Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

9/20/2008 (6 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Doug Kmiec asks the wrong question. The proper question is not "can" but "should". The word "can" addresses the issue of capacity and ability. "Should" examines the morality of that choice, what is our duty?

Doug Kmiec's book and support for Senator Barrack Obama has caused strong reactions in the Catholic and broader Christian community. His new book is likely to fan the fires.

Doug Kmiec's book and support for Senator Barrack Obama has caused strong reactions in the Catholic and broader Christian community. His new book is likely to fan the fires.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/20/2008 (6 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - On Wednesday I received a personal copy of my friend Doug Kmiec's latest book entitled "Can a Catholic Support Him?" The book is subtitled "Asking the Big Question about Barrack Obama". I appreciate being mentioned in his Acknowledgement of the book with these words "Deacon Keith Fournier's writing and editing of Catholic Online is courageous and wise". So, I write this review to be faithful, to a friendship I value, to the claim in the acknowledgment of this book and to the truth. Doug asks the wrong question. The proper question is not "can" but "should". The word "can" addresses the issue of capacity and ability. Any Catholic can exercise their right to vote in any manner in which they choose. The Church to which Doug and I both belong does not tell people how to vote, in the sense of which candidate to choose. "Should" on the other hand examines the morality of that choice given our obligation to exercise our freedom with reference to the truth.In short, what is our duty? Sadly, in his argumentation in this book, Doug confuses or conflates the two. It is on this that I completely disagree with Doug Kmiec and am compelled to make that disagreement widely known.

Our Catholic faith proclaims the existence of a profound body of Moral teaching, a subset of which is called "Catholic Social Teaching". At its foundation is the insistence that every human life has an inviolable dignity and must be protected against unjust aggression from conception, through every age and stage of life, up to and including natural death. This is not a single "issue" but a framework through which all moral considerations and the positive law itself must be viewed. Human rights, indeed freedom itself, are goods of the human person, not free floating concepts. They require human persons to both receive them and to exercise them. Catholic Moral teaching is also rooted in an affirmation of the existence of a Natural Law which is knowable by all men and women because it is written on the human heart. This is the basis of the very hierarchy of rights which Doug Kmiec has spent his career attempting to espouse and train others to serve. To the believer, this Natural law is understood to be a participation in the Divine Law and is further expounded upon by Revelation. However, its existence is an objective reality and does not require one to have any religious belief. It is also binding on all men and women. For example, it is always and everywhere wrong to take innocent human life and it is always and everywhere wrong to kill our neighbor (outside of a legitimate exercise of self defense). Ascribing to these truths does not require one to be a religious believer. In fact they form the very core of Western positive law and the Jurisprudence which it has birthed.

Voting, like any human action, involves an ordering toward an end. Doug attempts in this little book to explain the morality of human action but does so incorrectly and inadequately. I ask my readers to examine the section entitled the "Morality of Human Acts" in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Par. 1749 -1761) and Doug Kmiec's short treatment on Page 135 of his little book. Better yet,read the Servant of God John Paul II's Encyclicals entitled "The Gospel of Life" and "the Splendor of Truth" and then consider Doug Kmiec's approach to analyzing the morality of a human act. Doug is at best misinformed, at worst, teetering on serious error. It is immoral to vote in a manner which fails to protect innocent human persons from being unjustly killed. This is what occurs in every procured abortion, human persons are killed. It is immoral to vote in a manner that fails to include all of the poor, including children in the first home of the whole human race (their mothers womb) within the obligation we owe to one another in solidarity. Doug and his candidate are right to emphasize that we are our brother's (and sister's) keeper, but wrong to then exclude an entire class of brothers and sisters, the unborn, from the protections of the positive law. Doug contends that the choice he promotes in this book is morally acceptable. He asserts that both major Party candidates for the Presidency are actually not Pro-Life and are in favor of the current approach to abortion. Therefore he maintains he can make what he argues is a prudential judgment as to which pro-abortion candidate he supports. He even tries to borrow the excellent refutation of the analysis he offers, the recent letters of Archbishop Charles Chaput and Francis Cardinal George, to try to support his claim. This is sophistry.

Doug maintains that Senator McCain's position in favor of the overturning of Roe v Wade is simply a "Federalist position" and not a truly Pro-life stance. He argues (contrary to his own past claims) that the reversal of Roe v Wade will not really affect the state of the current law protecting abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy as a "right". He confuses position with application. John McCain's quick response to Pastor Rick Warren's question on when human rights attach to human persons ("at conception"), as well as his pro-life record, demonstrate that his position is Pro-life. He recognizes that the neighbor in the womb is a human person. Yet, he is a Federalist and believes that the decision to outlaw the killing should be returned to the States, that is application. I favor a Constitutional Amendment protecting the inalienable Right to Life and recognizing the personhood of our first neighbor.I am an abortion abolitionist. However, as an officer of the Court like Doug, I know that the reversal of Roe opens up the field to securing protection of the children and will at least slow the shedding of innocent blood while we work on outlawing the act. I think he does as well but has backed himself into a corner.Doug's candidate promises to sign the "Freedom of Choice Act" as soon as he is sworn in to office. This will ensure the continued failure to recognize the child's right to life. The best his candidate has to offer is a comment that abortion is a "moral issue". His responses at the Saddleback forum on this issue were abysmal. As to the so called "changes" in the Democratic platform and his candidate's comments on the need to decrease the number of abortions, it is meaningless in light of his stated position. Doug and I used to agree that Senator McCain was wrong on his support of stem cell research. After all, every so called "extraction" of stem cells from a human embryo takes a human life. But now it appears that Senator McCain is beginning to recognize this and is moving closer to consistency. His candidate is not.

