In a Jan. 23, 2013 column entitled “Deeper Into the Culture of Death,” Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn drew attention to the influence of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, on the “so-called pro-choice movement.”Bishop DiMarzio quoted Sanger who said she wanted to “assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit.” To which, the bishop responded, “Of course, a young Barack Obama was precisely the sort of unfit child that Sanger and her allies would want to eliminate.”Bishop DiMarzio is not the first pro-life leader who has underscored the tragic irony of an African-American president advocating abortion when abortion has been responsible for a drastic reduction of live births in his own ethnic community. Alveda King, niece of the late Martin Luther King, has made this point repeatedly. King recommends Janet Morana's book, Recall Abortion, to rebut the "agenda of reproductive genocide" promulgated by Margaret Sanger.As Bishop DiMarzio put it, “President Obama has chosen to use the bully pulpit not to call upon us all to be nobler and to embrace each child, regardless of origins and circumstances; rather, he has been a proponent of an expediency that is shameful and criminal in the eyes of Almighty God.”In response to Bishop DiMarzio, Paul Moses, who lives in the Diocese of Brooklyn and writes for Commonweal, took the bishop to task for misrepresenting Margaret Sanger. Moses admitted that Sanger “did make some controversial and chilling remarks,” but cited FactCheck.org and The FactChecker to defend Sanger against the charge that she wanted to “prevent black babies from being born.” (The bias of these sources in favor of Sanger has been exposed here.)Paul Moses then chastised the bishop, saying his criticism of those who voted for Obama “would be more persuasive had he not publicly supported pro-choice candidates himself.” Moses cited robo-calls Bishop DiMarzio made thanking county Democratic leader Vito Lopez and a picture of the bishop with Mayor Bloomberg in “a full-page campaign advertisement in the diocesan newspaper.”Without citing any evidence, Moses accused Bishop DiMarzio of a “political payback” to both Lopez and Bloomberg for “opposing a bill to change the statute of limitations on lawsuits over sexual abuse, and to Bloomberg for his involvement in private fundraising for Catholic schools.” More on that charge later.Regarding his defense of Margaret Sanger, Paul Moses is clearly wrong. Bishop DiMarzio is exactly right: Sanger viewed birth control as a way of “eliminating the unfit” and specifically targeted African-Americans in her crusade for racial cleansing. Sanger did not want her effort to be viewed as an elimination of African-Americans, though she advocated contraception to decrease the number of African-American babies being born.“It seems to me from my experience . . . in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas, that while the colored Negroes have great respect for white doctors, they can get closer to their own members and more or less lay their cards on the table. . . . They do not do this with the white people, and if we can train the Negro doctor at the clinic, he can go among them with enthusiasm and with knowledge, which, I believe, will have far-reaching results. . . . His work, in my opinion, should be entirely with the Negro profession and the nurses, hospital, social workers, as well as the County's white doctors. His success will depend upon his personality and his training by us. The minister's work is also important, and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation, as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.”(1939) Prof. Robert George of Princeton University, comments:“Apologists for Sanger claim that the context makes clear that the italicized words are innocent. They weren’t. Read in light of her support for eugenics ideas and policies, plainly she wanted to reduce the black population, which made up a significant portion of the poor, even if she did not seek genocide or extermination.”The above quote from Sanger is not an isolated case. In 1921, she wrote: “Eugenics is … the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.” ("The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda", October 1921, page 5). From this, one can only assume Sanger considered contraception as a solution to “racial and social problems” by reducing births to people of a certain race. There is no doubt which race Sanger had in mind. In her Autobiography, Sanger provides an account of her speaking at a Ku Klux Klan event, and her enthusiasm that the success of her remarks generated “a dozen invitations to speak to similar groups.”“Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing. . . Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my address that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand. In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York.” (Sanger’s Autobiography, p. 366)What kind of birth control message from Sanger to a KKK rally would have generated “a dozen invitations to speak to similar groups?” Another question: Why would such a distinguished Catholic magazine as Commonweal defend the credentials of a figure who openly supported the racist and violent Ku Klux Klan, whose members at the time were lynching African Americans and getting away with it?In a 1924 recorded radio broadcast, Sanger said:“We must make this country into a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds. In a home where there are too many children in proportion to the living space, the air and sunlight, the children are usually overcrowded and underfed. They are a constant burden on their mother's overtaxed strength and the father's earning capacity. Such homes cannot be gardens in any sense of the word.” Radio WFAB Syracuse.Prof. George points out that this quote is not directly about race, “but the reference to ‘human weeds’ and the desire to ‘breed a race of human thoroughbreds’ is profoundly revealing of her eugenicist mindset.”Mary Beth Bonacci, noted Catholic speaker and author of Real Love: Answers to Your Questions on Dating, Marriage and the Real Meaning of Sex, adds a personal comment:"How could you take the countless references to human weeds, inferior races, and sterilization of the unfit in Margaret Sanger's writings out of context? There is no other context. I know. Shortly after Margaret Sanger visited southern Colorado in the 1920's, my Italian immigrant grandmother was sterilized without her knowledge or consent. Sanger was a racist, a eugenicist, and the reason I have no cousins. We were the 'unfit.’"Regarding the criticism by Paul Moses of Bishop DiMarzio’s public association with Vito Lopez and Mayor Bloomberg, Commonweal provided a live TV feed of the Al Smith Dinner where New York’s Cardinal Dolan sat on the raised dias with President Obama himself. When a bishop meets with a politician who supports abortion he risks being described either as “inclusive” or “hypocritical.”Bishop DiMarzio never endorsed Mayor Bloomberg, and Vito Lopez was not running for re-election when the bishop made his robo-calls thanking him for supporting Catholic education. The bishop anticipated criticism of his column:“Some may think my tone a bit strident and even un-nuanced. Maybe the time has come for more direct conversation on these matters, if we hope to preserve what is left of our God-given and Constitutionally-protected rights.”In a media environment where any slander about Mother Teresa is tolerated, but journalists run to the defense of Margaret Sanger’s racism, the bishop is right to call for “more direct conversation.”
