The America Profile: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, the pro-life Catholic Democrat

Life at the State Capitol this morning has that unhurried pace for which Louisianans are known: Something is definitely happening, but nothing definite is happening quickly.

This is the opposite of midtown Manhattan, but that is its charm. In Louisiana, events are measured on a truly human scale. How you get somewhere matters just as much as where you are going, and whatever you are doing is never more important than the people you might meet while doing it. A schedule is merely a suggestion, and the clock is an unwelcome guest at the party.

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It is therefore impossible to say just when this interview will start. This gives me plenty of time to thank God and the late Huey P. Long for the building’s central air conditioning. Even by Baton Rouge standards, it is hot as hades this July morning, the kind of day when your sweat starts to sweat. For a New Englander, dressed in a black suit and a clerical shirt, this is an endurance test.

“I fundamentally believe that government has a role to play in improving people’s lives.”

I have just stopped perspiring when the 56th governor of Louisiana enters his office, dressed in a business suit, but looking as cool as seersucker. John Bel Edwards says something endearing about his never having been interviewed by a priest, then smiles broadly and shakes my hand. His ramrod posture reveals his soldierly training. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Edwards served eight years in the U.S. Army and then returned home to Louisiana, where he completed law school and won a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives, all before the age of 43. In person, the governor does not look a day older—or younger—than his 52 years. If you passed him on the sidewalk and didn’t know better, you would not think he was someone extraordinary.

Yet in all of American politics there is no one quite like John Bel Edwards. A devout Roman Catholic in a state with a devout Protestant majority, Mr. Edwards talks openly about his faith and the central role it plays in his life and work. What’s more, in an era of polarization, when most politicians predictably toe the party line, Mr. Edwards has a track record that is not easily classified: He is anti-abortion, pro-Second Amendment, pro-L.G.B.T. civil rights, pro-social safety net and, in this increasingly red state, he is a Democrat.

His Governing Principle

Governor Edwards speaks with a honeyed and un-self-conscious Louisiana drawl, as if he has thought carefully about what he is saying but doesn’t pride himself on the fact. He briefly tells me the story of his come-from-behind gubernatorial campaign, for example, with a lingering sense of amazement at the outcome—as if it had happened to someone else.

It is an amazing story. When John Bel Edwards first announced that he would run for governor in the 2015 election, he was the longest of long shots, the leader of the unpopular minority party in the state House of Representatives. Promising “a healthy dose of common sense and compassion for ordinary people,” he was the only major Democrat in the race and finished first in the state’s all-party primary, then facing U.S. Senator David Vitter in the run-off election. Despite a sordid sex scandal, Mr. Vitter was still considered a formidable foe and the political bookies wagered that in a state as red as Louisiana, the odds were with the Republican.

“I was not the favorite to win that race,” Mr. Edwards says with understatement. When he did win the run-off, with an impressive 56 percent of the vote (carrying 39 of the state’s 64 parishes), the first thing he did in his victory speech was thank God.

“You cannot be great if you’re not first good. Your policies have to be rooted in basic goodness.”

“Our faith is important, and I know we’re called to give thanks in all things,” he tells me, explaining his remarks on election night. “So I did that, and it was heartfelt because I’ve now been given the opportunity to be the governor of a state with about four and a half million people, a state that’s very challenged in terms of poverty, educational outcomes, health care-related outcomes, but also a beautiful state with wonderful people, really decent, good, generous people.”

That Louisiana is “very challenged” is also an understatement. Prone to both manmade and natural disasters, the state has struggled in recent decades. About 20 percent of the state’s citizens still live in poverty when measured by household income. Economic growth has accelerated somewhat in the cities but is still anemic overall. And when Mr. Edwards assumed office three years ago, he inherited what was possibly the largest deficit in state history, making it all the more difficult for him to move those numbers in the right direction.

“I fundamentally believe that government has a role to play in improving people’s lives,” he says, “but you can’t do everything for everybody, both because it’s inappropriate and because you’ll never [be able to] pay for it.”

Mayor Joel Robideaux, left, of Lafayette, greets Governor Edwards after an address by the governor at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, on May 22. (Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via AP)

So Mr. Edwards started to make changes where he could, when he could. The results are impressive, even if the process of achieving them was messy, including seven special sessions to hammer out annual budgets with the G.O.P.-led legislature. In 2016, for example, Mr. Edwards took advantage of the federal government’s Medicaid expansion offer, the same offer his Republican predecessor had rejected. By the end of 2017, the number of Louisianans without basic health coverage was half what it had been just the year before.

He has also championed criminal justice reform: “For 40 years, Louisiana took the approach that we were just going to put more people in prison, keep them there longer and pay whatever it cost. We couldn’t afford it, and we were not safer as a result.”

In fact, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate in the nation until this year, when it fell below Oklahoma’s. Mr. Edwards explains how he shed that distinction by releasing some nonviolent offenders early and then reimagining the whole system. As a result, he says, “we were able to save 12 million dollars last fiscal year alone, and we’re going to reinvest eight million of that into making sure that people are successful upon re-entry” into society. Mr. Edwards has also restarted the process of commuting sentences; as of October, he has approved 119 of the 164 pardons recommended by the state’s Pardon Board during his term. (His predecessor, Bobby Jindal, had approved only 23 pardons during the same point in his first term.)

On the issue of the death penalty, Mr. Edwards has been circumspect, declining to take a position on efforts to ban the punishment in Louisiana. At the same time, the Edwards administration has supported a federal court order that prohibits executions because pharmaceutical companies refuse to provide the drugs needed for lethal injections under Louisiana law. Because of the inability to obtain these specific drugs, Louisiana has not carried out an execution since 2010.

Late last spring, Mr. Edwards also signed into law one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country, earning praise from groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, which applauded him for “leading the way in the bipartisan effort to bring our nation’s laws into line with basic human decency.”

Mr. Edwards has expanded Medicaid and cut in half the number of Louisianans without basic health coverage.

