|Richard John Neuhaus FAITH Magazine January-February 2009|
It has been a deep embarrassment to watch some Catholics brutally twist their minds and consciences into the service of defending their claim that faithful and staunchly anti-abortion Catholics should support a radically pro-abortion presidential candidate who says his first act in office will be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would, by federal mandate, eliminate even the most minimal legal discouragements of the killing of unborn babies. Douglas Kmiec, professor of law at Pepperdine University, is the most conspicuous of such Catholics. Once we get beyond those troublesome questions about the culture of life versus the culture of death, he says, we will be able to focus on "the balance of Catholic social teaching", which addresses questions such as poverty and world peace, all of which will presumably be secured by President Obama. "Relations between Benedict XVI and the Holy See under an Obama administration would be very, very positive," says Kmiec. (I assume he means relations with the pope and the Holy See.) Asked if he might be Obama's pick for ambassador to the Vatican, he says he would "never rule anything out". Then there is Nicholas Cafardi, professor of law at Duquesne University. He says, "While I have never swayed in my conviction that abortion is an unspeakable evil, I believe that we have lost the abortion battle - permanently." The time has come to resign ourselves to the fact that the unspeakable evil has triumphed. There is no point in protesting it, never mind giving such protest political effect. It is now the permanent reality in this country that some who are unquestionably human beings may legally be killed at will. Not just some but millions. This line of reasoning astonishes. On what other great question of human rights, in this case the most fundamental right, which is the right to be protected from willful killing, does Cafardi say "the battle is over - permanently"? To what other "unspeakable evil" does he suggest we should resign ourselves? Of course he's right that abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of embryos are not the only "intrinsic evils". But his hope that Sen. Obama will dramatically reduce poverty and secure world peace is a prudential judgement. It may or may not be true. By way of dramatic contrast, it is beyond dispute that an abortion kills an innocent human being at an early stage of her development, and it is beyond dispute that Sen. Obama favours an unlimited license to perpetrate such killings.
If Cafardi's is a counsel of despair and surrender in the face of unspeakable evil, Douglas Kmiec finally came around to adopting the pro-choice position while continuing to call himself pro-life. Following the McCain-Obama debate in which abortion was addressed, Kmiec wrote in the Los Angeles Times: "Sometimes the law must simply leave space for the exercise of individual judgement, because our religious or scientific differences of opinion are for the moment too profound to be bridged collectively. When these differences are great and persistent, as they unfortunately have been on abortion, the common political ideal may consist only of that space. This does not, of course, leave the right to life undecided or unprotected." It is totally baffling, however, how the right to life is to be protected if the abortion license imposed by Roe and Doe is to be kept in place, which is what Kmiec clearly seems to favour, calling abortion a "sensitive moral decision" that "depend[s] on religious freedom and the voice of God as articulated in each individual's voluntary embrace of one of many faiths". In short, Kmiec's is the "personally opposed but. . ." position given currency by Mario Cuomo many years ago. The great debate is not over sentiment but justice, not over personal preference but public policy. Every thoughtful person has understood that the pro-life position - explicitly and consistently articulated by the Catholic Church at every level of teaching authority - is that justice requires that every unborn child be cared for and protected in law. And it has been understood that the pro-choice position is that the life or death of the unborn child is a private matter to be decided at the sole discretion of the mother - for any reason and at any point of the child's life up through the moment of being born. It is a bizarre attempted obfuscation for Kmiec and others, at this late date, to claim that their personal disapproval of abortion makes them pro-life in their support of the pro-choice position.