Another One Bites The Dust
y Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
"Another one bites the dust.
Another one bites the dust.
And another one gone and another one gone.
Another one bites the dust.
Hey I'm gonna get you too.
Another one bites the dust".
I remember those driving words from the old rock and roll anthem by Queen. It was released in 1980, the year that I graduated from Law School. Little did I think back then I would call them to mind when a Catholic politician who was once pro-life, sold out. Yet, they came back to me upon hearing the sad news of just such an event.
I spent my first few years in the practice of law building my own law firm, trying to blend what I have always called my "two professions", the practice of law and the practice of my Catholic faith. Blending the two has led to an interesting career with many unique opportunities and an early and abiding interest in politics and policy.
In 1986 I was invited to serve as a Dean at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio. I had a long association with that wonderful Catholic school beginning when I followed my friend Fr Michael Scanlan to what was then the College of Steubenville,in 1974, after he became President.
I graduated from the College of Steubenville in 1977 with a degree in Philosophy and Theology. I was involved as a student leader and stayed in the Steubenville area to continue to help with "the mission". In 1980, I graduated with my J.D. from the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. I went to law school specifically because I wanted to be a part of the class action lawsuit that would one day be brought on behalf of all pre-born children wrongfully killed in the sanctuary of their mothers' womb.
Though I spent the first half of the eighties practicing law in my own firm, I went "in house" with the University so that I could be more fully involved in "ministry" and, in particular, in helping others to understand the implications of their faith on their political participation.
I was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in a working class home. I always believed that the Democrat party was the party of the "little guy", the voiceless and the underprivileged. Naturally, when I became politically active, I registered as a Democrat.
Back then, one of my heroes was the last of a now almost extinct breed, the Honorable Robert Casey, a pro-life Democrat. In 1986 he was the Governor of Pennsylvania. He still made me proud to be a Democrat. However, the party was quickly leaving me, and many like me, behind. I admired the candor and courage of a Republican named Ronald Reagan. He seemed different than my perception of Republicans and his vocal, unwavering commitment to the inalienable right to life inspired me.
I knew back then what I know even more profoundly now, after all these years of activism; a belief in the inviolable dignity of every human person at every age and stage is about more than ending abortion, though it involves that. It is about how one views the entire social order, human and civil rights, freedom and civic obligation. In short, it is a hermeneutic, a lens through which we inform our entire worldview, especially our obligation to social participation and human solidarity.
In September of 1987, a shockwave hit Presidential politics, Pat Robertson resigned from his ministry to pursue the Presidency of the United States. I vividly remember speaking to a mutual friend, Reverend Harald Bredeson (a stalwart in the early days of what was to be called the charismatic renewal and a wonderful Christian leader) concerning the news. I was quite excited. I told him that I admired Robertson's clear stance for life. Harald knew Pat very well and immediately got me on the phone with the candidate. I found myself suggesting that I head up something I was going to call "Catholic Democrats for Robertson"
Though I was invited to go to New Hampshire and campaign, I did not do so. I stayed in Steubenville. However, that initial contact with Pat Robertson would open up a relationship that would later grow and evolve into my move to Virginia in 1991 to lead and build the American Center for Law and Justice, a pro-life public interest law firm that he founded.
It was during my leadership of the ACLJ, that I would again encounter the heroism of Bob Casey. Still a registered Democrat (and a Catholic), I was heading a group founded by Pat Robertson (that certainly breaks some stereotypes) I was very excited that there was a growing momentum to form an exploratory committee to nominate Governor Casey for the Democratic nomination for President. I called to express my support!
I also remember his courageous effort to speak at the 1992 Democratic convention. He only asked for 20 minutes, whenever the Democrats wanted to schedule him, to present the case for being a pro-life Democrat. The answer was "no" I knew that the Democrat part of my youth had been co-opted. Or, perhaps, I simply did not know what was really going on.
It made no sense to me that the party that had billed itself as giving a voice to those who had none, failed to hear the cry of the poorest of the poor, the children in the first home of their mothers womb.
Now, years have gone by and I am, what I would call, a "reluctant" Republican. There is little choice for me anymore in Democratic politics. At least at the national level, there is no Bob Casey. He has gone home to be with the Lord whom he loved and served so well. His son, also a wonderful "pro-life Democrat", is still serving in public life and may emerge at the national level. Oh, there are voices such as my good friend, Ray Flynn, the former Mayor of Boston, former Ambassador to the Vatican and my successor at Catholic Alliance. I would love to see Ray run.
However, it seems that the current national leadership of the Democratic Party has never met an abortion it would restrict by law. However, there is something in me that is still saddened by this unavoidable fact. I just do not like the idea that either party takes the votes of people like me for granted.
I am not first Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. I simply try to be a faithful Catholic and inform my political participation by my faith. I think it would be wonderful if there were pro-life Democrats and pro-life Republicans. I would welcome the opportunity to vote for a true Democrat.