The man himself sees a common principle at work in all those initiatives: “The idea of not doing the Medicaid expansion, I just couldn’t reconcile that, because I am pro-life. And the pro-life ethos has to mean more than just the abortion issue. [Abortion] is fundamental, and I understand how important it is, but it’s got to go beyond that. The job isn’t over when the baby’s born if you’ve got poor people who need access to health care.”

While Mr. Edwards is a supporter of the Second Amendment and a lifelong hunter (he makes a point of telling me that all the guns he owns are for hunting), he believes “that there ought to be sensible, reasonable restrictions in some areas. For example, I know that we need to do a better job with our background checks.... The overwhelming majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding people. And so that makes it a difficult dilemma. I’ve come down as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. But I’m not somebody who just believes that there shouldn’t be any regulation. That’s not where I am on that issue.”

“The pro-life ethos has to mean more than just the abortion issue. The job isn’t over when the baby’s born if you’ve got poor people who need access to health care.”

Add this view to the fact that the governor has taken a more liberal view than his predecessors on some other social issues, including legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and you might be left scratching your head and wondering: Who is this guy? Is he a liberal, a conservative, a moderate or what?

In Mr. Edwards’s mind, he is none of those things and, in a way, he is all of them: “I don’t like the labels because I don’t think that they’re accurate. I don’t like being pigeonholed. There are people who say, ‘You’re pro-life on abortion, so that makes you conservative, but you’re for the Medicaid expansion. That makes you liberal.’ But it’s the exact same Catholic Christian faith, at least as I understand it, that pushes me into both of those positions.”

That approach has so far made for a winning electoral combination. But where did it come from and how far might it take him?

Living the Faith

Is John Bel Edwards, then, merely a pragmatist? Au contraire, as they might say in the French Quarter. He is a man of deep conviction, his friends and family say.

“He lives his values every day,” said his wife, Donna. In many ways, he is just an old-fashioned politician who still puts stock in moral values and not just party loyalty. And Mr. Edwards knows where those values come from. “I know that all of the people that I have been associated with who were strong Catholics, they were public servants in one fashion or another.... Everything that I experienced growing up in Amite as a Catholic just pushed me towards service.”

Amite is one of those Southern towns that resembles an HO-scale model train set—almost too charming to be real. The two-story, early-20th-century downtown; the two-room post office; the sheriff’s car parked in front of City Hall; multiple churches within a square mile and a couple of weathered barbecue joints—Amite’s got it all, a kind of idyllic Southern community at the crossroads of heritage and hospitality. This is the place where John Bel Edwards grew up, met the high school sweetheart he later married, and launched his political career as a state representative.

Mr. Edwards addresses supporters at his election night victory party in New Orleans on Nov. 21, 2015. Next to him are his daughter, Samantha, and his mother, Dora Jean Edwards. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

To understand this place is to understand John Bel Edwards. He is the son, grandson and great-grandson of Amite sheriffs. The Edwards are to Amite, in the eastern part of Louisiana a few miles south of the Mississippi border, what the Kennedys are to Boston. And in the life and imagination of John Bel, as he is known to family and neighbors alike, Amite is inseparable from St. Helena’s Roman Catholic Parish.

“My mother and father were tremendous examples of faith, both of them being cradle Catholics, and they raised us in St. Helena Catholic Church.” Curiously, the first word Mr. Edwards uses to describe his parish is “fun.”

“My family, with my mom and dad and their eight kids, we took up the whole pew,” he recalls.

Mr. Edwards credits the Dominican priests who staffed St. Helena’s with inspiring him to pursue the best education possible. “I’m convinced that that was part of the reason why I was successful enough in K-12 education to get accepted to West Point. They had a lot to do with that, not just faith formation, but also the education as well.”

Above all, it was his mother who gave him the gift of faith. With evident pride he tells me that Dora Jean Edwards was not only mom to him and his seven siblings but also served as the emergency room nurse at the local hospital and (in her spare time, presumably) was the sixth-grade catechism teacher at St. Helena’s to boot. As a teacher “she was pretty tough on us,” he says, “so we knew we had to study and, of course, she would get reports from the other teachers if we showed up unprepared” to their classes.

“The Catholic faith has been central to our family just as long as I can remember,” he says. “I’m fortunate that my mother is still alive, and she still attends Mass just about every day.”

To John Bel, as he is known to family and neighbors alike, his hometown of Amite is inseparable from St. Helena’s Roman Catholic Parish.

I don’t have the feeling that Mr. Edwards is saying all this just to impress his priest-interviewer. Some politicians might try that, but it is hard to fake the sincerity he conveys when I ask, for example, what he learned from his mother about the faith. “I am most appreciative that she taught us how important it is to have an active sacramental life in the Catholic Church,” he says, “especially the Eucharist.”

Then his speech slows and his eyes widen, making that unmistakable face people make when they want you to listen carefully to what they are about to say: “If you believe, as we were taught, that that’s the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ [in the Eucharist], then there is nowhere else to go but the Catholic Church. So it’s incredibly important to me to make sure that my wife and I model that for our children. That’s how we were brought into the Catholic faith and why it’s so important to us, both now for ourselves, but especially for our children.”

Yes, John Bel Edwards means it. What he wants to hand on to his three children is not just a way of talking about the Catholic faith, but an example of how to live it. “Even when we’re on vacation,” his daughter said in a campaign commercial in 2015, her father “will find out where the Mass is, what time the Mass is.”

Governor Edwards and his wife, Donna, far right, share a prayer with the State Legislature in Baton Rouge on March 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)

Yet his faith was also shaped by hardship. “[Donna and I] had just been married a couple years,” he tells me. “We were living in Hawaii. I was there as an army officer. Our first child, Samantha, had spina bifida and we didn’t know how profoundly she would be impacted. Donna’s doctor took Donna and myself to a clinic at the hospital there in Honolulu and just showed us various kids and said, ‘Now, it could be as mild as this kid,’ who had braces on the legs, ‘and as serious as this one over here.’” The Edwardses prayed about it a lot, he says. “But abortion was never an option for us.”

