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A Watershed Moment

April 27, 2009

Deal Hudson has apparently declared the reaction against Obama’s invitation to Notre Dame to be a “watershed moment”. He’s right, but not for the reasons he thinks. As the dust settles and we can observe the reaction to Notre Dame’s invitation with an element of dispassion, it becomes clear that the cheapening and dumbing-down of right-wing discourse over the past 20 years or so has now been fully integrated into Catholic discourse, and this will have dire consequences for the culture– both the political culture and the all-important culture of life. This is the point I wish to argue in this post.

When Obama was elected, the ferocity of the opposition among the Catholic right took me a little by surprise. This is a man whose views on abortion, while indefensible, are nonetheless fully in line with Bill Clinton and the vast majority of Democrats as well as  a  good chunk of Republicans. Since the election, he has restored the abortion status quo to the Clinton years. He has permitted public funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research, but he applied the exact same safeguards approved by the Clinton administration in 2000, but never implemented — basically, a prohibition on creating life to destroy it. 

And yet he is dubbed, so commonly in right-wing Catholic circles and across the me-too Catholic blogosphere as the “most pro-abortion president ever.” Huh? I fail to see how he is more “pro-abortion” than Clinton. And if you really want to get into it, how about Ronald Reagan? After all, this is a man whose liberalization of abortion laws in California paved the way for abortion on demand and the Roe decision, a man whose public opposition to abortion was backed up neither by his supreme court nominees nor his social policies  — and remember, the Declaration on Procured Abortion deems policies to mitigate abortion as important as penal sanctions (it is no accident that the steepest drop in abortion rates took place during Clinton’s two terms).

Oh, sure, there are the apocalyptic posts about Obama’s true intentions, but therein lies the danger. As I have noted many times on this blog, the political right decided to adopt a strategy of “total war” against that to which it was opposed. As Sam Tanenhaus put it, the tactics seemed almost Marxist, and that “movement politics most clearly defines itself not by what it yearns to conserve but by what it longs to destroy–”statist” social programs; “socialized medicine”; “big labor”; “activist” Supreme Court justices, the “media elite”; “tenured radicals” on university faculties; “experts” in and out of government.”

I don’t want to get into the American theological aspects of this uniquely American political culture (it’s derivative Gnosticism and Calvinism) in this post, but I do want to talk about the relationship to Catholics. Over the last quarter century or so, we have seen an increasing alliance between Catholics and right-wing evangelicals and other pseudo-conservatives in the public square, exactly matching the new intensity of discourse. In a great irony, as Weigel, Neuhaus and Novak tried to provide some intellectual underpinning behind this endeavour, the whole movement was becoming more and more anti-intellectual. It was the era of Limbaugh, Coulter, and Fox News. These figures and what they represent came in from the cold, and entered the political mainstream.

The tactic was one of constant attack against the demonized other, and they took advantage of media weakness  — its reduction of everything to a case of he-said-she-said, the preference for personalities over depth, and its cheerleading the general dumbing down of the culture. It was deceptively simple — the whole noise machine would say the same thing over and over and over, until it entered conventional wisdom. It would feign outrage at the mere hint of an insult. It would always stay on the offensive. It focused on the trivial, the symbolic. It saw conspiracies everywhere, from the New York Times to the science of global warming. Strangely enough, this often worked. The media played the game. Thus things like the abolition on inheritance taxes on the very wealthy became a standard bearer for unfairness. And with the ascent of Bush and the security state, it took a far more sinister tone.

But in the fading Bush years, progressive over-reach meant that the movement began to lose steam. And the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression had an amazing effects of focusing minds on what was truly important. As Obama rose in popularity, the movement became increasingly unhinged and apocalyptic as each successive wave of attack failed to dislodge him. Wasn’t he a big government liberal? No? OK, a socialist? Anti-American? How about a fascist? As each attack failed, the instigators grew more irritated. We saw Sarah Palin’s shameless attempts to bring out the worst in people during the election, all the while being utterly oblivious to matters of policy and governance. We saw the increasing unhinged post-election tactics and rhetoric. We saw a huge spike in gun sales. To merely play the back-and-forth political game and call it “Obama Derangement Sydrome” would be a gross underestimation.

