The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Sign of the times

A Wisconsin Catholic school principal found himself in hot water this week for posting a sign supporting Barack Obama in his yard:

The heated reaction to a Barack Obama sign appearing in the Catholic Memorial High School principal’s yard “reflects a complex intersection of personal politics, free speech and the need for clarity about the Catholic identity,” the school’s president says.

The perceived endorsement by Principal Mark Schmitt, of an abortion-rights candidate – a key issue for abortion-opposing Catholics – led to complaints by some parents, and Schmitt removed the sign Wednesday evening.


But school leaders are still wrestling with the ethical fallout, said Father Paul Hartmann, the school’s president.

“(Catholic Memorial) is absolutely pro-life – in its curriculum, its classroom teaching, and its Catholic spiritual life,” Hartmann assured the school community in a late-night Wednesday e-mail.

In an interview Thursday, Hartmann said that he was still gauging the impact of the controversy and conferring with the school’s board of directors.

“I think we’re still trying to assimilate a response,” Hartmann said.

Religion and politics clashed largely because of the well-known location of Schmitt’s home; he lives across the street from the school at 601 E. College Ave.


A fair number of parents this week have voiced their support for Schmitt’s actions, though others are perturbed.

Parent Pat Walters saw the sign in Schmitt’s yard almost two weeks ago and complained in person. According to Walters, Schmitt said that he was an abortion opponent, but that he supported Obama because of the Democratic candidate’s stance on more important global issues.

“I have no problem with who he votes for,” Walters said Thursday, adding that he thought highly of the school and expected to send his five younger children there. “But for the leader of the school to be advertising values opposite of what we’re teaching our children, that’s wrong.”

Schmitt did not return a call for comment.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 7:34 am

I wonder, is it disobedience or ignorance that some Catholics aren’t heeding the words of the Bishops? Or maybe a lack of catechsis? I just find it very strange – even frightening – that Catholics are ignoring the Church. Oh yeah, and watching Barak Obama on The Daily Show yesterday sent chills down my spine. He really reminded me of Hitler. No offense meant to the candidate.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 31, 2008 at 7:56 am

Nick…Sadly, as a result of the events of the last few years, I think the bishops have lost a good deal of credibility with the American flock. It will take a long time to earn it back. Dcn. G.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 8:26 am

If the problem with putting up a campaign sign is “advertising values opposite of what we’re teaching our children,” then I think you can’t have any signs at all. If a sign for a pro-abortion candidate can be construed as promoting abortion, then a sign for a “pro-life” but pro-war or pro-death penalty candidate can be construed as promoting those causes which are opposed to what we want to teach our children. I feel that this is making Catholics feel even more politically disenfranchised.To “Nickname”: What is it about Obama that you find so Hitler-like? Do you realize how badly you’re representing your cause?

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posted October 31, 2008 at 9:09 am

I just find it very strange – even frightening – that Catholics are ignoring the Church.Catholics have been/are ignoring the Church in large numbers since Humanae Vitae was published and even many “pro-life” Catholics are contracepting. Since contraception is an intrinsic evil those using it are guilty of grave/mortal sin (assuming normal conditions of course) If approx 75% (I’ve heard higher numbers) of Catholics use or support the use of contraception that is then a large number of darkened consciences. Even with the clergy scandal aside I think most people would only support their Bishops so long as it doesn’t affect personally affect their lifestyle.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 10:08 am

If you are working for the Church then you better try to follow the rules. This Principal should be sacked. Cavaliere – you are 1005 correct about the conrtacepting bit. I wonder why so many catholic chose to contraceptive as opposed to stay chaste . Chastity is a virtue which many Catholics need to practice. After all Jesus said that the pure of heart will see the face of God did he not?