“That must’ve been terrifying,” I say.

“It was,” Mr. Edwards responds. “It was terrifying, but I will tell you, it brought Donna and me together and really, I think, strengthened our Catholic Christian faith.” (Thanks be to God, Samantha grew into a healthy adult.) Donna, who is a convert to Catholicism, even made a commercial during the gubernatorial campaign that told Samantha’s story.

“Because I’m a Democrat,” the governor says, “there were certain people around the state who were openly questioning whether I was [pro-life]. It didn’t matter that I had an eight-year voting record in the legislature that was very solid on the issue. They were questioning that. It was actually our daughter who saw what was happening. She said, ‘Why don’t y’all go tell them about me?’ We made absolutely sure that Samantha was going to be okay with that.’” The commercial, says Mr. Edwards, helped Louisianans to understand “that this wasn’t a position I had come to when I decided I wanted to run for governor and that it was sincere.”

A Model for National Democrats?

Sincerity. It is clearer to me now that this is why John Bel Edwards is succeeding here. He comes across as sincere. He also appears to be principled, reasonable and sober. Those are not qualities that are highly rewarded in our contemporary politics—nuance just doesn’t play well in the cut and thrust of our mortal political combat. Yet it is playing well here.

Might it play elsewhere? Might other moderate voices be able to break through the toxic din, as he has in Louisiana? Might the Democrats, for example, be more competitive in the South if the party lifted its litmus test on abortion and became more welcoming to pro-life candidates?

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“Technically, I don’t believe there is a formal litmus test,” Mr. Edwards says, “but it surely seems that way.... I do believe that [being more open to pro-life candidates] would make Democrats more competitive.” But, he adds, “it’s also important that you’re sincere about it.... You can’t come up with that position because you decided you’re going to run for higher office.”

Speaking of higher office, President Trump carried Louisiana by 20 points in the 2016 election. Does the governor get along with Mr. Trump? Mr. Edwards is clear: He is the governor of a poor state and he needs the help of the federal government, so he will work with whomever is in the White House. He says he was not a fan of the way his Republican predecessor, Bobby Jindal, treated President Obama: “[Jindal] was very gratuitous in his commentary about President Obama. And it was always taking on the president and not giving him the benefit of the doubt on anything.” Mr. Edwards says he is not going to play that game. His relationship with Mr. Trump is “pretty good,” and he has even been consulted by the White House about the criminal justice reforms he has enacted in Louisiana. “It’s not that I don’t ever disagree. I just don’t go out in public and blast the president, because I don’t think it would be helpful.”

Yet Mr. Edwards is willing to challenge Mr. Trump when he thinks the president is clearly in the wrong. “I felt compelled,” for example, “to call the White House and personally register my opposition to the policy at the border separating children from parents. I didn’t think it was necessary, and it didn’t strike me as particularly American to do that.”

There it is again: values. The values that Mr. Edwards learned in Amite, which he celebrated every Sunday at St. Helena’s, the values that made him valedictorian of Amite High School, a distinguished graduate of West Point, and a decorated member of the 82nd Airborne Division—these are the values, he says, that he is bringing to his work as governor. And he is just now reaching the heights of his political power and influence. His approval ratings are strong, and U.S. Senator John Kennedy, who was considered the strongest possible Republican candidate in 2019, has ruled out a challenge. Presuming he wins a second term in 2019—no Democrat seat is truly safe in Louisiana—what might the future hold for John Bel Edwards?

For several reasons, he would be a highly competitive Democratic nominee for president. His Southern roots might help put deep red states like Louisiana in play for the Democrats. His progressive views on economics and his commitment to a strong social safety net, as well as his moderate views on some social issues, might also appeal to the working-class voters in the Rust Belt and elsewhere who decided the 2016 election by swinging toward Mr. Trump. And in a general election, his views on abortion might be less of an electoral problem than people think. A majority pro-choice national electorate has previously voted for the right kind of pro-life candidate—Ronald Reagan and both of the Bushes are good examples. Mr. Edwards’s Catholicism might also help. Since the 1960s, no candidate has won the national popular vote without at least splitting the votes of American Catholics down the middle, and most presidential winners have carried a majority of Catholic voters.

But Mr. Edwards would face a steep, almost impossible climb to win his party’s nomination. The Democratic Party is as beholden to its immoderate pro-abortion left as the Republican Party is to its immoderate pro-gun right. And therein lies the main problem with American electoral politics in 2018. Politicians who might appeal to a diverse majority of the voters in a general election cannot win their parties’ nomination. Maybe Americans will grow so weary of the country’s polarization, so desperate to break the partisan gridlock, that primary voters will finally give candidates like Mr. Edwards a chance. Time will tell.

What we do know is that neither party can ever claim ownership of the values that Mr. Edwards says he brings to public life. In his personal experience, they are values that are inseparable from his Catholic faith. But compassion, prudence, justice, mercy and honesty are values that should guide all people of faith, or people of no religious faith at all. And such values are essential to recovering a sense of our national purpose, one that includes all of us. For in the end, we are not mere soldiers locked in some perpetual political combat. We are, or should be at any rate, fellow citizens and, above all, neighbors.

“It’s not that I don’t ever disagree. I just don’t go out in public and blast the president because I don’t think it would be helpful.”

As the interview ends, I look toward the window, hoping that the brutal summer sun is now a little lower in the Louisiana sky. I spy again the Bible that I saw when I first entered the governor’s office, the one Edwards keeps open on his desk, not just today, but every day he comes to work here. It’s open to Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I ask him, why that particular passage?

“Because in Louisiana,” he says, “we have more than our fair share of poor people, the least among us.” Those people are not simply voters or statistical abstractions to Mr. Edwards. They are his neighbors, “good and decent people,” as he likes to say—the people who taught him that “you cannot be great if you’re not first good. Your policies have to be rooted in basic goodness.”

For John Bel Edwards, it seems, how you get there matters just as much as where you’re going, and nothing matters more than the people you meet along the way.


