Douglas Kmiec on Obama and the Catholic Blogosphere

…Right-wing Catholic bloggers, acting as a thinly disguised political front for the GOP, remain fixated on the goal of precipitating an unnecessary war between the Holy See and America’s next administration. It is dismaying to see a few American prelates and their “anonymous” Vatican commentators acting as witting or unwitting coconspirators in this divisive action.

Obama himself has written that the golden rule tells us that we “need to battle cruelty in all its forms, [with] the value of love and charity, humanity and grace.” Even spinning a pervasive web of falsehood, the right-wing Catholic blogosphere is no match for the self-evident truth of that golden rule-nor would its bloggers want to be, were they to indulge a microsecond of charitable thought before hitting the send button.

The above quotations come from Douglas Kmiec’s new article in Commonwealth, called A Tangled Web: The Election and the Blogosphere. Kmiec is the author of Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Right Questions About Barack Obama. Kmiec, an attorney who served in the Reagan administration, offered in  his book a carefully nuanced argument about why Catholics, even while remaining faithful to the church’s opposition to abortion, could in good conscience support Obama. Kmiec certainly helped me in the formation of my conscience as a voter this election, and I suppose his work helped many others, since 54% of Catholic voters supported Obama. But as a Catholic who so publicly supported the Democratic candidate, Kmiec paid a price — he was routinely vilified in the Catholic blogosphere.

In his Commonwealth article Kmiec tells the story of that vilification, partially defending his own position and partially challenging the extreme Catholic right to leaven their hatred with some Christian charity — and humility. Even if you’re not a Catholic, I think it’s an article well worth reading, as it touches on the question of how our public discourse can have ramifications far being whatever issues we might be discussing. In other words, while the hard Catholic right sees itself as a faithful minority fighting a holy war on behalf of the unborn, their rhetoric of division and contempt could actually be undermining Catholicism and its overall role in public discourse. After all, who wants to be the member of — or even politically affiliated with — a religion that is all about hating its enemies? And this, unfortunately, seems to be the message about Catholicism that certain segments of the Catholic blogosphere seems hell-bent on proclaiming.

"That God's Love Might Live in Us" — A Few Lovely Words from Thomas Merton
Concerning Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Xenophobia
Rocking Justice & Spirituality: Like the Two Movements of the Breath
Atlas and Aurora


  1. I know what you mean. A risk of blogging is that it’s such an easy and immediate way to communicate in writing that one can easily end up posting rants, which goes for Catholics as much as anyone.

  2. It is so sad.

    As a Catholic, I hate the fact that some would try to narrow my options to identifying with a rigid, legalistic, hardnosed approach to abortion or identifying with a group that says abortion is little more than a health care choice.

    I can’t identify with either.

  3. Okay, now that I’ve read the article…

    This is the kind of intelligent, thoughtful discourse of which we are in desperate need.

    Thanks for sharing, Carl.

  4. remember that “Judge not…” is not one of the Ten Commandments. “Right-Wing” is how Episcopalians who are pro abortion characterize the Catholic Church. It seems disloyal to me that you echo this. I understand why Kmiec wants to discredit orthodox Catholics who observe and obey the infallible word of the Pope and go their own way at the expense of just so much fetal tissue. But remember this; shame is God’s way of telling you that you screwed up.
    Listen to your shame.

  5. Papal infallibility, according to church teaching, occurs only when the pontiff speaks ex cathedra. This has happened twice since the doctrine of papal infallibility was formalized, at the Vatican I council. The two times that the pope has spoken ex cathedra have been, on both occasions, to declare a Marian dogma: the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the dogma of the Assumption.

    This means that papal infallibility has never been invoked on the issue with which Mr. Kmiec is concerned: the right for Catholics to follow their conscience when voting for a candidate who may on some issues advocate positions at variance with church teaching.

Leave a Comment