.- The discussion over Catholic support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama continued this past week as professors Nick Cafardi, Cathy Kaveny, and Doug Kmiecâall Obama backersâdebated the topic with political commentator George Weigel in the pages of Newsweek. Obamaâs Catholic supporters argued that Obama would serve the pro-life cause in other aspects, while Weigel charged that such arguments ignore or minimize Obamaâs vigorous support for abortion rights.
The pro-Obama professors made their case in an October 17 essay on Newsweek Online. They argued that an Obama presidency would reduce the abortion rate and they advocated an âinterconnectedâ approach to promote a âculture of lifeâ through policies favoring a family wage, universal health care, and better parenting and education for youth.
âThis greater appreciation for the totality of Catholic teaching is at the very heart of the Obama campaign,â they asserted. âIt is scarcely a McCain footnote.â
The professors said Weigelâs recent criticism of their positions is âunassailableâ in a perfect world, but they charged that the legal path to preventing abortion âhas not worked to date, and it may never work.â
They claimed in their Newsweek essay that Obama recognizes abortion as âa tragic moral choiceâ but would implement other policies to help women in âadverse economic and social circumstances.â
âIs Obama the perfect pro-life candidate? No.â they conceded, but claimed the Democratic presidential nominee was better than Sen. John McCain. They charged McCain with doing ânot muchâ to promote human life, arguing his policies do not provide for the uninsured, while in their view Obamaâs health care plan is superior.
âThe Republican alternative familiar to Weigel is simultaneously self-righteous, easy and ineffective,â they alleged, advising that Weigel should consider whether his own support for an âunjust and unjustifiable war in Iraqâ is as complicit in moral evil as support for pro-abortion rights politicians.
Weigel responded to these claims in his own Newsweek essay, suggesting the professorsâ criticism of what they called the âelegant theorizingâ of pro-life Republicans avoided the real argument.
âA 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,â he said.
According to Weigel, Obama believes that Roe v. Wade was ârightly decided,â charging that the senatorâs defense of the Supreme Court decision which imposed permissive abortion laws nationwide âextends far beyond anyoneâs âelegant theorizingâ.â
Weigel also cited Obamaâs opposition to Illinois laws which would provide legal protection for children who survive abortion and referenced Obamaâs criticism of a Supreme Court decision which upheld state laws against partial-birth abortion.
The candidateâs support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was also of concern to Weigel.
âThe full implementation of the most radical interpretation of Roe would seem to be the goal of Obama's support for the federal Freedom of Choice Act, which, by stripping Catholic doctors of âconscience clauseâ protections currently in state laws, would put thousands of Catholic physicians in jeopardy,â Weigel contended.
He then argued there is âvery little, if anythingâ in Obamaâs record to show the politician agrees with his pro-life supporters that abortion is a âtragic moral choice.â
âDo Professors Cafardi, Kaveny, and Kmiec imagine that they have a better grasp of Senator Obama's views on the life issues than, say, the National Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), or other pro-choice Obama supporters?â
Weigel argued that thousands of crisis pregnancy centers best serve women in crisis pregnancies, centers whose âmodest federal fundingâ Obama wishes to cut.
âHow is it âpro-lifeâ to support a presidential candidate who is publicly committed to requiring any federal legislation in support of pregnant women to include promotion of abortion?â Weigel asked rhetorically.
The Obama backers had criticized the denial of Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians as âusing the sacrament as a political tool.â Weigel countered that the practice is a question of âmaintaining the integrity of the church's central act of worshipâ and of helping Catholics form their conscience.
Calling most Catholic politicians âwoefully ill-informedâ about the logic of Catholic teaching on life issues, he said this âenormous failureâ of pastors and bishops is compounded when prominent Catholic intellectuals âfail to make clearâ that their preferred pro-abortion rights candidateâs record on such issues is âreprehensible.â
âPresident 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,â Weigel argued.
Weigel, a biographer of Pope John Paul II, closed his Newsweek essay with the 1997 remarks Pope John Paul II made when he accepted the credentials of Lindy Boggs, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
The Pope had said:
âThe moral history of your country is the story of your people's efforts to widen the circle of inclusion in society, so that all Americans might enjoy the protection of law, participate in the responsibilities of citizenship, and have the opportunity to make a contribution to the common good. Whenever a certain category of peopleâthe unborn or the sick and oldâare excluded from that protection, a deadly anarchy subverts the original understanding of justice. The credibility of the United States will depend more and more on its promotion of a genuine culture of life, and on a renewed commitment to building a world in which the weakest and most vulnerable are welcomed and protected.â