Postscript: The governor and the pope

On Jan. 18, 2017, Gov. John Bel Edwards and his wife, Donna, led a delegation from Louisiana to the Vatican, where they met Pope Francis. The delegation was there to discuss human trafficking prevention and included representatives of the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy, who were establishing a safe house for girls in Louisiana at the time. Mr. Edwards recalls:

The private audience doesn’t last long. But in that couple of minutes, as a lifelong Catholic, I will tell you, that was very impressive to me and to my wife, Donna. Because we were both able to get [Pope Francis’s] blessing on a plaque that [we placed] on a home that we built for these teenage victims of human trafficking. And to have him bless our efforts and then come over after the private audience and meet with the larger group that we had brought over from Louisiana, and spend a few minutes with us was really, really special.

I will never forget it because, you don’t think this is necessary, but we were asking him to bless our efforts and pray for us. And he then asked us to pray for him. If there’s one person in the world that I would think wouldn’t necessarily need my prayers, because he would already be in good standing, it would be the pope. But after he said that, and I got to thinking about it, I have to imagine that he does feel the need for prayers from people all over the world, so that he will have the strength to get up and do every day what he has to do.

I know what the weight on my shoulders is like being the governor for four and a half million people. I can only imagine the weight that he feels every single day as the leader of Catholics all across the globe and [also just] being a religious leader on the world stage, period. Because his voice matters, whether you’re Catholic or you're not.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Ruth Powers
11 months 1 week ago

Where in the world did you get the idea that Louisiana is majority Protestant? North Louisiana may be, but draw a line across the state at Alexandria and head south and you are in French Catholic country. There are 5 dioceses in that part of the state alone. I live just north of the line in Concordia, but one Parish south is Point Coupee’ and you are in Catholic country. My own family, of both Cajun and Creole extraction, has been part of the Catholic presence here for as long as there has been a Louisiana.

Tim Donovan
11 months 1 week ago

As a former life-long Democrat of more than thirty years, who's now a pro-life moderate Republican, I would in most respects be thrilled to vote for Gov. John Bel Edwards. I wish he forthrightly opposed capital punishment, and was more outspoken in supporting gun control laws (rather than bragging about his ample experience using handguns as a hunter). Also, although I 'm a Catholic who's gay and wants people of my orientation as well as myself to be treated in a compassionate and respectful manner (please, no homophobic messages from Christian fundamentalist groups or cruel taunts from ultraconservatives) I believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I'm glad that Bel Edwards supports government assistance for the countless vulnerable people in our nation who benefit from a safety net. I worked with people with disabilities in various capacities for over twenty years, including as a Special Education teacher who instructed children with brain damage. Consequently, I 'm pleased by Bel Edwards commitment to improving quality education in Louisiana. Finally, I admire Gov. Edwards and his wife for their decision to choose life for their unborn daughter who was thought prenatally to be disabled. The couple not only made a difficult decision by courageously remaining true to Catholic Church teaching, but the Governor demonstrated his recognition of the principles of social justice and equal rights for disabled persons. As a long-time pen pal with a man imprisoned for life for a serious crime, whom as a devout Jehovah's Witness has in my view reformed his life, I commend Gov. Bel Edwards for his efforts to reform the criminal justice system. Finally, I would much prefer Bel Edwards over President Trump (for whom I reluctantly voted because he's pro-life on abortion). However, I seriously doubt that the leadership of the Democratic party, which by all indications insists that all candidates for significant offices (certainly President) favor the extreme so-called abortion rights position, would tolerate a pro-life candidate who otherwise largely agrees with the Democratic platform.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

I look forward to reading your cogent contributions

JR Cosgrove
11 months 1 week ago

Quote - The report came from Louisiana’s legislative auditor, Daryl G. Purpera, who selected 100 Medicaid recipients at random and found that 82 of them shouldn’t have qualified for all the benefits they received. Most were underreporting income, taking advantage of enrollment rules that allow people to join Medicaid without any verification. Ten of the randomly selected Medicaid recipients even had annual incomes above the state’s median household income.

Jim Lein
11 months 1 week ago

What does this show? That many people can't make it on their income, and that enrollment rules are such that people need to under-report their inadequate income in order to get help. Few people can afford health care on their own, even people above the state's median household income. We have to admit that. Health care is just too expensive for most Americans. Many have to resort to under-reporting income to get care, including life-saving care. Our health care system is rotten. Nun hospital administrators have been replaced with big shot, high salaried executives. It's more Wall Street than Home Town. Few if any average folks can afford health care.

Years ago it was more affordable. Working as a reporter in a city outside of Milwaukee in 1967, I did a survey of 4 hospitals: their daily room rate ranged from $39 to $53. People then could see their way to pay off their bill. And you could pay what you could, without interest. It was more humane then, more Christian too.

Crystal Watson
11 months 1 week ago

How is gun-toting pro-life? There is nothing pro-life about restricting women's access to full health care services, either. This guy is not really a Democrat and as a Democrat, I wouldn't vote for him.

Frank T
11 months 1 week ago

Thank you for this.
Everyday women have abortions, In some cases they come to regret those abortions and in in other cases, they are thankful to have had them.
Either way, the Catholic Church ought not to be lobbying the government to restrict access to Planned Parenthood. and all the services that it provides.
I wouldn't vote for this jerk either.

Jim Lein
11 months 1 week ago

Resorting to law change is Caesar's way, not Jesus' way. The church has been duped by the self-called pro life folks for almost 50 years now. Jesus' way is helping women feel able to bring new life into the world, not leaving her alone and facing the cold, hard, unfeeling legal system. And there is one group that in theory could eliminate abortion: us men. No more contributing to an unwanted pregnancy. We could take a pledge and honor it. If we failed, we could stand by the woman, like Joseph, as best we could, in a caring, loving way.