I guess that is why I was so distressed when the firebrand, Dennis Kucinich, announced his Presidential campaign and then sold out to his long standing pro-life position! This is the man who coined the great phrase "commodification of life" when he passionately opposed the intentional manufacture of human embryonic life for experimentation that always leads to destruction. I have used that phrase repeatedly giving him the attribution whenever I can and using him as an example of a courageous pro-life Democrat.
Another one bites the dust! I join the throngs of those who mourn his defection from the truth and pray that he returns to what he knows to be the truth. He was the kind of politician that I grew up with.
I was born in Massachusetts, I still have the "holy card" my mother gave me when President Kennedy was shot, with his picture and a prayer for the repose of his soul. I remember Ted Kennedy writing in 1971, while I was in High School: "The legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized -- the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old."
I fancied myself a "hippie back then and felt that one of the things that the predominantly Republican "establishment" didn't understand was that every life, no matter what stage, color or economic state, had inviolable and inalienable rights. I opposed the War in Vietnam back then for similar reasons.
Having grown up in a family that was passionately against racism of any kind, I admired Jesse Jackson and remember his comments: "It takes three to make a baby: a man, a woman and the Holy Spirit. What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have 20 years hence if life can be taken so casually?"
In 1998, while lobbying against partial birth abortion, I ran into Reverend Jackson in D.C. in an elevator and tried to ask him what ad happened. It did not go well.
The list of politicians who changed their mind on the pre-eminent human rights issue of our age is legion. It includes Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Dick Gephardt, and now, even Joe Lieberman.
However, what disturbs me the most are all the Catholics who have done so, most of whom are in the Democratic Party. Of all those in public life, they should know the truth and are bound by their baptism to stay faithful to that truth. This position on life is not simply a "religious" position, but a human rights position rooted in the natural law.
Pope John Paul II (The Gospel of Life, Par. 62):
"Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops--who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine--I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church."
Dennis Kucinich has now joined their ranks. He once had an admirably consistent pro-life voting record. He got it...or rather, it got him. In May of 2002 his press secretary stated: "He absolutely believes in the sanctity of life and that life begins at conception." Now, he announces his candidacy as a Democratic nominee for President and writes a letter to The Cleveland Plain Dealer stating "I don't believe in abortion; few do. I do, however, believe in choice."
In a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he adds: "I am going to continue to take a thoughtful approach, and that doesn't preclude the poor from having the government support their right to choose." Then he did the "apostate shuffle" with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press": "The position I'm taking now is an expansion; it's not a reversal,"
Dear Congressman, it IS a reversal. The truth must now be shouted from the housetops, "another one bites the dust". Another Catholic in public life has become unfaithful. This latest defection by this "practicing" Catholic is dangerous. Perhaps it touches upon one of the most dangerous situations in the political arena today--unfaithful Catholics failing to live a "unity of life".
In his letter to the Family, John Paul speaks of this unity of life:
"There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called 'spiritual' life with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called 'secular life', that is, life in a family, at work, in social relationships, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture."
In our service politically we are to be what the Bishops of the United States so aptly called "faithful citizens." We do not check what we know to be true like a coat at a restaurant when we enter a political campaign.
The scriptural adage is so relevant in this matter: "To those to whom much is given, much more will be required..."
As Catholic Christians we have been given the great gift of the "fullness of truth." That is not to make us haughty but humble. It also raises the water level, if you will. We are the most culpable.
We also have a "teaching office" ("Magisterium") that provides a sure guide for our faith. That teaching office, in keeping with the unbroken deposit of the Sacred Scripture and tradition for over 2,000 years, has repeatedly spoken on this writer's error. The excerpt from the Encyclical letter "the Gospel of Life" with which I began this piece is only one of a myriad of absolutely crystal clear pronouncements.
Equally clear is the direction to every Catholic in public life. If they fail to act in a manner consistent with this truth they are being unfaithful. When they lead others astray as to the clear teaching on this pre-eminent issue, they are committing scandal and actually jeopardize their own salvation.
A "Pro-Choice Catholic" is an unfaithful Catholic. Period.
And, while we must pray for their conversion to the truth concerning this preeminent human and civil rights issue of our age, we must also expose their error, oppose their efforts and propose the clear truth.
To be Catholic is to be Pro-Life. In fact it is to be what I call "Whole Life/Pro-Life." Our pro-life position is not about a single issue. It is a lens through which we view every issue!
The oratorical skills of unfaithful Catholics in public life must not be allowed to lead the faithful astray. Whether they are former governors, current senators or congressman running for President, when they claim that Catholics can hold a "Pro-life" position personally and a "pro-choice" position in the exercise of their civic obligations, they are absolutely wrong.
The following excerpts are only a sample of some of the wonderful words of just one encyclical letter concerning this issue.