Into this melieu comes a number of core life issues, especially abortion and ESCR. By stressing these issues above all others, and by selecting choosing the Church teachings owed assent by the faithful, the Catholics of the right managed to associate themselves with this movement to a greater degree than ever before. For the Catholic right has borrowed the rhetoric, the style, and the tactics of the political right. Screaming about Obama being the most “anti-Catholic” or “most pro-abortion” president ever is simply the Limbaugh-ization of Catholic discourse. Catholics in other countries do not act this way, and are increasing puzzled by the behavior of their American cousins.

Of course, these tactics are defined by simplicity and certainty, black and white. There can be no equivocation. Translated into Catholic terms, this means the Democrats are wrong on a restricted number of non-negotiables and so cannot be supported, ever. They are the “party of death”. The Republicans might not be perfect, but they don’t peddle death. Well, except they do peddle death. Catholic allies of the movement are thus given two choices — defend their allies, or maintain a strict silence. Never one to stay quiet, George Weigel is still stubbornly and persistently defending the Iraq war, while the latest evidence suggests that the decisions taken by George Bush led to  a million dead, 4.5 million displaced, and 5 million orphans. But Bush cannot be held responsible for the vast majority of these deaths, right? Well, sure, just as Barack Obama is not responsible for the millions of abortions that take place annually. The best charge you can level against him is that he favors keeping in place the very conditions that allow the killing of the unborn to continue (but remember, these conditions relate both to the legal framework and the accompanying socio-economic circumstances). It’s not so simple after all, is it?

The outcome is slightly disoncerting. While the Catholic right obsesses over the Obama invitation to Notre Dame in apocalyptic terms, there is a huge silence over the release of the torture memos, the final proof that the Bush regime greenlighted the torturing of prisoners, something the Church deems intrinsically evil, and something Obama has ended. The response? Silence, or sad attempts to give Bush the benefit of the doubt.

The Catholic right may think they have won a major tactical victory with the “watershed moment” over Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame, but nothing could be further from the truth. More and more, the core life issues of abortion and ESCR will be seen as the domain of the crazy fringe, and will become more disassociated from the broader culture of life issues that define Church teaching. The reaction of many supposed pro-life Catholics to Iraq and to torture will not be forgotten. And that is an absolute disaster if Catholics have any hope of persuading the general culture that abortion is not a “right” to be cherished, much as Catholics have slowly but surely been turning the tide against the death penalty. When I see the lists circulating on the right pertaining to Obama’s abortion sins, these lists seem dominated by the fact that he is appointing people who support legalized abortion to various posts. What is left unsaid is that he is appointing people whose views on these matters are very much part of the mainstream. And because of the utterly failed tactics of the Catholic right, they will remain part of the mainstream. And that is the real tragedy.

  1. April 27, 2009 11:24 am


    If you want another example of the un-Christian attitude of many in the “culture war,” you should look at how some people want to “take it out” on their “allies” who are “traitors” because they don’t follow the same methodologies.

    This isn’t the way of Christ, who exhorted, this is the way of Satan, who uses the notion of a good to turn people into tyrants.

  2. April 27, 2009 11:31 am

    Morning I think there is a reason why opposition to Obama by segments of Catholics is more vocal than as to Clinton

    It is technology. When Clinton was elected the internet and people use of it was still in its infancy. There were not blogs all over the place. Media in all forms has vastly expanded.

    So as to apologetics, Catholic thought , and Catholic politics the internet has changed things

    SO I think that is one reason why the appearance of that looks different

    Further the Catholic Conservatives have more matured and come into their own with their own voices etc which is a part of it. I can recall that literally First Things was the only magazine or media outlet where Catholic conservative voices were raised.

    As to Reagans’s SUpreme Court nominees whell we have gone throught that before. All at least have gone to restrict it to some degree and needless to say Scalia is not a fan. It should be recalled that Reagan did not to Bork through.

    Finally I do not find a “huge silence” over the torture memos. In fact on the right it is being debated all the place as we see in fact with linked entries on this very blog. My issue of course with the torture memos is that we are not debating the internal practices enough besiudes it seems waterboarding.

  3. S.B. permalink
    April 27, 2009 11:36 am

    After all, this is a man whose liberalization of abortion laws in California paved the way for abortion on demand and the Roe decision, a man whose public opposition to abortion was backed up neither by his supreme court nominees nor his social policies

    That’s a highly misleading and tendentious way to describe both 1) the 1967 “liberalization” of abortion law in California (which had to do with medically-required abortions, and which Reagan had been assured would affect only 2% of cases); and 2) Reagan’s appointment of Scalia and attempted appointment of Bork. (Again, it’s quite odd that you blame Reagan for settling on Kennedy, who was still a conservative thought to be pro-life, when he was doing so only under pressure from Senate Democrats . . . is it THAT hard to criticize Democrats for anything?)

