Catholics, Abortion & Sen. Obama

:::Welcome, Hot Air readers, and thanks Ed. The piece Ed quoted from is here, at Pajamas Media!:::

In my latest at Pajamas Media, I look at a recent Wall Street Journal piece exploring the means by which Catholics justify a vote for Barack Obama, whose NARAL rating (his recent musings on abortion notwithstanding) is 100%.

The WSJ reports that the Obama Catholics justify voting for him in good conscience, despite his abortion record, because he is “so good on other issues” of import to Catholics, like war, torture, social justice, etc.

As I observe at PJM:

On the surface, that argument seems reasonable — so reasonable, in fact, that the ardently pro-life Archbishop Charles Chaput, of Denver, writes of forming his own conscience in just such a way in 1976:

I knew Carter was wrong in his views about Roe and soft toward permissive abortion. But even as a priest, I justified working for him because…he was right on so many more of the “Catholic” issues than his opponent seemed to be. The moral calculus looked easy.

The moral calculus does look easy until one considers that war, torture, the death penalty, poverty, racism, and even the excesses of capitalism — those evils so well defined in Catholic social teaching, and of concern to Catholics of all political persuasions — are fully present in the act of abortion.

War is a struggle between two evolving powers over who will have dominance; whether just or unjust, it involves the murder of the innocent and the disruption of families. War introduces pain, fire, violence, savagery and torture into societies.

Abortion is a struggle between two evolving powers over who will have dominance; whether “justified” or not, it involves the murder of the innocent and the disruption of families. A vacuum abortion, saline abortion or a D&C introduces pain, fire, and a limb-shredding, relentless violence deep into the very being of a woman’s body, within her very womb. A partial birth abortion, which involves inserting a scissor into the base of the skull of a partially delivered fetus, then suctioning out its brain before fully withdrawing the fetus from the birth canal, embodies the sort of savagery and real torture which is the most abhorrent part of any war.

The death penalty is a legal execution of an individual judged guilty of heinous acts against the larger society; convicts are sometimes discovered to have been innocent of the charges made against them only after their lives have been taken. Many consider even the most “humane” means of execution to be cruel and inhuman, and even when the convict is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, it may be well-argued that killing a murderer does not bring back the victim and that “two wrongs do not make a right.”

In an abortion, the fetus is as subject to the death penalty as anyone ever so ordered by a jury; the fetus is always innocent. Even the most “humane” means of abortion — whatever that might be — involves cruel and inhuman measures. And even if the fetus — in its innocence — is the product of a violent and “guilty” conception, it may be well-argued that one merciless violation cannot be healed by a second — equally merciless — violation and that “two wrongs do not make a right.”

It goes on like that for some length.

We’ve all been struggling about abortion for decades – once upon a time I was a pro-choice liberal Catholic, myself, so I know the struggle. As I wrote:

A Catholic conscience is a complex thing that must rely on more than bumper stickers and impassioned rhetoric.

After all this time, we should be able to discuss abortion fearlessly. Perhaps we need some new perspectives. The whole point of debate is to allow fresh perspectives into stale ideas…and nothing in America is as stale as the back-and-forth on abortion.

In our family we have a basic rule about debate and argument: before you can make your argument you have to first state your opponent’s case back to him (or her) to his satisfaction. It’s a good rule – it keeps the fighting clean.

I’m not looking for a fight (or a love-fest), though. I just thought, “well…here’s another way to look at it.” I expect the comments on this piece to be heated and passionate, but I hope they will remain civil and sane.

Comments are always moderated, but since I’m off fishing for part of the day, there may be a backlog. If things get out of hand (which I trust won’t happen, because I have great readers), I will just close the thread.

A QOTD from Hot Air!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • nickolatemple

    Do we want somebody who would leave a baby to die (Obama voted against the born alive protection act in Illinois), in charge of our health care? or anything else for that matter?

    I don’t want somebody like that in charge of me when I find myself weak, defenseless and in need of care.

    Has there ever been a politician who has been wrong on whether a baby is a baby whose judgment wasn’t extremely suspect in a lot of other areas?

    “… despite his abortion record, because he is “so good on other issues” of import to Catholics, like war, torture, social justice, etc.”

    I’ve found that ‘so good on other issues’ is on closer examination not the case. When I go beyond the bumper sticker, I find that their approach to war causes more of them with far greater suffering, the approach to social justice makes a lot of things zero sum games that don’t have to be.

