Two Swing-State Catholic Universities Host Speakers From Catholics for Obama

According to a CNA article, at least two Catholic colleges in the swing states of Colorado and Ohio have ended up hosting discussions by Catholics for Obama. Among those who attended were representatives of Catholics United, a group which opposes the Church’s teaching on traditional marriage.

I’ve experienced the lengths some people will go to in order to find a way into forums that hold opinions different from theirs. Public Catholic has attracted more than its share of this. I am wondering if the college administrators fell for arguments similar to the ones that have been used on me.

On the other hand, university campuses have traditionally been places that were open to the free exchange of ideas between people of opposing viewpoints. My concern with this is not that they had these people on campus so much as whether or not the presentation was balanced and that there were faithful Catholics who also spoke who were capable of standing up to them.

What do you think?

The CNA article says in part:

Denver, Colo., Nov 1, 2012 / 04:03 am (CNA).- The Obama campaign attempted to schedule a rally-like event on a Catholic university campus in the key swing state of Colorado before settling on a dialogue with a co-chair of Catholics for Obama.

“Their original intent was to have more of a rally element to it,” said Paul Alexander, director of Regis University’s Institute for the Common Good, which hosted the event.

“We just felt we couldn’t do a rally, but we felt a healthy dialogue among Catholics was important.”

About 45 people attended the Oct. 25 dialogue and small group discussion with Catholics for Obama national co-chair Nicholas P. Cafardi, a law professor and dean emeritus of Duquesne University School of Law.

The event was titled “Catholic Social Teaching: The Intersection of Faith and Politics.” Although it was hosted by the Jesuit university’s institute, it took place because of outreach from the Obama campaign.

Alexander told CNA Oct 26 that another Catholics for Obama national co-chair by the name of Victoria Kovari, the “main point of contact,” had sought out the university and asked if it would be willing to host an event.

Kovari is a former national field director and former interim president of the Democrat-leaning group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

She attended the Denver event along with Broderick Johnson, a senior advisor to the Obama campaign.

At the Thursday evening gathering, Alexander said that the campaign had reached out to schedule the event, but had set no conditions on the talk.

“There was a strict adherence to bring a message that is totally non-political,” he said.

Cafardi’s remarks examined moral judgment in public life, saying that the Church must leave solutions to political problems to “the informed consciences and prudential judgment of the laity.”

He had pointed criticisms of Catholic bishops’ actions on political matters.

“Our sacred pastors will tell us the ethical and moral principles that should govern human behavior. They can tell us the values that should be defended,” he said. “No bishop, no priest, can tell you how to vote, ever. They don’t have that right. That right belongs to you, and your informed conscience.

“They don’t even have the right to hint how you’re supposed to vote, as a number of them have been doing lately in their non-endorsement endorsements,” he said, adding that no one can question the decision of an informed conscience.

Cafardi, who rejects the criminalization of abortion, said the Catholic Church’s advocacy for the legal prohibition of abortion as the only way to address life issues ignores the need to use prudential judgment to decide the best way to protect human life.

He defended the Obama administration’s controversial mandate which requires most employers of 50 or more employees to provide no co-pay insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.

Cafardi argued that the Obama administration’s proposed conscience accommodation, whose details are unclear, is adequate. He also said that the mandate was justified under the same logic as the cost segregation practice which allows the government to fund the non-religious activities of religious employers.

He ridiculed broad exemptions for objecting private employers as the “Taco Bell exemption.”

At least one other Catholic college has hosted Catholics for Obama speakers. Last month in Ohio, another politically key state for the presidential elections, the Xavier University College Democrats hosted Johnson, Kovari and other speakers who presented a Catholic case for voting for President Obama.

CNA contacted the Romney campaign to determine whether it has engaged in similar outreach to Catholic colleges and universities but did not receive a response by deadline.

Michael Hernon, a former president of the Republican-leaning group The Catholic Association, told CNA he has not heard of any Catholics for Romney outreach to Catholic colleges and universities.

Hernon, who is also a vice president of advancement at Franciscan University, said that Franciscan University of Steubenville has many faculty and students who support the Romney campaign in a personal capacity, but the university has not had any partisan events on campus.

Among the attendees at Regis University event were Catholics United Colorado State Chairman Anthony DeMattee. The organization expanded into Colorado with its first Denver event on Oct. 22, holding a debate watching party with Catholics United Executive Director James Salt.

Until recently, Catholics United avoided directly contradicting Catholic teaching. On Oct. 18, it denounced Catholic efforts to defend traditional marriage as a “far right-wing” social issue. The group also attacked the Knights of Columbus for giving financial support to the Catholic bishops’ marriage defense efforts and to marriage amendment ballot initiatives. (Read more here.)