  4. April 27, 2009 11:40 am

    Henry I don’t know who Phil Lawler is and who he exactly he is referring too but he is right on this part:

    “Every war brings out opportunists, who find ways to profit from the battle. The struggle for life is no exception. Serious pro-lifers should never confer respectability upon the fakers who solicit funds from innocent donors, and use the money to build up their own empires– without making any significant contribution to the pro-life cause.”

    THe biggest scam on the left and right are these groups that solicit money for the “cause “but 80 cents out of every dollar go to the same incest related group of consulting firms, caging companies , and to promote the “empire” itself.

    Pro-life advocate Alan Keyes on my side of the aisle is a perfect example

    Innocent donors is right.

    • April 27, 2009 11:46 am


      The problem I have with Phil Lawler’s approach is it is too intra-confrontational; we are to be the light of the world, and show the world we are Christ’s disciples by our love. If you want to convert others to the cause, how will you do it if you start taking out “your own”?

  5. April 27, 2009 11:51 am


    I agree the “taking out your own” appraoch leaves me cold at time. Also I am wondering who is referring too. But we do have a lot of greedy people in this business that seem to scare mostly people over 65 in giving another 20 bucks to save the Republic every 5 minutes.

    I have no idea who this guy is for all know he might his own empire

  6. April 27, 2009 11:58 am


    This is the same site, btw, which I criticized for their site review, and how their own methodology would condemn themselves as well. It is nonetheless a place which has had profound influence for many on the internet.

  7. April 27, 2009 12:30 pm


    Wow. Phil Lawlor seems to epiomize, in caricatured form, everything I have described in this post. He embraces Leninist tactics without reservation (purges, anybody?). He quotes with approval the murderous tactics of the IRA, as for him, the end seems to justfify the means. Needless to say, a consequentialist pro-lifer is no real pro-lifer.

  8. Kurt permalink
    April 27, 2009 12:32 pm

    I think it is a watershead momement. The Democratic National Committee should be fully funding the Catholic Right. Last year, there was great uneasiness and worry that some of its tactics and rhetoric would preduce results. Since November there have been continued re-assurances to liberals that the Catholic Right, paired with its secular counterpart Rush Limbaugh, is of immense aid to the President and his agenda. There is something between glee and joy at 430 So. Capitol Street everytime Bill Donohue or the Cardinal Newman Society makes the papers.

    Anyway, I’m looking for someone to hook me up with a group that will tell Pennsylvania Catholics it is a sin to vote for Arlen Specter. Need to get ready for next year.

  9. Liam permalink
    April 27, 2009 2:07 pm

    And Deal Hudson’s opinion, which is a self-serving effort to help him become consequential again, is important why?

    Ideologues left and right both employ the same tactic of circular cross-referencing among bien-pensant confreres to create the illusion of a cresting tide. Given the echo chamber of current media, it’s important to discount appearances considerably.

  10. April 27, 2009 2:33 pm

    I think our task is to build a sensible middle that uncompromisingly witnesses to the dignity of all human life, and against all offenses to it.

    Unfortunately, it is much more enjoyable to sling mud against the extremists on the other side.

    I have removed VN from my RSS feed, since it seems their chief response to the current attacks against innocent human life can be summed up as, “but what about the Republicans, huh?”

    In the past week on my blog, I have has several posts about torture. I have not posted about Obama and Notre Dame in over a month.

    When VN is willing to bravely witness for life instead of just talking about how terrible those on the right are, could someone please let me know?

    • April 27, 2009 2:46 pm

      John McG

      If you look to the tags “abortion” and “culture of life” among others, you will find your answer. Oh, wait, I even did a post today on the topic of life. Strange that, no?

  11. April 27, 2009 2:43 pm

    If you want another example of the un-Christian attitude of many in the culture war..

    The problem in a nutshell.

    If that is what you want to find, I am quite sure you will find it. Just as you will find examples of all sorts of nasty behavior in the ablolition movement, civil rights movement, and any other movement people gave a damn about.