  • benning

    The same Catholics who see nothing wrong with voting for Edward Kennedy will vote for Barack Obama. They are Catholic in name only. Their Faith is in the Political realm, not the Spiritual.

    That’s how I see it.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    Whatever might be the best way to advance the Catholic/prolife cause, one tact is clearly an utter failure — trying to win over pro-Obama Catholics by personal attacks on their Catholicity, asserting that they are “bad” Catholics or not authentically Catholic enough. Yet, this is essentially the only tactic that some in the Catholic blogosphere have pursued (not our hostess).

    Moreover, we will never soften Obama’s heart, we will never convert him in even the slightest way to a prolife ethic, by screaming that he is a murderer or disciple of Moloch. Such talk ain’t never going to persuade or convince pro-choicers/pro-aborts of the error of their position. Yet, again, this is more or less the only tactic that some on the Catholic-Right have even attempted.

    Attacks on the other side never persuade. They only cause them to stiffen their defenses.

    Maybe that’s why one eminently wise fellow once said that we should love our enemies — you cannot win them over with distain and contempt. But if we instead act in charity to promote truth, including prolife truth, then and only then are all things are possible, including the conversion of the most ardent pro-abort.

  • Foxfier

    You can’t change minds when folks aren’t willing to have them changed.

    Theology has no effect. Calls for compassion have no effect. Basic biological truth has no effect. (I have had more arguments over a fetus “not being a homo sapien” than I care to remember.)

    Some folks just don’t have reasons, they have excuses.

  • rcareaga

    Catholic in name only?

    “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” —Anne LaMott

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  • Melissa

    My apologies for contacting you in this manner, but I am unable to click on your email button to contact you (my system error, not yours). Would you please contact me with advertising rates for your site? Thanks!

  • galensmark

    Greatest post on abortion… and the left’s disconnect between protecting everything “for the children” until it’s time to plunge those forceps into a baby’s brain stem. Catholics cannot overlook this. Slavery is against a very basic human right, freedom…so is abortion, the right to life, liberty etc.


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  • Zorro

    Quote of the Day at Hot Air.

    “The moral calculus does look easy until one considers that war, torture, the death penalty, poverty, racism, and even the excesses of capitalism — those evils so well defined in Catholic social teaching, and of concern to Catholics of all political persuasions — are fully present in the act of abortion.”

    Way to go!

  • stefano1

    I’m Oback Arama and I’m running for president of this great country. I believe that every living and breathing person save just a few has the right to choose and that’s why I’m pro-choice. I’m a strong believer in the right to life of those who can vote and send money to my campaign. I have the audacity of hope that individuals like you and noble organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL will reach deep down into your pockets and bank accounts and write a check to me because of my stance on the lives of the voting public. That’s the kind of pro-life position I can believe in.

    I’ve stood up to those repressive regressives who would attempt to protect products of conception after only eight or nine months of pregnancy. While a member of the Illinois Senate, I was a strong voice of reason in the defeat of an immoral bill that would have protected products of conception accidently born living and breathing from being terminated by heroic abortionists in our state. Why should these blobs of tissue have the right to live just because they are living and breathing outside of the womb. After much counseling from their health professional abortionists and abortion mill counselors, these mothers made the moral decision to terminate and why should a breathing, living blob of tissue with a beating heart stand in the way of that decision. I stood up when it was hard, when it was risky and when it wasn’t popular. And because I stood up, a few more stood up; and then a few thousand stood up; and then a few million stood up and standing up with clear purpose and courage we made it safe for abortionists and mothers to terminate the breathing and the heart beat of products of conception accidently born alive in my great state of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln.

    If you believe as I do that every living and breathing child should be either a wanted child or it should be snuffed out, if one so chooses, then I have the audacity of hope that I can count on your vote and all of the change in your pocket and bank account for my campaign. Together we can continue to terminate unwanted breathing non-voting blobs of tissue.

    That’s change and hope that I can believe in. Can we all believe in that?

    Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

    That’s why I’m running for president.

    I’m Oback Arama and I approved this message.

  • Jeanette

    Not being a Catholic I can’t speak to the specific issues being discussed on this topic, but I do believe every Christian who is a real Christian and not just one who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, is opposed to abortion.