Finally, throughout this little book Doug vacillates between acknowledging the existence of objective moral truths which should govern human behavior and contending that someone could deny their existence, claim that such a denial is a "deeply held religious belief" and we should form our positive law to accommodate them under some misguided understanding of religious liberty and pluralism. Doug, what if a group insisted that children were not persons until they were able to walk? After all, they maintained, mobility is what makes them truly autonomous and therefore "persons". What if they also claimed that their position was a deeply held religious belief? Would you make the same argument? Well, the argument you now defend, that the child in the womb can be killed, without any protection against this objective violation of the Natural Law, is effectively the same argument. How can you take solace in the Senator from Illinois saying that he believes this type of killing is a "moral issue" but continuing to insist on calling it a "right"?

These two arguments are repeatedly presented in this little book as if repetition makes them more acceptable. It does not. Along with them we read Doug's story of being wrongly denied communion, his story of how he came to admire and support Barrack Obama and the other articles he has written in the past trying to justify his endorsement. I refuse to join those who personally attack Doug or question the sincerity of his Catholic faith. I do however vehemently disagree with him. I just found out that he will soon speak all over the Country trying to persuade other Catholics and other Christians to his position. I know that Catholics can be wrong; witness Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Joe Biden as only two recent examples. However, I really did not expect Doug Kmiec to join with them in incorrectly stating the position of our Church. Doug and I became friends partly through conversations over policy issues. He knows I could never be accused of being what he now rejects as a "Religious Faith Partisan" (RFP's). Like him, I might be considered a "Reagan Democrat", at least in the sense that I left the Democratic Party when it abandoned children in the womb and I voted for Ronald Reagan. For me, the last great authentic Democratic candidate was Governor Bob Casey, a truly Pro-life, Pro-freedom, Pro- Marriage and family, Pro-Poor and Pro-Peace candidate. His courageous "Compact for Care", had it been adopted by the Democratic Party, would have changed the history of that Party and of our Nation.I am a Catholic who believes in Catholic Social teaching. I maintain that the principles it offers, if applied, would bring about an authentically just society. The problem is that many Catholics do not know the Social teaching of their Church or have wrongly allowed "experts" on the "left" or the "right" to interpret what it is for them. Sadly, Doug has now joined them in this book, offering another incorrect and incomplete presentation of Catholic Social teaching.

My efforts to apply Catholic Social teaching to my own exercise of political participation have placed me, at times, outside of the realm of acceptability in both major political parties. They have elicited negative reactions from the so called "right", the so called "left" and many others in between. For example, my opposition to capital punishment has not found an ear in the leadership of either major political party in the US. My opposition to the initial foray into Iraq as having been unjustified under any interpretation of the so called "just war theory", placed me in opposition to "neo-cons" on the "right" and "left". It even placed me on the other side of this issue from Doug Kmiec, at least initially. I have expressed concerns over a market economy which places profits over people, families and the common good, noting that it can devolve into economism or what the late Servant of God John Paul II rightly called "savage capitalism". This position has evoked some of the most rancorous responses. However, the recent events on Wall Street and the domino effects in the global markets have simply proven that the danger not only exists but threatens true freedom.

I have opposed what is sometimes called "libertarianism" in American politics, contending it is antithetical to Catholic social thought. I understand there are types of "libertarianism" which have grown up in the American political climate which would cause some proponents to take exception to this claim. However, the two theories begin with two entirely different reference points in their "anthropology" (understanding of the nature of the person) and their vision of freedom. Libertarianism is individualist and atomistic in its definition of 'freedom", viewing government as some kind of necessary evil and basing social relationships on a kind of Hobbesian contract. Catholic social thought positions freedom within a vision of the human person as naturally (and supernaturally) created (and recreated in Christ) for communion. It asserts that governing is a part of our relational identity. Truly good governance begins with the smallest governance, the family and should give priority to the principle of subsidiarity. We were made for one another and we find our human fulfillment only in giving ourselves to the other. Then there is that other vital principle, a principle of social charity called solidarity, which insists that we are "our brothers (and sisters) keeper".

