Kulturkampf Time


Father Neuhaus predicts a Kulturkampf between the Obama administration and pro-lifers in general and the Catholic Church in particular.

“This awareness that Christians are different, and different in ways that make a very big difference, will, I expect sharply increase in the months and years ahead. For all of President-elect Obama’s wafting language about bringing us together, healing divisions, and so on and so on, if he seriously intends to follow through on his extremist abortion views, we are headed for the intensification of an American version of the Kulturkampf that Bismarck came to rue. The focus is on FOCA, the Freedom of Choice Act, that Obama says he wants to sign on his first day in office. This act would eliminate the very modest restraints and regulations established by states, provide government funding for abortions, and in its present form, require religiously sponsored hospitals and clinics to perpetrate abortions or go out of business.

The aggressor in the opening phases of this Kulturkampf is the Obama administration. The initial response to the aggression was evident in the meeting of Catholic bishops this week in Baltimore. There were refreshingly bold statements by bishops, and by Francis Cardinal George, president of the conference, on the imperative to protect the integrity of the Church’s teaching and to employ every legitimate means to resist the further advance of what John Paul the Great taught us to understand as the culture of death. Some bishops even invoked the venerable tradition of martyrdom, sounding very much like the successors to the apostles that they are.

The Christ against culture model does not come naturally to Catholics. The Church is much more disposed toward conversion, providing moral guidance, and the transformation of culture. The Christ against culture model is never chosen, but sometimes there is no choice. Pushed to the wall by the Obama aggression, it seems evident that most of the Catholic bishops are, in the words of Paul to Timothy, prepared to “fight the good fight.”

In this contest of coming months and years, it seems certain that cooperation between Catholics and evangelical Protestants will be greatly strengthened. And their efforts will enlist the support of many other Americans who are only now awakening to the fact that the unlimited abortion license imposed by Roe v. Wade and its proposed expansion by its hardcore supporters is indeed unlimited. If President-elect Obama does what he says he wants to do, this champion of national unity will preside over one of the most divisive periods in American history. ”

As usual Father Neuhaus is correct.  The coming years will be hard for the Catholic Church and pro-lifers, but faith, courage, determination and love will see us through.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. I think Fr. Neuhaus is occasionally more provocative than he needs to be (see, e.g., ‘The End of Democracy’ in 1996), and I think this may be one of those cases. Obama promised to sign FOCA at one point during his campaign, but I do not think he wants to, nor do the House Democrats in red states. HIs point about Catholics needing to be against the culture in many respects is true, but it has been true for a long time.

  2. JH- Padre Neuhaus is spot on. A bumpy ride is coming for orthodox Catholics, fundamentalist/evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews, etc. by bunch of folks who hate what they stand for and want to enforce Big Gummint as state religion. Particularly on Life Issues. Padre says very little that we on most of this site and many others have chatted about since November 4. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Padre sees the weather map- and the storm clouds on the way.

  3. We shall see John Henry. Personally, if anything I think Father Neuhaus is too optimistic about the forthcoming Obama administration. There was a bizarre cult-like atmosphere to his campaign and I believe there will be a bizarre cult-like atmosphere to his administration. I hope I am mistaken.

  4. “I hope I am mistaken.”

    Me too. Just to clarify, I am skeptical that FOCA would pass, but I agree with the broader point that it is harder for pro-life Catholics to make inroads on the culture when the President and both Houses of Congress are hostile to the pro-life position. This was a point that I tried to make frequently over at Vox Nova; one does not bring the culture in closer alignment with Catholic Social Teaching by voting for people committed to marginalizing pro-life voices. To be fair, no candidate is perfect, but some (like Obama) are worse than others.

  5. While I agree with JH regarding how Obama might currently have lukewarm feelings toward signing FOCA immediately (even though he has stated otherwise), I think Donald is right here concerning the Obamists. The bizarre cult-like followers of Obama-ism will undoubtedly push very heavily for FOCA and similar legislation regarding abortion, and I’m afraid that the Obama administration will cave-in.

  6. Well said, JH. I think the odds of FOCA passing are better than 50%. However, there are many other means of assaulting life here and abroad that Obama can and will mostly act upon. Oddly enough I’m beginning to think that the assault on life is going to look different than it did pre-election. I’m thinking more along the lines of using a time of crisis to institute radical policies that directed against natural and constitutional liberties – all under the guise of the “common good”. Predicting anything certain is beyond me, I think he is a genuine socialist radical underneath his empty platitudes and crafted image (yes, I’m cynical about him), however, the reality of the office and of politics could serve to temper anything he would have chosen to do. On the other hand, there’s plenty of harm he could accomplish due to the despair of the population, the willing propaganda tool of the MSM, and utterly uncritical thinking of his supporters. We’ve seen these factors before…

  7. It’s only going to be a battle if the Church will take part, otherwise, it’ll once again be rolling over for the Democrats.

    If it’s really to be a culture war, a lot of old dogs are going to have to learn some new tricks. Among these will have to be emphasizing the Church’s teaching on life issues, in season and out.

    It was wonderful seeing so many bishops emphasizing this issue these past few months, but they should have been doing so the past four years, if they wanted to prevent a pro-abort victory this year.

  8. Unless the lameduck Congress manages to pass FOCA in the next 2 months (not likely), FOCA will probably not be Pres-elect Obama’s first blow in the kulturkampf.

    We should also focus on the very real possibility that Obama will reverse standing executive orders that ban federal funds for 1) ESCR that uses new cell lines, and 2) for foreign orgs. that perform abortions or provide counseling on abortion.

  9. Paul,

    I am not disagreeing with you, but they shouldn’t have done it 4 years ago… they should have been doing it for the last 30 years!

    Can you imagine if our bishops were protesting at abortion clinics… I’m not talking about 1 or 2 bishops, but 100s of them in their dioceses….constantly… as if it was a civil rights movement for life?… across our country. This election would not have happened… this culture would not be in the shape it is in.. and this reckless idea of this seamless garment garbage would not be known.

  10. I would not be surprised to see him sign FOCA into law fairly quickly as an attempt to quell the rising dissatisfaction of the radical leftist faction that supported him. Then…on to the courts…

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