Studies show that from 33 percent to 66 percent of women with problem pregnancies are pressured and coerced into having abortions by significant others, including the man responsible for the pregnancy. We men could do better. At least we could leave the woman with a legal choice.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

Being a Democrat today is like being a Nazi during the height of the Holocaust . The Democratic Party is owned by Naral and Planned Parenthood and
everybody knows it. Even a 'nice guy governor' and the most compassionate social program can't make up for millions of 'private' killings the rest of us are being pressed to service by way of taxation or employment. There was no moral wiggle room in the Nazi Party and there is no moral wiggle room in the Democratic Party., A culture of death is salivating to expand and has shown it will advance at every opportunity. It's confounding that Jesuits continue to be apologists for it. One might wonder about a less than obvious agenda but the 'emperors' continue to lose their 'clothes'. Maybe we'll figure it out.

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

The political party most closely resembling the Nazis is the Republican party ... Trump called the neo-Nazis of Charlotseville "fine people".

JR Cosgrove
11 months ago

The political party most closely resembling the Nazis is the Republican party

You should read "Death of a Nation." History says just the opposite of what you say,.

JR Cosgrove
11 months ago

Trump called the neo-Nazis of Charlotseville "fine people"

Trump did not say that. He said there are fine people on both sides. He was referring to those opposed to the tearing down of the statues and were protesting quietly. He was not referring to the Neo-Nazis.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

To Jim Lein: I think He already spoke, remember "Thou shalt not kill" ?

Tim Donovan
10 months 3 weeks ago

Hello, Jim. I have mixed feelings about your remarks. Certainly, Jesus is recorded as having said in Scripture, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." ( John 18: 36). I agree that Jesus didn't become man (being "true God and true man") to rule as a political leader. In my view (which I think is consistent with Church teaching) ultimately the primary purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to suffer on the cross, die to save us from our sins, rise from the dead, and give us the opportunity to share eternal life with God and our neighbors in heaven. But I don't agree that the Church has been "duped" by those of us who oppose the violence of legal abortion. First, the pro-life movement is made up of men and women of various religious faiths (primarily Christians, to be sure, of different denominations, mostly evangelical Protestants). But like it or not, there are many pro-life advocates and leaders who are Protestants, so the movement isn't solely a concern of Catholics. I also agree that we men, being one-half responsible for the conception of an unborn human being, must take responsibility for caring for the child that is born. But the law, though it can at times be " unfeeling, " is relevant. Although I 'm not a father, I understand that a man is legally bound to pay child support. I also agree that more than a few men (husbands or partners) pressure women into abortions. This is tragic and certainly is contrary to Jesus' teachings about love of neighbor. However, I don't believe that Jesus, as the Prince of Peace who is of the Triune God who created us human beings, is indifferent to the deliberate destruction of innocent human life. After all, there certainly are moral precepts that have become laws. Two of the most prominent are the laws against robbery ( "Thou shall not steal") and the laws against murder (" Thou shall not kill. "). I believe that unborn human life is sanctified by the fact that God chose to take the form of a fetus ("who was conceived by the Holy Spirit" ). I might add that I know a woman who had an abortion years ago, so I do sympathize with women with unplanned pregnancies. However, biology confirms that abortion kills a human being, so I believe that as a society we have a responsibility both to protect the legal right to life of the unborn, and to provide practical, compassionate assistance to pregnant women. There are many hundreds of crisis pregnancy centers nationwide. As Catholics, each one of us in my view should if we are able financially support such alternative -to-abortion agencies. There are numerous examples of religious leaders (of different faiths) influencing elected officials to enact laws. The civil rights movement was lead by a Baptist minister, Rev. Martin Luther King, who was aided by clergy and laypeople of other faiths to pass civil rights laws. Sister Helen Prejean is very active in efforts to prevent capital punishment. St. Oscar Romero fought for the rights of the poor in El Salvador. Pope Francis has not only forcefully spoken out against capital punishment, but also unjust war, and in favor of the rights of immigrants and refugees. In his encyclical Laudato So (which I read) Pope Francis not only called for efforts to protect our earth from degradation, but clearly stated that "Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of the environment is incompatible with the justification of abortion."

Frank T
11 months ago

Of course the great irony is that "Republican" voting women have abortions at the same rate as "Democratic" voting women.
As a result, this emotionally charged issue leads to scapegoating.
Maybe Trump can attempt a "wall" around the fetus to protect it from its' mother.
In America, compassion must rule out.

JR Cosgrove
11 months ago

Of course the great irony is that "Republican" voting women have abortions at the same rate as "Democratic" voting women

Do you have a cite for that. Black woman abort at three times the rate of white woman. Hispanic women abort about 50% more than white women. Both these groups tend to vote Democratic while white women vote Republican.

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

Those women aren't getting abortions because they are Democrats, they are getting abortions because they are poor. And the majority of women getting abortions in the US are White, not Black or Hispanic.

JR Cosgrove
11 months ago

I never said that they are getting abortions because they are Democrats. I disputed that abortions are split equally between Democrats and Republicans. The rate of abortions is three times higher amongst black women and they vote about 95% Democrat. You are comparing apples and oranges. Your statistics are just reflecting that there are many more white women than any other group in the country,. There are about 6x as many white women as black women.

Mike Macrie
11 months ago

That is a shame because most of those aborted babies would of been future Democratic Voters now that would make Republicans cry.

Winifred Holloway
11 months ago

Thank you, Crystal for your accurate and clear-eyed assessment of the women who feel abortion is their only choice. All the money and public relations that go into the pro-life movement would be better spent if Church agencies went big on establishing quality child care centers with well paid and trained staff to care for infants and toddlers. This would reduce the burden on women who are poor and struggling, many trying to do it alone and patching together inadequate child care with jobs that offer little pay and unpredictable schedules. The pro-life position has to be more than fighting abortion in the courts and actually changing the culture to offer tangible and loving support to women who are in impossible situations. The pro lifers have to walk the talk and show that it cares for the women.

