National Catholic Register

Opinion

The Tragedy of Joe Lieberman

French author Charles Baudelaire wrote “The Generous Gambler.”

BY the Editors

August 20-26, 2006 Issue | Posted 8/21/06 at 10:00 AM

 

French author Charles Baudelaire wrote “The Generous Gambler.”

In the story, the protagonist sells his soul to the devil and is promised “gold, diamonds and fairy palaces” in return. Later, he begins to doubt that the father of lies will come through. So he prays, “God, please make the devil keep his promises.”

The story came to mind as U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman lost his re-election bid in Connecticut’s Democratic primary.

Lieberman is a true Democrat and, in many ways, an honorable man. He’s a man of real faith — he’s Jewish — and Catholics have been delighted by much in his career.

Lieberman has been a voice of morality when others were too cowardly to speak up. He denounced the violent and pornographic content entertainment corporations pump out in CDs, movies and television. That was a particularly difficult stance: The corporations he took on are among the most powerful players in American big business, and they pour money into Democratic Party coffers each election cycle.

 He also famously rebuked President Bill Clinton for seducing a White House intern, using her for sex, then covering up his offense by perjury. It was courageous to rebuke a president so wildly popular among members of his party.

When he first ran for the Senate in 1988, met with Hartford Archbishop John Whealon and pledged to vote pro-life. The Washington Times quoted Father Thomas Berry, who worked for the archbishop, saying Lieberman “expressed himself against abortion, all suicide and euthanasia. His position on that definitely was well received by the archbishop and priests.”

It’s no wonder Catholics were shocked when the senator not only voted in full support of abortion, but voted to protect partial-birth abortion. That’s the procedure in which a doctor punctures the skull of a child who is being born, then completes what has become a still-birth.

Many politicians vote reflexively with an eye to personal gain and give little thought to the morality of legislation. Not Joe Lieberman. He is a careful thinker known for his independence. Lieberman took to the Senate floor to note his qualms with partial-birth abortion. But then he vowed to protect it anyway, saying, “I will do so with a growing personal anxiety that something very wrong is happening in our country.”

Cardinal John O’Connor wrote to Lieberman, whom he called “a wonderful man in many respects,” to tell him he was “terribly distressed” by Lieberman’s support of partial-birth abortion. Rabbis like Yechiel Eckstein also signaled their disapproval. One rabbinical court excommunicated him.

But Lieberman didn’t back down. He would go on to vote many times to keep the procedure legal. The reason seemed obvious: He needed the support of abortion activists to win Democratic primaries.

Fast forward to 2006. Joe Lieberman faced the toughest primary battle in his 18-year Senate career. After he built a radically pro-abortion voting record — distancing himself from his own religious roots to do so — you would think that abortion supporters would go all out for Lieberman against Ned Lamont.

Not so. Connecticut’s grassroots abortion activists didn’t just fail to support Lieberman — they worked hard to see him defeated.

The state’s National Organization of Women PAC was one of the first to back Lieberman’s opponent. The cream of the crop of Connecticut pro-abortion activists got together to found Connecticut Choice Voice and seek the defeat of Lieberman.

Why did they do it? It’s hard to say. Some have said it was Lieberman’s support for the war in Iraq — but John Kerry also campaigned and voted for the war before changing his tune, and the same groups supported him in the presidential election.

Whatever the reason for their betrayal of him, Lieberman has found what Baudelaire’s protagonist found. You never truly gain when you give away your soul.

Joe: We know you are running as an Independent against two pro-abortion candidates. Catholics would love to support you, but we can’t.  We remember the old adage “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

However, we also believe in redemption. If you were to introduce substantive pro-life legislation and repudiate your pro-abortion mistakes, Catholics could support that position. Why not? The abortion supporters you counted on are busy hounding you out of your job.

Joe, we both believe in the God who said “Thou shalt not kill.” Let’s make common cause, together, in Him. He always keeps his promises.