinner, presumes to publicly lecture John McCain about the horrors of war. It speaks volumes about Father Kavanaugh's narcissism that he thinks he has a greater awareness of loss and suffering and sacrifice than a former POW who not only faced profound personal suffering but who also assumed responsibility for placing other men in harm's way. I'm sure that Father Kavanaugh is personally convinced that there is never any such thing as a "just war", and I imagine that he will cling to that belief up until the day that terrorists manage to knock out the cable television in the faculty lounge at Saint Louis University. Those of us who have concerns beyond the care and feeding of our own egos tend to favor more proactive responses to the manifest evil of this world than striking a wry pose in a magazine column photo. The irony is that Father Kavanaugh enjoys the privilege of sniping at great men like John McCain precisely because they have been willing to fight and die for his freedom, and for the freedom of their fellow men in all corners of the globe.
Elaine Tannesen | 9/14/2008 - 1:38am
Did you vote for Bush in the last two presidential elections? If you did, in most of the last eight years with a Republican "pro-life" administration and congress, was there a significant drop in abortions? I think not, but these last eight years of " pro-life" Republican policies have brought us a pre-emptive war based on lies, torture defended from the White House, renditions, the deaths of countless civilians and 4.5-5 million refugees from the war in Iraq alone. As money is poured into the military industrial complex and corporations and CEO's make record profits, families are losing their homes, lack decent health care, work several jobs to put food on their tables, and bridges crumble. Could our huge war budget, glorification and privatization of the military be part of the reason we continue to kill both in other countries and in the womb? A tragic culture of death. In God's eyes every life is equally precious. How can you be pro-life and pro-war? Were the last eight years really pro-life? Would it be any different with McCain as a "pro-life" president? "Pro-life?"
JOSEPH D'ANNA | 9/13/2008 - 8:06pm
It is disheartening to read some of the responses to Fr. Kavanaugh’s column in that the vote of many American Catholics is motivated by a single issue (war, second amendment, abortion) or ignorance about the Iraq war. There are many issues that will affect the future of our nation and the world. Will the United States continue the neo-conservative tactics embraced by John McCain, or will we seek to bring peace and reason to a troubled world? Will we be willing to sacrifice in the short term to prevent the continued consequences of global warming? Do we really believe in medical care for all Americans, social justice and cooperation in the world, or do we feel that a prayer on Sunday is enough? (If a prayer is enough, why isn’t it enough for all issues?) Do we want to elect officials who, some day, may appoint judges who may decide that abortion is illegal? Do we care that the sectors of our economy are seriously out of balance, and that good paying jobs are declining for many people? Do we care that we are the world’s largest debtor nation, that we have 10 trillion dollars of unfunded obligations, and that we have mortgaged the future of our children and grandchildren so that we can lower our taxes now? Will we do more to promote a better life for non-Americans, as well? Unless we can achieve peace and preserve the earth’s ability to maintain life, the other questions become moot. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are perfect. Based on all the issues, I recently changed political parties and will be voting for Obama and the Democrats. Thank you, America magazine, for illuminating our nation’s problems and for reminding us of our obligations as human beings. Apparently, our governmental officials do not read America.