The "party's over" at Notre Dame, as the old Comden and Green song says:
Infanticide is becoming a touchy subject for Barack Obama. So much so that his supporters either deny that their candidate ever voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, or they describe his votes as "procedural," as if Obama never really opposed providing medical treatment for infants who survived an abortion.
For the past six months, I have commented regularly on Barack Obama’s outreach to Catholic voters. Looking over what I have written, I realized that taken together these articles serve as a one-stop reference for Catholics who want to know where Obama stands on the non-negotiable Catholic issues.
Sen. John McCain reached out to Catholic voters yesterday in Philadelphia at a gathering of Catholic lay leaders and clergy. The meeting, held at the venerable Union League on South Broad St., is one in an ongoing series being held nationwide by McCain and his Catholic surrogates -- Sen. Sam Brownback, Gov. Frank Keating, and former Vatican ambassador Jim Nicholson. Before his remarks, McCain met privately with Rev. Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life. Father Pavone's organization promotes voter education and registration throughout the nation, and his pro-life advocacy has been crucial in bringing the non-negotiable life issues to the attention of Catholic voters. In his prayer before McCain spoke, Father Pavone prayed that the "Lord would let all Christians know they are still His sons and daughters when they are in the voting booth." The first issue addressed by McCain was abortion. He said that the "noblest words ever written" were "the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." McCain believes that those words "apply to the unborn." He reminded the Philadelphia Catholics of his pro-life voting record, adding that he would "maintain that commitment" if elected president. McCain talked about the "stark contrast" between himself and Sen. Barack Obama on the life issue -- the evidence being Obama's vote against the ban on partial-birth abortion and his opposition, as a state senator, to legal protection for babies born during an abortion procedure. Introducing McCain was former ambassador Jim Nicholson, who described the need for outreach to Catholic voters as "self-evident." In Pennsylvania, 30 percent of the voters are Catholic, he said, and argued that "McCain would attract Catholic voters because his beliefs line up squarely with them on issue like protecting unborn life, defending marriage between a man and a woman, and the all-important appointment of judges." Nicholson told the group that McCain was qualified for the presidency based upon his years of experience and his judgment in times of challenge and adversity. "His opponent is young, untested, inexperienced, green, and liberal -- not a bad man, but unqualified." In addition to protection for the unborn, McCain emphasized the pressing need to protect America from Islamic extremism, "a transcendent challenge to everything we hold dear." He said that the heart of this battle is being fought in Iraq, but it is also playing out on the Internet, where well-educated young people are being recruited to terrorist organizations. McCain also brought up the subject of defending marriage, saying that some in the room may differ with his view that this decision should be taken up first in the states. "But," he added, "if some federal judge rules that all the states must recognize the [gay] marriages in Massachusetts, I would be in favor of pursuing a Constitutional amendment." During the question-and-answer session, McCain talked about a wide range of issues, from energy and tax policy to the political unrest in South America. When someone asked him for a demonstration of his "famous Irish temper," McCain tore into "pork-barrel" spending and earmarks -- a long list that would have been funny, if it weren't such a waste of taxpayer money. When asked about the possibility of universal healthcare, McCain rejected the idea completely. "The government can't run the healthcare systems it already has; take a look at the Bureau of Indian Affairs." He argued that government-run health systems around the world have been "colossal failures," and inevitably become two-tiered systems, "one for the rich and one for the poor." The answer to the need for more healthcare coverage, he said, was giving people more choice, not "mandating" those choices. If elected, McCain said he would propose a $5,000 tax credit for those who must pay for their own health insurance. This insurance should be made affordable while those who are "uninsurable" will be covered by government-assisted programs of high-risk pools among insurance companies. On the controversial question of immigration policy, McCain said that border security must come first. True immigration reform, he elaborated, will only happen when the American people are confident that the borders have been brought under control. The 12 million illegal immigrants, McCain insisted, are "God's children" and should be treated with compassion. This country "does not have 12 million pairs of handcuffs to arrest all these people -- that's not the kind of country we are." The final question to McCain was about his choice of a vice-president. Though he said he was not close to making a decision, he did explain that his running mate should share "my values, principles, and priorities." This decision will likely be the most important (and perhaps most difficult) one McCain will make during his campaign. McCain was well-received by the Catholics gathered in Philadelphia. The campaign is planning many more of these events in the months leading up to the Republican National Convention, September 1-4 in Minneapolis.
"Evangelicals feel like they have been served their divorce papers," said one major Evangelical leader in an interview on Saturday. "They don't know exactly what they are going to do," he told me, adding, "There are going to be meetings all over the country in the next few weeks to decide our strategy."
On May 22, 2008,a new era began in the history of what is called the Religious Right. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain rejected the endorsements of two of the leading Evangelical pastors in the United States, Rev. John Hagee and Rev. Rod Parsley. The impact of McCain publicly disavowing these two major figures will create a new alignment among politically active religious conservatives and the political parties.