    Maybe instead of looking for un-Chrisitan attitudes among those witnessing for life, we should be searching out and shedding light on the good that folks are doing.

    Or, you know, not.

  12. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    April 27, 2009 2:49 pm

    dotCommonweal chimes in, MM:

  13. ron chandonia permalink
    April 27, 2009 4:20 pm

    MM will no doubt take pride in having helped Grant Gallicho and other Catholic Democratic partisans cast pro-lifers as a tiny fringe group in the American church, consisting mainly of out-of-touch bishops and out-of-their-mind rabble-rousers who take advantage of the hierarchy’s obsession with sex to promote torture, racial injustice and a host of Republican causes. Trouble is, it’s difficult to put principled intellectuals like Mary Ann Glendon (not to mention thoughtful posters on this very blog) into that mold.

  14. Kurt permalink
    April 27, 2009 4:26 pm

    I think our task is to build a sensible middle that uncompromisingly witnesses to the dignity of all human life, and against all offenses to it.

    Unfortunately, it is much more enjoyable to sling mud against the extremists on the other side.

    I have removed VN from my RSS feed, since it seems their chief response to the current attacks against innocent human life


    Maybe I am not listening to you carefully enough. Building up a sensible middle that uncompromisingly witnesses to the dignity of all human life, and against all offenses to it seems to be what those associated with the phrase ‘seamless garment’ want and work for. It seems to be contrary to those who wish to declare issues that (by accident or design) line up with secular conservativism to be “non-negotiatable” and those that line up (by accident or design) with liberalism to be “prudential judgment” and where the bishops always err in the prudence.

    I would understand your call for an “uncompromising witness” to refer to a cadre of dedicated Christians firm on all of these issues and your call “to build a sensible middle” to enlist all who will offer some help. This seems contrary to those who would allow alliances on the abortion issue with those not with us on other issues but not allow collaboration to build support for peace, economic justice or antiracism with those who have not yet come to understand our position on unborn life.

  15. April 27, 2009 4:30 pm

    Ron: how many times do I have to say that it the so-called pro-lifers who align themselves with the rump nativist southern cultural movement that has now taken over the Republican party that are doing a great dis-service to the culture of life? Where were these pro-lifers when Rice came to Boston college? (She has the double whammy of being pro-abortion and also approving torture). Where were they when a million Iraqis were being killed and torture was greenlighted? And when was Deal Hudson accused of being a traitor for supporting Bush just as Doug Kmiec was for Bush?

    These people are just another cog in the right-wing Republican machine. They should cease using the tactics of the American right, and take a leaf from other countries instead. Did French and Italian Catholics react in such apocalyptic terms when Sarkozy was made honorary canon at St. John Lateran? I think not.

    Maybe there are more important things in life than petty symbolic victories– such as actually reducing abortion, for example?

  16. April 27, 2009 4:34 pm

    And by the way, I’m tired of people assuming I am out to defend Notre Dame, or Obama, or to paper over his deviation from Church teaching. No, what I find utterly sickening is this demand for cheap symbolic victories, and coming at a time when we witness the true extent of the torture regime of the guys who were welcomed in Catholic colleges with open arms. Unless we see consistency in the prophetic voice, we do a major dis-service to the culture of life.

  17. digbydolben permalink
    April 27, 2009 4:36 pm

    Catholics in other countries do not act this way, and are increasing puzzled by the behavior of their American cousins.

    You are SO right about this, MM; I can attest to it, from my own conversations with English-speaking Catholics in Germany and France.

    I’ll just refer you to what I said, on another thread here, about what I think is the wisest thing Obama could do now:

    JUST STOP TALKING TO THE CATHOLICS, until they decide to drop their polarizing, unreasonable stance regarding the making of public policy in a pluralist society in which they are a minority, both culturally and theologically.

  18. April 27, 2009 4:51 pm


    You seem to be aptly describing the attitude our last president had to his critics. That worked out great; didn’t it?


    Who was welcomed to a university with open arms after advocating the torture regime? I don’t think Condolezza Rice did.


    We could play this “align themselves with” guilt by association game all day. Catholic Democrats “align themselves” with Planned Parenthood, which doesn’t just think that criminialization isn’t the best way to reduce abortions, but actually perfroms abortions, and covers up statutory rape in order to do so. Does that make their witness against torture or for an improved health care system hypocrisy?