It is entitled "The Gospel of Life"
*"The Gospel of life is not for believers alone: it is for everyone. The issue of life and its defense and promotion is not a concern of Christians alone. Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity. Life certainly has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone....
*...When the Church declares that unconditional respect for the right to life of every innocent person--from conception to natural death--is one of the pillars on which every civil society stands, she "wants simply to promote a human State. A State which recognizes the defense of the fundamental rights of the human person, especially of the weakest, as its primary duty".
*...The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.
*...There can be no true democracy without a recognition of every person's dignity and without respect for his or her rights.Nor can there be true peace unless life is defended and promoted.
*...To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others."
This unqualified and clear truth concerning the inviolable dignity of every human life is a part of the ordinary magisterium of our Church. It is infallibly taught and cannot be discarded by any faithful Catholic. To do so not only puts their own soul at risk, but when they encourage others to adopt such a position they commit an egregious sin called scandal.
There is a lot of talk about a "Catholic vote," again. But the problem is--there is none. Perhaps there never truly was in the sense of a fully informed and activated Catholic voice. Gone is the past demographic, rooted in the large cities with their ethnic neighborhoods, of a predictable blue-collar "Democrat" Catholic vote. Those days are over.
There is no real "Republican" Catholic vote either--in the sense of a Catholic rush to the G.O.P., no matter what some of our friends in engaged conservative evangelical political movements, or some Catholic pundits seek to tell the world. Catholics still worry about that party's "country club" image. Even though Catholics are socially "conservative," they do not consider themselves to be a part of the "religious right." I think that's why I never registered as a Republican--though I usually vote that way.
Don't get me wrong; it is possible that there could be a "new" Catholic vote built--and that is why I have agreed to help build "Your Catholic Voice." However, a lot of work has yet to be done on the popular level.
Until then, some Catholics are still wrongly listening to some of "their own" in public life. That is all too often a problem. The scandal caused by Catholic public officials who are openly unfaithful in applying the values informed by their faith to their exercise of public office is highly visible ... with a few noteworthy exceptions.
Fortunately, many other Catholics in public life (or running for office) are being faithful, recognizing that although Catholic social teaching covers a broad spectrum of concerns, there is a hierarchy of values. In politics there are many areas of prudential judgement, there are also areas where there is absolute crystal clarity. In the movement "Your Catholic Voice" we refer to them as our "four pillars" of participation, life, family, freedom and solidarity.
Here is a message to every candidate -you can tell us all you want that you care about the poor--but when you close the ears of your heart to the defenseless unborn, we don't believe you ... at least some of us!
The intrinsic evil of every procured abortion should compel (where there is a choice between candidates) all faithful Catholics to refrain from voting for someone who is unapologetically opposed to any protection of any unborn child from any procedure, or chemical, aimed at his or her demise.
Since both major party candidates now tow the same line in racing to promote the execution of capital offenders (even though bloodless means are available to protect the common good), there is often little choice on that issue.
But there is a crystal clear choice on the issue of the killing of the new holy innocents as they are partially delivered or allowing the use of chemicals against them in the womb or now, manufacturing "petri dish people" to experiment on them in a way that always ends their life.
Without the right to be born there are no other rights!
Faithful citizenship is the particular task of the lay faithful. As a deacon of the church, I am a member of the clergy. Though, I am not prohibited, as are priests, from openly expressing my position on these issues as a private citizen or from running for public office. (Though with what I have seen, I have so far run from public office!)
It is time to "shout it from the housetops"!
Any Catholic politician, no matter what their party affiliation, who fails to hear the cry of the ones whom Mother Theresa called "the poorest of the poor," the innocent pre-born children, is being unfaithful--to his or her baptism and to the obligation of faithful citizenship.
Catholic public servants who continue to confuse the faithful over these issues are engaging in reprehensible behavior. They should be exposed and opposed. Similarly, when a candidate for office supports the unrestricted right to abortion, every Catholic must reject him/her at the ballot box.
I will welcome the day when a Pro-life Democrat runs for the highest office in the land and holds on to that foundational commitment. Ironically, it may be the only hope for a party that once prided itself on concern for the poor and is now controlled by those who worship at the altar of self centered utilitarianism disguised as freedom. That party is losing members every day as it loses its soul.
Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, a Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia is the founder and president of "Common Good", a way, work, and movement dedicated to the conversion of culture. (http://www.commongoodonline.com) A constitutional lawyer, he founded "Lentz, Stepanovich and Fournier, P.L.C.", a law firm in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Long active in social, cultural and political participation, Fournier has served as a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist, the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice), an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes and has recently launched "Common Good Legal Defense Fund", an outreach of "Common Good". Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. Along with Michael and Sandy Galloway, he is a founder of "Your Catholic Voice" and serves as a features editor for Catholic Online.
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