Doug and I shared a common frustration with an approach in some circles to equate "Republican" or "Conservative" with Catholic. He had read my efforts to remind people that "Catholic is the noun". I was intrigued by his efforts to propose ideas more in keeping with Catholic social thought. However, I never expected he would fail to oppose another unjust war, the war on the womb. That is the effect of his endorsement. His candidate is an abortion Hawk. Medical science has confirmed what our conscience has told us all along, the child in the womb is one of us, a human person and, our neighbor. We should not allow the continued prosecution of this unjust war on children in the womb. In his well written introduction to this book Martin Sheen credits Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day's influence on his own Pro-Life and Pro-Peace position. Yet, both opposed abortion without any hint of compromise.I would welcome an opportunity to meet Martin Sheen. He seems to be one of the last consistent liberals.

It was Mother Teresa, whose anniversary we recently commemorated, who said it so clearly: "America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts -- a child -- as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign."

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

California lawmakers run to the aid of communities suffering the worst in drought Watch

Image of The new legislation focuses on obtaining federal funding to get costly water projects off the ground. Feinstein and Boxer's bill pinpoints 26 promising desalination projects in California.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the record-breaking California drought stretches into its fifth year, lawmakers are passing legislation intended to help the communities hardest hit by water shortages. California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have both introduced emergency drought ... continue reading


Why two religious Republican presidential candidates weren't invited to a major Christian event Watch

Image of The reason is not as controversial as many speculated.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Some were left puzzled as to why two Southern Baptist presidential candidates from the GOP were left out of a major Christian event; the reason was not as bad as some speculated. According to the official statement from the organizers of the event, the two candidates ... continue reading


Judge threatens to hold IRS chief John Koskinen in contempt for failing to turn over Lerner emails Watch

Image of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was threatened with contempt charges by a federal judge this week.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was threatened with contempt charges by a federal judge this week. Koskinen failed to produce, by decree, newly recovered emails of former IRS official Lois Lerner. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan had ordered the IRS at ... continue reading


Mitch McConnell says he will wipe out Obamacare with simple 51-vote majority Watch

Image of In the waning days of President Barack Obama's presidency, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is vowing to overthrow his signature legislation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In the waning days of President Barack Obama's presidency, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is vowing to overthrow his signature legislation. Health care reform, better known as "Obamacare" has been a cause of disagreement with conservatives and ... continue reading


Moves made to oust John Boehner from Speaker of the House position Watch

Image of Rep. Mark Meadows [not pictured] declared his intention a day before the House was set to leave town for its five-week summer recess. Described as a rare procedural move, it's by far the most serious expression of opposition to Boehner's [pictured] speakership.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Many of his fellow conservatives and Republicans were taken by surprise when North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said he was trying to oust Speaker John Boehner. Many say it's a bad idea, coming just before August recess. Others say such a move could plunge the House of ... continue reading


Ivana Trump hotly denies that ex-husband Donald Trump ever raped her Watch

Image of Ivana Trump, the former wife of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has denied claims that he ever raped her.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Ivana Trump, the former wife of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has denied claims that he ever raped her. "I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald. The story is ... continue reading


HILLARY LIED! Inspector General says personal emails contained classified information Watch

Image of Only allowed to review a sample of 40 out of the total of 30,000 emails from Hillary Clinton's private email server, four of those emails contained classified information.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hillary Clinton's personal email account "contained classified information when they were generated," "remain classified today" and "should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system." Those are the findings of the U.S. Intelligence ... continue reading


GLOVES ARE OFF: Donald Trump denounces Bush, Walker and Clinton as being beholden to donors Watch

Image of Speaking east of Des Moines, Donald Trump was most concise in his attack upon Walker. Criticizing the Wisconsin governor's handling of his state's economy, Trump accused him of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

At a "free-wheeling" press conference, GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump says he is putting no cap into the money he is going to pour into his campaign. A self-made billionaire in real estate, Trump denounced Republican candidates Jeb Bush and Scott ... continue reading


Nuns vs. Obama: Obama Administration refuses to exempt Little Sisters of the Poor from regulation forcing them to distribute birth control Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The national debate over the Affordable Care Act is heating up. A Romantic Catholic group of nuns, who manage a nursing home around the world called the Little Sisters of the Poor, continue their fight against the law's debatable contraceptive mandate. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading


Millions upon Millions of United Kingdom aid money funneled to the Clintons Watch

Image of The Clinton Health Access Initiative spends its funds on improving the treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in the developing world, such as in Africa and Southeast Asia.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Influential people, falling sway to a former United States president - and his wife, with eyes on the White House, it was learned that tens of millions of pounds of United Kingdom aid money has been siphoned through charities linked to Hillary Clinton. LOS ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37
1 Yahweh spoke to Moses and said:4 "These ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 81:3-4, 5-6, 10-11
3 blow the trumpet for the new month, for the full ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:54-58
54 and, coming to his home town, he taught the people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 31st, 2015 Image

St. Ignatius Loyola
July 31: St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter