Doug Kmiec Writes President Obama: 'Friendship Will Not Permit Me to Disregard Duty to Faith and Country'
Catholics are called to form their consciences in accordance with what is true and then to act morally, that is to act in accordance with that truth.
Doug Kmiec convinced many Catholics to elect President Barack Obama and received an ambassadorship to Malta. He also became a lightning rod in the Catholic community and beyond. I have not heard from him since he resigned his ambassadorship. That is until last weekend. His letter to the President is worthy of note.
WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - During the last US Presidential campaign, one name stood out among those Catholics who supported the candidacy of then Senator, now President, Barack Obama; Doug Kmiec.
A constitutional lawyer, Doug was known as a defender of the fundamental Human Right to Life. A former Dean of Catholic University's Law School, Doug was also heralded as a defender of the first freedom of religious freedom. He went on to hold the prestigious Caruso Family Chair in Human Rights at Pepperdine University.
Yet, that same Doug Kmiec became an outspoken supporter of the candidacy of Barack Obama. He did much more; he became the leading "apologist" of sorts, attempting to convince other Catholics to support the candidate. He did so in the face of candidate Obama's expressed opposition to defending the Rights of our first neighbors in the womb.
Doug wrote a book entitled "Can a Catholic Support Him?" In the afterward of the book he wrote: "Barack Obama has my vote. Your only duty is to cast your own in good conscience. As a Catholic and as an American, you may do so in perfect freedom. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise".
Make no mistake; that was a moral claim. It used phrases like "good conscience" and "perfect freedom", which speak to the morality of human action and the acting person. However, consciences are "good" when they are properly formed in the truth which then leads the person to do what is good. Freedom "perfects" a human person only when it is exercised in accordance with the truth and furthers what is truly good.
Doug and I jousted over his decision and the rationale he used. In one of our long series of back and forth articles and correspondence, he expressed irritation with my efforts with this comment, "To just engage in systematic theology or philosophic discourse loses sight of the unborn children, we might actually - right now, this day -- save by improving the life circumstance of expectant mothers."
It seemed a bit odd to me. After all, Doug was presented by the supporters of Barrack Obama, precisely to try to make a theological, philosophical and allegedly "moral" argument for voting for Obama. Doug was the intelligent "Catholic scholar" they hoped would help them to win more Catholics to the Obama candidacy.
They had a serious "Catholic problem" because their candidate has absolutely promised to sign the so called "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA) into law as soon as he was elected. Doug attempted in that book to make a "moral" analysis. Namely, how one could determine whether an action, in this instance, voting, is moral when the end result will be to entrench "legal" abortion in American law and make all efforts to limit it even more difficult.
He made a great deal of asserting that in voting for a candidate who supported an intrinsic evil (in that instance abortion) he did not "intend" to support that position. So, the real question became whether an intention can change the morality of an act?
Doug argued the concept of proportionality. However, the concept of proportionality he thought he was articulating was more akin to the error of "proportionalism". The Catholic Catechism puts the issue quite clearly, "There are certain kinds of behavior that are always wrong to choose, because choosing them involves a disorder of the will".
Our particular "intentions" must be in accord with reason. Reason itself rightly understood must be in accord with the good. St Paul addressed the early Christians in Rome concerning the implications of misusing the concept of intention in the process of making moral choices. He cautioned them about an errant approach which seeks to argue that evil may be done as long as there is a good intention. "There are those who say: And why not do evil that good may come? Their condemnation is just' (Rom 3:8)
Catholics are called to form their consciences in accordance with what is true and then to act morally, that is to act in accordance with that truth. This is what true freedom is all about.Freedom has consequences. Our choices not only change the world around us, but they make us to be the kinds of persons we become. The very capacity to make choices is what makes us truly human. What we choose either humanizes us further or leads us into slavery.
Our capacity to choose reflects the "Imago Dei", the Image of God, present within every human person. As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their document on the Mission of the Church in the Modern World, "Authentic freedom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image within man." (Gaudium et Spes, "Joy and Hope", Par. 17)
Shortly after Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was installed as Pope Benedict XVI, he addressed an assembly of families and coined a phrase that was heard around the world, "anarchic freedom": "Today's various forms of dissolution ...
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