MARIA KRZESKI | 9/13/2008 - 4:15pm
My Dear Fellow Catholics, It is about time that someone with authority among Christian/Catholic starts to question in a serious matter the pro-life intentions of McCain/Palin ticket. Thank you Father K. What does it mean to be "pro-life"? I understand that it means to support dignity of human life from the natural beginning to the natural end, at all stages. Yet, in the American culture the term has been stolen for the purpose of politicizing the issue of abortion. Many of the pro-life Republicans do not care for the life of the living humans. They have no problem starting wars, and the fact that the American soldiers are killed or maimed, and that thousands of innocent civilians (Iraq, Afghanistan) are killed is not an anti-life issue. There is even a term "collateral damage." They have no problem that born children live in poverty, are killed by legal guns, and have no health insurance. They have no problem with adults not being able to provide for their children and elderly not being able to pay for simple medications. To them and those brainwashed by them, these are not "PRO-LIFE" issues. The only issue that is of matter is abortion! There is profound hypocrisy in this attitude and the Catholics in their conscience of conscience must discern it. How come the killing of an unborn is different from the killing a living person? How different is the killing by a gun different from killing by hunger or by failure to provide proper health care? Let's look at J. McCain. Yes, he may claim to be against abortion, but he is convinced that the WAR IS THE CHOICE, bombing is good! And has no problem with hundreds of thousands killed in the "collateral damage." Let's look at Ms. Palin. Her only claim to being pro-life is that she delivered a Down baby. But in her interviews she does not seem to blink when a priori deciding all the wars USA will have to start when she becomes the VP- or God forbid- the President. Neither of them thinks about the dignity of human being. They make superficial and hypocritical proclamations for the purpose of very harmful to the nation and to the world, political gains. Do you really can vote in good conscience for a man who perhaps used to be a hero, but since then voted with Bush as many times as he did? Is GWB a pro-life president? He certainly is not and neither will be J. McCain. For those of you, who think that the war is not such an evil, I very strongly recommend that you travel to the countries which lived through such disaster. Put yourselves in the shoes of those innocent civilians who had no say in decisions of GWB and J. McCain to attack Iraq. Europe, although WWII ended 63 years ago, remembers. I am Polish, and my parents who lived through the war saw the piles of human bodies burning in the middle of Warsaw, they remember the smell for ever. For ever they remember the violence. An entire generation of Poles was imprinted in their view of the world by the WWII. I am sure that soldiers coming back from Iraq remember. That memory does not abandon those who walked through this violence. We were taught to remember the evil of war, just like we are taught in this country to remember the evil of Holocaust. In Warsaw, I grew up in the house with the bullets' tracks from the WWII in its exterior walls. They got rid of them only recently. So think very deeply!!! Imagine your house bombed and your loved ones killed. Remember how PRO LIFE this is when you make your presidential choice. Use of abortion as a single issue to decide on for whom to vote represents also a profound political manipulation. Just to make my argument more clear: Would you vote for Hitler (his ascend to power was fully legitimate and he won parlamental election) because he would be against abortion? He wanted to expand the Arian race. Or would you rather look at the whole aspect of what he carried in his political program and how he manipulated the election process to achieve his evil goals? As Christians we are
david hennessy | 9/13/2008 - 4:01pm
I have pondered these issues for a long time and as a lifelong Democrat I now realize that it is now impossible to be a Roman Catholic and a Democrat. I choose being a member of the culture of life not the culture of death. War is hell. No one supports war.... especially.... John McCain he has lived it. Have you? Barrack Obama is one of the strongest supporters of the culture of death in the U.S. Senate. No matter how important(and it is very important to the future of our nation) to burst through the glass ceiling and elect an African American to the highest office in the land I can not support Mr.Obama due to his support for abortion in all of its hideous manifestations.Never mind his laughable economic agenda. As far as the usual left wing tripe presented here re Senator McCain and the war in Iraq....I fear that the fair left crowd that reads this magazine and the good father/author have never seen a war worthy of being fought. Liberty is for them only(white liberals)and the United States is the great satan,Bush is the devil Global warming is their theology the failed agenda of the left their sacrament.Blah blah blah Father, have another chardonnay and ponder the way you have expirienced repression here in the police state you call home. As for torture when Obama gets elected Im sure the boys at Guantanamo Bay will get AC and cable in there cells. Don't be scared....dust off and play the video of 9-11 and remember what your friends in Al Qaeda think of us........all of us....they are very inclusive when they kill. Then ponder the torture of those attacked and murderes that day and the ongoing torture of the injured and those left behind. inclusive in whom they kill. I quess it is easy to forget.
Anita Powers | 9/13/2008 - 3:29pm
Father John, I read your letter to Senator McCain, and I agree with you. The problem with voting for Senator McCain is his position on Iraq. However,I think Obama takes a stand on abortion that I agree with. I am against abortion, but, as an American, living in a pluralistic society where government is of the people, for the people and by the people, I think it is wrong to impose anti-abortion laws on people who do agree about when life begins. Obama has said that we can all work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. As a Catholic, I think it is important to help people thinking of an abortion, to consider other options. Legislating morality, when well meaning people don't agree on what is moral begins to sound like a conflict in separation between Church and state. What do you think?
Anita Powers | 9/13/2008 - 3:25pm
Father John, I read your letter to Senator McCain, and I agree with you. The problem with voting for Senator McCain is his position on Iraq. However,I think Obama takes a stand on abortion that I agree with. I am against abortion, but, as an American, living in a pluralistic society where government is of the people, for the people and by the people, I think it is wrong to impose anti-abortion laws on people who do agree about when life begins. Obama has said that we can all work together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. As a Catholic, I think it is important to help people thinking of an abortion, to consider other options. Legislating morality, when well meaning people don't agree on what is moral begins to sound like a conflict in separation between Church and state. What do you think?
onlein | 9/13/2008 - 2:06pm
The Pope said invading Iraq was wrong, was an unjust invasion. Could it be any clearer? We are still making up reasons for the invasion. WWII lasted about half as long as the Iraq war, and we didn't have to forever come up with reasons for it. As I watched our troops storming down the highway toward Baghdad, I felt deep down inside that we were speeding into a trap. The Pope's words were on my mind. I think all Catholics are prolife. But hardly any of us is prolife across the board, as Pope John Paul urged us to be. As for abortion, I think we are all prolife but not all "prolife." Not letting women choose in a society with a corporate culture that regards pregnant workers and babies as a hindrance to business as usual is cruel. Work first to change the corporate culture based on the belief that greed will be transformed into good by The Invisible Hand Of The Market. This is idolatry. We are way too hung up on the legalization issue -- and we are too easily manipulated by big business Republicans who favor the anti-life corporate culture that makes abortion more likely. "Prolife" and "prochoice" Catholics can work together, even love each other. Can't we?
Paul Halter | 9/13/2008 - 10:25am
Some are saying the war in Iraq was not justified, that we (who ever we are?) were misled. Some are saying it is an economic thing that we should be spending our money after the government takes it on health care not war. Some say government should not be involved in telling us what moral is if we do not want to birth a baby. It is the women’s choice. I do not think we can say what God would do. We sure thought differently when War was voted on by almost all of the legislators that got to vote when we decided to go into Afghanistan and then to invade Iraq it was voted again by almost all that had a say. There were a few like Obama who opposed it. He must have felt he was following his conscience or formed values. I would have voted to attack just as I would vote to drill, Health care is a problem and many chose to not pay for it while paying for other things they think is important. Choices, I am Pro-Life and I defend the life of the unborn and I respect and honor our troops who respect the life of people as well by protecting with first strike when it is threatened. We just remembered 9-11 which occurred before we took this stand of first strike and we have not had another since on our soil. With instruction from the bible to love our enemies I am trying to love the men who took it upon themselves to kill the infidels and not become like one. I pray 1st strike does not become like them. It is my belief, that it is as our country is founded on Christian values, principles, truths and my attending to regular study, piety, and action that will keep me from that and call for my forgiveness of the men for the grief and loss from 9-11. please pray for me and I will for you as we discern who we will vote for in November.
Marie Rehbein | 9/13/2008 - 8:58am
Leonard Martino's fears that his right to own a gun will be taken away are unnecessary. Not only has the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment really means that individuals are allowed to have guns, and not only for use as part of their states' militias, but no Democratic candidate has ever done anything to indicate that he or she would work to outlaw private gun ownership.
Leonard Martino | 9/13/2008 - 7:12am
Gee, I didn't think anybody was still defending that gigantic turkey of invading Iraq. One writer compares our invasion of Iraq to war with Nazi Germany. As I recall, Hilter claimed that Polish "terrorists" were using Poland as a base of operations against Germany. I am sure "terrorists" have moved about in just about every corner of the globe, does that give us moral cover to attack, at will, any nation we choose? As for Saddam Hussein, the "gassing" victims were actually casualties of the Iran-Iraq War (most war defenders seem never to have heard about it.) Iraq had a decrepit military, and her air force was not even allowed to fly over two-thirds of Iraq! To claim that Iraq was an "Islamicist" state under Hussein borders on stupidity. Hussein was far from being a practicing Muslim. In fact, Tariq Azziz is a Catholic. Iraq was not even close to being an Islamic state. Before calling for raining down death and destruction on foreign lands, don't forget that the Germans learned to regret jumping into the frying pan of war so hastilly. Our hubris may one day catch up with us.