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posted October 31, 2008 at 10:09 am

then a sign for a “pro-life” but pro-war or pro-death penalty candidate can be construed as promoting those causes which are opposed to what we want to teach our children.Sorry Eric they are not remotely the same. First off the Church has never said that the death penalty is intrinsically evil like abortion is. The Church has always allowed the death penalty and even John Paul II who said that it shouldn’t be necessary in our time didn’t say it was outlawed. As for war I’m not sure what you mean by pro-war. Again the Church has consistenly taught about the horror of war and the evils associated with it but still recognizes that it might be necessary. If you supported the U.S. in World War II were you “pro-war?” On the contrary the Church has spoken against a “false pacifism.”And by the way since I assume you are an Obama supporter you should be aware that Obama is not anti-war, just the war in Iraq. He has no disagreement with our troops being in Afghanistan and has stated he would increase our troop strength there. He also admitted going into Pakistan if necessary which likely wouldn’t make them to happy.

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johnny b

posted October 31, 2008 at 10:41 am

Hitler-like?Well, both men, to put it mildly, push for the killing of human beings who are deemed “less than human” beings. If that is not glaring then what is?Seriously, this is soooo 2007.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 11:26 am

Eric, maybe Obama is “most like Hitler” in that MANY NEVER SAW IT COMING, and many who did, stayed silent!One reason many are “blind” (this is a general statement, with no direction at anyone in particular) is without question sin. As Cavalier points out, many US Catholics contracept. It’s unlikely at this point that it’s out of ignorance; consequently, where’s the suprise of “not seeing” the evil that is front of us with an Obama victory? I posted the other day that Bishop Cordlieone of San Diego asks us to encourge ALL Catholics to make a good confession before voting. Only with a CLEAR CONSCIENCE will many be able to see.I also agree with Dcn. Greg that the Bishops have lost a lot of credibility, however with uprepentant sins, truth is still hard to see. By now, I think most of the faithful know who the real shepards are. For anyone REALLY looking for truth, we have some excellent Bishops leading the flocks. And then there is always Father Corapi, who continues to remind us he isn’t going to hell for any of us, so “tells it like it is.”For a dose of “Catholic reality”, I suggest at least listening to the last 5 minutes of Video 3, the whole thing if possible.

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Thomas Scott

posted October 31, 2008 at 11:51 am

Perhaps the perception of credibility loss by Bishops is that they are not visible enough? Think about this blog and how many people it reaches. Why wouldn’t a Bishop, as the real leader of the individual churches, communicate in this way? The only time I hear from my Bishop is when the priest reads letters. The infrequency really dilutes the message.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted October 31, 2008 at 11:59 am

Thomas .. You hit the nail on the head — and it’s one reason (among many) why I admire and appreciate this particular bishop. Dcn. G.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 12:26 pm

I have been musing about the relationship between the % of Catholics who use contraception and the % who do not believe in the Real Presence. I really think there is a correlation. It’s all relational; if you don’t believe in the reality of being open to life which you can see, how can you be open to the reality of Christ in the Eucharist, which you cannot see?This morning our pastor ventured out into the deep by mentioning in his homily that to miss Mass on Sunday was a mortal sin, and you need to receive the Sacrament of Confession in order to go to Communion again. This I find very brave of him, next thing you know, he may have the courage to preach on the sin of contraception.I’m praying for his courage and thanking God for his faithfulness.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 1:13 pm

You assume too much. I think you should notice that I didn’t support or defend any one of Obama’s positions. I didn’t accuse anybody of being pro-war (or pro-this-war which the Church was opposed to). I didn’t equate abortion with the death penalty et. al. (although I do think it is interesting that “it is not as important as abortion” is often used as a cover by Catholics to take a position in opposition to Church teaching). I’m saying that support for a candidate isn’t necessarily indicative of support for every single one of his or her positions.Faithful Citizenship says: As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate fromreceiving support.I don’t think it is a mistake that the bishops used the words “may legitimately” rather than the word “must”. It acknowledges that someone might, in good conscience, decide to support a candidate in spite of such a position just as Mr. Schmitt claims. You think that the pro-abortion position is always a disqualifier for a candidate. I get that. But this blog just featured a piece on the political homelessness of the Catholic voter, and this kind of demonization and hyperbole are not helping. It further disenfranchises good people who might otherwise help strengthen the political clout of those who are serious about applying Catholic teachings in the public square.As for the Obama/Hitler comments. Again, this is hyperbole. I watched the Daily Show interview that the first commenter alluded to, and I can tell you that his comparison has nothing to do with abortion. It’s the same old Reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy that I’ve heard others making. “Obama is charismatic, and so was Hitler; therefore, Obama is the next Hitler.” Please. Hitler was a vegetarian, does that mean Mahatma Gandhi is evil? I really dislike the idea of defending abortion, so I’m not going to explain why Roe v. Wade = Nazis is also fallacy, but yeah, that’s hyperbole too, and it doesn’t help the pro-life cause at all.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 1:54 pm