    Some of the born-again Christian evangelicals might think abortion is OK, but I can’t see how they could come to that conclusion.

    I can’t see how anyone who loves God and their country can vote for Barack Obama, knowing he is a Marxist/Socialist.

    With Pelosi and friends trying to force us to lose our free speech it’s not such a stretch of the imagination to see what might happen in an Obama administration with the current make-up of Congress, with a few more Democrats to support him.

    I dabble in prophecy a little. Do you know what scares me? I can see the signs of the end and we are just like sheep following along. Jesus told us we would be fooled by the lies of some, and Obama certainly has the golden tongue by which to deceive a lot of people. Despite what we hear of his shoddy dealings people excuse it just as they did Clinton and the blue dress.

    One of these days they’re going to lead us off a cliff and then what? Words won’t do anything to help when we have caved in to radical Islam, Iran and every other dangerous nation in the world.

    I have four grandchildren who will have to remain here after I’m in heaven (at least until Jesus returns) and that’s why I worry. Will they be living a life that is what the people in the old USSR lived and what appears to be happening in Russia?

    Be afraid. Be very afraid, but then Jesus said when we see these things begin to come to pass look up, for our redemption draweth nigh.

    They are beginning to come to pass and our redemption draws nigh. How many of us are ready?

  • mathman

    Moral Calculus?
    From my exalted mathematical viewpoint, Calculus does not apply to morality.
    Actions are either pleasing to God or not. No mathematics needed. There are no fine distinctions, there are no infinitesimals, there are no differentials.
    We are either created in the image of God, or not.
    To distinguish between all of us and some of us is preposterous.
    The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that children who have not yet been delivered and started breathing are not created in the image of God, and thus have no human rights.
    The Catholic Church (and, indeed, many other Churches) have a different view of reality.
    It is indeed a slippery slope when one sets forth to decree who is a person and who is not. Germany decreed that gypsies, homosexuals, and Jews were not persons. Slaveholders have always believed that their slaves are not persons. The loss of personhood is not capable of limitation; it is an avalanche which will strip the right of existence from all (eventually).
    Sen. Obama is practicing political calculus. This is the calculus of dividing up the electorate into fragments, then tailoring appeals to appeal to as many fragments as possible. No morality is required. In political calculus what is right is what wins.
    Just as it is my belief that the Catholic faith does not operate on the cafeteria plan, so also a Catholic cannot support any leader who favors abortion. If there is any meaning at all in the authority of the magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church), then her authority does not provide a checkoff list; one either accepts or rejects the package.
    And moving away from cafeteria Catholicism would do a lot for the American Catholic community.

  • lsusportsfan

    Great post and article!!!!

    Bender B. Rodriguez ,

    I do tend to agree with that questioning people’s Catholic faith as the only tactic is unwise. In fact the attitude should be of correction and perhaps informing them where they are wrong and how their attiude is in direct opposition to the Church and the most ancient Christian teaching

    That being said the other sides is not and has never played nice. THey are being aggressive on this issue and trying to make the case that authentic Catholics cannot vote for McCain or (insert GOP person here).

    I don’t know where Senator Brownback is but we need him and people like him on the TV and airwaves now combatting this. Many of these people are also attacking Catholic Bishops especially the Catholic Bishop of Kansas.

  • blueteapot

    It’s kind of ironic that you posted this article today, at least to me, as this issue has been much on my mind for some reason lately. I even woke up thinking about abortion. I like to study history, and although I’m sure I’m not the first person to draw this comparison, I often wonder how many people realize what the act of abortion actually is?

    It’s human sacrifice.

    And why did any of the societies which openly practiced human sacrifice (Moloch, Aztec, etc.) do so?

    Those who practiced human sacrifice did so because they believed (for what ever reason) that doing so would make THEIR lives better (aka not worse). Whether they had been grossly decieved, slowly lead into a false belief, or arrived at that conclusion by following their own sin-stain reasonings, they truly believe it would make their lives better.

    They were fully aware that they were sacrificing something “human”, even as all those who have abortions are aware they are sacrificing something “human” – even if they shroud that knowledge in veils of symantics (pre-viable fetus, human tissue, etc.) They know, even when they try to “not know”…but they take that step of human sacrifice for all the same reasons it has ever been done…destroying elsewhere for THEIR OWN sake. That is the heart of the matter. That belief is where the struggle is fought.

