Which Comes First, the Church or the Party?

Wednesday, September 2, AD 2009

Well, I’ve read and talked more than I ever cared to about Ted Kennedy recently, may he rest in peace. And Darwin has already ably responded to this defense of the late Senator Kennedy from Michael Sean Winters. But something about Mr. Winters response has been ringing in my ears, and I think it’s because it summarizes in a few sentences what I perceive to be the tragedy of Catholic Democrats in the U.S.: they could have taken a stand for unborn life but were unwilling. As a result, faithful Catholics have either been driven into the Republican Party, become independents, or become disconcertingly comfortable with the status quo on abortion. Currently I think both the first and last options are incompatible with Catholic thought – at least without substantial departure from party orthodoxies. Where familiarity (with both parties) should have breed contempt, it has instead yielded unconscionable familiarity and acceptance. And Mr. Winters’ post provides a clear illustration of this reality:

To dismiss his [Senator Kennedy’s] career because of his stance on abortion is to be ignorant of the complicated way the issue of abortion manifested itself in the early 1970s: I think Kennedy got it wrong but I do not find it difficult to understand why and how he got it wrong.

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Which Comes First, the Church or the Party?

  • Well said. I think your argument is strengthened by the fact that for over thirty years, Sen. Kennedy had ample opportunity to reevaluate his position in the light of advances in prenatal medicine. He had the opportunity to take firm stances against the pro-abortion absolutists’ increasingly irrational demands. He appears to have done very little in this way, though I will give him credit for his efforts on behalf of handicapped children.

    The tendency to appoint oneself theologian-in-chief is, sadly, far too common. Not only did Kennedy succumb to this failing, he seems at a critical decision point to have surrounded himself with members of the clergy suffering from the same disorder.

  • I appreciate the analysis but I wonder if we are creating an unjustified distinction in favor of Sen. Kennedy’s interpretation of social justice.

    It was, for me, far more than his stance on abortion that offended me. Sen. Kennedy evoked a viscoral reaction whenever I saw or heard him. The root cause was that the “social justice” that he spoke so eloquently for was coupled with an hypocracy and a complete disregard for the effects of social liberalism, as opposed to social justice, on American society in general and American Catholicism in particular.

    As to the hypocracy, it was far more than his lack of remorse about leaving someone to die, though I admit that his lifelong denial of substantive responsibility colors my perception of the rest. Plainly stated, he remained an unrepentant, vice-ridden person his whole public life and saw no responsibility to act as an example to others. Born into a life of privelege, power, and wealth, he made no continuous efforts to bolster charitable giving of time or talents. He could have championed causes of every stripe that involved individual charity and concern. Instead, he championed only government intervention. In my opinion, no Catholic can take credit for what the state compels him to do, however just or right, so this utter failure to call others to charity or to engage in its himself stacks strongly against him. The hypocracy comes from his unceasing lectures to others for their individualism and failure to support Statism.

    Finally, in a related vein, he advocated far more than abortion – even though abortion would be enough to show him as having excommunicated himself in my book. He drew heavily from Catholic roots and used that tie-in to preserve political power and to use it in advancing others who directly opposed Catholic values. To advance those who furthered gay marriage, abortion on demand, no-fault divorce, euthenasia, sex-ed sponsored by Planned Parenthood, and other causes directly opposed to our beliefs surely invalidates his claim to being a Catholic in other than name only.

    At the end of my analysis, I must conclude that his Catholicism was merely a cloak to hide grave evil. Whether he saw it that way or not is between him and God. However, that he was little more than a well-hidden cancer is not, to my mind, in doubt.

  • G-veg,

    I agree with your assesment of Kennedy’s viewpoint on social liberalism, and I agree that it is in error. I think we need to be cautious with other than black and white issues such as abortion and euthanasia. What I’m saying is, no matter how much I believe modern liberalism is completely opposed to the Church, the Church has not spoken such and so I merely “speculate”.