    So what have I proven? Neither politicial side was immaculately conceived. Neither was I and neither were you. We can spend out lives pointing out each other’s warts, or we can get to work.

    Have you considered that your tendency to respond to every abortion-centered controversey with a 1000-word post about how hypocritical and terrible pro-lifers are might be contributing the the marginalization of the pro-life movement?

    For the record, I disagree with Deal Hudson. This has been a victory for nobody.

  19. Bill Kurtz permalink
    April 27, 2009 4:54 pm

    I loved this post, especially the bit about the Limbaugh- and Coulterization of conservative Catholics’ rhetoric. It merely follows the rhetoric of certain bishops who wish they were James Dobson, which can affect everyday Catholics in lesser ways. Consider these incidents in 2004, in Raymond Burke’s former diocese in Wisconsin.
    An eighth-grader at a Catholic school in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., was told by a school secretary on election day, “So you’re a baby-killer, eh?” A math teacher said that “as Catholics, you’re supposed to vote for Michels,” the candidate challenging Sen. Russ Feingold.
    (The student’s father was a Democratic activist, and his aunt was a Democratic state legislator.)
    In Thorp, Wis., a parishioner had written a letter to the community weekly stating that voters should consider an array of moral issues.
    At Masses some days later, a local pro-life newsletter was handed out inside the church, including a letter rebuking the parishioner.
    The tone for civil discourse is set at the top. If bishops make hysterical pronouncements, can we be surprised when laity take their cues?

  20. April 27, 2009 5:11 pm


    I am quite confident one could find such excesses as part of every significatnt political movement throughout American history. Pointing out that they are present in the pro-life movement proves nothing.

    This notion that if only the pro-life movement were a little nicer, more consistent, if they could just shut up the loudmouths, then we would get some traction is absolutely absurd.

    No political movement in history has been held to such a standard. None.

    Not that we should cultivate boorish behavior, and I will confront it when I directly come across it, but to go lookinf for it, as HK’s initial response suggested, and thus declare the pro-life movement safe to ignore for the time being, is absurd.

  21. ron chandonia permalink
    April 27, 2009 6:36 pm

    OK, MM . . . what have you or your buddies over at Commonweal done to reduce abortion besides TRASH fellow Catholics (including our bishops) for speaking out in defense of innocent human life? The politicians you salivate over never, ever hesitate to stand up in front of Planned Parenthood or NARAL and gush on and on about what a great thing it is to kill babies (i.e., exercise “choice”). But let somebody who doesn’t share your big-government views so much as utter a dissenting word and you’re all over them with “Pedophile enabler!” or “Friend of Executioners” or some other red herring charge.

    And before you tell me Obama’s expansion of government social services will be just the thing to curtail abortion, be sure to include in your explanation how paying for abortions with tax money is supposed to accomplish that goal.

  22. April 27, 2009 7:00 pm

    Who was welcomed to a university with open arms after advocating the torture regime? I don’t think Condolezza Rice did

    Condie Rice received an honorary degree from Boston College.

  23. April 27, 2009 7:44 pm

    I don’t recall Rice endorsing toture (though I could be wrong), and her receiving a degree was met with a similar level of protests and boycotts.

  24. April 27, 2009 7:52 pm

    Update: It appears that Rice did approve of the techniques in question:

    This is being reported as news; it’s not apparent to me that, at the time the invitation was extended, she could be as publicly linked with torture as Obama could be with abortion.

    In any instance, this is a silly game, and I shouldn’t have engaged in it. Perhaps Rice’s degree should have been met with more protest. That doesn’t mean we should repeat the mistake with Obama for the sake of consistency.

  25. April 27, 2009 7:59 pm

    Yes, Digby, Catholics should stop demanding that the Church’s views on poverty, torture, immigration, etc. be incorporated into legislation. For that matter, Catholics should have stayed out of the civil-rights movement altogether. Wouldn’t want to be “polarizing,” now would we?

  26. Kurt permalink
    April 27, 2009 8:04 pm


    I think you are mistaken on the matter of the pro-life movement. The moral authority of the American civil rights movement rests on its loving witness. The response to police dogs and firehoses was love. Numerous initiatives to win hearts and minds over rather than working through hate and condemnation. The dignity and love expressed by Rosa Park, Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, John Lewis, Eugene Carson Blake, William Gary, Hyman Bookbinder and Arnie Aronson are examples to us all. And when an element led by hate and incivility emerged, it seriously harmed the movement.

