Although he’s the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput spoke out as
a citizen the other day to rebut some very public statements by
Professor Douglas Kmiec on being Catholic and backing abortion
politics. Specifically, backing the candidate who stands on a platform
of extreme abortion politics.
The truth is that for some Catholics, the abortion issue
has never been a comfortable cause. It’s embarrassing. It’s not the
kind of social justice they like to talk about. It interferes with
their natural political alliances. And because the homicides involved
in abortion are ‘’little murders'’ – the kind of private, legally
protected murders that kill conveniently unseen lives – it’s easy to
look the other way.
So for decades, some ‘peace and social justice’ Catholics have
either looked the other way or actually supported ‘abortion rights’ as
part of a social agenda. That’s not new. What is, Chaput says, is the
“packaging” of Catholic arguments in the current group supporting Obama
for president. They are “seeking to neutralize the witness of bishops
and the pro-life movement by offering a ‘Catholic’ alternative to the
Church’s priority on sanctity of life issues”, Chaput says. He calls
that “intelligent”, but also “wrong and often dishonest.”
Chaput took this occasion to make a juxtaposition between his newly released book Render Unto Caesar and Kmiec’s book that makes a “Catholic” case for Sen. Obama.
I wrote Render Unto Caesar with no interest in supporting or attacking any candidate or any political party.
The goal of Render Unto Caesar was simply to describe what an
authentic Catholic approach to political life looks like, and then to
encourage Americans Catholics to live it.
In spite of his “strong record of service to the Church” in his past, Kmiec is sowing confusion among Catholics, Chaput says.
In his own book he quotes from Render Unto Caesar
at some length. In fact, he suggests that his reasoning and mine are
‘’not far distant on the moral inquiry necessary in the election of
2008.'’ Unfortunately, he either misunderstands or misuses my words,
and he couldn’t be more mistaken.
I believe that Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the
most committed ‘’abortion-rights'’ presidential candidate of either
major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973.
Despite what Prof. Kmiec suggests, the party platform Senator Obama
runs on this year is not only aggressively ‘’pro-choice;'’ it has also
removed any suggestion that killing an unborn child might be a
To suggest – as some Catholics do – that Senator Obama is this
year’s ‘’real'’ prolife candidate requires a peculiar kind of
self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse.
These kinds of arguments, Chaput says,
…have done a disservice to the Church, confused the
natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress
prolifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to
abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and
at the ballot box to protect the unborn.
NRO Bench Memos posted this brief response, that Kmiec’s view is not any kind of “pro-life view”.
Nor, until a few months ago, would Doug Kmiec have
regarded this as the pro-life view. It is emphatically not the case —
at least, it is not the case for those who hold the views that Prof.
Kmiec always professed to hold — that the regulation of abortion
involves a burden on the religious freedom of those who do not believe
that unborn children are entitled, as a matter of human rights, the
protection of the law. To protect unborn children is to vindicate
That’s the argument from reason alone. That once you declare a whole
class of human beings (and from conception, it’s a biological fact that
what’s conceived is a human being) unworthy of rights, then you cannot
make a coherent argument for any other issue of social justice or human