  • The problem with not being more explicit about what we, as Christians, oppose is that the other voices advocating for a better way of living, like the Mennonites, Hassid, and LDS, NEED all the support they can get.

    For example, school has started this week and the alley beside my house is a major thoroughfare for kids going to our public high school. Frankly, many of the girls are dressed like tramps and the boys’ behavior is atrocious: rude, unseemly, and unkind. We should be calling such behavior what it is – unChristian.

    I have been reading a lot about the early Church and am struck by the ability of so few to affect so many simply by living well and stating the truth loudly. It is more than their evangelization – though the power of seeking out the lost and inviting them to find community is a resounding lesson worth applying to a world so lost in the false claims of modernity – it is also the social norms that so impressed the heathen communities where they were established: standing apart from the rituals and sinfulness of the world around them.

    How can we call ourselves Catholic while sending our daughters out for Halloween dressed sexily? How can we call ourselves Christian while allowing our sons to taunt and abuse the weakest among them?

    More to the point of the post above, how can we allow public figures to call themselves Catholic and derive power from their warped association with the faith without calling them on it when they act in a distinctly un-Catholic way?

    Yes, Kennedy and Pelosi, among others, have probably excommunicated themselves and there is no need for the Church to take such formal actions. However, their crimes were and are well known and it creates confusion and scandal for our Bishops to ignore it in them and speak eloquently to the rest of us.

    By making oneself a public figure, you invite comment on your life and forgo the right to protest that your Christian identity is between you and God alone.

    “To those to whom more is given…”

  • Finally! This is the first article that I believe was well, and thoughtfully written! I admit I am new to The American Catholic, so I haven’t seen many articles – I have mostly seen rants and blind partisanship in many of the posts – but this one actually gets to some important issues and even though I disagree with some of the opinions, this one at least gives a foundation for discussion that I think can be useful.

What's Empathy Got To Do With It?

Friday, May 8, AD 2009

Doug Kmiec has a rather bizarre article up at America entitled The Case For Empathy: Why a Much-Maligned Value Is a Crucial Qualification for the Supreme Court. If the article is any indication, I suppose we should be thankful Obama didn’t make any off-hand remarks suggesting ‘creativity’ or ‘imagination’ were traits he would look for in a potential Supreme Court justice, if only because it might have lead to more essays like this one. After some preliminary gushing about, you guessed it, empathy, Kmiec explains what an empathetic justice would accomplish:

To do this, it is possible that [Obama] will mine for legal talent in unusual places, but it is more likely he will attempt to find a nominee with appellate court experience whose skill set also shows the capability of challenging methods of interpretation that otherwise wouldn’t give empathy the time of day. If Obama succeeds even with this more limited challenge,he will have exploded the notion  that swapping out a Souter for a new, most likely younger and intellectually energetic, justice is without effect.

Continue reading...

11 Responses to What's Empathy Got To Do With It?

  • Nice job dismantling what is just a mess of a column. Kmiec manages to somehow sink further and further. It’s truly remarkable.

  • I assume that Kmiec believes all of this intellectual prostitution he is currently engaging in, repudiating wholesale intellectual positions he held throughout his adult life, will ultimately gain him a federal judgeship or some other plumb from the current administration. Trading self-respect for advancement is always a poor, not to say pathetic, bargain.

  • I think it’s time we simply stop paying attention to Mr. Kmiec. To call him a hack would be generous. Far too many words have been wasted on him already.

  • Don,

    I am not sure what Kmiec’s purpose is, and I would like to think he is not just angling for a spot on the federal bench. People do change their minds, and sometimes those changes are dramatic.

    That said, based on my (admittedly limited) observations of legal academia, Kmiec’s arguments are an embarrassment to the profession. I can’t imagine any of the professors I’ve had over the past three years writing this type of nonsense, regardless of their political persuasion. Kmiec should be extended some sympathy given that he is writing for a non-specialist audience, but even that is no excuse for the type of misstatements and shoddy argumentation on display here, particularly since these views are diametrically opposed to views he held less than two years ago.