  • WFS

    This was the first comment I read under the CNA article. It’s sad that Catholics have to resort to the threat of mortal sin to keep the flock from voting for Obama. Liberal Catholics are ignoring the threats.

    “Regardless of the any colleges intent to be open minded, it must be restated that it IS A MORTAL SIN TO VOTE FOR ANY CANDIDATE THAT OPENLY SUPPORTS AND ENCOURAGES ABORTION, PERIOD. Now, what is so hard to understand about that? Abortion is the number one Catholic issue on election day because of the 1.1 million innocents who are murdered EACH YEAR in this country. Wars, famine, diseases and the economy are insignificant when compared with more than ONE MILLION CONSENSUAL MURDERS each year.”

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      WFS, you are really reaching.

      You evidently clicked on the link and found what you are talking about in the comments section of the other article. Then you came back here and pronounced that this anonymous person (“Dave”) was speaking for all Catholics and tsk, tsk, what a shame that “Catholics have to …”

      While I understand what that person is getting at, the way they phrased their comment is not exactly what the Church teaches.

      My understanding (remember: I am NOT a theologian) is that it is a mortal sin to vote for a candidate who is pro abortion BECAUSE they are pro abortion. In other words, the Church recognizes that there are many, many issues that influence a vote. You might vote for someone in spite of their pro abortion stand because, for instance, their opponent was under indictment for a hideous crime. (Just a for instance) That would not be a mortal sin because you are not advocating for and enabling abortion as your intent; you’re trying to keep a known crook out of office.

      People who vote for pro abortion candidates in order to support abortion (and there are many of them) are the ones who would be committing a mortal sin. This is just my personal opinion and not any kind of Church teaching or the opinion of anyone else, but I think that someone who finds one of these side reasons to always, every election, vote for the pro abortion candidate needs to look at themselves.

      Un-repented mortal sin can send you to hell. Willfully ignoring this does not change it. That’s why the Church is so specific. It is a grave thing to tell people. It is not, however, a threat when the Church does so. It is a warning. If you told your doctor that you could smoke all you want and it wouldn’t affect your health and the doctor kept quiet for fear of offending you, what would you think of that doctor? It is the job of the Church to warn people when they are doing something that can send them to hell. Anything less would be clerical malpractice.

      The Catholic Church is not the ham-handed, overbearing ogre you try to make it out to be. That is your imagination of what it is, fueled by your resentment of the values it teaches, not what it actually is.

      • arkenaten

        While your defense of your church is understandable it is enlightening to note that there are divisions within Catholicism itself over several core issues it seems.
        Never heard of Catholics United. I would have immediately presumed they were a Soccer Team.
        I was aware of some dissent within your Church ( remember the Catholic Bishops of Canada issue?) but was unaware of how polarized it is becoming.
        And so religion breaks down yet again over doctrine.
        Another schism on the horizen, maybe?
        How many Christian sects will there eventually be , I wonder?
        BTW. I posted links to teen pregnancies in SA for you.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Douglas, would you remind me about the teen pregnancy issue next week? By that I mean a couple of days after the election. I’ll get back to them then.

        • WFS

          “If you believe you will go to hell you will”

          (I caught this on my iphone, but it’s gone now. You just ask to be censored in some of your posts. You have to show respect of the faith of others on this blog.)

          I don’t believe that anyone really goes to hell. Do you?

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            I don’t know what you’re referring to or who you are speaking to.

            • WFS

              That was for Douglas.

          • arkenaten

            “I don’t believe that anyone really goes to hell. Do you?”
            Of course I do. Have you ever had to sit through the ‘Grand Finale’ of Survivor? Or a two hour special of American Idols.
            And in our house it is considered a mortal sin if I even DARE to change channel.
            Oh, there is hell all right. ;)

          • Ted Seeber

            I most certainly do. Spend a little time on the streets, and you’ll meet people who are already IN HELL, long before they die.

        • Ted Seeber

          There are plenty of scientists that still dissent over global warming, does that mean it isn’t happening?

        • Ted Seeber

          The only thing wrong with teen pregnancy is the lack of living wage jobs for teen fathers.

  • neenergyobserver

    Any attempt to tell Bishops (or any other priest/pastors) to not provide moral guidance on issues affecting the church seems to me to echo the “Leave your religion in church” meme that has done so much damage to the morality of western civilization in the last half century or so. The abortion question could be more clear cut but still there is a huge difference between the candidates.

    The other issues mentioned above are not as significant at this time but, if we do not address them they will get worse as well.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Good points. Thank you.

    • Manny

      Excellent comment, and right on.