Leonard Martino | 9/13/2008 - 7:10am
Gee, I didn't think anybody was still defending that gigantic turkey of invading Iraq. One writer compares our invasion of Iraq to war with Nazi Germany. As I recall, Hilter claimed that Polish "terrorists" were using Poland as a base of operations against Germany. I am sure "terrorists" have moved about in just about every corner of the globe, does that give us moral cover to attack, at will, any nation we choose? As for Saddam Hussein, the "gassing" victims were actually casualties of the Iran-Iraq War (most war defenders seem never to have heard about it.) Iraq had a decrepit military, and her air force was not even allowed to fly over two-thirds of Iraq! To claim that Iraq was an "Islamicist" state under Hussein borders on stupidity. Hussein was far from being a practicing Muslim. In fact, Tariq Azziz is a Catholic. Iraq was not even close to being an Islamic state. Before calling for raining down death and destruction on foreign lands, don't forget that the Germans learned to regret jumping into the frying pan of war so hastilly. Our hubris may one day catch up with us.
Keyran Moran | 9/13/2008 - 4:20am
“Oh Lord, enlighten our minds, strengthen our (theologized) wills.” Why do the bishops imagine that pro-life is limited to the intra-uterine? Have they forgotten the Slaughter of the Innocents in Palestine—now in its 42nd year? Has the Church---at times guided by the Holy Spirit--now become the Church Indentured? Is this scandal less or greater than the silence of the Vatican with the Third Reich? Father Kavanaugh is so polite in comparing the incommensurables, you would think that the Prophets were left out of his education: My guess is that he had too much Augustine and too little Amos: “Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, And leave off righteousness in the earth-- Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and the Orion.”
Leonard Martino | 9/12/2008 - 7:23pm
My thoughts almost exactly. It might seema bit odd to you but the "big issue" that attracted me to the Republican Party (so far) has been the Second Amendment. But just because somebody believes in the right of personal self-defense does not mean (at least in my case, but I know of others) that I'm a "war monger." Other issues are important to me too of course, but I've rationalized in the past voting for hawks because they were "pro-gun." There is an unseen, but definite dichotomy here, as proven by the Ron Paul phenomenon. By the way, Hubert Humphrey was a gun owning liberal.
Leonard Martino | 9/12/2008 - 7:23pm
My thoughts almost exactly. It might seema bit odd to you but the "big issue" that attracted me to the Republican Party (so far) has been the Second Amendment. But just because somebody believes in the right of personal self-defense does not mean (at least in my case, but I know of others) that I'm a "war monger." Other issues are important to me too of course, but I've rationalized in the past voting for hawks because they were "pro-gun." There is an unseen, but definite dichotomy here, as proven by the Ron Paul phenomenon. By the way, Hubert Humphrey was a gun owning liberal.
Leonard Martino | 9/12/2008 - 7:23pm
My thoughts almost exactly. It might seema bit odd to you but the "big issue" that attracted me to the Republican Party (so far) has been the Second Amendment. But just because somebody believes in the right of personal self-defense does not mean (at least in my case, but I know of others) that I'm a "war monger." Other issues are important to me too of course, but I've rationalized in the past voting for hawks because they were "pro-gun." There is an unseen, but definite dichotomy here, as proven by the Ron Paul phenomenon. By the way, Hubert Humphrey was a gun owning liberal.
patrick | 9/12/2008 - 4:56pm
i have worked in war torn countries, though i have never been in a war. the consequences of war are horrendus, not to speak of the horrors experienced by participants. i have lived under a dictatorship set up with the aid of the US and one that came to be supported by a "saintly" pope. that was a horrible experience. what "interests" can justify war or the establishment of dictatorships? are they rational? or is it irrationality that drives leaders and nations to war, except in the case of clearly legitimate wars of defense, where it is a case of fight or be subjugated, killed etc.? I believe it is always irrational. There is no culture of life involved in going to war. there can be no justification that is rational, though we have plenty of people willing to rationalize their support for irrationality. this is the 21 st. century. it is a time when nuclear destruction is around the corner at all times, because we are no longer looking at highly structured ideologically driven states. the US does not know what it is anymore as a state now that the cold war is over. today we have yahoo political leaders everywhere war is likely to be promoted, and the list only begins with bin laden. as for mccain, he is wrapped in the american flag or words, and unable to see his own face where the truth can be seen. He is a man who never developed emotionally from his only real, real experience, his days in prison. that spells ill for the culture of life, and every catholic should give careful consideration to the meaning of their faith before they vote for a simpleton who when asked what he would do about evil, replies, defeat it. even god has trouble with that.
