April 17, 2009


There He Goes Again! Kmiec’s Latest Obamapology (Matthew Franck, 4/16/09, Moral Accountability)

In January, on the website of Commonweal, Kmiec could still write that, in light of the “forthright and objective” scientific basis for the Catholic church’s position on abortion, “is it not proper for the burden of evidence now to shift to those who, for religious or nonreligious reasons, believe unfettered abortion ought to be permitted?” Surely among “those who” believe such a thing was the new president whom Kmiec had supported in the campaign last year. But in January Kmiec could still hint that President Obama was a work in progress–that none of the attacks on him had “closed the mind of the new president.” Perhaps no one but Douglas Kmiec believed any such thing even then.

If he himself ever believed it, now it looks like even Kmiec has given that up as a forlorn hope. At Politico, he now writes, without a hint of criticism–indeed, in what can only be taken as praise–that “Obama’s views supporting abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research are pragmatic.” What’s that again? Was it “pragmatic” for state senator Obama to do everything in his power to kill the Illinois bill intended to protect the infants born alive during attempted late-term abortions? Was it “pragmatic” for presidential candidate Obama to promise a Planned Parenthood audience in 2007 that he would make it a top legislative priority in his administration–the first bill he wanted on his desk–to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, the most radically pro-abortion legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Congress? Was it “pragmatic” for President Obama to issue an executive order providing federal funds for embryo-destructive stem cell research, including funds that support human cloning so long as the cloned embryos are destroyed for research?

Pragmatists seek compromise, search for common ground with others, and regard few issues to be so freighted with principle as to present no splittable differences. True pragmatists are notoriously disinclined to see principles anywhere in politics. On the life issues, Barack Obama shows no signs of being a “pragmatist.” He’s got a principle, all right. But it is diametrically opposed to the inherent and equal dignity of every human being at every stage of life and in every condition. Obama’s principle appears to be that of Thrasymachus, the sophist in Plato’s Republic: justice is the interest of the stronger. The weak need not apply to him for succor–at least not if they are in utero or in vitro, and probably not if they are in any medical condition of radical dependence on others at later stages of life.

Immediately after this praise of Obama’s pragmatism, Kmiec writes that the president “knows [his position] is less than the absolute legal prohibition demanded by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America.” That is a marvel of understatement. Yes, inasmuch as zero percent prohibition is less than one hundred percent. But Kmiec’s transparent objective is to contrast the nice “pragmatist” with the extreme and hardhearted “absolutists” among the nation’s bishops.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2009 9:18 AM
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