  • Manny

    If they wanted a debate, they should have invited them a month or two ago. This close to the election is a de facto endorsement. If Obama wins the election and the Catholic vote actually breaks for Obama, then technically a consensus will have been reached on the restrictions Obama has placed on religious freedom. The country will have crossed a rubicon, just like it did years ago with Roe v Wade. It will be near impossible to overturn.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I don’t know Manny. I would still have hopes for the Supreme Court overturning it. If that doesn’t work, then we are going to have to consider non-violent civil disobedience. You are right, however, Caesar bringing his troops across the Rubicon is a good symbolism for what President Obama has done with this mandate in that he has attacked one of the foundations of our republic. I certainly wouldn’t call it an analogy, that would be going too far. But it is apt. Whatever happens in this election, things will never be the same again simply because he has done it.

  • WFS

    Mortal sin and the threat of eternal damnation are concepts used to control people’s minds and behavior. Telling someone that they can commit a mortal sin by voting for the wrong candidate is an egregious political tactic.

    People are not going to hell (if there even is such a place) if they vote for Obama because he is pro-choice, or as you say, pro-abortion. We are not living in the Dark Ages anymore.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Hell is real. Denying it doesn’t change it. However, I understand why people who reject God get so angry at the mention of it.

      • WFS

        People get angry because they don’t like to be manipulated by scare tactics. They don’t have to reject God in order to not fall for scare tactics.

        So if you ran against a pro-life candidate, the votes for that candidate would all be mortal sins? In that case, only those who voted for you, for someone else who was pro-life or for nobody would be saved. And the other voters would have to go to confession or spend eternity in hell?

        • WFS

          I’m sorry, I mean’t a pro-choice candidate.

          • vickie

            They would be mortal sins if the people voted for the candidate because the are for the legality of fetal homicide.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          If you don’t believe it, how can it manipulate you? For that matter, why do you folks spend so much of your time on internet boards for people of faith? If you don’t believe, it seems you would have something better to do.

          • WFS

            I’m intrigued by your website and I always am looking for the opposite point of view. And just to make sure I am not wrong about hell.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              I think in your heart of hearts you already know there is a hell. That’s why it bugs you so when someone talks about it.

              • WFS

                No. I’m pretty sure (but I want to be 100% certain) that as I lie dying (hopefully with dignity) my body will shut down, the oxygen flow to my brain will decrease causing me to visualize a light at an end of a tunnel, I will lose consciousness and cease to exist as a human being. Sad but true.

              • arkenaten

                You tell him, Rebecca. He’s a naughty heathen. ;)

        • Ted Seeber

          Why not, you rejected God because you fell for scare tactics.

      • Ted Seeber

        I wish I did. I don’t understand why people who hate God would not want to go to hell.

  • Deacon Tom

    I never cease to be amazed when nonbelievers such as WFS (see also the Patheos atheist channel), who know little and understand less about the Catholic faith, attempt to criticize those who teach and follow it. The Catholic Church plainly teaches that abortion is NONNEGOTIABLE–it is an intrinsic evil that must always be opposed. No organization, nor any individual bishop, priest or deacon for that matter, can change Catholic teaching. Voting for a candidate BECAUSE that candidate supports abortion could indeed be a mortal sin (must involve grievous matter, full knowledge, and consent) as Rebecca stated. Dying in the state of mortal sin will send you to hell. Unfortunately many nominal “Catholics” appear to believe there is no hell, or that God will not send anyone to hell (“nothing we do on earth matters-we all go to heaven”), but that is contrary to Catholic teaching. Also very unfortunately, dissident groups such as Catholics United wrongly suggest and mislead others by asserting their souls are saved by simply following their consciences, however mal-formed, ignorant or uninformed that conscience may be. That is what the Catholic Church calls “scandal.”

    • Sus

      “I never cease to be amazed when nonbelievers such as WFS (see also the Patheos atheist channel), who know little and understand less about the Catholic faith, attempt to criticize those who teach and follow it.”

      I believe this happens because the Catholic Church wants to use laws that affect all of us, not just Catholics. The Pope is in charge in Vatican City and the Catholic Churches. The Pope is not in charge of the United States.

      I think all people are equal and deserve the same rights. Discriminating against gays is the same as discriminating against someone for their race. There is no difference. I know a tiny bit about the Catholic faith, but I feel sure discriminating someone for their race is not church doctrine.

      You have made good points Deacon Tom. From now on, I will be reading quietly and will keep my thoughts and comments to myself.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        No, discriminating against someone because of their race is not part of Catholic doctrine. I have never heard of the Pope calling for anything like that. In fact, priests, bishops and nuns all marched with Dr Martin Luther King, back in the day when doing that was a dangerous thing to do.

  • Ted Seeber

    Catholics for Obama: The very definition of useful idiots.

  • WFS

    Omana has not reduced the deficit but has increased it to $16 trillion. If I don’t vote for him it will be because of that and not because it is a mortal sin.

    And I don’t understand your term “useful idiots”. Is that an oxymoron like Catholics for Obama. If so, I get it. Ha, ha.