Abortion Politics III: Choosing a Battlefront

The politics of abortion took an especially nasty, and bizarre, turn this past week when conservative Catholic writer and law professor Doug Kmiec revealed that he had recently been denied communion because of his public endorsement of Barack Obama’s candidacy. Thus, as in 2004, some conservative clergy and their lay supporters seem determined to turn the altar rail into a battlefront in the culture wars. Kmiec has made clear that he endorses Obama despite the senator’s pro-choice position. This puts him squarely within the scenario set out by the U.S. Catholic bishops in their statement "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship": There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil." (No. 35) Kmiec, who served in both the Reagan and first Bush administrations, is clearly not seeking a "partisan preference" by making his choice. He has publicly cited the "truly grave moral reasons" that have led him to hold his nose about Obama’s pro-choice stance: his opposition to the Iraq War, his pledge to create a less rigidly partisan political culture, and his suspicion of excessive secularism. The rub for conservatives, however, is that Kmiec has had the courage to point out the futility of the political course they have been pursuing in recent years on life issues. For all the protest marches, for all their political ads, for all the Supreme Court battles, Roe is still not only the law of the land, but if it were overturned tomorrow, the defenders of life are ill-prepared to sway public opinion in the countless state legislative battles that would ensue. Calling people with differing views "Hitlerian" is not the way to sway public opinion. And, conservatives seem convinced that if they just deny communion to pro-choice politicians, this will do the trick. Setting aside the theological issues involved which I leave for smarter people than myself (like Pope Benedict XVI, who did not throw a fit when Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy and others presented themselves for communion at his recent Masses here in America), making the altar rail the principal battlefield misses the opportunity that exists to really change the culture in a way that will actually defend life. The struggle is for the hearts and minds of the women who are facing a crisis pregnancy. The battlefield we should be fighting is at your neighborhood crisis pregnancy center. And, that is a place where the Church’s strongest armament, love, will make the difference. It is also where the Church’s sometimes necessary but best never used power to sanction and condemn will be hugely counter-productive. Americans who are concerned about stopping abortion need to reach out to the women contemplating one. We need to stand by them. We need to fight for medical assistance and financial aid for these women, many of whom are poor and young. They need counseling. They need free pre-natal care. They need someone to tell them they are not alone. They need a community of friends and family, and the extended family of their parish, to help them see their way clear to make the heroic choice to carry their child to term. They need artists and writers to celebrate their heroism. There is no shortage of work that can be done. And the example these young women provide, and the beauty of the children they bring to birth, will do more than a thousand protest marches to change the abortion-on-demand culture that all Catholics agree must change. Kmiec and others believe that Obama will be responsive to efforts to reduce the number of abortions in America. A group of Catholic legislators, some pro-life and some pro-choice, worked to pass legislation that aims to provide assistance to young mothers. That is where the battle should be fought – giving women choices other than abortion. Conservatives who are too invested in the old ways and the partisan advantages the old ways encourage have failed to change the culture. Doug Kmiec is prepared to try a new approach. He may be right, He may be wrong. But, he should not be denied communion for trying. Michael Sean Winters
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9 years 7 months ago
I am extremely pro-life and could not agree more with the 6th paragraph of your article. Men and women of America have lost much of their self-respect and character. What's desperately needed is a spiritual or step program to help reignite our character and expectations. First and foremost we need to believe parenthood is still humanly possible.
9 years 7 months ago
It's an ill-begotten notion that Barack Obama and any of his Liberal Pro Choice friends will indeed do the very things that they promise to do through their campaign rhetoric. We had promises from President Clinton to reduce the amount of abortions in this Country which went unrealized. Additionally, while there are many of us working to help with the crisis pregnancies in a positive way, we cannot allow the Liberal candidate to make judicial appointments for judges who are pro choice and continuing to allow our tax dollars to be given to Planned Parenthood. And for that matter we cannot support the Liberal Candidate on perimeter issues of same sex marriages, and embryonic stem cell research. Rest assured that being Conservative and Pro Life means much more that opposing abortions. It also means opposing Democratic candidates that the Communist Party has clearly stated support for. Besides that, I personally would like to see more of these liberal politicians and those who support them denied communion. It puts them and their Human Secularist views where they belong! Pax Domini
9 years 7 months ago
The problem people like me have with Kmiec is not so much that he supports Obama, but that he 1) makes up supposed Obama positions that do not exist, 2) in about one month went from supporting Mitt Romney over John McCain, to supporting Obama, and 3) He will not appear on any venue to actually debate his sudden enthusiasm for Obama. I'll clarify my second point - All the while he was with the Romney campaign, we heard nothing about Kmiec's supposed opposition to the war. In fact, Romney supported Gitmo, waterboarding, and extremely harsh treatment for illegals. He walked the party line on every issue and Kmiec had zero problem with him. In fact, McCain broke with his party on several of those issues at much peril to his own political aspirations. With the exception of stem cells, McCain has always had a fairly good pro-life record, which is debatable for Romeny and certainly cannot be said for Obama. Kmiec bases his entire decision on some sort of hidden message in Obama's lofty rhetoric, and some miniscule conciliatory efforts. That is why his sudden change seems self serving and suspicious. It would help if he would appear someplace to explain it at length while being challenged.
9 years 7 months ago
Although I believe that Prof. Kmiec (who has been a friend and, in many ways, a role model for years) is dramatically mistaken in concluding that, given all the givens, the best choice for someone with his package of moral and philosophical commitments is to vote for Sen. Obama, it seems silly to suggest that he should be denied communion. No one thinks Doug Kmiec supports abortion rights, or is moved to support Obama because of Obama's pro-abortion-rights position (a position which, unfortunately, Doug seems not to have confronted squarely.) Now, my understanding of the incident Prof. Kmiec has described is not that he was actually denied communion, but that a priest indicated somehow, outside the context of a Mass, that he *should* be. Is this understanding wrong?
9 years 7 months ago
This article is similar to the other ones where you feign a concern for orthodoxy and make the cause of the Catholic Churchs fight for life serve the greater cause of the Democratic party in America.It is a poor attempt at sophistry ,it is too ambitious to portray such people as the true friends of the "culture of life" and it is hampered by the failure to put in some convincing reluctance in promoting your "personally against" friends.The hissy fits that you complain about could be well avoided if those who felt so compelled to receive the Lord,"the fruit of her womb" were as eager to rebuke publicy those who do not value life .If what offends you is that it is a politicization of the sacrament ,it begs the question as to who makes it public as in your article you seem to suggest it was kmiec who did so.It would be more beneficial to the whole argument and to the cause of the unborn if you studied Cardinal Ratzingers letter in 2004 which is readily available online.This will leave you in no doubt about the correctness of the bishops actions.I am assured that you will not question one smarter than yourself as you so graciously said about the Pope.What you propose to the Bishops by way of action could have come from the pen of Ted kennedy,it is cuddly and democatic friendly and is a mandate to return to the days of silence on the responsiblities of Politicians and the risk to their souls .
9 years 7 months ago
A canon lawyer weighs in: http://www.canonlaw.info/2008/05/was-prof-douglas-kmiec-really-denied.html
9 years 6 months ago
This is clearly just another case of a liberal Catholic who sees a pattern (Obama likely to become President) and wants to get the inside track position regarding Supreme Court seats. The man is intelligent and knows full well that Obama has already stated that one of the first things he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would codify abortion and make it nearly impossible to ever doing anything to overturn legal abortions in this nation and within that act all steps taken by pro-lifer people will be washed away.

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