Winifred Holloway
11 months ago

Thank you, Crystal for your accurate and clear-eyed assessment of the women who feel abortion is their only choice. All the money and public relations that go into the pro-life movement would be better spent if Church agencies went big on establishing quality child care centers with well paid and trained staff to care for infants and toddlers. This would reduce the burden on women who are poor and struggling, many trying to do it alone and patching together inadequate child care with jobs that offer little pay and unpredictable schedules. The pro-life position has to be more than fighting abortion in the courts and actually changing the culture to offer tangible and loving support to women who are in impossible situations. The pro lifers have to walk the talk and show that it cares for the women.

Warren Patton
11 months ago

I think your projecting your own views onto Crystal. She has brought out some familiar talking points about abortion and poverty, but never mentioned the Church providing child-care centers. She certainly never said anything about how the proper pro-life position should be "more than fighting abortion." I think she thinks the route for the proper pro-life movement is to jump in a lake.

I do think a pro-choice person can be thoughtful and fair-minded, even though their wrong. But to be frank, I would not characterize Crystal's comments that way. What I could say about her view, based purely on what I've read here, is that they are knee-jerk, tendentious and partisan: I don't see it as very clear-eyed to say that Republicans are like Nazis.

The fact is pro-lifers already do more then simply trying to change the laws. Pro-lifers engage in outreach all the time, through sidewalk counseling, crisis pregnancy centers, and the like. Often just talking to women is enough to make a difference. But these efforts are hated by pro-choice advocates just as much as any other pro-life efforts.

Tim Donovan
10 months 3 weeks ago

Hello, Winifred. I'd like to please begin by noting that the "high point" of the so-called pro-choice movement was in 1 973, when the Supreme Court, in two decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, legalized the violence of abortion for any reason up until the time when the unborn infant (or fetus, which means "young one" in latin ) is viable. There are almost 1 million innocent unborn human beings killed by legal abortion each year in our nation. The leaders of the so-called abortion rights movement have frequently turned to the courts to accomplish. their goal. Prior to the 1973 Supreme Court decisions, about two-thirds of the state's had laws-passed by the democratically elected representatives of the people --which affirmed the right to life of the unborn except in rare circumstances (for instance, to prevent the death of the mother). Although I don't believe that public opinion is always the correct way to determine whether or not a particular act should be legal, in November, 1972-- just a few months prior to the Supreme Court 's decisions-- the people of Michigan and North Dakota voted by large majorities not to legalize abortion. It should be noted that the great majority of people in those two states aren't Catholic. The legal reasoning of Roe v.Wade has been widely criticized, even by a number of legal scholars who favor legal abortion. Former Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon wrote an excellent book (which I read) "Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse" . She noted that prominent law Professor Laurence Tribe (who favors legal abortion) criticized the authors of Roe "for reaching beyond the facts of the case to rank the rights of the mother categorically over those of the fetus, and to deny the humanity of the fetus..." I find it interesting and telling that Tribe acknowledges the humanity of the unborn despite favoring legal abortion . I think it's significant that other supporters of legal abortion have also admitted that abortion is an act of killing. One more example (many more could be cited):Faye Wattleton, a nurse who was President of Planned Parenthood from 1978-1992, admitted with refreshing honesty in a 1997 Ms. Magazine interview, "I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don't know that abortion is killing." You may know that Planned Parenthood performs well over 3 00,000 abortions each year nationwide, which is more than one-third of the total of unborn human beings killed in our nation. With respect, since you're concerned about the pro-life movement often going to the courts, I might point out that Planned Parenthood frequently goes to court to either challenge laws passed by elected state representatives, or to attempt to further expand the so-called right to abortion. Further, the late Norma McCorvey, who was Jane Roe, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, after working as a staff member at an abortion clinic, became persuaded by pro-life demonstrators that abortion was wrong, and became a pro-life activist.
Winifred, I agree that ending the violence of legal abortion involves more than passing laws (although I certainly support laws to protect the unborn) and pursuing court cases. Those of us in the pro-life movement do much to provide women with practical, compassionate care to pregnant women and their babies. There are many hundreds of crisis pregnancy centers nationwide, and the number of alternative -to- abortion centers is increasing, while fortunately the number of clinics which kill the unborn is decreasing. Two pro-life centers which I contribute to when I can are the Mother's Home in Darby, PA and Mom's House, which has about six homes. Mother's Home provides shelter for pregnant women and their babies as well as other practical, compassionate services. Mom's House is particularly impressive in its services. The homes provide low-income pregnant women with quality day care so that they can complete their educations as well as other services so that the women can give birth and become good mothers. Feminists for Life of America has programs on various colleges to assist pregnant students so that they can both give birth and finish their educations. Thanks for your patience in reading such a long post; I'll only make a final point. While practical, compassionate assistance to pregnant women is crucial (and for many years, either through financial contributions or volunteer work, I 've supported such efforts), passing laws and court cases,can often produce good results. For instance, civil rights laws passed in the 1960's were important in securing the rights of African -Americans and other minorities. Also, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the 1954 Supreme Court decision which resulted in the desegregation of public schools, was a tremendous achievement for minority people. So I believe that all peaceful forms of pro-life efforts are worthwhile and important and necessary. These include providing alternatives to abortion, education about abortion, political and legal work, and peaceful protests.

Warren Patton
11 months ago

It's a minor point compared to the abortion issue, but I don't think the characterization of gun-ownership is fair here either. Many Americans own guns- to hunt, to protect themselves and loved ones, or in rarer cases out of a feeling of civil duty. I don't think this is unChristian or anti-life. Obviously you oppose gun ownership, and that's fine, but just because its your view don't make it out to the Christian view and make out gun-owners to be bad people. There is no "Catholic position" on guns the way there is on abortion. I think the phrase "gun-toting" is unfairly prejudicial too. Gun owners are not driving around firing AKs into the air.

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

Pro-life ..... America has an incredibly higher death rate of people killed by guns than other countries where there are stiffer gun restrictions. When someone says they support the 2nd amendment, what they are really saying is that they want little or not restrictions on every American owning guns. That's not what I would call a pro-life position.