I agree that no Catholic should be displaying an Obama sign, because he supports the killing of the unborn. But I also think no Catholic should display a McCain sign on exactly the same grounds.McCain supports embryonic stem-cell research, which is the deliberate creation of humans in order to kill them after a few days or weeks and dismember them for “scientific” use. This is the murder of the unborn just the same as abortion is. And it is no different from the horrible human medical “experiments” done by Hitler’s henchman Dr. Mengele.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 2:47 pm

I think the Bishops would get a more sympathetic hearing if they stated the obvious: neither party is consistently pro-life, and therefore no Catholic should vote for either party. Withholding the Catholic vote (which is substantial) might have the salutary effect of producing a genuinely and consistently pro-life party. As it is, it just sounds to a lot of people like the Bishops are in the bag for the Republicans. And by the way: Hitler? You lose all credibility when you say things like that.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Technically, if you look at our voter guide, McCain is NOT pro-life. In fact the guide tells us to be wary of people who say they are pro-life but want to allow it in cases of rape or incest.This actually causes more harm because if you want to say to allow it in cases or rape or incest then you can not say abortion is murder. You reduce it to a religious argument only and we can NEVER win that one.Obama has said he would not make RvW a litmus test for new Judges. The Republicans have governed 24 out of the 36 year since RvW AND they have put 7 of the 9 judges on the bench… they have had every opportunty to reverse RvW. Wake up… it’s what keep people voting for their failed policies.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Dcn Greg:The issue of loss of credibility goes beyond the last 8 or so years. It actually goes back a good 40 plus years.For me, reading THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED opened up my eyes to the fact that this was a long time in the making. The child abuse scandal was just the icing on the cake…it gave those who objected to the Church just the excuse they needed.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 5:35 pm

I couldn’t agree more WashingdcCatholic. There was a decisive plan to destroy the Catholic faith, subsequently, the rest of the takeover of America by radical people of the far left like Obama would be easy. America has been being “taken down” from the inside out for well over 4o years, and much of it has been though the universities and the MSM. At this point the ONLY thing that could screw it up are “strong faithful Catholics.” It’s well documented, but not easy to see if you aren’t looking for it. And no, I’m NOT talking about conspiracy theories of which I have no time for or interest. There are so many points I could counter in your post Eric but much of it are things I’ve alreay written. That tells me, or at least gives the apperance, that you are looking to win an argument more than you are seeking Truth. If I’m wrong, my apologies in advance. It’s all in the Cathechism, which is free on the Vatican Website if you don’t own one.thomas do you realize that a BILLION aborted babies worldwide, probably all in your lifetime, could almost make Hilter look insignificant in comparison? Do you even know what the Democratic platform on abortion is; how it will “open the floodgates” wordwide? Marb I agree McCain is not totally “pro life” but except for condoms, Palin is. He’s still the BEST HOPE, as is the Republican Party on Pro Life. To ignore that, is to watch the army of defeat closing in on us and sit there and do nothing (omission).There is no other way to say it. A vote for Obama is cooperation in the greatest evil (to date) of our liftimes. Every other issue combined doesn’t even come close to the horrors of 30 million abortions a year worldwide. All said, if anyone’s 401K is more important than a billion killed in the womb, may God have mercy. I wonder what the excuse would be if it weren’t the economy?

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posted October 31, 2008 at 6:29 pm

I have come to understand that the “pro-lifers” who rail against Obama are unknowingly doing Satan’s work.And comparing Obama to Hitler is an act of immoral insanity.