  • Until he starts making the barest acknowledgment that he’s done a 180 on principles and views held until the Adventus Obamus, he’s not entitled to the benefit of any doubts.

    And I agree, John: this essay is absolute pablum. The principle of “empathy” is entirely situational and subjective. Take Heller: “Well, you know, Doug, I empathize with people who don’t have efficient police protection and private security forces guarding their gated suburban communities. Whose empathy is entitled to more weight in the law?”

    Oh, and I love how he refers to Obama’s record as a law professor without giving any examples to bolster his point. This essay is embarrassingly empty propaganda for Obama. Which is probably why America was so eager to publish it.

  • Where is all his talk of Natural Law!!! DO people recall in many of his Catholic Online articles and other places Kmiec would always put in several paragraphs that he believs the law should the Natural Law as seein the Declaration of Independence and esp Right to Life as being inaleiable

    Where is that here? Now it was nonsense to think that Obam would give us a Natural law judge in the first place and Kmiec never explined how it would happen

    But looking through this entire article where is the natural law theme.

    In fact as to SOuter , who was a huge postivist and did his thesis on Justice Holmes) there is no mention of that.

  • In reading through comments on another blog, I learned that Prof. Kmiec has Parkinson’s disease. Here is a link and some excerpts to an article he recently wrote about Parkinson’s and embryonic stem cell research:

    http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=32655

    Over time, however, all Parkinson’s patients know that after a short span the medication fails and we also know what that means. We have uncomfortably witnessed our future in the lives of longer suffering brothers and sisters…So you would think that when President Obama, for whom it was my privilege to campaign, gives permission for embryonic stem cell research that some say holds a Parkinson’s cure that I would be grateful and encouraged. Yet, I am not. While I believe the President’s desire to separate science and politics is well considered, there can be no separation from ethics,

    To avoid cooperating with an intrinsic evil, this trembling hand is not to take hold of any medicine or participate in any medical treatment advanced by research involving the destruction of a human embryo. Easier said than done – or by me, even written down. But then, in this Easter time we are reminded that we belong to a Church where the very son of God allowed himself to be put to death so that others might live.

    The article contains, naturally, some defenses of the Obama administration, but I think perhaps I will make a conscious effort to display more sympathy for Prof. Kmiec (if not for some of his arguments) in the future. Anyone with such a difficult and debilitating illness is in need of prayers for their physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Our Lady of Sorrows, ora pro nobis.

  • “Empathy” [Einfuehlung] is one of those German make- believe emotions; an attempt to displace the more obvious and traditional word “sympathy”.

    It’s a faker’s word. As in Mr. Clinton’s “I feel your pain”.

  • This analysis makes vastly more sense than Kmiec’s article, and you didn’t even get to the part where he explained how lacking in “meaning or lasting effect”–not to mention empathy–is “coerced morality” of the sort some villainous people propose as a solution to the problem of abortion in America. It’s too bad your analysis can’t also be printed in America, but it seems they only accept submissions from prominent pro-life Catholics like Douglas Kmiec.

  • Isn’t justice supposed to be blind anyway???

  • Pingback: How Long in the Wilderness? « The American Catholic

Catholic Democrats Come to the Defense of Notre Dame

Friday, April 17, AD 2009

catholic-democrats

Catholic Democrats come to the defense of their leader in regard to Georgetown and Notre Dame and run into a buzzsaw named Father Z here.

Update:  Good analysis of why Catholic Democrats and other Obama-philes are so concerned about the fallout from Notre Dame is given here by the always readable Damian Thompson across the pond at his blog Holy Smoke.

Continue reading...

10 Responses to Catholic Democrats Come to the Defense of Notre Dame

  • Isn’t Fr. Z the man whose writing verges on pornography, whenever he muses lyrically on his intense love for certain U.S battleships?

  • Obviously Mr. DeFrancisis you know nothing about Father Z. Enjoy the fisk. I know I am!