Tim Donovan
10 months 3 weeks ago

Hello, Crystal. Like you, I'm very disappointed that Gov. Bel Edwards is so talkative about using a gun for hunting. I strongly support more stringent gun control laws. When my late Dad died in 1994, I discovered in his bank safety deposit box a handgun. I immediately turned it over to my local police department, as I have no interest in owning a gun. As much as guns are anathema to me, several points. Bel Edwards did state that he favored restrictions on guns. People can and do change their minds about various issues. As someone else posted, former Vice President Al Gore had a relatively good pro-life record while in the Senate. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1970 wrote a letter to a constituent confirming in clear, strong language that he supported the right to life of the unborn. I may be idealistic, but I believe it 's very possible that in time the Governor will modify his view and favor more stringent gun control laws. After all, it seems that in the last year or so (with a horrible school shooting at a high school in Florida, and a large gun control rally, "March for Our Lives," which my niece attended) that more people , especially the young, oppose unrestricted access to guns. I understand from reading that the powerful National Rifle Association has had a significant decline in contributions. I do support the right of a person to own a gun for hunting (with appropriate restrictions- among others this would include a ban on a gun purchase if the potential buyer has a,record of threatening a spouse, partner, etc.). I also favor people being able to own ONE handgun for self-defense. I do believe that there are far two many guns in our nation, about 300 million of I remember correctly. This probably would be too risky and unpopular (although perhaps not, with the increase in support among people for gun control) but I favor a government program of buying back guns for a fee. Also, people who don't own a handgun and are in the market to buy a gun should be limited to the purchase of only ONE gun. Again, this undoubtedly would be controversial, but I still think it's a worthwhile proposal. I agree with you that gun control laws are a pro-life issue. However, although about 30,000 people die from gun deaths each year in our nation (a horrible loss of life) I understand that the majority of such deaths are by suicide. Restricting gun sales to people who have a mental health diagnosis would be appropriate in my view, and would save some human lives. However, as is true with any law, some people will always break any given law, but a law may still have a positive effect. For instance, I certainly support speed limit laws, even though in the past I've sped (I no longer drive). But I of course paid fines for speeding, and did do (somewhat) better at following the speed limit laws. As with laws protecting the unborn and restricting the violence of abortion to the maximum degree possible, gun control laws, even in cities and states which have stringent laws (like the city of Chicago) still have serious problems with people violating the law(s). Finally, although there are many matters which involve the deliberate taking of human life (such as capital punishment, which I also oppose, and guns, and I support more stringent gun control laws) I do believe that at this time the killing of almost 1_million_innocent unborn human beings nationwide each year is the paramount issue facing our nation

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

And it's not just Republican women but Catholic women - An article from America magazine .... Catholics are just as likely to get an abortion as other U.S. women. Why?

JR Cosgrove
11 months ago

it's not just Republican women

You are implying something that is not true. I am sure some/many Republican women get abortions but the percent is much lower than those who identify as Democrats.

Also who are these women, who identify as Catholic who have an abortion?

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

Read the article linked to.

JR Cosgrove
11 months ago

I read the article you linked to. It supports my point. Here is one of my heroes talking about the issue. http://bit.ly/2DozA77

Warren Patton
11 months ago

Republican women and Catholic women are fallen and sinful just like all human beings. It is no surprise that they are capable of falling into grave sin. And of course the Church in its current state is hardly capable of providing a bulwark against immorality.

I don't know what you are trying to accomplish with these statistics. Do you think that pro-life views are rooted in a hatred of certain types of women, and that if you can demonstrate that "normal" women have abortions, then pro-lifers would be forced to reexamine their views? Are you trying to say that women are going to get abortions anyway, so we might as well not make them feel bad about it? You don't need to tell me that large numbers of women in this country get abortions. I know that. It's what makes the work of the pro-life movement so important. If women *weren't* getting abortions, then the debate would be a purely academic matter.

The women who get abortions may be sympathetic and familiar for various reasons. But pro-life views should not be based on an opinion of the women, but rather on ones opinion of the children. Are they unique and special human beings whose lives are sacred and should be cherished and protected? Or are the Lebensunwertes Leben?

I'm sure your mind is made up anyway. I hope you've at least given this matter the serious consideration it deserves and are not just falling in step with the Democratic party for cultural reasons. Are there any issues where you have strong disagreements with the Democratic party? (Substantial disagreements, not just "I wish they advocated stronger for this position" or "I wish they were more persistent on this issue")

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

I have thought about the issue for many years, as most women do - I began using contraception in high school and so I never had to make such a decision myself. I was responding to another comment that seemed to brand most women who get abortions as racial minorities and Democrats, but all kinds of women get abortions. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind, but it bugs me when people write comments that aren't factual.

Stefan Svilich
11 months ago

Al Gore was also pro-life until he decided to run for higher office; then, Shazam! His position ‘evolved’ and he was pro-choice. Just wait to get stung boys & girls, it’s in the Democrats nature - just like scorpions. Nice puff-piece by America Mag tho. I’m sure the Jesuits were well compensated. Cheers!

Dolores Pap
11 months ago

I was a five decade Republican voter( until 2016) and for all those years I was also pro-choice.. as well as anti-capital punishment. Abortion shouldn't even be discussed anymore as the Supreme Courts Roe vs Wade has been the law of the land for 50 years.
It's very simply- for those women who don't wish to ever abort, the choice is clear..don't abort. But for the rest of us citizens, the choice to abort is and should be, a very personal one..

Jim Lein
11 months ago

A pro-life stance usually involves more than law change, such as cutting programs such as SNAP, WIC, TANF and Medicaid. Cutting these programs would mean an increase in the number of abortions, including spontaneous ones due to inadequate intra-uterine nutrition and inadequate medical care. Pro-lifers would be more believable if they showed more concern for women in poverty and their unborn who need consistent nutrition and consistent medical care.