When Bill Donohue accused Rev. John Hagee of anti-Catholicism, the liberal media accepted his opinion as authoritative. After Donohue accepted Hagee's letter of regret and announced "case closed," the same media accused Donohue of lying to help John McCain's candidacy.
When Obama's Catholic supporters attacked Catholic League president Bill Donohue for his criticism of their candidate, they did not mention Obama's support for infanticide.
His Holiness came to America known as the "enforcer" of Catholic doctrine. He left America as the face of the Church, the face of peace. Benedict XVI arrived in the midst of swirling controversies, but in addressing them, he raised our hearts and minds to the place where all struggles cease and all questions are answered.
Last Friday, the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama released the names on its Catholic National Advisory Council. The list contains three governors, six senators, and 16 House members, for a total of 25 elected officials. Twenty-two of the 25 are solidly pro-abortion politicians. Five senators and 13 House members have earned 100 percent pro-abortion ratings from NARAL. Of those remaining, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) gets a 65 percent rating -- rather surprising for a "pro-lifer." James Oberstar (D-MN) is at 50 percent, while only two are pro-life: Jerry Costello (D-IL) and George Miller (D-CA). (Former House member Tim Roemer (D-IL), a committee co-chair, is pro-life as well.) Notable for his absence is Prof. Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine University's School of Law, who shocked his friends and colleagues with his endorsement of Obama. Kmiec, who held positions in the White House Office of Legal Counsel under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, was considered one of the most important pro-life Catholic jurists in the nation. Does his name being missing from the list mean Kmiec is having second thoughts, or simply wants to take a lower profile in the campaign? Time will tell. In the meantime, those who are on the list tell us much about the Catholic advice being received by Obama and his strategists. Just as I wrote in my unsolicited memo to the Obama campaign, the left-wing, and sometimes dissenting, view of the Church is inaccurate and puts him at a disadvantage politically. The composition of the Catholic National Advisory Committee suggests the advice given to Obama will be no different than that given to Al Gore and John Kerry. Whatever kind of advice Obama receives, however, his campaign has put together a list of respected Catholic lay and religious leaders. These are people who collectively encompass the entire network of middle-to- left Catholic institutions and their leadership. They can give the Obama Catholic outreach tremendous heft and credibility in the eyes of elites, especially the media. These are individuals who, regardless of their politics and theology, can make inroads into the Catholic vote. Included on the list are prominent academics such as Mary Jo Bane, Harvard; M. Shaun Copeland and Lisa Cahill, Boston College; Cathleen Kaveny and Vincent Rougeau, Notre Dame; Vincent Miller, Georgetown; and David O'Brien, Holy Cross. The religious orders are also represented: Sr. Catherine Pinkerton, Congregation of St. Joseph; and Margaret Gannon, IHM, a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Several members have strong and recent ties to centers of power in the Catholic Church. Sharon Daly has been described as one of the highest-ranking lay women leaders in the Church, and was for many years vice-president for social policy at Catholic Charities USA. Ron Cruz, listed now as a consultant, was, only last year, director of the USCCB's Secretariat of Hispanic Affairs. The biggest problem Obama's Catholic supporters face is the candidate himself. Only a few months ago he was on a charm offensive; now he is mired in one verbal gaffe after another. As the list of regrettable statements grows, it becomes more difficult for Obama supporters to make a case to Catholics. His candidacy is in danger of losing swing voters -- many of whom are Catholic -- who are starting to see a side of him that is both condescending and extreme. His now-famous comments at a San Francisco fundraiser are another example of the real Obama revealing himself in the glare of constant media attention. The attitude toward religion is shocking for someone who has made hope the focal point of campaign message. Describing the bitterness from loss of jobs he meets in "small towns" in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, Obama said, "And it's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." Here Obama explicitly equates religion to gun ownership, nativism, and racism by assigning them a common motive. Wasn't religion supposed to be about hope in the future, not rancor toward the past? And barely a week earlier, Obama had equated unwanted pregnancy with punishment and sexually transmitted disease. Catholic outreach will not be helped by Obama's association with his parish, the Trinity Church of Christ in Chicago. The problems started by Rev. Jeremiah Wright are not likely to be left behind, if only because Wright's successor, Rev. Otis Moss III, is determined to restore Wright's reputation. In his Easter sermon, Reverend Moss called the treatment of Wright a lynching -- but he didn't leave it there. What followed was an echo of Reverend Wright's tirades: The lynching was national news. The RNN, the Roman News Network, was reporting it and NPR, National Publican Radio had it on the radio. The Jerusalem Post and the Palestine Times all wanted exclusives, they searched out the young ministers, showed up unannounced at their houses, tried to talk with their families, called up their friends, wanted to get a quote on how do you feel about the lynching? A publican is the Jewish tax collector (mentioned in the parable of Luke 18:10-14). The entire statement verges on the anti-Semitic. Reverend Moss could become a bigger problem for Obama than Reverend Wright if he keeps up this line of thinking about who is responsible for the "lynching" of his predecessor. The Catholic National Advisory Council has some challenges ahead, but they have gathered a notable list of supporters to press Obama's case among Catholics. They will have to convince Catholics to vote for a pro-abortion candidate whose public comments disparage small town religion and the gift of life, and a candidate whose ministers, past and present, make deeply disturbing comments that awaken the most divisive prejudices and hatred in this country's history.
