Obama on faith–and abortion

Barack Obama’s meeting last week in Chicago with a high-profile group of Christian leaders from across the spectrum–T.D. Jakes, Franklin Graham, among others–was a coup of sorts for the candidate, as it gave some of his most important critics, and potentially make-or-break allies, a chance to take their measure of the man and his faith life. Naturally, abortion dominated the talks.
One of those who took part was Doug Kmiec, a former Reagan offcial and practicing Catholic with impeccable pro-life credentials who has endorsed Obama and paid the price in disaffected friends and even the denial of communion, as I noted here and here. In the Chicago Tribune today, Kmiec gives his take on the Obama meeting, which Kmiec attended.


Not to understand that there is more than one rather indirect and elusive judicial way to address an intrinsic evil understates the ingenuity of the devout. Describing the abortion decision as a “difficult, deeply moral one,” Obama sees it as one only the woman can make. Unless her choice affirms life that is not my Catholic view, and I told him so. But disagreement or not, it is abundantly clear from our conversation that Obama shares a common aspiration to reduce the incidence of abortion. How? Obama is committed to encouraging “responsible sexual behavior,” discouraging unwanted pregnancies, promoting adoption as a more viable, affordable and appealing option than it presently is, and putting off limits in a manner consistent with the law as the justices see it, late-term abortion. Obama will not exclude abortion from medical coverage to fulfill a health exception “rigorously defined.”


Kmiec is laudatory as ever, but seems unlikely to convince those who–unlike Kmiec–believe that change has to begin with overturning Roe v. Wade and then proceed to ending abortion. It always seems to boil down to principles versus pragmatism. It is still an open question whether Obama can bridge that divide, or convince enough of the pro-lifers who make the Supreme Court their focus that they can make common cause with him for a common goal.

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Reaganite in NYC

posted June 16, 2008 at 11:17 pm

This past weekend I first learned about Kmiec’s allegation that he was denied communion by reading a Catholic News Service (CNS) story about it in my diocesan newspaper.
The funny thing about this story is that from what I’ve read there is ONLY ONE source: Douglas Kmiec. We don’t know the name of the priest who allegedly did this and, in any event, we haven’t heard from this priest or had a chance to hear his point of view (assuming he actually did this). We haven’t heard from anyone else who was at the event (a Catholic businessman’s group meeting in southern California). Why not? All we know about this alleged event is what Douglas Kmiec has been telling the world what happened.
Has anyone seen a news report that provides the priest’s perspective on this matter? I would be interested in hearing what the priest involved has to say before making up my mind. Or from anyone else who was there.
Another question worth pursuing: why has Kmiec made so much of this? The priest in question is not his diocesan parish priest. It’s not his bishop (as in the case of Cardinal Egan and former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, or or Kansas Governor Sebelius, whose bishop has made a public declaration on this matter). No member of the episcopacy, nor his pastor, has publicly threatened to deny him communion.
We get Kmiec writing about it in We get EJ. Dionne writing about it for WaPo; CNS writing about it; and Kmiec mentioning it again in follow-up pieces he has authored.
Frankly, it’s hard not to suspect Professor Kmiec of seeking publicity and painting himself as some kind of victim. To what end?

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Keep Religion Seperate

posted June 17, 2008 at 5:47 am

Actually reaganite, an entire room full of people witnessed Mr Kmiec being singled out. While it wasnt his priest, it was a priest that was presiding at an event he was speaking at. The entire incident was very disturbing for two reasons.
One, a priest used a sacred sacrement as a punishment in a manner that was totally inappropriate.
Second and most disturbing is that it is a reflection of a growing attempt by the Vatican to manipulate and control the American political system in order to insinuate their belief systems into our society

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posted June 17, 2008 at 7:08 am

“a priest used a sacred sacrament as a punishment in a manner that was totally inappropriate.”
No, the priest did what he’s called to do by his faith: deny Holy Communion to those who demonstrate a blatant, public disregard for the teachings of Christ, the Living God as scripture puts it — and the teachings of the Church.
It’s ironic how Rev Wright can preach hate and we say, “leave him alone, he can do as he will in own church”, but then take the exact opposite attitude when it comes to Catholics.
Talk about your progressive double standard.