Bonnie Weissman
11 months ago

Ahem... I moved to Louisiana nearly six years ago from the DC area, and my new home (Baton Rouge in south Louisiana) is VERY Catholic (as Ruth Powers states). In fact, Louisiana is the tenth most Catholic state in the union. During Lent, you'll hear restaurant ads on the radio touting Friday night specials for "your Lenten dining," and see special Lenten menus in some restaurants as well. I'm not surprised Edwards is pro-life, pro-gun but liberal on other issues. Louisiana is that way--- it's a hybrid place with a libertarian streak. That's why it can basically be mostly conservative but have a Dem governor, and three Democratic (and African American) women serving as mayors of its three largest cities. So far Edwards has only made one public blunder. The day he took over, he made a big speech about the state's horrible deficit (one that Governor Jindal, his pro-life GOP predecessor had caused due to overestimating future oil revenues) when he quipped that they might have to suspend LSU football. The next morning on the drive time radio shows, people were up in arms. Not as much because of what Edwards explained about the deficit, but because of the LSU football issue. Some listeners suggested impeachment and others more violent actions. I am NOT exaggerating. If LSU football is not good, a major topic of conversation is firing the coach. I see a lot of folks at Mass, and not all are silver haired. If I attend at LSU, the large chapel is mostly full on holy days with students in jeans, hoodies, and shorts. They don't have a Saturday vigil Mass if it's a game day though. The state has many problems, including the oft cited high poverty rate, most of it in the central part of the state. What struck me when I first moved here are the large number of small and medium sized independent businesses here in Baton Rouge, something I had not seen (outside the government contracting sector) in the DC area. People are very friendly, and I have made friends easily. The toughest thing are the very hot and humid summers which are in a class by themselves. We moved here to help our older daughter and her husband balance family and work, and are so glad we did!

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

Thanks for the cameo. It sounds like a nice place to live.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

The Pope referred to the ongoing slaughter of innocents as a holocaust. One party is seeking to further entrench this ongoing massacre into our shared national experience. Planned Parenthood will not give up ground. It is heavily financed and it owns the Democrats. What number of helpless human beings will be mercilessly destroyed before the Democrats will be out from under the grip of a culture of death? The poverty argument is specious. No one starves in the United States. Might one believe Hitler's victims would have preferred poverty?

Jim Lein
11 months ago

The culture of death is not stopped by law change. It requires treating people, especially those in need, with necessary supportive care. The lowest abortion rates are in countries where it is legal and there are sufficient supportive services, such as in Scandinavia. We have been too long fixated on law change and on eliminating abortion. The best we can do is reduce its frequency. During the 1890s and 1930s, bad economic times, we had higher abortion rates than we do now. When we cut welfare services in like 1996, the abortion rate went up. The poverty argument is not specious. It is directly related to a higher rate of abortion.
Included in those who die of poverty in the United States are the unborn, those who receive inadequate intrauterine nutrition and inadequate medical care.

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

The Democratic party will always be pro-choice because the idea of making abortion illegal is a minority religious idea. Most Americans and also most Catholics want abortion to remain legal. No one in a democracy wants a politician imposing his/her reactionary religious beliefs on every person. If pro-life people were serious about reducing the rate of abortion, they would promote the use of cheap and effective contraception. Instead, they are against that.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

The Bill of Right's purpose is to to protect minority rights against majority bullies.

Erin Brown
11 months ago

My family often sits near Gov. Edwards’s family at Mass. They are such lovely people. He is one of the few people I’ve voted for with genuine enthusiasm, and he would make a great POTUS.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

ps The idea that women couldn't choose to kill their pre-born children if Planned Parenthood doesn't win the election is also a bunch of stuff. Even Kavanaugh said, at this point, Roe v Wade is' settled law'. The best pro-lifers can hope for is they won't be forced to continue participating in this grotesque practice.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

To Crystal Watson: How dare anyone impose their grotesque ' choices' on me.

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

How are pro-life people forced to do anything? The whole point of pro-choice is that people can choose what to do.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

Through government sponsored programs ie. tax supported abortion friendly entities like Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, by forcing pro-life medical personel to participate in abortions against their will, by forcing pharmacies to carry abortifacients,by forcing pharmacists to assist in abortions by way of being both providers and prescribers of medicine of which the sole purpose is to destroy a human life..... to name a few examples off the top of my head. Do you recall the years long struggle the "Little Sisters of the Poor had to go through?.

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

Most of that isn't exactly true. The Hyde amendment: since 1977, federal law has banned the use of any federal funds for abortion, unless the pregnancy is a result of rape, incest, or if it is determined to endanger the woman’s life, Only some states allow Medicaid for abortion and only in special cases. No doctor or nurse is forced to participate in abortions. Doctors and nurses can refuse, by law, to participate in abortions - no one is forced to do that. And the Trump administration has rolled back the Obama era law making employers pay for contraception. No one has to take a job or keep a job where they must do abortions or hand out contraception. On the other hand, patients have the right to expect doctors and nurses and pharmacists will provide legal services like abortion and contraception. People pay taxes for a lot of things they don't like, from war to executions to "making coal great again". That's part of being a citizen.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

Your first cite points out Hyde Amendment is temporary and must be renewed by a Congressional add- on in an Appropriations bill every year. It also says many states use their own funds (taxes) and/or combine funds to expand abortion services beyond the Hyde limits. It also points out there are sixteen states that have no restrictions at all. The rest of my statement stands as is. ( I can't believe women have a legitimate 'right' to force someone to participate in the taking of a human life by virtue of their employment as a medical professional, Abortion should not be part of anyone's"'job' in a public setting. This is a far cry from a 'private' matter between a woman and her doctor. I inquired with the Italian Consulate a couple of years back and learned that although abortion was legal in Italy, it was the woman's responsibility to find a doctor willing to do it. This is what 'private' means.).

Crystal Watson
11 months ago

No one id forced to perform abortions - that is just a fact. Abortion is legal. Imagine bleeding to death but a nurse in the ER won't give you a transfusion because she's a Jehovah's Witness and she wants to force her beliefs on everyone else.

Bev Ceccanti
11 months ago

Examples of participation do not have to include the actual scrambling of the baby's brain with a pair of scissors. Any honest , rational human being can get the point and conclude my assertions are true. I won't waste time on disingenuous retorts...... I rest my case

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