To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY FATHER RICHARD JOHN NEUHAUS
Where to begin? Mr. Kmiec has a long
history of faithful public service and has been unapologetic in his witness to
the sanctity of human life. He has now become a voice for Catholics who wish to
back for president a candidate who has a long history of unqualified support
for the unlimited abortion license imposed by the Roe v.
Wade decision of 1973.
His effort to justify his position
as a faithful Catholic is, I believe, deeply confused.
Mr. Kmiec argues that we can’t rank
abortion as greater evil or a more pressing social and legal concern than
racism because they are both intrinsic evils. But Mr. Kmiec has misunderstood
the meaning of the term intrinsic evil, and the nature of our political moment.
That two actions are both
intrinsically evil tells us nothing about the relative gravity of each action.
Telling a lie is intrinsically evil. So is rape. They are not equally grave.
Except for instances such as perjury or libel, lying is not a crime.
Racism is an attitude that may lead
to acts we call racist. But nobody pertinent to our political life today
advocates racism or racist acts. The intentional killing of a member of the
human family — which is what happens in every abortion — is the most pressing
social justice question of our time. Mr. Kmiec’s candidate advocates an
unlimited right to abortion.
The question is that of justice for
unborn children. When one candidate supports the unlimited abortion license and
another wants the abortion question returned to the states, it is disingenuous
to suggest that they are equally pro-choice. And to say that the first
candidate’s position is closer to a Catholic understanding of subsidiarity is,
I am sorry to say, risible. Catholic teaching and the mandate of justice is
that all members of the human family, born and unborn, be protected in law. To
deny that protection is a grave injustice.
The candidate who would return the
abortion question to the states so that citizens working through their elected
representatives can enact laws protecting the unborn is, in taking that
position, pro-life. The candidate who, by supporting Roe v.
Wade, would deny to citizens that opportunity is pro-choice. It is a
great disservice to try to obfuscate such an obvious distinction.
As I am sure Mr. Kmiec knows, the
law also has a pedagogical function. As does the “bully pulpit” of the
presidency. Many people believe, wrongly, that if something is legal it is
morally acceptable. That is among the reasons why the Supreme Court is so
important in this discussion.
And that is among the reasons why it
makes a very big difference whether a president takes the position that
abortion is grave injustice or takes the position that abortion — including
partial birth abortion and the denial of care to a baby who survives the
abortion procedure — is a constitutional right.
As for the Court, Mr. Kmiec claims
that no justice believes that everyone has a right to life from the moment of
I have no reason to think that the
Catholic members of the Supreme Court dissent from the Church’s teaching on
that point. Does Mr. Kmiec? That the justices think there is a moral right to
life need not entail the conclusion that there is a constitutional right to
life. It seems that Justice Thomas does think there is such a constitutional
right. So Mr. Kmiec is simply wrong as a matter of fact.
Justice Scalia’s oft-stated position
is that the Constitution does not settle the abortion question one way or the
other. It therefore falls to the citizens, acting through the means provided by
this constitutional democracy, to decide what the law should be. Again, the
overturning or effective nullification of Roe v. Wade is a
major step toward achieving legal protection of the unborn and other endangered
members of the human family. (The lethal logic of Roe v.
Wade is extended, for example, to euthanasia.)
It is deeply regrettable that Mr.
Kmiec cites Archbishop Chaput’s 1976 support of President Carter, who endorsed Roe
v. Wade, as evidence that one can rightly support his preferred
candidate today. Archbishop Chaput can speak for himself, and he has, both on
the First Things website (May 20) and in his new book Render
Unto Caesar. He makes it unequivocally clear that he regrets that
1976 decision, which he rationalized at the time along lines very similar to
those now employed by Mr. Kmiec.
The archbishop says that he does not
believe there is a proportionate reason — a reason he will one day have to give
to the aborted babies — to justify support for a pro-choice candidate. Nor has
Mr. Kmiec indicated such a proportionate reason. Mr. Kmiec claims his candidate
wants to reduce the number of abortions by reducing the incidence of unwanted
pregnancy, and he will do that by encouraging “responsible sexual behavior.”
One may be permitted to point out that four decades of sex education, including
the massive promotion of contraception, has not been a great success in
reducing unwanted pregnancies or abortions.
I do not know what has prompted Mr.
Kmiec’s current advocacy, and I take him at his word that he has convinced
himself that his position is consonant with being a faithful Catholic.
The fact is, however, that, after
all the tortured reasoning and misrepresentation of the positions of others,
Doug Kmiec has put himself into the position of supporting for president a
candidate whose track record and publicly stated views represent the extreme
position of pro-abortion advocacy against the Church’s repeatedly stated teaching,
at the highest level of magisterial authority, respecting the moral and
political imperative to protect innocent human lives.
Father Richard John Neuhaus is editor in chief
the journal First Things.