The New York Times has a piece today about Obama and the Dems and their efforts to appeal to Catholic voters who may be turned off by the party’s pro-choice dogmatism. It includes comments from the much-pilloried pro-life, yet pro-Obama, Doug Kmiec. I expect this won’t be the last of these sorts of stories.
On the other side, the Supreme Knight of the K of C (no, not the Colonel), Carl Anderson, gave McCain an all-but-endorsement speech at the Knights’ annual convention this week. According to the CNS story, Anderson–author of a popular book, “A Civilization of Love,” called for a “regime change” of sorts, namely the “regime of Roe v. Wade” by calling on Catholics to withhold their votes from any candidate who supports abortion. (Are there really “pro-abortion” candidates”?)
“It’s time to put away the arguments of political spin masters that only serve to justify abortion killing,” Anderson said.
In apparent reference to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Anderson said change in the country can come only when the practice of aborting unborn children ends.
“We have all heard a great deal this year about the need for change,” he said. “But at the same time we are told one thing cannot change, namely the abortion regime of Roe v. Wade. It is time that we demand real change and real change means the end of Roe v. Wade.
“It’s time to stop accommodating pro-abortion politicians, and it’s time we start demanding that they accommodate us,” Anderson added as the 500 delegates from around the world stood up and loudly applauded.
Anderson said he was not singling out candidates from any political party for criticism.
Later, Anderson told Catholic News Service that he decided to focus on the same terminology that Obama is using in his presidential campaign “to get people’s attention.”
“This is kind of the touchstone for this whole election year; I’d like Catholics to think what real change, fundamental change in a Christian sense would mean,” he said.
(Ironically, the Knights convention included a video tribute from President Bush, who would hardly be considered an exemplar of Catholic social teaching.)
I know this post is poking a stick into a hornet’s nest, but the topic of abortion and Catholic voters (and pols) is going to be a persistent theme (and thread) up to November, and beyond. And that’s probably as it should be. Abortion is a central issue, and addressing it is a political as well as religious enterprise.
That said, I struggle to understand the absolute (Manichean?) divide that says it is impossible for a pro-life Catholic to vote for a Democrat, and cites Roe as the reason. In reality, Roe may well not be overturned, and even if it is it would just move the battle to the states. Abortion is a reality that exists far beyond the borders of Roe, and indeed some of the Catholic majority justices on the Supreme Court say that even if they don’t like the case, they wouldn’t use their Catholic distaste of abortion to inform their decision.
Republican presidents have come and gone, Republican congresses have come and gone, Republican (and Catholic) supreme court justices have come, and much remains as it has always been. In fact, the near-total focus on Roe seems to blind many to all the other ways that abortion can be reduced–or the ways that the purportedly anti-Roe party, the GOP, does not support life, in the seamless garment sense or otherwise.
And yet, this issue continues to be used to polarize and divide Catholics (see many posts below). It is a policy debate, a campaign issue, that is used as the yardstick for whether someone can receive communion. The Dems obviously aren’t perfect by any means. But the old approach seems to sanctify–and immunize–the Republicans on this issue. I have a sense some Catholics, beyond Kmiec, are trying to redress this Republican Captivity. Again, this is a longstanding debate. Is there any new light to shed on why a Catholic should be politically and morally bound to vote for anti-Roe candidates–or at least those who profess such a view with their mouths, if not their hearts?
(Cross posted with dotCommonweal)