On the First Things blog, Archbishop Chaput has responded to the use of some of his prior statements by the group Roman Catholics for Obama. Chaput begins by detailing his support for the RFK and Carter campaigns, and then notes:
In the years after the Carter loss, I began to notice that very few of the people, including Catholics, who claimed to be “personally opposed” to abortion really did anything about it. Nor did they intend to. For most, their personal opposition was little more than pious hand-wringing and a convenient excuse—exactly as it is today. In fact, I can’t name any pro-choice Catholic politician who has been active, in a sustained public way, in trying to discourage abortion and to protect unborn human life—not one. Some talk about it, and some may mean well, but there’s very little action. In the United States in 2008, abortion is an acceptable form of homicide. And it will remain that way until Catholics force their political parties and elected officials to act differently.
Why do I mention this now? Earlier this spring, a group called “Roman Catholics for Obama ’08” quoted my own published words in the following way:
“So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can’t, and I won’t. But I do know some serious Catholics— people whom I admire—who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don’t keep quiet about it; they don’t give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite—not because of—their pro-choice views.”
What’s interesting about this quotation—which is accurate but incomplete—is the wording that was left out. The very next sentences in the article of mine they selected, which Roman Catholics for Obama neglected to quote, run as follows:
“But [Catholics who support pro-choice candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life—which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.”
On their website, Roman Catholics for Obama stress that:
“After faithful thought and prayer, we have arrived at the conclusion that Senator Obama is the candidate whose views are most compatible with the Catholic outlook, and we will vote for him because of that—and because of his other outstanding qualities—despite our disagreements with him in specific areas.”
I’m familiar with this reasoning. It sounds a lot like me thirty years ago. And thirty years later, we still have about a million abortions a year. Maybe Roman Catholics for Obama will do a better job at influencing their candidate. It could happen. And I sincerely hope it does, since Planned Parenthood of the Chicago area, as recently as February 2008, noted that Senator Barack Obama “has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record both in the U.S. Senate and the Illinois Senate.”
Changing the views of “pro-choice” candidates takes a lot more than verbal gymnastics, good alibis, and pious talk about “personal opposition” to killing unborn children. I’m sure Roman Catholics for Obama know that, and I wish them good luck. They’ll need it.