    This is one of the reasons Satan adores human sacrifice…it’s is the black reversal of God’s sacrifice on the cross. Christ destroyed HIMSELF for our sake…Satan uses lots of false logic and reasonings to get us to do the reverse…thereby taking an action which is, at the heart of it, a reputation of what Christ has done. For we are called to do as Christ has done, and this is the reverse.

    As a child, I used to wonder at the verses which spoke of the vast multitudes of martyrs around the throne, asking (I’m paraphrasing here) “How long will our blood cry out for justice?”. I wondered where such a multitude could possibly come from? I wonder no more.

  • cathyf

    Well, as purely a hypothetical (and not applicable to any current political contest that I can think of), it is permissible to vote for the pro-abortion candidate and against the pro-life candidate if you have a well-founded belief that the policies of the “pro-life” candidate will result in more abortions than those of the “pro-abortion” candidate. This is merely pointing out that Catholics are against killing babies, and we are against pro-abortion thoughts and speech primarily because they will lead to more abortions. Yes, we stand up for truth, and speaking the truth, but we are also prudent and pragmatic and actions trump words every time.

    To those who think that this is a weird hypothetical, well imagine an “anti-abortion” candidate who was advocating policies where there was no real penalty for performing abortions, no practical penalty for rape, but any unmarried girl or woman who gave birth to a child (or married woman who gave birth in a time frame where her husband could not be the father) was subject to the death penalty. Yeah, if my choice was between a sharia candidate and somebody with a 100% approval rating from NARAL, I think you can make a really good argument that aligning with NARAL is the correct pro-life vote if the sharia candidate has any realistic chance of getting his policies enacted if elected.

  • dudleysharp

    Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)  “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
    Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick: More Concerned with ‘Comfort’ than Christ?, Catholic Online, 7/11/2004, from Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with guidance to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated succinctly, emphatically and unambiguously as follows: June, 2004

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  • Dave Justus

    Not being a Catholic, I am not entirely clear on the exact status how stringently Catholics must oppose abortion in order to be worthy and what theological level this command is (is it something that is infallible or is it a moral teaching that is theoretically subject to change.)

    I am not questioning the Catholic position of abortion as a sin, but there are a lot of sins, and it does not necessarily follow that Governmental criminalizing of these sins is the best way to combat this sin. Beyond that, it seems odd to me that some sort of test be applied to politicians being firmly enough against abortion. As an outsider, it certainly seems to me that Christian theology is pretty vague on how spiritual matters and political matters should interact. Indeed Christ himself seemed to indicate that they often don’t interact, and that overfocusing on political ills may itself be a spiritual mistake.

    I find it disturbing that the Catholic Church would presume to declare politicians sinners because of their political solution to a problem that the Church believes is sinful. I don’t have a problem with the Church teaching that it is sinful to get (or even to give) an abortion, any more then I have a problem with them teaching it is sinful to get a divorce. I do though have some issues with them teaching it is sinful to not support government criminalizing of abortion, just as I would have some issues with it being sinful to support government prohibition on divorce, or, more extremely, government prohibition on not tithing to the church.

    It would seem to me that a person could be a good Catholic, could believe that abortion is a grave sin, and still believe that it is not the place of the government to prevent this sin through criminalization, either because of their beliefs on the proper limits of government or their beliefs on the utility of such a government prohibition (i.e. that it would do more harm then good.) It doesn’t seem to me that the Catholic Church is particularly qualified to judge either of those last ideas, and that presuming to do so is an error of pride.

    [It would seem to me that a person could be a good Catholic, could believe that abortion is a grave sin, and still believe that it is not the place of the government to prevent this sin through criminalization, either because of their beliefs on the proper limits of government or their beliefs on the utility of such a government prohibition (i.e. that it would do more harm then good.) I think you can be a "good Catholic" and believe all that - there is a part of me that acknowledges that in the end all of our choices, for good or ill, are strictly between us and God - nevertheless, if we are to err, we're to err on the side of life, and if a policitian is caught in between that, he or she should be considering that. That's all. I don't think the church says, "thou sinner!" (although some Catholics do like that finger-pointing) but she does say, "where is your conscience on this? Is it aligned with the intentions of the Creator? If'd better think about that," and that is not a bad caution. - admin]