An editorial in the Jesuit's America magazine recently predicted that Sen. Barack Obama will profit by the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. The moment the Holy Father denounces the war in Iraq, it will provide a "big opening for Sen. Obama," according to Michael Sean Winters. Winters argues that Obama can "invoke the foresight of John Paul II, a man still revered among American Catholics," while contrasting himself to Sen. Hillary Clinton, President Bush, and, most importantly, Sen. John McCain. Winters is undoubtedly right. The question is whether Catholic voters can be persuaded to overlook his extreme stances on the life issues, all of which are opposed to Catholic teaching, in order to register their protest against an unpopular war and those who supported it -- namely, John McCain. Winters may not be right, however, when he predicts that "Pope Benedict will put the Iraq War, and the thinking that got us into that war, back at the center of political discussion." Such an eventuality, according to Winters's thinking, will advance Obama's cause among Catholic voters. The trouble with his argument is simple: What Winters knows, Benedict XVI also knows. The Holy Father is well aware of the political divide between Democrats and Republicans on the life and family issues. It's no accident that just ten days before his arrival in the United States, Benedict spoke out on the "grave sins" of abortion, euthanasia, divorce, and "the culture of death." This should be a reminder to Catholic Obama supporters that this pope embraces the same priorities of his predecessor, John Paul II. To those who are hopeful that Benedict will scold President Bush about the Iraq War, these remarks reveal what's on the Holy Father's mind as he prepares to visit this country. It is highly doubtful that Benedict will frame his criticism of the Iraq war in a way that could be construed to eclipse his regard for President Bush or Senator McCain. Benedict will undoubtedly congratulate President Bush and all pro-life leaders on their efforts to curb and eliminate abortion, and he will very likely draw attention to the growing threat of euthanasia and those who are being deprived of a natural death. This pope understands our culture wars. Benedict, after all, is the man who, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, prepared the 2002 "Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life," which helped to solidify Catholic opposition to the candidacy of Sen. John Kerry. The Doctrinal Note became the primary Vatican document cited to remind Catholic voters that not all political issues are equal in Church teaching. Any Catholic voter who took to heart the following words from that document would have hesitated before voting for the Catholic candidate for president, Senator Kerry: [I]t must be noted also that a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. There is no doubt that Benedict will repeat this message to American Catholics, thus setting the stage for the 2008 electoral struggle between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. Once again, the Democratic Party will pit its pro-abortion candidate against the Republican's pro-lifer. The biggest difference in 2008 is the instability among Catholic voters created by the Iraq War. Some Catholic organizations are putting the war front and center in their efforts to influence political debate. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is one of several Catholic organizations -- including NETWORK, Pax Christi USA, and the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns -- asking Catholics to sign a pledge "to Vote out the War." Catholics United has collected 20,000 signatures on a petition calling for "an immediate and responsible end to the Iraq War." More importantly, the U.S. Catholic bishops have called several times for a withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq. In his America editorial, Winters does not mention that the U.S. bishops could actually present a much greater difficulty for Senator McCain than the Holy Father. Whereas Benedict will speak carefully to preserve the distinction between prudential and non-prudential matters, other religious leaders will not. Just as a number of bishops led the drumbeat of denying communion to Senator Kerry in 2004, there may be an attempt to start a similar ball rolling with regard to Senator McCain for his outspoken support for the war. It will be up to Senator McCain to explain his support for the war in terms familiar to Catholics, the principles of just war theory. His explanation cannot be limited to supporting U.S. troops, as important as that is. Senator McCain must convince Catholic voters that the threat from Iraq justified the invasion, that other means of dealing with the threat had been ineffective, and why he believes Iraq will be better off when we leave than it was before we arrived. That's no small order. Of course, Senator Obama will have his explaining to do, as well. He will need to explain not only his opposition but also his inconsistent statements about the war. His comment to the Chicago Tribune during the 2004 convention cannot be good news to Catholics who see him as the pristine anti-war candidate: "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." Though some defended Senator Obama by saying this remark was taken out of the context, there are other, more important questions that have been raised about Obama's position on the Iraq War that will come out in the campaign. Winters is right that Senator Obama will have the advantage over Senator McCain on the Iraq War issue. But the 2008 election will be not be reduced to this. Benedict will choose his words carefully. He does not want his statements being used to ignore the very issues that should be given top priority by Catholics when making political judgments.