  • Isn’t Fr. Z the man whose writing verges on pornography, whenever he muses lyrically on his intense love for certain U.S battleships?

    Only in the perverted imagination of a couple rather odd bloggers. He just likes naval architecture. Many people have worse hobbies.

  • Mark,

    And you wonder why I call you a dissident Catholic.

  • He just last year salivated in writing over the armored appendages of one US battleship, one that he pointed out delivered missiles in the (unjust)U.S military aggression on Iraq of the early 90s.

  • Mr. DeFrancisis, doesn’t it get tiring dragging red herrings across the screen? Deal with the substance of Father Z’s fisk and stop babbling about battleships.

  • Tito – Opposing war makes one a “dissident” Catholic? Someone better notify the Pope.

    If find it outrageously funny that you people did the same thing to Bush and yet you’re criticizing Obama’s folks when they rush to defend him. Are you surprised? I’m not.

  • Tito,

    Fr. Z is a phenon in an obscure corner of the Catholic blogosphere. His pronouncements have no authority over me, as he is neither a bishop nor a priset in my diocese. Additionally, despite all of his clains to Catholicity, his views on the liturgy and other matters are mostly the predilictions of an ideologue and an aesthete, not ones which mirror the necessary pronouncements of Mother Church. I wish him all the cyber-success he seeks out, but, otherwise, we have nothing to do with each other.

  • We should pray for Fr. Z. He will surely lose a lot of sleep over Mr DeFrancisis’ poor opinion of him…

  • Pingback: Catholic Democrats Attack Glendon And Run Into Father Z « The American Catholic

"diminishes the reputation of Notre Dame and makes one wonder what its mission truly is."

Monday, April 13, AD 2009

bishop-samuel-j-aquila

Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota,  takes Jenkins to task for the homage to Obama to Obama scheduled at Notre Dame on May 17, 2009 and also addresses the sophistical defense mounted by Jenkins of his decision:

Continue reading...

One Response to "diminishes the reputation of Notre Dame and makes one wonder what its mission truly is."

One Response to Stem Cells and Sophistry

  • O’Rourke’s argument is one to value because it doesn’t rely on theology. Of course, we base our beliefs on the teachings of the Church, but that cuts no ice whatsoever with progressive pro-aborts. I’ve argued (in vain) with pro-abortion liberals that a secular case can be made against abortion and embryonic stem cell research and O’Rourke is the man to do it.

    O’Rourke has cancer, and yet he doesn’t mention it once in the article. O’Rourke might have been a wild man in his youth, but he is not one who thinks it’s OK if others die if it might prolong his life by a few years.

Trust Us, We Were Lying!

Wednesday, December 3, AD 2008

One of the arguments I’m starting to get very tired of is that when Senator Obama addressed Planned Parenthood and promised that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (thus cementing a more drastic pro-abortion regime than has ever existed in the US to day) he was obviously just scoring partisan political points, and that Catholics are not only ill advised to worry about FOCA passing and being signed but that if they do so they are actively behaving in bad faith by accusing Obama of supporting something he never really meant to do.

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that politicians often pander, and to anyone who doubted it in the first place it’s increasingly clear that the only difference between Obama’s “new politics” and the old kind of politics is that the “new politics” involves Obama being president. But even if it’s common knowledge that one of the good ways of knowing that a politician is lying is to see if his mouth is moving, I don’t see how we can even discuss politics if we don’t assume that the promises which a politician expressly makes on the campaign trial represent something which the politician at least thinks would be a good idea.

Continue reading...

9 Responses to Trust Us, We Were Lying!

  • It is an odd phenomena. A candidate makes a campaign promise, the promise is cited, and then the people citing the promise are accused of dishonesty for repeating the promise.

    At the same time, I would say there is a hierarchy of plausibility in campaign promises, and the promise to sign FOCA is on the lower end of that spectrum. It was made 1) To a particular interest group once (rather than repeatedly), 2) When Obama still was scrambling for the nomination by running to Hillary’s left. Additionally, Obama, as far as I can tell, is a pragmatist. He wants to be re-elected, and knows that whatever marginal increased appreciation from his base he received from signing FOCA would more than likely be outweighed by a backlash among moderates.

