Some people might immediately think of Sen. Barack Obama when it
comes to ‘elegant’ arguments or speeches, and that can certainly be
said of him.

But this argument is between Catholic intellectual scholars about
what is less and less aptly referred to as “the Catholic vote”. This
particular round is from George Weigel.

I take it as an iron law of controversy that when three
tenured law professors like Nick Cafardi, Cathy Kaveny, and Doug Kmiec
fret in print about “intellectual siren calls” and “elegant
theorizing,” something other than real argument–moral argument or
policy argument–is afoot.

Pause for thought….get that distinction up front, to
understand what true argument is (in the classical sense) and what
sophistry can mask as argument by weaving words elegantly.

A serious, bipartisan, national debate about the ways in
which people of goodwill in both political parties can work together to
build a culture of life in 21st-century America would be welcome.
Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec are not making the contributions
to that argument of which they were once capable.

Another good distinction.

Indeed, as the Most Rev. Charles Chaput, archbishop of
Denver recently put it (speaking, he emphasized, as a private citizen),
“To suggest–as some Catholics do–that Senator [Barack] Obama is this
year’s ‘real’ pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of
self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse. To portray the 2008
Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred ‘pro-life’ option
is to subvert what the word ‘pro-life’ means.”

(More on that here.)

About what it means to be ‘pro-life’, these three Catholic
professors are causing no small amount of confusion, very publicly. So
it is ’subversion’ of terms to apply that thinking to the present
election choices.

Why? Because the public record amply demonstrates that
Senator Obama is not the abortion moderate of our professors’
imagination, but a genuine abortion radical. In the third presidential
debate, Obama described Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court
decision that obliterated the abortion law of all fifty states, as
“rightly decided”–a judgment with which Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and
Kmiec have all disagreed in the past.

(As did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.)

In short, there is very little, if anything, in Senator
Obama’s public record to suggest that he agrees with Professors
Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec that abortion is a “tragic moral choice.” On
the contrary, the 2008 Democratic platform removed language that
described abortion as “regrettable” from the relevant plank.

And the parties’ candidates control what the platform finally states.

Our law professors rightly ask who would best serve
women in crisis pregnancies and their unborn children. The answer is
obvious: those thousands of crisis pregnancy centers across America,
staffed largely by unpaid volunteers and veterans of the pro-life
movement, which offer women a real choice, and a better alternative to
their dilemma than abortion.

Crisis pregnancy centers are the real heroes of women’s rights and
protection in this country. Most are staffed or helped significantly by
post-abortive women who know the crisis first-hand.

How is it possible to square a concern for women in
crisis with support of the presidential candidate who favors ending the
modest federal funding some of those crisis pregnancy centers now
receive? How is it “pro-life” to support a presidential candidate who
is publicly committed to requiring any federal legislation in support
of pregnant women to include promotion of abortion?

It is not, except through tortured logic.

The truth of the matter, alas, is that most Catholic
politicians are woefully ill-informed about the moral logic of the
Catholic Church’s teaching on the life issues, which is not a moral
logic for Catholics only.

And clarifying that teaching forms consciences to help voters make
morally-informed choices. It is not endorsing a particular candidate,
or ‘demonizing’ a candidate as a person. It is making clear what the
two choices stand for in principle and policy, as they have made clear,
themselves.

Is John McCain–for whom, I might add, I have never
served as an adviser, formally or informally–a perfect pro-life
candidate? Of course not. But Barack Obama is a perfect pro-life
nightmare. President McCain would not work to repeal the pro-life
legislative advances of the past 35 years; knowledgeable and
sober-minded Catholic legal and political observers who have worked on
these issues for decades are convinced that an Obama administration and
an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress would eviscerate those modest
advances within a year. As for the Supreme Court, the hard facts of our
national history teach us that, while the country can survive the
court’s getting it wrong on some things, we are in very deep trouble
when the court gets it wrong on the big human rights questions.

And (as I say time and again), when you deem an entire class of
human being unworthy of rights, you have ceded any other coherent
argument about morality.

(Another thing to repeat, judges are key to…everything.)

The Democratic party has long taken for granted the Catholic vote
since historically, so many Catholics in America tended to be
Democrats. Including Weigel.

As a former Democrat who left the party after it left
former Pennsylvania governor Robert Casey out in the cold at the 1992
convention, I deeply regret the fact that the once-traditional
political home of U.S. Catholics has embraced policy positions on the
life issues that offend both Catholic faith and everyone’s reason.

Which mirrors the path, and echoes the regret, of Robert George, another brilliant professor and Catholic scholar…among others.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....