I am writing this unsolicited memo to help the Obama campaign understand the Catholic vote. It has been the practice of Democratic presidential candidates, including former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry, to enlist the help of well-known Catholic dissenters as advisers to their campaigns (no need to name names). As a result, the Democratic presidential candidates have failed to understand Catholic voters, much less connect with them. Your "Catholic" advisers have told you that Catholics are unhappy with their Church -- that they like the popes (both John Paul II and Benedict XVI) personally but reject their emphasis on protecting unborn life, marriage, and the traditional teaching on sexuality. They have told you that Catholics have lost respect for the "moral authority" of their bishops since the priest sex scandals and are ripe to be wooed by a message of "choice." These advisers are wrong, and the election results of 2000 and 2004 are proof of it. In the last two presidential elections, President Bush regained 15 percent of the Catholic vote Senator Dole lost to President Clinton in 1996. I don't want Senator Obama to win -- our political positions are too far apart -- but I do want both political parties to understand the Catholic voter. I would like to see the Obama campaign reach out to Catholic voters knowing who they really are, rather than who the dissenting advisers say they are. Perhaps this will force the campaign to rethink its fundamental policy positions. I have doubts that this can happen, but your strategy has been to tout Senator Obama's "openness," so I offer these thoughts in that spirit. No matter what your Catholic advisers tell you, the Obama candidacy begins with the disadvantage of being pro-abortion, weak on the defense of marriage, and surrounded by pro-abortion Catholics like Sen. and Mrs. Ted Kennedy. This constellation of negatives will lose you the Catholic vote if it is not addressed directly. Remember that active Catholic voters attend Mass regularly, adhere to Church teaching, and vote based on convictions formed by their religious practice. Messages about the minimum wage will not trump the non-negotiable life issues with these voters. Your greatest asset, apart from the attractiveness of your candidate, is the support of former Congressman Tim Roemer, who is Catholic, pro-life, and well-respected. You should give Roemer as much visibility in the media as possible, and keep him away from public associations with the pro-abortion Catholic wing of the Democratic Party. The campaign should seek to find some area of common ground with pro-life, pro-family, socially conservative Catholic voters. The tired critique of pro-lifers as "single issue" voters, not caring about children "after they are born," has never worked before and won't work now. The candidate must show respect for the pro-life movement rather than criticize it for narrow-mindedness or, even worse, a lack of compassion. Catholic voters care about social-justice issues, and they care about the plight of the illegal immigrant. It's important, however, that the candidate recognize the contribution of church-related institutions to these causes and encourage them, rather than oversell the government's ability to solve every social problem. The candidate should understand the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which promotes addressing social problems locally before they are addressed regionally or nationally. Can the candidate re-affirm the faith-based initiative? That would be an excellent idea. The candidate should avoid speaking in Catholic parishes and other Catholic institutions. Such appearances will stir protests, and perhaps official sanctions, against a Catholic institution hosting a pro-abortion political candidate. The bishops themselves are on record, along with the Vatican, stating that Catholic platforms should not be given to pro-abortion candidates. The campaign should study closely the Kerry campaign and the long list of mistakes it made in seeking the Catholic vote. It is especially dangerous to recruit pro-abortion Catholic members of Congress to claim that Senator Obama is "more Catholic" than Senator McCain, in spite of Obama's being pro-abortion. That will backfire -- Catholics know that not all political issues are equal. Senator McCain's consistent opposition to abortion gives him a natural advantage with the Catholic voter. Rather than ignore that fact, as your dissenting advisers will tell you, it should be acknowledged. Realize that Catholic figures like law professor Doug Kmiec may offer some voters cover for supporting Senator Obama, but the candidate would have gotten those votes anyway. In the big picture, the negative response to Kmiec's endorsement underscores the contrast between socially conservative Catholics and Senator Obama's record. Roemer helps; Kmiec does not. The candidate's decision in a televised debate to call his vote on Terri Schiavo a "mistake" turned off many sympathetic Catholic voters -- especially young people -- displaying an amazing lack of insight regarding the Catholic voter. Again, it suggests he is getting bad advice. Senator Obama will have to stretch himself to reach Catholic voters, and should not deceive himself into thinking that he's a "natural" for them. He needs to be himself, act humbly toward social conservatives, and acknowledge the differences while looking for places where he can connect with them.
A few days ago Osama bin Laden released a message threatening Benedict XVI for leading a "new Crusade" against Islam. Whether he meant to or not, the Holy Father issued a ringing answer to the architect of 9/11 by receiving into the Church Europe's most vocal Muslim critic of bin Laden and Islamic terrorism.
In her recent book The Party Faithful: How and Why the Democrats are Closing the God Gap, Amy Sullivan, the national editor at Time, recalls the moment when Barack Obama "made himself a household name." The scene was the second night of the 2004 Democratic Convention. Senator Obama's address to the convention "displayed a gift for seamlessly weaving religious references into his language, a skill that rivaled both Clinton's and Bush's." Sullivan recalls that most of the delegates wouldn't have identified his use of a phrase from a popular Evangelical song by Rich Mullins -- "but they did recognize an audacious move to wrest religion away from the Republican Party and roared their approval" (emphasis added). Sullivan does not conceal her admiration for Obama. She writes, "The chapter he wrote on faith for his book The Audacity of Hope is one of the most revealing and thoughtful explorations of religion and politics by an office holding politician." When Barack Obama announced his entry into the presidential race on February 17, 2007, Sullivan wasn't the only Democrat who thought he represented the party's best choice to close the so-called "God Gap" with the GOP. Since the very beginning, the Obama campaign has had an Evangelical feel, as I have reported before. Those who witnessed Obama's keynote address at the 2006 Sojourners Conference realized his 2004 convention speech was no fluke. Sullivan recognized the significance of Obama's ability to convince people of the desirability of religion's influence on politics: It was, for the first time in modern memory, an affirmative statement from a Democrat about "how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy," as Obama put it. John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Mario Cuomo in 1984 each gave seminal speeches on faith and Democratic politics, but they were primarily concerned with defining their own faith -- Catholicism -- in terms of what it was not. Any Republican who dismisses Obama's ability to reach religiously inclined voters would do well to read the passage above and take its implications seriously. If Obama finally clinches the nomination, the key to his success or failure will be his campaign's religious outreach. Obama's point man for this outreach is also an African-American, Joshua DuBois. The stepson of an African Methodist Episcopalian minister, DuBois is a member of a Pentecostal Assemblies of God church. He is described as "guarded in discussing his personal positions," not wishing to offer his view of abortion during an interview with WORLD magazine. Instead of taking specific positions, DuBois stresses his conversion to Christianity in college and speaks about it in the traditional language of an Evangelical: "I am saved by the grace of God. I'm a strong believer in Jesus Christ." DuBois's approach to messaging Obama's religion is likewise general, but intensely personal. In comments to the Christian Science Monitor, he explains that Obama's politics are "an outgrowth of his reading of some of the seminal parts of the Bible about doing unto the 'least of these' just as we would have done unto Christ."
Next week, my defense of religion in politics -- Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States -- will be published by Simon & Schuster. This book is both a history and apologia of religious conservatives in politics over the past 30 years. But this primary season has led me to the conclusion that my book needs one more chapter: "When There Is Too Much Religion in Politics." Between the attention paid to religion by the media and the constant playing to religious voters by the candidates, even a sympathetic observer might be thinking enough is enough. Consider the case of former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee. He made the following statement at the debate before the Michigan primary on January 14: I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the Word of the living God. And that's what we need to do, to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view (emphasis added). Huckabee was arguing in favor of two proposed constitutional amendments that I support: the Human Life Amendment (which would protect unborn life) and the Federal Marriage Amendment (which would keep marriage between a man and a woman). However, to evoke "God's standards" in a political setting can be dangerous for two reasons. First, it's bad politics in terms of gaining broad support. What about those voters who don't believe in God, much less His "standards"? Those voters will wonder, rightly, if Huckabee has anything to say to them. But beyond merely winning votes, a man of faith in politics should treat our political realm for what it is -- the pursuit of the common good through representative government. Politics is not crypto-religion, and it's not about calling voters to salvation. Personal beliefs, therefore, should be translated into a secular rationale capable of convincing everyone, regardless of faith (or lack of it). Let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with a declaration of personal faith and beliefs in politics; religious conservatives have fought hard to make this an acceptable part of our public life. What I mean by "too much religion in politics" is what occurs when people of faith treat their religious convictions as the end, rather than the beginning, of the argument. St. Anselm once described faith as something always "in search of understanding." To hear Huckabee on this particular night in Michigan, you would think he considered "God's standards" as self-evident as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Throughout the primary campaigns, Dan Gildoff, the politics editor of Beliefnet.com, has been updating his "God-o-Meter," assigning ratings to each candidate based upon his or her "God talk." At first I found the exercise sneering in tone, but I began to appreciate the gesture as certain candidates took every opportunity to remind us of their faith. Gildoff has ranked the candidates on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest "theocrat" rating. Huckabee's clocking in at a nine is no surprise, but what is surprising is that Hillary Clinton ties with him. Obama, Romney, and Richardson came in a close second at an eight. Given that the Baptist minister Huckabee was lacing his stump speeches with biblical references, it's not insignificant that Clinton would tie him, with Obama right behind. GOP nominee John McCain comes in close to the bottom with a four, which clearly explains some of his problems with Dr. James Dobson and other leaders of the Christian Right. After the 2004 election, the Democratic Party leadership worried that it was perceived as suffering from a "God gap" and not being "faith-friendly." If Gildoff's ratings are credible -- and I believe they are -- we will be going into a presidential campaign where the Democratic candidate has been talking about God twice as much as the Republican. In this respect, the McCain candidacy may be a gift to the GOP. McCain will provide a cooling-off period for "movement" religious conservatives. The Mike Huckabee of the 2008 campaign was simply over the top in his posturing for Evangelical voters. Huckabee in 2012, I predict, will not advocate amending the Constitution according to "God's standards" and will not rate as highly on Gildoff's God-o-Meter. (Further, Romney in 2012 won't be making any grand statements on the subject of America's "symphony of faith," as he did at College Station in December; his campaign went downhill from there.) If religious conservatives are to be successful in politics, they need to spend more time studying natural law and less time worrying about the millennial matters. They know little about the former, and what they know about the latter won't change anything. Some religious conservatives will object, saying that believers should speak the truth regardless of the venue -- whether a political rally, a schoolroom, or a pulpit. But the pursuit of truth should never be an excuse for showing a lack of respect to others. Understanding what the political order is, and what it is not, shows respect for human dignity, as was discussed in the Vatican's "Declaration on Human Freedom": Truth . . . is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. Merely declaring a law to be right because it conforms to "God's standard" may begin political discourse, but it should not end it. In such a case, a politician relies too much on his God talk and too little on "faith seeking understanding."
In early January I wrote a column arguing that Barack Obama "will not win the Catholic vote." Although Obama has won eleven primaries in a row, his "Catholic problem" is emerging in voting patterns and early media skirmishes. Catholic-vote expert Steve Wagner predicted two months ago that Clinton would beat Obama among Catholics. Clinton's advantage, Wagner explained, is her ability to put forth "persuasive arguments on key social issues." Obama, according to Wagner, has yet to make these kinds of arguments -- he attracts a "substantially frustrated constituency of people far to the left who don't feel they have representation. Catholics aren't feeling deprived." Wagner was right. Catholic voters in the primaries, thus far, have chosen Clinton over Obama by substantial margins. In Connecticut, Obama lost Catholics to Clinton 37 percent to 59 percent; Massachusetts, 35 percent to 62 percent; Illinois, his home state, 49 percent to 51 percent; California, 37 percent to 54 percent; New Jersey, 28 percent to 69 percent; Florida, 22 percent to 63 percent; Maryland, 45 percent to 48 percent. Where Obama has broken the pattern, his Catholic problem shows up among weekly Mass attendees. He won in Missouri, 50 percent to 46 percent, but lost active Catholics, 46 percent to 53 percent. He tied in Wisconsin but lost among active Catholics, 46 percent to 53 percent. And yet, on the heels of his relatively poor showing among Catholic voters, came the remark of well-known Catholic jurist Douglas Kmiec that Obama is a "Catholic natural." Evidently, Catholic voters are slow to recognize him as such. It's hard to blame them when Obama has voted against a law that would have protected a child once it was born and outside the womb -- the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act. One Catholic blogger labeled Obama the most "Anti-Catholic Presidential Candidate." It's hard to disagree when Obama has a 100 percent pro-abortion rating from NARAL, supports partial-birth abortion, supports spending tax dollars for abortion, voted against notifying parents of minors seeking out-of-state abortions, and supports homosexual marriage. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Obama was endorsed by one of the nation's leading abortion advocates, Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for a Free Choice. Calling Hillary Clinton "not radical enough on abortion," Kissling praised Obama as the man who could complete "the social transformation that Roe began but did not solidify." Joe Feuerherd, who once wrote for the National Catholic Reporter (a newspaper that supported Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004), is also helping to define Barack Obama in the eyes of Catholic voters. This past Sunday, Feuerherd published an op-ed in the Washington Post in defense of his vote for Barack Obama in the Maryland primary. Feuerherd said of his vote, "By doing so, according to the leaders of my Church, I put my soul at risk. That's right, says the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- tap the touch screen for a pro-abortion-rights candidate, and you're probably punching your ticket to Hell." No doubt Feuerherd was employing deliberate overstatement, but whether hyperbolic or not, his column earned a sharp rebuke from Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the USCCB. Calling Feuerherd's column a "screed," she denies that the bishops have urged Catholics to become "one-issue voters." Sister Mary Ann writes: Feuerherd suggests that holding the protection of human life as a primary concern means that the bishops have only one issue: abortion. But the bishops have spoken out about such matters as the war in Iraq, anti-immigrant sentiment, the death penalty, and lack of adequate health care for the poor. If I were scripting the Obama candidacy for Catholic voters, I would much prefer Sister Mary Ann's multi-issue approach to Feuerherd's "the bishops be damned" attitude (a direct quote from his column). Yet the exchange between Feuerherd and the USCCB brings to the surface the core of Obama's Catholic problem, and why Catholic voters are already sensing a disconnect with the charismatic young senator from Illinois. Feuerherd is all too aware that Obama, as Catholic League president Bill Donohue puts it, promotes a "culture of death." Donohue issued this statement on the heels of Obama's comment in the Cleveland primary debate Tuesday night that he regretted voting in favor of allowing Terry Schiavo's parents to have recourse to a federal review of their daughter's treatment. It's almost as if Obama were looking to improve on his 100 percent rating from NARAL. Feuerherd evidently does not want to go through the exercise of spinning the bishops' and Vatican's documents on the issue of voting for pro-abortion candidates and platforms. He saw that such efforts didn't work in the past two elections, where George W. Bush did surprisingly well with Catholic voters. Feuerherd's message seems to be: If the bishops are getting in the way of electing Obama, then "the bishops be damned." It's doubtful that such a strategy to gain Catholic support would be successful. Catholics often disagree with their bishops, but they do not take kindly to expressions of outright disrespect. Obama's Catholic advisers should pay closer attention to Sister Mary Ann's statement, which contains the seeds for a strategy Obama could use to solve his problem with Catholic voters. (I am in no way suggesting that this was Sister's intention in writing the op-ed.) Sister Mary Ann writes: The current campaign shows that politics is too often a contest of powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites and media hype. In 'Faithful Citizenship,' the Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and vulnerable. Obama has already shown that he'll very likely avoid strident partisan attacks, and his message of "hope" is about a new type of politics, "a different kind of political engagement." His Catholic strategy will be to paint a broad picture -- "the pursuit of the common good" -- of agreement with Catholic social teaching while trying to avoid the troubling specifics of his voting record on life issues. Obama and his surrogates will argue that more lives will be spared from abortion by helping the "weak and the vulnerable," rather than through legislation banning the practice. At the same time, they will describe John McCain as a man whose commitment to the pro-life cause is half-hearted and nominal. "Catholics for Obama" will further argue that if the pro-life issue is the primary reason for preferring McCain, think again: A McCain presidency will not, according to their claims, produce any significant progress in curbing abortion. Finally, Catholics who support Obama will take McCain to task for his support for the war in Iraq. They will argue, wrongly, that the pope and the Vatican officially condemned the war (meaning that Bush, McCain, and the whole GOP "went against" the Church in going to war). McCain is in fact vulnerable to Obama on both abortion and the war. If the Arizona senator wants to win in November, he must convince Catholic voters that he's not a lukewarm pro-lifer. A good running mate could help him significantly on that score. On the issue of the war in Iraq, McCain must become conversant, if he isn't already, in Catholic Just War teaching so he can discuss the war and occupation in terms Catholics will understand. Obama has a Catholic problem, no doubt. But if John McCain fails to communicate his enthusiasm for the pro-life cause and his "Just War" reasons for supporting the Iraq War, he may end up solving Obama's problem himself.
Tom Rooney is Catholic and pro-life, and he is running for the Republican nomination in Florida's 16th Congressional District. Rooney comes from a football family; his grandfather, Art Rooney Jr., founded the Pittsburg Steelers in 1933. Former Army captain and JAG (Judge Advocate General), Rooney will need all his experience -- football, military, and legal -- to navigate the rough-and-tumble of a congressional campaign. The 16th District was in the news last September when Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned after allegations he had sent sexually suggestive e-mails and text messages to teenage boys who were serving, or had served, as congressional pages. In the aftermath of the scandal, this traditionally Republican congressional seat was won by pro-abortion Democrat Tim Mahoney, a Methodist. Rooney is running for the GOP nomination against two present officeholders, but in spite of his newcomer status, he was named by Roll Call as an early favorite to win the nomination. Thus far, Rooney has raised far more money than his Republican opponents. I asked Rooney what kinds of difficulties face a pro-life, pro-family Catholic running for public office. "I look at it exactly the opposite," he responded. "I don't think I could run for office without my faith. It's very difficult to put yourself out there. Going to Mass on Sunday is a time for me to get stronger." Rooney is married to Tara, who was also an Army captain and JAG, and they have three small boys, ages six, four, and one. He told me his Catholic faith is something he has never doubted, never been tempted to fall away from. The Rooney family was always devout in its religious practices. "My grandfather [Art Rooney Jr.] attended daily Mass, and everywhere he went there was at least one priest walking with him. Any picture of him always had a priest in it. Whenever we went on road trips we would say the rosary all the way -- it was just the way it was, and it didn't feel weird at all. In addition to his father, Dan, and mother, Sandy, Rooney has four uncles, four brothers, two sisters, and 35 first cousins. Almost all of them have pitched in to help his campaign. Brother Brian has helped to craft the military message; Chris is volunteering full time at campaign headquarters; Pat has taken over the family business; and Joe helped with the campaign finances. When asked if his family connections have earned him criticism, Rooney replied, "There have been some negative comments, but I tell people if I couldn't raise money from my family it would be a much bigger negative." Money is also a major theme in Rooney's campaign. He opposes any new tax increases. "More taxes is un-American, it makes us less free. Congressman Mahoney is promising everybody in the District more money to fix their problems, which will raise their taxes." If elected, Rooney also wants to work with Democrats, especially those who are veterans, to reconsider the rules of engagement to fit with the kind of insurgency warfare being fought in Iraq. "We need to ask whether we are fighting this war the best way we can." Rooney knows this subject very well, having taught rules of war and rules of engagement at West Point for two years. He hears from former cadets via e-mail, worried that what they do in the war will get them court-martialed. Rooney is also concerned about illegal immigration. As a former assistant U.S. attorney, he wants a congressional mandate that local law enforcement be required to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when an illegal immigrant commits a felony. He thinks it's a travesty that there are hundreds of thousands of imprisoned illegal immigrants who will not be deported. "We should all be able to agree, if you have committed a felony you should not be permitted to stay." At the end of the interview, Rooney apologized for not emphasizing the social issues in our interview. "The pro-life cause is extremely important to me, and being a social conservative is just who I am." But the three issues he did emphasize -- taxes, immigration, and the military -- Rooney believes need immediate attention. "The future is very uncertain," Rooney explains, "but I believe what John Paul II taught: that we should 'be not afraid.' We should ask God for his help because he is a loving God, and we should never fear him." Tom Rooney belongs to the generation of "John Paul II Catholics," as I call them, who have answered the call to public service. Unlike the Catholic politicians of the last generation, most of whom ignored the Church on the key social and moral issues, Rooney would follow in the footsteps of the late Henry Hyde. Within a few years, if Catholic candidates like Tom Rooney are elected, the Catholic presence in Congress could go from majority pro-abortion to majority pro-life.
This week, Deal Hudson reviews his upcoming book: “Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States.”
Something is happening to the word "conservative" -- it's becoming, for lack of a better word, unfriendly. It started with the immigration debate back in 2005, when, for the first time in my adult life, I didn't identify with the conservative movement. I couldn't get on board with what I found to be mean-spirited hysteria over illegal immigration, a problem that had been largely ignored for 30 years. Now the word "conservative" is being used to bash John McCain. Yes, there are good reasons to find fault with McCain's conservatism, but to listen to talk-radio hosts, you would think McCain was Satan Incarnate. Perhaps they're using the opposition to McCain to build their audience, but I think it's having the opposite effect, as listeners like me switch channels to find more reasonable conversation (or simply the classical music channel). McCain won Super Tuesday in spite of the vitriol poured out against him on the airwaves -- capped off by a silly remark from the man who used to be the leader of the Religious Right, Dr. James Dobson, to the effect that he wouldn't vote at all if McCain were the GOP nominee. With Pat Robertson going for Giuliani and Dobson going for, well, Dobson, the Christian Right is badly in need of new leadership -- and, perhaps, the entire conservative movement as well. I fear that people are turned off by the word "conservative" these days because it's being used as a cudgel -- not just to point out differences of principle but also to settle old scores. There are numerous "inside the beltway" stories behind the antipathy for McCain that are not being told, stories that are being transposed into matters of "principle." Thus do many conservative leaders seek to inflict their personal grudges on the nation as a whole in the name of "conservatism." No doubt when you live in the political world of Washington you develop your likes and dislikes -- even, sorry to say, your hates -- but it should be a matter of principle that the personal stays personal, as difficult as that may be at times. The reasons McCain will probably become the nominee have as much to do with choices that were offered to the GOP as with the virtues of McCain himself. Romney only became the darling of conservatives when it became apparent that the McCain candidacy was suddenly and unexpectedly reborn. It may be that the McCain candidacy is the best thing that could happen to the GOP at the present moment -- it will allow some fresh air to blow through the party, and the conservatives in it, so that we will be forced to take notice of how we sound to the world at large. I'm not so sure that we conservatives have been sounding very congenial or, more importantly, convincing. As we enter the season of the general election we are facing a man who sounds the note of hope, a man who does not use anger as a rhetorical weapon: Barack Obama. If we make conservatism synonymous with angry denunciation, rather than reasoned and optimistic encouragement, we will lose the White House, and lose the battle for the protection of unborn life.