    In the 1980s, it was explained to thre Democratic Party that they were losing elections because while the American people are for peace, the environment, women’s rights, and worker justice, they can’t stand peaceniks, environmentalist, feminists and union bosses. The Democrats eventually learned their lesson.

    Today, I believe close to 80% of the public has a negative view of “Pro-life actvists” (enough though 40% or more say they are against abortion).

    In the last election, congressional candidates were being counseled to describe themselves as “anti-abortion” rather than “pro-life” because the found the voters responded better to the former. An odd switch from 30 years ago. But the name has become that tainted.

  27. April 27, 2009 8:06 pm

    …her receiving a degree was met with a similar level of protests and boycotts.

    No, not a “similar level” at all. No bishops protested. Those protesting were largely of a… different stripe, shall we say, than the ones protesting Obama.

    That is why, for me, the issue here is consistency. Those going over the top with their protests in the case of Obama show that they are largely hypocrites.

    …it’s not apparent to me that, at the time the invitation was extended, she could be as publicly linked with torture as Obama could be with abortion.

    I don’t know how much more public it would have to be. Those of us who do not rely on FOX News for information knew about torture long ago, and we knew from the get-go that there was no justifiable reason to go to war with Iraq. All it takes is the ability to pay attention and to make a preferential option for the victims of u.s. sponsored violence rather than making an option for one’s political party.

  28. April 27, 2009 8:08 pm

    At the risk of thread-hogging, I’ll close with one more thought.

    If the alliance between Catholics and the political right-wing is such a threat, it would seem to me that the task for those who recognize it as such would be to help develop a political home for pro-life Catholics where they would not need to compromise their views.

    Instead, MM and the other commentators here seem content to list all the sins of the other political party. In so doing, there are guilty of the same offense they accuse the other side of.

    I don’t want MM and the rest to become Republicans; I would like to see them work harder on bringing their chosen party in line with Catholic values than at criticizing the other side.

  29. April 27, 2009 8:21 pm

    What JohnMcG said. I would love nothing more than to see the Democratic Party challenge the GOP for prolife voters.

  30. scriblerus permalink
    April 27, 2009 8:31 pm

    If the pro-life movement is as bad as you say it is, then all you’ve proven is that Catholics of all stripes need to get more involved, not walk away and write it off.

  31. April 27, 2009 8:48 pm

    Both parties can go to hell.

  32. Mike McG... permalink
    April 27, 2009 9:12 pm

    It seems to me that the attempts at conversation about abortion present as a face-off between those who are anti-abortion and those that are anti-anti-abortion.

    For the ‘anti-abortion’ contingent, the defining issue is legal protection of unborn life. To submit any other issue as remotely comparable in importance is to betray the unborn. These folks are routinely stereotyped as indifferent to all other justice issues, and indeed some are. But many are not. Yet Catholic ‘anti-abortion’ discourse effectively discourages attention to the consistent ethic of life and tends to demonizes those who frame the issue of abortion in a ‘broadened’ manner.

    For the ‘anti-anti-abortion’ contingent, an exclusive focus on abortion strangles attention to all other critical issues and crushes any possibility of progressive alliances. These folks are routinely stereotyped as indifferent to abortion, and indeed some are. But many are not. Catholic ‘anti-anti-abortion’ leadership occasionally encourages consistent ethic of life discourse, but often with the objective of minimizing the gravity or centrality of abortion and exposing prolifers as hypocritical. ‘Anti-anti-abortion’ discourse often tends to demonize those who frame the issue of abortion in a ‘focused’ manner.

    Thought experiments:

    What if onsistent ethic of life Catholics had voice?

    What if critics of prochoice advocacy were passionately and prophetically ‘out’ in their denunciation of prolife movement political and rhetorical excesses? What if they were willing to take on Priests for Life, for example?

    What if critics of prolife advocacy were passionately and prophetically ‘out’ in their denunciation of prochoice movement political and rhetorical excesses? What if they were willing to take on Catholics for Choice, for example?

    What if it were possible to personally oppose the Obama invitation to Notre Dame but ‘get’ how an authentic, moral fellow Catholic might support it?

    What if it were possible to support the Obama invitation to Notre Dame but ‘get’ how an authentic, moral fellow Catholic might oppose it?

    What if the contempt we heap on each other drives us so far apart that there is no longer common ground?

