Loading
Thoughts on 'Roman Catholics for Obama' - 2008
By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Forty years ago this month Bobby Kennedy was still alive and running for the Democratic Party's 1968 presidential nomination. I was a seminarian in Washington, D.C. I was also an active volunteer on Kennedy's campaign. I can still remember helping with secretarial work in the same room where Edward Kennedy and Pierre Salinger labored away on RFK strategy. It was my first involvement in elective politics, and after the Vietnam Tet Offensive in February and Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder on April 4, Kennedy's cause seemed urgent. Then on June 5, Kennedy was gunned down himself.

After RFK died, the meaning of the 1968 election seemed to evaporate. I lost interest in politics. I didn't get involved again until the rise of Jimmy Carter. Carter fascinated me because he seemed like an untypical politician. He was plain spoken, honest, a serious Christian and a Washington outsider.  So I supported him during his 1976 campaign when I was a young priest working in Pennsylvania. After his election as president, I came to Denver as pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton in 1977.  I eventually got involved with the 1980 Colorado campaign for Carter's re-election on the invitation of
a parishioner and Democratic Party activist -- Polly Baca, who was and remains a good friend. 

Carter had one serious strike against him. The U.S. Supreme Court had legalized abortion on demand in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and Carter the candidate waffled about restricting it. At the time, I knew Carter was wrong in his views about Roe v. Wade and soft toward permissive abortion. But even as a priest, I justified working for him because he wasn't aggressively "pro-choice." True, he held a bad position on a vital issue, but I believed he was right on so many more of the "Catholic" issues than his opponent seemed to be. The moral calculus looked easy. I thought we could remedy the abortion problem after Carter was safely returned to office.

Carter lost his bid for re-election, but even with an avowedly prolife Ronald Reagan as president, the belligerence, dishonesty and inflexibility of the "pro-choice" lobby has stymied almost every effort to protect unborn human life since.

In the years after the Carter loss I began to notice that very few of the people, including Catholics, who claimed to be "personally opposed" to abortion really did anything about it. Nor did they intend to. For most, their personal opposition was little more than pious hand wringing and a convenient excuse -- exactly as it is today. In fact, I can't name any "pro-choice" Catholic politician who has been active, in a sustained public way, in trying to discourage abortion and to protect unborn human life -- not one. Some talk about it, and some may mean well, but there's very little action. In the United States in 2008, abortion is an acceptable form of homicide. And it will remain that way until Catholics force their political parties and elected officials to act differently.

Why do I mention this now? Earlier this spring a group called "Roman Catholics for Obama '08" quoted my own published words in the following way:

"So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can't, and I won't. But I do know some serious Catholics -- people whom I admire -- who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don't keep quiet about it; they don't give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn.  Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite -- not because of – their pro-choice views."

What's interesting about this quotation - which is accurate but incomplete - is the wording that was left out. The very next sentences in the article of mine they selected, which Roman Catholics for Obama neglected to quote, run as follows:

"But [Catholics who support 'pro-choice' candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a 'proportionate' reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It's the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life - which we most certainly will. If we're confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed."

On their website, Roman Catholics for Obama stress that:

"After faithful thought and prayer, we have arrived at the conclusion that Senator Obama is the candidate whose views are most compatible with the Catholic outlook, and we will vote for him because of that -- and because of his other outstanding qualities -- despite our disagreements with him in specific areas."

I'm familiar with this reasoning. It sounds a lot like me 30 years ago. And 30 years later we still have about a million abortions a year. Maybe Roman Catholics for Obama will do a better job at influencing their candidate. It could happen. And I sincerely hope it does, since Planned Parenthood of the Chicago area, as recently as February 2008, noted that Senator Barack Obama "has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record both in the U.S. Senate and the Illinois Senate."

Changing the views of "pro-choice" candidates takes a lot more than verbal gymnastics, good alibis and pious talk about "personal opposition" to killing unborn children. I'm sure Roman Catholics for Obama know that, and I wish them good luck. They'll need it.

Printed with permission from the Denver Catholic Register.

Ads by Google
(What's this?)

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
Oct
25

Liturgical Calendar

October 25, 2014

Saturday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 13:1-9

Gospel
Date
10/25/14
10/24/14
10/23/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Eph 4: 7-16
Gospel:: Lk 13: 1-9

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
10/25/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 13:1-9

Homily
Date
10/25/14
10/24/14
10/23/14
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: