Doug Kmiec, a pro-life Catholic who vocally supported President-elect Barack Obama, defended his position in a lecture Tuesday at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California. The law professor told attendees that if Pope Benedict told him that his support for the pro-abortion politician was out of line with the Church’s teachings, he would stand by the Magisterium.
About 30 to 40 protesters against Kmiec’s speech stood in silence outside the seminary gates, an attendee who requested anonymity told CNA. Inside the seminary, nearly 300 people listened to Kmiec’s speech, the Thirteenth Annual Newman C. Eberhardt lecture.
Father Eberhardt was a long-time history professor at the seminary.
“Several of his students wished that he could be there to demolish Dr. Kmiec’s presentation point by point,” the attendee told CNA, claiming that the setting of the event “causes scandal to the faithful and sows confusion throughout the non-Catholic community.”
The attendee only took notes at the presentation because recording the lecture was prohibited.
Monsignor Craig Cox, the seminary rector, greeted the audience and gave a benediction. Father Richard Benson, academic dean and chair of moral theology, introduced Prof. Kmiec with a description of the “angst of the seminary administration” in inviting Kmiec.
The priest reportedly said that the administration decided to invite Kmiec in order to present differing views for consideration.
Kmiec began his lecture by referring to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s 2004 letter to the U.S. bishops which advised that a vote for a pro-abortion rights candidate can be permitted “in the presence of proportionate reasons.” Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor and a former official in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, then went on to explain how he came to support Obama’s candidacy.
An early supporter of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Kmiec said he was disappointed that, in his view, the Republican Party rejected Romney’s candidacy on the basis of his Mormon religion. Not finding the views of the eventual Republican nominee Sen. John McCain consistent with Romney’s positions, he looked elsewhere.
Kmiec told how he was first drawn to Obama during his “Call to Renewal” speech. Attending a meeting which included Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, he told how he became convinced that while Obama had no religious upbringing, he is a religious man.
According to the lecture attendee who spoke to CNA, Kmiec described how his decision to support Obama included weighing the candidate’s platform with Catholic social teaching. He became part of Obama’s Catholic outreach program to secure the Catholic vote, which has consistently sided with the winner of the past ten presidential elections.
The Obama campaign’s Catholic outreach was described as “tightly organized” at the national, state, and local levels.
Kmiec noted that he had pressed Obama concerning what have been perceived to be his gaffes on abortion issues.
Questioning Obama about comments about not wanting his daughter “punished with a baby,” Obama told Kmiec “That’s not it.” The candidate then explained his belief that a child is indeed a punishment for many who do not have the economic and social support to care for a child.
Explaining his belief that the legal fight against abortion is lost, Kmiec advocated reducing the numbers of abortions through economic means and fully informing women about abortion. He also added that Obama had worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a primary vehicle for Catholic charity.
Concluding his remarks, Kmiec said he would always “bear the scar” of being refused Communion at Mass for the Catholic business leaders’ group Legatus, where a deacon believed his support for Obama should have barred him from receiving. Kmiec related how he loved his faith and didn’t know what he would do without it.
In audience questions following the lecture, a priest proposed a hypothetical situation in which Kmiec has a telephone conversation with Pope Benedict. The priest asked whether Kmiec would ask for further explanation of the letter to the U.S. bishops concerning proportionality in voting decisions.
Kmiec stated that if the Pope said, “Doug, you’re wrong,” he would then have to tear out the first 174 pages of his pro-Obama book and stand with the Magisterium.