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Rolando, SFO

posted October 31, 2008 at 6:40 pm

While our church has not said that a “just war” or the death penalty are intrinsically evil, we do have Jesus’ last words to the apostles at the Garden of Gethsemene: “That is enough. Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Lk. 22:51, Mt. 26:52)Jesus and two others were comdemned to death according to the law, Jesus for blasphemous treason, the other two for civil violence. On the Cross, Jesus forgave the other two, even though one was unrepentant. He then prayed for his executioners, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. (Lk. 23:34) And the execution was carried through. We should never forget these words and admit that every time we execute an image of God, we assume divine authority over life and death and Jesus repeats his prayer: Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

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posted October 31, 2008 at 7:23 pm

Marb,I am afraid you are wrong about Obama not having a litmus test for judges. See his comments here:, McCain does not have a 100% pro-life voting record that is why he does not have the full endoresment of Right to Life, But he has a pretty good pro life record and is looking at strict constructionist judges only.

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posted November 1, 2008 at 12:14 am

Lets say we look back 10 years from now to the day Obama takes office put there with Catholic votes. His first act as president was to sign FOCA into law and with that single act he added a million babies a year to the death chambers of abortion clinics. Then he sent over to a waiting senate the names of very radical left wing judges who believe that abortion is a right and may indeed be so abortion supporting that they would not limit any type of abortion. With judges who had so little value for life, what would be their stance when killing the old and handicapped be? How would they vote to uphold the family or any other values? Would they stop a president Obama and his left wing friends in congress from doing anything? So when we look back from 10 years in the future, what would we see brought to the country by Catholics who think change and the economy are the only issues? If by then something has started to happen through the people being finally able to find their outrage, they just might begin to ask the question of how we put a person in office who killed millions of innocent people, far more than Hitler ever thought about. And what is different from a Jew or Catholic killed in the chambers of Hitler from those murdered by their mothers and those who helped in the cause of making and keeping it legal? Do you think it was illegal in Germany to send people to concentration camps and death under Hitler law. During slavery, many did not want to see the backs of blacks who had been torn by the whip and chains shown publically. Father Pravone says that seeing abortion and its results will be important to changing minds. We saw the bodies piled up at the death camps. What if we could see the pile of 50 million dead babies? We are kept sheltered from these death camps and like the Germans who say they did not know, will we say we did not see. Do we not believe that this many died butchered and torn apart while living in what God designed as a safe place for new life He created, the womb of the mother? Frankly, for all those offended by the comment, I would like to hear what the difference is and when asked by God what you did to stop it, what will the response be, the economy was bad, I disagreed with the war, or I did not like McCain? Father Pravone has talked with McCain on ESCR and he believes that he can work with McCain to change that issue and already sees signs of this change with his selection of Palin. he know that with Obama, that the prolife cause will be set back decades and that millions of babies will die with his election.

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posted November 1, 2008 at 11:31 am

you shall not kill you shall not steal … these are against Gods law and US law yet they continue to happen a law would not prevent abortion it would just make it illegal. We cannot stop it by picking a president we have to change the people further more as was stated earlier a republican won’t overturn RvW any more than a democrat so vote obama vote mccain whatever you like but please consider more than just this issue because until we the people change the president won’t matter on this issue

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posted November 1, 2008 at 11:37 am

Well said gramps! If Obama wins (FYI, I don’t believe that he will), there will only be one alternative left and that will be, to show America the dead babies. this week, for the first time, I was able to look at these pictures myself. I have a Bishop Sheen Holy card with one picutre, but I never saw the late term babies. I just can’t get those images out of my head, those tiny hands and feet.Yep, that will do it, and perhaps we should have “gone graphic” long ago. After all, in CA a 12 year old can get an abortion without parental consent, so how could one be outraged at showing aborted fetuses when “it’s no big deal.”Father Corapi once said that the day abortion in America will end will be when someone has the guts to show a live abortion on TV. Mark my words if Obama wins, the pro lifers will go full force graphic. I only suggest we do it ASAP, and do it the day after election. Once Obama takes office, I suspect we will be silenced. It will probably be a “hate crime” to oppose abortion, and of course, we won’t be geting any mercy from the radical left wing judges that will be on the bench.

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posted November 1, 2008 at 12:42 pm

What “more important global issues?” As so many bishops have said, nothing this election rises to the level of abortion in this election.

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