The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Kmiec: “How could a Catholic not support Barack Obama?”

I plan to spend this Labor Day doing as little labor as possible. But I wanted to post this nugget from Saturday’s New York Times. It’s an interview by Peter Steinfels with Douglas Kmiec, the now-notorious Republican lawyer who, despite his opposition to abortion, is supporting Barack Obama.

An excerpt:

Q. What is your position on the morality of abortion, and how is it related to your religious faith?

A. I fully accept the teaching of the church that participating in an abortion is an intrinsic evil. My acceptance of abortion as a grave, categorical wrong is one part respectful deference to authoritative Catholic teaching and one part reasoned deduction from our scientific knowledge of genetics and the beginning of an individual life.


Q. Would you like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

A. Yes, but not on the terms usually suggested by Republicans. Roe is mistaken constitutional law not just because it invalidated state laws on the subject but because it is contrary to what is described as a self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence, namely, that we have an unalienable right to life from our creator. It may surprise the general citizenry that not a single sitting justice utilizes the declaration as a source of interpretative guidance.

But even employing the jurisprudential methods applied by the modern court, there is no satisfactory showing that abortion as a matter of custom and tradition was properly found to be an implied aspect of the liberties protected by the 14th Amendment.


Q. Given those views, why do you support Barack Obama?

A. There is a widespread misconception that overturning Roe is the only way to be pro-life. In fact, overturning Roe simply returns the matter to the states, which in their individual legislative determinations could then be entirely pro-abortion. I doubt that many of our non-legally-trained pro-life friends fully grasp the limited effect of overturning Roe.

Secondly, pundits like to toss about the notion that the future of Roe depends on one vote, the mythical fifth vote to overturn the decision. There are serious problems with this assumption: first, Republicans have failed to achieve reversal in the five previous times they asked the court for it; and second, it is far from certain that only one additional vote is needed to reverse the decision in light of the principles of stare decisis by which a decided case ought not to be disturbed. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia have written and joined dissenting opinions suggesting the appropriateness of overturning Roe.


So given those views, the better question is how could a Catholic not support Barack Obama?

Senator Obama’s articulated concerns with the payment of a living wage, access to health care, stabilizing the market for shelter, special attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and the importance of community are all part of the church’s social justice mission.

Applying this to the issue of abortion, the senator has repeatedly indicated that he is not pro-abortion, that he understands the serious moral question it presents, and, most significantly, that he wants to move us beyond the 35 years of acrimony that have done next to nothing to reduce the unwanted pregnancies that give rise to abortions.

Q. But all the same, isn’t your support at odds with Catholic teaching?

A. Quite the contrary. Senator Obama is articulating policies that permit faithful Catholics to follow the church’s admonition that we continue to explore ways to give greater protection to human life…

Visit the link for the rest, and to read his defense of his position.

Comments read comments(9)
post a comment

posted September 1, 2008 at 11:29 am

Deacon Greg, thank you for posting this. And, thank you to Douglas Kmiec for taking the time to say the complicated things that need saying. (And, for assuming that people are intelligent enough, and interested enough, and able to listen.)There is no need to argue, insult and fight within the Catholic Church, or to radically call out condemnation on people who have different political opinions and choices.There is indeed room for full-fledged, spiritual , practicing Catholics to support Barack Obama.I know I do.

report abuse

johnny b

posted September 1, 2008 at 1:55 pm

As future saint Fr. John Hardon said on several occassions, “The New York Times is edited in hell.” This is yet another example.Scandal.

report abuse

Deacon Volker

posted September 2, 2008 at 12:10 am

Oh come on people! Know your candidate. “…the senator has repeatedly indicated that he is not pro-abortion…” poppy-cock! a man is not measured by what he SAYS, but what he DOES. examine his VOTING record not his speaking record!

report abuse


posted September 2, 2008 at 9:04 am

If I were to boil this down it would be thus:Abortion is a grave moral evil. Obama supports abortion on demand. I support Obama. That is not contrary to Catholic teaching because if we somehow ignore those facts we can talk about things like “social justice”.Got it.

report abuse


posted September 2, 2008 at 9:52 am

I would invite someone to present counter arguments to this fellow. Not personal attacks, but arguing the points. In short, he suggests there are alternatives to the to date unsuccessful reversing of Rowe in line with Catholic social teaching. —How does payment of a living wage not combat abortion? –How does access to health care not combat abortion? Or special attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and the importance of community cause scandal? How do they not fit in with being pro-life? They seem to fit under the umbrella of the church teaching, but I am open persuasion.

report abuse

johnny b

posted September 2, 2008 at 11:28 am

Andrew: I like simple. Don’t make it more complicated than our founding fathers. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” in that order. If you don’t have life then you can’t have any freedoms or liberties, and if you don’t have freedoms then you can’t pursue happiness.The American Bishops have repeatedly said that there is a hierarchy to the issues and that the murder of innocent human babies is first and foremost.

report abuse


posted September 2, 2008 at 4:24 pm

You got it Johnny b.That’s the straight talk – not skirting around the issue until all of us are confused! Pelosi?

report abuse


posted September 2, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Mr Johnny B and Mr. PK Guy, You know who agrees with you. Douglas W. Kmiec. As you may have read, “Roe is mistaken constitutional law not just because it invalidated state laws on the subject but because it is contrary to what is described as a self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence …”Mr. B raises a valid question that many people are trying to solve/reduce: “the murder of innocent babies.” Some suggest raising the quality of life of a mother – wages, housing, health care – does that more than outlawing abortion. So why not try that route?

report abuse

johnny b

posted September 2, 2008 at 11:24 pm

DO BOTH!!!!But life trumps all. 1st and foremost.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

This blog is no longer active
This blog is no longer being actively updated. Please feel free to browse the archives or: Read our most popular inspiration blog See our most popular inspirational video Take our most popular quiz ...

posted 10:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2010 | read full post »

One day more
A reminder: "The Deacon's Bench" is closed! Please enjoy the archives! ...

posted 11:26:20pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Meet Montana's married priest
Earlier this week, I posted an item about Montana getting its first married priest. Now a local TV station has hopped on the bandwagon. Take a look, below. ...

posted 10:29:55pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Big day in the Big Easy: 10 new deacons
Deacon Mike Talbot has the scoop: 10 men today were ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This group of men was formally selected on the day the evacuation of New Orleans began as Hurricane Katrina approached. The ...

posted 6:55:42pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Gaudete! And let's break out a carol or two...
"Gesu Bambino," anyone? This is one of my favorites, and nobody does it better than these gals: Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Staade. Enjoy. ...

posted 1:04:10pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.