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Reaganite in NYC

posted June 17, 2008 at 8:18 am

Keep Religion Separate:
You say that “an entire room of people witnessed him Mr. Kmiec being singled out.” Really? How do you know that? Were you there? One of my points is that a strange part of this “news story” is that we only have ONE source: Kmiec. The CNS (Catholic News Service) report on this was so biased that the only thing we know about this priest comes in the form of a condescending description of him (“angry college chaplain”) supplied by Kmiec himself. We are told that the priest denied Kmiec communion because of his recent endorsement of Obama, but we know that only from Kmiec himself.
If an “entire room of people witnessed” this, how come none of them were quoted for this story? How come none of them stepped forward to speak out? After reading the detailed CNS story over the weekend, I have looked in vain on the internet for any corroborating source to verify this supposed incident.
Can you help?
Did this really happen as Kmiec has described it?

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Reaganite in NYC

posted June 17, 2008 at 8:39 am

Some will claim that Kmiec has consulted his conscience and, despite Obama’s extreme pro-abortion votes and statments, has held his nose and decided to endorse Obama. They will claim that it was the exercise of conscience by a thoughtful man.
What about the priest? Perhaps he, too, acted conscientiously in this manner as he best knew how. “Keep Religion Separate” refers to the Eucharist as a “sacred sacrement (sic)” and, indeed, it is so “sacred” that perhaps the priest here took to heart the various guidelines issued over the years regarding communion and abortion. Perhaps the priest chose to act on the basis of those guidelines and with thoughtful regard to the “sacredness” of this sacrament.
Until we really know what transpired here and until we have heard from the priest, we’re not in a position to either condone or condemn what ALLEGEDLY occurred here. Nevertheless, if Kmiec’s account turns out to be truthful, shouldn’t we acknowledge the sincerity — and courage — on the part of the priest in denying communion to such a well-connected Catholic lay person who apparently is blessed with so many powerful friends in politics and the media?

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Sally Rogers

posted June 17, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Getting back to the topic at hand… Obama is only now trying to suggest that he has an “open mind” on pro-life issues. As an Illinois State Senator he made no bones about his pro-abortion positions.
The most telling occassion involved a “Born-Alive Protection Act” that would recognize that children born alive during an abortion attempt was a human being, and thus the subject of constitutional rights. Obama vociferously opposed this bill, and prevented it coming out of committee. This bill was an issue because a Lutheran hospital was doing abortions by early induction of labor – leaving handicapped babies to die with no assistance.
When Monsignor Swetland (the head of a Newman Center at the Univ. of Illinois) testified in support of this bill in the committee, Senator Obama turned his chair around and presented his back to the monsignor. Obama had such contempt for the idea that children born alive during an abortion deserved constitutional status that he could not even face the good monsignor to listen to his testimony. Even Planned Parenthood didn’t oppose this bill, but Obama did. Let’s hear Doug Kmiec explain again about Obama’s openness and creativity.

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Reaganite in NYC

posted June 19, 2008 at 10:34 am

Sally Rogers:
Thanks for your post at 12:13 PM on June 17. I learned a lot. Yes, indeed, we’re just beginning to learn the true side of this modern-day Pied Piper.
You also wrote: “When Monsignor Swetland (the head of a Newman Center at the Univ. of Illinois) testified in support of this bill in the committee, Senator Obama turned his chair around and presented his back to the monsignor.”
I’m going to google this now, but I would appreciate if you know of any documentation for this. This is astounding! Would also appreciate if this might have been recorded … by a local news cameraman or perhaps by some other source.

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posted June 21, 2008 at 11:21 am

I am leaning towards voting for Barack Obama in November. I voted for him in the primary. What was written here about the “Born Alive Protection Act” is very troubling. When Obama referred to it as only being the woman’s decision, I find this troubling too. What about the father? It seems that many in our society are viewing men as little more than sperm donors. Does the love of a father for his child (unborn child) mean nothing? I do think it was out of line for the priest to deny Mr. Kmiec communion. Mr. Kmiec was not supporting or advocating abortion. What if a priest decided to deny a person communion because they voted for President Bush and the Vatican has spoken out against the war in Iraq? We are in bad shape in our country. Many people cannot afford food and gas. I read that in 2006, top executives made $280,000 more than in 2005. Some 47% of the income growth in the country went to millionaires, who are less than 1/5 of 1% of people in our country. In the last 9 years the median household income has gone down as productivity has increased. Those at the top have reaped all the benefits. The rich have never had it better. If you are an oil executive you are sitting pretty. Middle income families living on $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000 a year are getting by with the help of prayers and credit. It would be good if we could elect someone who is in line with all Catholic social teachings but to do this we would have to vote for someone outside the 2 major parties and thus give up part of our voice. This is going to be a very important election and some feel that they don’t have the luxury of sitting it out.

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