  33. digbydolben permalink
    April 27, 2009 10:45 pm

    Both parties ARE “going to hell,” and they are taking the United States to hell with them.

    It seems to me that, if the vocal right-wing leadership of the Catholic Church even WANTED to “dialogue” with Obama, they’d ENCOURAGE his coming to Notre Dame so that he and the whole Democratic Party could hear their point of view POLITELY contrasted with his.

    They’re obviously NOT interested in dialoguing with the very popular President of the United States and the elements of the culture he represents, and, until they are, I believe that the best and most civil thing he can do is to IGNORE all of their YELLING at him.

    And, yes, the Catholic Church here in Europe does NOT make it a habit to YELL at the leaders of the civil society. The one in America needs to be taught–by polite silence–some respect for popularly elected civil authorities.

  34. Kurt permalink
    April 28, 2009 8:18 am

    To John McG and Feddie,

    Last November I spent three weeks of my life campaigning full time for a pro-life Democratic candidate for Congress. He had a 100% pro-life voting record as a state legislator and was in accord with Catholic values on a host of other issues.

    His Republican opponent had an equally good record on abortion policy but opposed the Church’s positions on most other issues. Instead of staying neutral, the Right to Life Committee heavily endorsed the Republican and we received no support from Catholic pro-life leaders.

    We won with 52% of the vote.

  35. April 28, 2009 9:10 am

    Kurt: eye-opening. The NRLC is shameful. It opposes universal health care, and invites Karl Rove to give keynote speeches — the same Karl Rove who opened the doors of official Washington to Abramoff’s forced abortion and forced prostitution agenda. In other words, Rove is far closer in proximity to abortion than the average “pro-choice” politician, but they cannot admit that, can they?

  36. April 28, 2009 9:16 am

    NRLC is also correct on a very important moral issue of our time.

    I tend to think that’s more important than how cozy they are with Karl Rove, but that’s just me.

    And lest you think this is exactly what commentators are doing with UND, think again. Yes, there are some who have gone overboard, but the best commentators have not characterized UND as “shameful.”

  37. Kurt permalink
    April 28, 2009 11:03 am


    Not only is NRTL correct on an important moral issue of our time, so is the candidate I supported and NRTL opposed.

  38. April 28, 2009 11:29 am


  39. April 28, 2009 11:41 am


    First, good for you. Second, the NRTL’s endorsement of the GOP candidate does not surprise me in the least. NRTL could take some lessons from the NRA, who goes out of its way to support pro-gun dems. Placing all of your eggs in the GOP basket is certainly not the way to go.

  40. Gabriel Austin permalink
    April 28, 2009 2:06 pm

    I am likely getting older and having trouble hearing. But the number of LOUD attacks on pro-lifers in this blog seems to me to exemplify what the complainers are complaining about.
    An excellent example of the screaming can be found in the attack by the editor of the National Catholic Reporter on the Newman Society.

    I fail to see why it is assumed that pro-lifers automatically back the Republican Party. Seems to me that the other side automatically backs the Democratic Party. And even more ferociously. The excuse is that that party will do more for the poor. I permit to reflect upon the Democratic failed War on Poverty.There was a reason why Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican.

    That Mrs. Rice was invited by Boston College to be given an award was probably not shocking because Boston College has now descended from being a Jesuit school to being a college “in the Jesuit tradition”. Much like Georgetown.

    ‘Nuff said.

  41. Kurt permalink
    April 28, 2009 2:14 pm

    Mr. Austin:

    You ask why it is assumed that pro-lifers automatically back the Republican Party. My answer is personal experience. Thank you for your inquiry.

  42. April 28, 2009 3:23 pm

    I’ll take one more run.

    I do not think the pro-life movement was immaculately conceived. I do not think it should be above criticism. I do think they tend to place too high a value on ensuring pro-choice people are not treated well. Many do not extend their defense of life to others who have been born. All agreed.

    Nevertheless, I submit that inconsistencies and lack of discipline have been part of every significant political movement throughout history. And to withhold support for the pro-life movement because, for example, some of them are not upset about Ronald Reagan’s record as governor in the 1960’s before they were born, strikes me as a colossal mistake.

    If a moderate is truly concerned about the pro-life movement being marginalized, it seems the thing to would be to add one’s moderate voice to the chorus, and help pull it back to the mainstream. But that’s not what MM, etc. do. Instead, they catalog their sins, contributing to the stereotypes about the pro-life movement, and aiding the marginalization. Which leads me to suspect that they are motivated by something other than concern about the future of the pro-life movement.

