If we hope to build a culture of life and civilization of love we must always be willing to contend with those with whom we disagree.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Doug Kmiec, Professor of Law at Pepperdine University and former Dean of Catholic University School of Law, will soon be the United States Ambassador for the Catholic Nation of Malta. He has become a lightning rod among many for his support of the candidacy of now President Barack Obama.
The concerns have heightened with his continued defense of the President and the new administration in some very highly controversial appointments since the election. However, no one can doubt the academic or professional credentials of the new candidate to the Ambassadorship of that lovely Mediterranean island and Catholic nation just south of Italy.
I was one of those who went "toe to toe" with my colleague during the last hotly contested Presidential campaign in the United States of America. For me, it was never about my being an enthusiastic supporter of the other major candidate - I was not. It was about the threshold foundational concern that reveals the very heart of Catholic Social Justice thought, the inviolable dignity of every human life. This is the key to the whole social justice teaching of the Catholic Church. I contended then and now that it must also be the door through which we proceed in making every important voting decision.
The inviolable dignity of every human person at every age and stage is more than an issue for Catholics. It is the hermeneutic, the lens, through which our entire social justice analysis proceeds. After all, our call to give a preferential love for the poor in Catholic Social teaching is rooted in our absolute insistence on their human dignity as created in the Image of God. Our call to promote peace and always resist war is rooted in our recognition of the human dignity of even those whom we consider "enemies." Every procured abortion is the taking of an innocent human life, the life of our first neighbor in the first home, and an act of unspeakable evil.
The "Right to Life" is not some "single issue", it is the entire framework within which we are called to help build a just society. Allowing our positive law to continue to be used to protect the taking of any innocent human life as a "choice" and then placing the police power of the State behind such an evil act threatens the entire infrastructure of human rights.
The disagreement I had with Doug produced a series of contentious but always civil articles. It also became the source of much controversy. Some of those who agreed with my unqualified defense of the Right to Life became angry with me for continuing to engage the issues with Doug Kmiec. My very willingness to engage him even made me suspect to some.
Not only did I respect his intelligence but I knew the importance of sharpening our debate with his line of thinking, given the way I saw the election landscape. Now, in retrospect, the matter becomes even more urgent. If we hope to build a culture of life and civilization of love we must always be willing to contend with those with whom we disagree.
The title of Doug's book "Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama" led to my phrasing the question differently in several pieces I wrote as "Should a Catholic Support Him?" and then answering that question with a resounding "No." I did so precisely because of this threshold and foundational policy concern about human dignity as the baseline for all public policy considerations.
However, that absolute disagreement with him over his claim never ended our friendship. That is why I offer my congratulations to Doug Kmiec for his appointment and my prayers for his whole family in this transition. I am certain that his appointment will be confirmed.
Malta is a wonderful example of how the great teachings of the Catholic faith can infuse a culture with goodness. It is also the home of the Knights of Malta, champions of the Catholic Church whose defense of the faith is so critically important in this hostile age.
May the experience that Doug has in his diplomatic service on behalf of our Nation in that wonderful land lead him into the heart of that Church so that from that heart, he can truly go into the center of the world to effect real and substantial change.
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