Carolyn | 9/12/2008 - 4:28pm
Amen, Lucius, Amen. Sen. McCain's son recently completed a tour in Iraq, and Gov. Palin's is setting out now. They have skin in the game too. It is an inconvenient truth to face Saddam's setting up of a training facility, complete with jet planes, at Salman Pak outside Baghdad where foreign (read Al Qaida) terrorists trained before 9/11 how to hijack and fly them. Saddam was a secularist unless it benefited his power game. We chose an ineffective response after the 93 WTC bombing, after the bombing of the Cole, after the bombing of our embassy in Kenya, after the repeated attacks over decades (I once saw a long list), that convinced Islamic terrorists we were weak and they could act with impunity. Saudis (quietly) cheered the fall of Saddam. I watched Obama vote to cut off funds for the troops in Iraq, and wrongly oppose the surge. He and the Democrats are clueless about the true nature of the threat to the US. Bush blew it, until switching course with Petraeus, but they are on the right path now -- if people will only persevere. Terrorists openly proclaim their intention to destroy us, and we fail to take them seriously. As in the 20th century, there will be a price to pay if we follow the same path we did then. Even after the Holocaust, we fail to understand some are beyond diplomatic reach. A new biography of King Hussein explains how during the first Gulf War the Israelis sent a message to Saddam: We were gassed before and if it happens again, look at your watch because in 40 minutes an Iraqi city will be rubble. Peace through strength, with the other side knowing consequences await, achieves results as opposed to endless rounds of talks where rhetoric is the only currency. Every capital genuinely believed Saddam had WMD (yes, despite a few operatives who thought not), and so Saddam lost his own bluff game. Everyone also knew the Kurds had solid experience of chemical warfare. McCain has my vote, and I am a lifelong Democrat. He hates war with more reason than most, but does not shy away when necessary.
Marie Rehbein | 9/12/2008 - 4:22pm
The NRLC, at the service of the Republican Party, has distorted the position of Barack Obama regarding abortion. It has also concocted a ridiculous scenario of what would result from Obama's election. No matter who is elected, no one will be forced to have abortions. Most who choose them will have been persuaded by their circumstances, not the ideology of the United States President. Furthermore, no one will be prevented from providing assistance to pregnant women so that they do not choose abortion. And, people will be free to publicly air their opinions as to the immorality of not only abortion, but of engaging in sexual activity if one is not prepared to shoulder the consequences. On the other hand, it is the President who engages in foreign policy and who has direct influence over the military.
Michael Parker | 9/12/2008 - 2:47pm
(addendum to my previous response) Mr. Johnson also seems to equate our fighting Iraq with our fighting terrorism. It has yet to be demonstrated that this ill-conceived war has any connection with fighting al-Quaeda or reducing our vulnerability to terrorism from any source. This war was launched with either cooked intelligence or at least faulty intelligence, and all the adverse consequences of which President Bush was warned by Cardinal Pio Laghi have come to pass. It is indeed a defeat for humanity, as Pope John Paul II said, because it says we and we alone have a right to wage pre-emptive war regardless of what anybody says. If Sen. McCain supports this, his judgment deserves to be questioned as does that of our current President. Thank you, Father Kavanaugh, for a clear, concise, lucid reflection on the critical issues of the candidates' judgment.
ED SULLIVAN | 9/12/2008 - 2:46pm
NO ONE IN THERE RIGHT MIND WANTS WAR,HOWEVER IN THIS WORLD YOU ARE ALWAYS FIGHING FOR YOUR SOUL.THEIR ARE TIMES WHEN A COUNTRY MUST FIGHT FOR IT'S SOUL YOU CANNOT ALLOW EVIL A FREE "PASS" TO GO ABOUT ITS WAY TAKING WHAT IT WANTS WE MUST AT SOME TIME FIGHT AND BE WILLING TO GO IT ALONE IF NEED BE. SEN McCANE WILL FIGHT THAT IS WHY HE HAS MY VOTE
Renee Goodspeed | 9/12/2008 - 2:40pm
Like you, I could vote for either. In November, I may have to vote for neither. The moral dilemma has no solution.
Michael Parker | 9/12/2008 - 2:38pm
Father Kavanaugh is absolutely right to want each candidate to question his policies, Obama on abortion and McCain on pre-emptive war. Douglas Johnson justifies the war by comparing the 9/11 attack with Pearl Harbor. That is weak analogy. A much stronger argument would be that since we've been damning the Japanese for 67 years for their dishonor in attacking us without a declaration of war, we should be the last to adopt that tactic. Besides,
Michael Parker | 9/12/2008 - 2:38pm
Father Kavanaugh is absolutely right to want each candidate to question his policies, Obama on abortion and McCain on pre-emptive war. Douglas Johnson justifies the war by comparing the 9/11 attack with Pearl Harbor. That is weak analogy. A much stronger argument would be that since we've been damning the Japanese for 67 years for their dishonor in attacking us without a declaration of war, we should be the last to adopt that tactic. Besides,
Kathleen Conway | 9/12/2008 - 1:51pm
Nobody is forced to have an abortion in our country. Abortion is not an act committed in our collective names. It is simply (wisely or unwisely) legally permitted in the United States at the discretion of the woman and whomever she chooses to involve in her decision. Criminalizing abortion will not necessarily make it disappear, although the number of abortions may well be reduced(unless the abortion decision becomes a state's rights question, which suggests that those who wish to have safe, legal abortions and can afford to travel to find them will do so. The Roe V. Wade decision handed the responsibility and authority for the decision to the woman and placed abortion and childbirth in a social category of women's health care. On the other hand, as a citizen I am directly involved in wars waged by our government. As a taxpayer I am forced to pay for war. I am continually fleeced by the military industrial complex. War is waged in our collective name, legitimized by government policy, and paid for with public funds. As citizens we are all held accountable for wars declared and fought by our country. We cannot be held responsible for the private decision a woman makes regarding her own body and her family. I loathe abortion. I would love to see it resorted to infrequently. It probably would be a good idea to regulate its practice as it is regulated in Europe. Nevertheless, nobody has an abortion in my name, but the invasion of Iraq and the assault on Afghanistan, which I do not consider just, are fought in my name.
micah | 9/12/2008 - 1:09pm
When are people going to realize we had a politician trying to look out for us all along? http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4374538730108275766&ei=xqHKSLKqKI7IqALikMDOAg&q=ron+paul+before+iraq+war&vt=lf&hl=en
Bob Bjorkman | 9/12/2008 - 12:55pm
The US Church is great on trying to make sure every pregnancy comes to term. Not so great on making sure that those babies and those mothers have access to affordable, continuous health care. The Republicans don't care much about providing affordable health care either, clinging to their failed market-oriented approach that doubles the cost per person compared to a European single-payer, universal system, doesn't cover everyone, and doesn't provide the coverage of medical, dental, optical, and prescription drugs with little or no deductible or copay. Oh, by the way, they got us involved in an UNJUST WAR that's lasted as long as WWII. A war of CHOICE as stated by Kavanaugh. Where's the beef? Do you want to take care of those babies and mothers or not? Forget the 'isms', we're talking about the most effective, cheapest way to provide health care to our brothers and sisters. I would like to hear from the pulpit that we need to vote for politicians that can: 1. Get us out of the war 2. Get a single-payer universal health care system in the US. That give your demands for illegalizing abortion a little more credibility.
Bob | 9/12/2008 - 12:38pm
I am that the US Bishops are concerned about the right to life. They should also be highly concerned about our great nation providing affordable, continuous health care for those new babies and mothers. There is a blueprint for affordable, continuous health care in the European nations, in the form of single payer, universal health care systems, that cost about half per person that the US market-oriented system costs. Where's the beef? As for the war, it doesn't fit the Just War category. Why don't we hear this from the pulpit each Sunday. It would give more credibility to the right to life issues.

Pages

Recently in Columns