In a genial but critical exchange reproduced on The Witherspoon Institute’s web site Public Discourse, Pepperdine University law professor Doug Kmiec and Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput have exchanged further remarks concerning Kmiec’s advocacy for President-elect Barack Obama. The archbishop told the professor he welcomes a civil dialogue but also called on Kmiec to convince Obama to change his position on life issues.
Kmiec, a pro-life Republican, wrote in response to the archbishop’s Oct. 17 address to an ENDOW dinner, titled “Little Murders,” in which the archbishop commented that Kmiec has a “strong record of service to the Church and the nation” but claimed Kmiec and other pro-Obama Catholics “have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers 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.”
In a public letter to the archbishop dated Nov. 4, Kmiec called the archbishop “as well spoken a defender of the faith as I remember.”
However, Kmiec repeated his concern that the archbishop’s approach to the abortion issue “will lead many in parishes around the country to neglect what they can do to build up the culture of life through the promotion of the social gospel in its fullest sense.”
He expressed hope for mutual collaboration that could include “devoting the resources of parishes to the support of women facing an unwanted pregnancy, finding ways to increase adoption over abortion, and leading a national discussion on the prospect of reviving a Human Life Amendment, which I believe is the only way the law will meet the expectations you have for it.”
Kmiec regretted that, in his view, some commentators chose the method of the “dock-side bully” in order to “gain political points for their favored man.” He also lamented the “intemperate language and hyperbolic argumentation” of blogs and “one-sided think tanks” and even university faculties.
“We remain brothers in the faith who know full well that nothing is impossible in Christ.
“It is my prayer that we will draw upon the common ground we share to strengthen the respect for life in the coming months and years.
Archbishop Chaput, writing a Nov. 5 reply on The Public Discourse, expressed gratitude for Kmiec’s letter and concurred with Kmiec about the need for civility in public debate.
“Since I belong to a growing number of bishops excoriated by blogs on the cultural left--including blogs tied to otherwise respected Catholic publications and to scholars that, in the words of Prof. Kmiec, 'should know better’--I understand his discomfort with the tone of this election,” the archbishop wrote.
However, he said, “good manners do not trump facts.” According to the archbishop, Kmiec critics Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis have identified “serious falsehoods and misdirections” in Kmiec’s Obama advocacy.
“I'm disappointed that in the course of his advocacy, the professor has apparently never faced up to the facts of Sen. Obama's longstanding and extensive efforts to deprive an entire class of human beings--unborn children--of basic legal protections against homicide, or Sen. Obama's pledge to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion, thus coercively implicating Catholics and other prolife citizens in the killing,” Archbishop Chaput wrote.
“Nor does Prof. Kmiec acknowledge that the foundational principle of the entire social Gospel is the right of every member of the human family to protection against unjust violent attack.”
Archbishop Chaput noted that Kmiec has a “unique opportunity” to press President-elect Obama to “reconsider his most extreme positions,” such as support for partial-birth abortion, human cloning for stem cell research, and the Freedom of Choice Act.
Yet he concluded by encouraging Kmiec to criticize Obama on these points.
“Along with many, many other Catholics and prolife citizens, I look forward eagerly to Prof. Kmiec's vocal advocacy against these profoundly unjust policies,” Archbishop Chaput wrote.