Friday, March 27, 2009

Catholics, Abortion, & US Politics

The mix of these three elements has been the cause of a serious reduction in the protection of human life in the United States and while it continues, there is much to be learned from some history and this article, from the Wall Street Journal, is a good brief on that history in reference to the recent invitation to our president to speak at our university, Notre Dame.

An excerpt.

"We hope for this to be the basis of an engagement with him." So explains Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, as he discusses the university's choice of Barack Obama as this year's commencement speaker. In yesterday's student newspaper "The Observer," where the quotation appears, the thought is introduced with another helpful bromide: The honor accorded President Obama, it is reported, will be a "catalyst for dialogue."

“Now, if the president were going to Notre Dame to engage in dialogue, that would be one thing. But Mr. Obama will not be going to Notre Dame to "dialogue." He will be going to help advance his agenda.

“At the center of that agenda is abortion. Leave aside his enthusiasm for the Freedom of Choice Act, or the way he misrepresented his role in killing an Illinois state ban on partial-birth abortion. Already as president, Mr. Obama has ended restrictions that prevented taxpayer dollars from funding abortions overseas; opened a path for using taxpayer dollars to encourage the destruction of embryos for research; and taken aim at a "conscience clause" designed to protect doctors, nurses and others from being forced to participate in procedures (including abortion) that violate their consciences.

“Within the Democratic Party these days, these are all orthodox positions. But it wasn't always so. We forget it now, but back in the day, Jesse Jackson was calling abortion "genocide," Al Gore had a pro-life record in the House, and even Ted Kennedy could write letters saying, "Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized."

“In this party, Catholic leaders such as the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, then president of Notre Dame, still enjoyed tremendous influence. Had they used that influence to try to arrest the Democrats' slide on life, things might have been very different today. Instead, they became classic enablers, treating abortion as an irritating issue that needed to be placed off to the side.

“Thus, in 1984, Notre Dame famously handed its platform over to then Gov. Mario Cuomo, who bequeathed to delighted pro-choice Catholics the same personally-opposed-but rationale that Stephen Douglas had used in his debates with Lincoln. A few years later, the university followed up by awarding its Laetare Medal, one of the American Catholicism's most prestigious, to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- another Catholic who had long since cut his conscience to accommodate the pro-choice direction of his party.

“There was, of course, a different path. This was the path taken by the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Robert Casey Sr. A liberal on almost every issue save life, Casey Sr. signed into law restrictions on abortion that ended up with a Supreme Court case bearing his name. In 1992, party leaders responded to his criticisms of their abortion position by humiliating him at the Democratic convention in New York. Rather than recant, four years later he was planning a run against President Bill Clinton until ill health forced him to withdraw.”