    BTW nice turn of phrase about the ‘new politics’. I’ve thought the same thing but hadn’t seen it phrased that way.

  • I agree that FOCA is probably fairly unlikely to pass. Now that Obama is out of the left-wing bubble, he’s having to find ways to please more than just the sort of activists one runs into in Chicago politics.

    I’d see the most likely situation for it doing so being a situation in which flagship administration priorities are going down and it finds itself in need of shoring up its base. Then we could potentially see a certain amount of cultural left stuff rammed through.

    But it was a massively stupid promise to make in the first place. (I have difficulty thinking of a GOP example extreme enough to give a comparison, but I think the “Pure America Act” suggestion comes close.) I suppose now that we’re stuck with him as president we must hope that he’s gaining wisdom, but color me unimpressed.

  • Start the betting line in Vegas- which bishop is first to close the Catholic health care institutions in his see. Chaput is always a favorite. Brusky of Nebraska, natch. I could even nominate our Cardinal Rigali of Philly- got on phone with City Council in a flash over some meaningless Pro-Choice City Proclamation, removed next session. Been reading that our hospitals constitute one-third of U. S. of A. health care institutions. Would not be a good idea to institute nationalized health care with swamped public and other E.R.’s. Ball’s in your court, Mr. Obama. FOCA or hospitals- choose.

    (Also- can’t wait for first video of bishop dragged off to jail on FOCA protest charges- at hospital, abortuary, etc. Can cut to sound of air flying from balloon, signaling end of Obama Presidency if it occurs.)

  • I’d say the election in Georgia makes passage of FOCA much less likely, and not just because there is one more vote to sustain a filibuster. A President is never stronger than after he is first elected, and the defeat by a wide margin of Martin in the Senate runoff makes the election of Obama seem a bit less like a realigning election and a bit more like a fairly natural party switch after a two term presidency, especially with the economy in the tank. As a President is perceived more as a conventional politician and less like a political tidal wave, his influence diminishes. However, I do think there will be an attempt to pass FOCA, even if it appears unlikely to prevail, and I do anticipate that the Obama administration will always be a staunch foe of the pro-life movement, as they will amply demonstrate by Obama’s judicial picks. The election of Obama was a disaster of the first magnitude for the pro-life movement, and pro-lifers who voted for Obama obviously have, for them, much higher priorities than seeking to stop the legal slaughter of children within the womb.

  • The promises we make speak of who we are.

  • Appointments matter – to the S. Court and lower courts obviously, but also throughout the federal branch. There are a whole host of policies that need advancement and protection…notification, military bases, wait periods, federal funding, forcing clinics/professionals to do or provide x or y……

  • You cite a blog I write for, I would hope you would honest about us.

    I have always admitted that Barack Obama is pro-choice and that I disagree with him and consider it a legitimate reason not to vote for him.

    I am all in favor of opposing pro-abortion legislation and supporting pro-life legislation.

    You make the statement “FOCA is probably fairly unlikely to pass.”

    That is all I have said as well. And certainly there have been others who do not agree with us and make claims that passage is days away.

    Equally there is no right to lie about what FOCA would do. The great bluster was by the bishop of Arlington suggesting civil disobedience. To do so would first require his diocese to actually open a Catholic hospital, a ministry he has heretofore not maintained in his jurisdiction. Second, using the most extreme possible understanding of FOCA, he would have to file false Medicaid claims. Really, not the TV action that is suggested.

  • Kurt,

    So tell me again why you support Obama (and vote for him)?

  • Obama just signed today a reversal of the abortion policy, now forcing our tax money to fund international abortions. So, the Obamanation has sadly begun. And sure, I’ll bet Hillary will make it a pre-condition that countries seeking aid be willing to provide this murder service. God have mercy.