The signers charged the House Speaker, himself a Roman Catholic, with ignoring “the teachings of your Church on matters of faith and morals as they relate to governance.” They said the speaker's voting record was “at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings,” regarding the obligations of “those in power” toward the poor and vulnerable.
But this form of faith-based protest has opened up Schneck to criticism over his own approach to the Church's social teaching.
Professor Schneck is a member of the board of directors at Democrats for Life, an organization he describes as “fundamentally and wholly concerned with trying to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
He is also a board member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. That organization has received funding from George Soros' Open Society Institute, which promotes abortion as a “reproductive right.”
Catholics in Alliance typically backs Democratic policies, presenting abortion as an issue that should be addressed by ending poverty. In 2009, Schneck joined a “Catholics for Sebelius” initiative, supporting an Obama nominee whose bishop told her not to receive Communion over her abortion record.
In his interview with CNA, Schneck said he saw the work of Democrats for Life and Catholics in Alliance as complementary.
“I feel like it's both/and,” he said. “I belong to an organization whose primary focus is advancing Catholic social thought, as well as an organization whose primary focus is to end abortion on demand. I don't see these, somehow, as really separate.”
“They're both going about it in slightly different ways – but I don't see them as working in opposition, but actually as working in tandem to build this culture of life.”
Schneck opposes the Democratic Party's commitment to legal abortion, a principle made explicit in the party platform. “That's not where I am,” he said, “and surprisingly, many other Democrats are with me.”
He would “like to turn the Democratic Party in a direction where it's much more supportive of what we're trying to accomplish.”
Schneck pointed out that Democrats for Life had spoken out “many times” against the party's abortion commitment. But he acknowedged that “Catholics in Alliance hasn't, so much.”
That's because, Schneck said, “it is more concerned with what are generally thought of as Catholic social thought issues – more concerned with issues like poverty and a living wage, and collective bargaining, those sorts of things.”
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“I think that it would be nice if all of our groups embraced the whole range of Catholic social teaching, especially as it relates to the dignity of the human person,” he said.
But “for reasons of practicality,” he says it “makes sense for some groups to focus primarily on the issue of ending abortion on demand, and other groups to focus on the environment or anti-poverty programs.”
When asked whether he thought pro-life Democrats had done an adequate job confronting former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on abortion, Schneck said it was a “fair question” and promised to “do my best” in the future.
Pelosi's 2007 commencement address at the Catholic University of San Francisco was not accompanied by a public protest akin to the Boehner letter.
Professor Stephen Krason, a political scientist at Franciscan University of Steubenville and President of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, disagrees with Schneck's stand against Boehner.
Krason personally identifies himself politically as “neither left, nor right, but Catholic.” He told CNA on May 24 that Schneck's letter to Boehner mistakenly identified Catholic teaching with leftist politics.