  43. Kurt permalink
    April 28, 2009 4:05 pm


    You ar moving in the right directionn in presenting the pro-life movement as a meritous but secular, political operation. If we could get everyone to that point, we might have hope for further progress.

  44. April 28, 2009 6:33 pm

    The NRLC (aka the Republican Party) can go to hell.

  45. TeutonicTim permalink
    April 28, 2009 9:01 pm

    The NRLC (aka the Republican Party) can go to hell.

    Sure, they can, but Planned Parenthood (aka the Demoncrat party) is going to hell.

  46. April 28, 2009 9:37 pm

    Sure, they can, but Planned Parenthood (aka the Demoncrat party) is going to hell.

    Yes, of course Planned Parenthood can go to hell as well. But, unless you know something I don’t, no one is singing PP’s praises here at Vox Nova. Right? So, “duh.”

    Will you join me, now, in condemning NRLC as well? Or will that partisan divide hit you in your nethers as you try to bust out of your Republicatholic cage?

  47. Kurt permalink
    April 29, 2009 10:40 am

    I don’t wish Hell for anyone including those involved in some way with Planned Parenthood, among whom I am sure are some dedicated Christians.

    And I certainly don’t wish it for the NRTL Committee and other organs of the Right to Life Movement. They have every right to participate in the public square.

    Where some go wrong is when they elevate these organs to what they are not and what most of them don’t claim to be. They are secular, private, political organizations. And faithful Catholics (and anyone else) are free to take them or leave them as their judgment leads them.

    Threats and accusations against people’s faith or sacramental eligibility based on what they think of the NRTL Committee or any other organ are inappropriate (and I think sinful).

    NRTL and other organs spend every Wednesday meeting with other secular conservative organizations (anti-tax, anti-social insurance, pro-Bush Iraq policy, anti-union, etc) coordinating message, tactics, strategy and candidate endorsements.

    They have every right to do so. But no one has the right to suggest someone is not Catholic or a lesser Catholic for opposing or not participating in their organization.

  48. April 29, 2009 10:47 am

    They have every right to do so. But no one has the right to suggest someone is not Catholic or a lesser Catholic for opposing or not participating in their organization.

    I’m not sure I’d go that far.

    Obviously, there are some causes that are so central that they demand our support, or at the very least, not our opposition.

    If the preponderance of one’s involvement in opposing a serious injustice of the day consists of pointing out the opposed group’s flaws, extremism, and its ties to the political parties, then I think something’s out of whack.

    I personally probably wouldn’t go so far as to say this makes someone is not a Catholic or a lesser Catholic, but I think it does reveals priorities that ought to be examined.

  49. April 29, 2009 11:49 am

    Kurt: Just to clarify, note the difference between my language and “TeutonicTim”‘s. He is saying that individuals involved in a particular group are going to hell. I merely said both organizations can “go to hell” in the sense that I want nothing to do with them. I’m not damning anyone.

  50. TeutonicTim permalink
    April 29, 2009 1:21 pm

    Michel J. – Good clarification. Any group that is married to a political party shouldn’t be.

    I’ll join you in that sentiment.

    Kurt – I guess it’s a personal deficiency of mine, but I really have to wonder how its even possible for a dedicated planned parenthood trooper to be a dedicated Catholic at the same time. It would have take massive leaps in logic and rationalization…

  51. Kurt permalink
    April 29, 2009 2:43 pm

    TT —

    I am sure there are some dedicated Christians among those involved in some way with Planned Parenthood. And I can say the Pope agrees with me on this.

  52. April 30, 2009 6:39 pm

    Henry, so you are accusing Fr. Euteneuer, who is an exorcist, of following Satan?

    Huh, how about that.

    Michael, I disagree with you about a great many things, but your assessment of NRLC is not one of them, which is why I support HLI and ALL and oppose anyone who lumps HLI and ALL in with the Republicans.

    Really, this should be a “watershed” in the question of our Catholic universities.

    As for exactly why this is a “watershed” moment, Fr. Richard McBrien should be far more a cause of shame and scandal than Barack Obama. The fact that any secular president of a nation founded by freemasons is invited to speak at a Catholic school should be a scandal for Catholics.


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