Monday, September 21, 2009

Kmiec Fundamentally Misses the Point

Source: - Catholic, pro-life, pro-Obama

(Previous writings on Kmiec can be found HERE)

Doug Kmiec may indeed believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church.  He may even believe himself to be pro-life.  However, in this interview with the Times of Malta, Doug Kmiec shows he is profoundly missing the point about what it means to faithfully carry out the teachings of the Church.

The article tells us of Kmiec's experience:

Prof. Kmiec was invited to a meeting in Chicago of faith leaders, where many people were opposed to Mr Obama on several matters "including myself on the question of how the life issue should be handled".

He says Obama opened this meeting in a remarkable way, saying: "Alright, give me as good as you've got. Give me your best arguments. I know there is disagreement but I want to see whether there is source for common ground."

By the end of the meeting, Prof. Kmiec says, everyone realised that this was a man of humility, great intelligence and capable of listening.

"These were qualities I believed were much need in America in the Oval Office. I believe I saw some of those same qualities in Ronald Reagan in a different time, with a different emphasis," he says.

Even though there were areas of disagreement, Mr Obama pointed out the responsibility of government to provide a family wage, to care for the environment and to provide healthcare for the uninsured.

"When I thought about all these things, I thought 'this is my catechism come to life' because we are called to each of these things in the social teachings of the Church."

I would like to point out Kmiec's fatal flaw here.  The fact that Obama may have some ideas on health care and family wages which are similar to the Catholic teaching (we can validly dispute that his ways are the right ways of course) does not mean Obama the candidate holds the Catholic position.

The Catholic Church has consistently taught that it is the right to life which is fundamental here… that if the right to life is neglected, these other rights are meaningless and can be easily taken away.  Obama may use rhetoric which sounds nice, but his deeds are something else altogether.

Another area he fundamentally misses the role of government comes here:

He recalls how he told Mr Obama during the campaign: "How can you allow someone to terminate another person's life? What moral authority do you have for that?"

Mr Obama replied: "Well, professor, not everyone sees life beginning in the same way. The Methodists see it differently, the Jewish faith in part sees it differently." And he went through the list, Presbyterians and so forth.

"If I am elected President," he told Prof. Kmiec, "I am President of all these people."

It's a nice platitude, but when one thinks of it, it is not only worthless but dangerous.  Let us envision a nation which consists of a large Nazi minority and a large Stalinist minority.  Under the platitude Obama offered Kmiec, a president of such a country would have to tolerate their views as well, even if those views brought harm to another.

The fact is some beliefs are not only wrong but evil, and the fact that people support them does not give the political leader the right to tolerate that evil.  If Obama does believe that abortion is evil, then he has a moral obligation to oppose that evil.

Truth is not decided by vox populi vox dei ("The voice of the people is the voice of God").  If one man imposes a just law, it is to be followed even if 99% of the population dissent.  If 99% of the population support an evil law, it remains no law and must be opposed.

Obama's failure to recognize this is his failure as a leader.  Kmiec's failure to recognize the falsity of the statement is a failure in understanding Catholic teaching.

A third fundamental failure on the part of Kmiec comes from this telling bit:

Prof. Kmiec says Mr Obama told him that he views abortion as "a moral tragedy" and that there were two ways of addressing it. There is the law in which people who involved themselves in this procedure would be subject to a penalty. The Supreme Court has put that off limits.

The other way is to do something about it and look at what causes people to have an abortion.

Mr Obama asked Prof. Kmiec: "What would cause a mother to contemplate taking the life of a child? It has to be something awful. It has to be a woman without shelter, without insurance, without the next meal on the table."

Prof. Kmiec admits that this approach to abortion is not the ideal solution, saying that poverty or not being married is no excuse to take the life of a child. However, he believes one should be realistic about the problem and if the abortion rate could be reduced - and some studies point out that tackling poverty could lead to fewer abortions - "this seems to me a good interim step".

This is the false dilemma which Kmiec employed during the campaign.  In arguing that neither candidate was "really" pro-life, he portrayed pro-lifers as solely working to end Roe v. Wade and tried to contrast that as a futile gesture compared to the Obama way.

The problem is that pro-lifers aware of Church teaching recognized that we must do both: oppose the legal sanction of abortion and support those in crisis pregnancies.  Obama's policies are like supporting a campaign to reduce teenage drunk driving… and then lowering the drinking age to sixteen.

His policies of economic support have yet to work, but the work for life is continually being weakened by the Obama administration.  Conscience protection is gone, under the promise to be "replaced with a better one."  Catholic Hospitals have felt the beginning of coercion to permit contraceptive and abortifacient procedures.

This then is Kmiec's problem.  He believes Obama will do more for life, but his assumptions are based on a fundamentally flawed view of what the Church requires.

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