According to the New York Times, the Obama campaign wants to find a way to reach out to Catholics at the Democratic convention in Denver. Obama has lost 26 points among Catholics in the last month, and now trails by 15 after getting trounced by Hillary Clinton in this demographic in the later primaries. In order to appease Catholics, Obama wants Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) to get a prime-time slot in Denver to show his inclusiveness — but Obama’s radical record on abortion will not get cover so easily:
Sixteen years ago, the Democratic Party refused to allow Robert P. Casey Sr., then the governor of Pennsylvania, to speak at its national convention because his anti-abortion views, stemming from his Roman Catholic faith, clashed with the party’s platform and powerful constituencies. Many Catholics, once a reliable Democratic voting bloc, never forgot what they considered a slight.
This year, the party is considering giving a speaking slot at the convention to Mr. Casey’s son, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who like his late father is a Roman Catholic who opposes abortion rights. …
Mr. Casey’s appearance would be an important signal to Catholics, especially those who follow church teachings and oppose abortion. Mr. Obama could also use his choice of a vice-presidential running mate to reassure Roman Catholics. Among those that his campaign is vetting is Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Roman Catholic whose faith has been part of his political identity. At least three other Catholics have also been mentioned as possible running mates: Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.
Although abortion is central to the political crosscurrents around Catholics — Ms. Sebelius has vetoed a number of bills that would restrict abortion rights in Kansas, prompting the archbishop of Kansas City to suggest that she stop receiving communion — part of Mr. Obama’s strategy is to emphasize that there are other issues on which they can base their votes. It would be a way to address the perception that Mr. Obama has a “Catholic problem.”
Quite obviously, the problem exists; it’s not just a perception. Obama lost the Catholic vote by 40 points to Clinton — which can be attributed to her targeting of working-class and suburban/rural voters in the Rust Belt — and has dropped dramatically this summer. Catholics used to comprise a healthy portion of the Democratic Party until the 1980s, when the party demanded lock-step support for abortion from all of its candidates. The snub of Casey Sr didn’t start the problem; it merely made it obvious to Catholics that their pro-life views were no longer welcome in the party.
Yet a significant number of Catholics continue to support Democrats, even pro-abortion candidates. I meet them in the parish and in my circle of friends. Most of them operate from the same kind of denial shown by Douglas Kmiec, who now supports Barack Obama after supporting Mitt Romney in the primaries. Kmiec makes his case to the Times:
Mr. Kmiec, a Republican who served in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, said he was supporting Mr. Obama because his platform met the standard of justice and concern for the poor the church has always defended. This year, Mr. Kmiec was denied communion by a priest at a gathering of Catholic business people because of his support for Mr. Obama. Mr. Kmiec said, “The proper question for Catholics to ask is not ‘Can I vote for him?’ but ‘Why shouldn’t I vote for the candidate who feels more passionately and speaks more credibly about economic fairness for the average family, who will be a true steward of the environment, and who will treat the immigrant family with respect?’ ”
Catholics who read the catechism already know the answer to that question. While the Church does teach that we should help the poor, respect the immigrant, and be good stewards of the environment, those are not core teachings of the Church. The protection of life, on the other hand, is a core teaching, and the catechism makes clear the absolute nature of that teaching:
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law …
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” “by the very commission of the offense,” and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
2322 From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a “criminal” practice (GS 27 § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life.
The Church does not impose excommunication for disrespecting immigrants or a failure to pursue “economic justice” (a phrase which never appears in the catechism). These could be sins and require confession and penance, but they do not rise to the level of excommunication. And note that the catechism teaches that any kind of “formal cooperation” of abortion incurs this penalty, which includes performing, acquiring, or facilitating abortion.
Where does Obama fall within this argument? He has fought limits on abortion, including — in one instance — a bill that would have required abortionists to save the life of fetuses born alive:
That is a tough standard for Mr. Obama, or any supporter of abortion rights, to meet. Republicans are gearing up campaigns to depict Mr. Obama as a radical on the question of abortion, because as a state senator in Illinois he opposed a ban on the killing of fetuses born alive.
Mr. Obama has said he had opposed the bill because it was poorly drafted and would have threatened the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that established abortion as a constitutional right. He said he would have voted for a similar bill that passed the United States Senate because it did not have the same constitutional flaw as the Illinois bill. Mr. Obama has opposed the federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortions for similar legal and constitutional reasons.
Not only does that put Obama on the radical Left on this issue, it puts him to the Left of his own party. Several Democrats supported the ban on partial-birth abortions, and thus far it has not been overturned for legal or constitutional reasons. Obama once famously called babies “a punishment“, and his track record on abortion earned him the endorsement of NARAL while Hillary Clinton still remained in the race.
Catholics can vote for whomever they want, of course. Many of them will vote for Obama, but in order to do so, they have to reject the catechism and ignore the Church’s teachings on abortion. A Bob Casey speech won’t convince Catholics who follow those teachings and understand the core nature of the need to protect human life. Obama would do better by arguing that abortion is more or less irrelevant to the presidency, but given his ability to appoint pro-choice judges who will work to find more emanations from penumbras to justify the “right” to abortion, that’s almost as bad of an argument in this race.
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