Monday, May 11, 2009

Poor Margaret is weeping.

It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

So ends Hopkins’ poem on the inevitability of life’s sorrows. And it is what struck me while reading Professor Kmiec’s book, namely a deep sorrow for someone whose clearly expansive mind stretches and twists and aches to justify a position he must know is so fundamentally fallen.

I came to Kmiec’s Can A Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barak Obama with a sincere hope that this would be some seminal effort at creating a salve for the deep wounds that exist in our mother church, the Roman Catholic Church. I had the audacity to hope that some splinter of truth would shine forth from it and explain away all my nascent tendencies to dismiss and distrust those who would support the most actively pro-abortion candidate this nation has seen since the Roe decision of 1973. Against my baser inclinations I ferreted out a copy at the local library and poured over it in hope.

That hope, however, was dashed against the adamantine facts of reality and reason. I could barely read five paragraphs of Kmiec’s text without finding a glaring error, a straw man, a verbal bait and switch, a train wreck of argument and obfuscation and agenda.

Chapter One provides several examples, for in his attempt to discredit those he refers to as Republican Faith Partisans (RFPs), a ridiculous moniker that reeks of puerile name-calling, Kmiec lays out the RFP misleading and erroneous logic by writing,

“Correct Major Premise: Abortion is an intrinsic evil (in Catholic terms a'grave sin') to be discouraged.”
From the starting gate, Kmiec stumbles. He makes abortion something “to be discouraged,” as though it were poor manners akin to slurping your tea. No Mr. Kmiec. Abortion is to be outlawed. This is the point which the “RFPs” and the Vatican and the U.S. Bishops and your colleagues have been making for years now, for as Faithful Citizenship makes clear, any legal system that sanctions the killing of millions of human lives is “fundamentally flawed.” Such flaws, Professor, ought to be more than just “discouraged.” They must be firmly corrected by good law.

Next, Kmiec writes,
“Misleading Minor Premise: Obama doesn’t support reversing Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that leaves this decision to the potential mother. (Correct, but misleading and incomplete. Obama believes there is a better way to reduce the incidence of abortion than reversing a court decision that will do nothing other than toss the issue back to the states – namely, to improve the prenatal, maternity, and, if needed, adoption resources of expectant mothers and to better educate un-marrieds about the serious side of sexual intimacy and the importance of responsible parenting.)”
Laying aside for the moment the fantastical claim that first, Obama believes this and that second, what he believes is true, one ought to be struck by the astounding phrase “potential mother.” Perhaps Professor Kmiec is too strict in his definition of motherhood to see that there is nothing “potential” about the fact that every pregnant woman has a human life inside of her at the moment of conception, a life for which she is responsible the moment she becomes aware of it. Furthermore, the objection against Obama is not just that he does not support overturning Roe but rather the whole host of policy positions in favor of extending access to, funding for, and legal defense of abortion on demand. More on that later.

Lastly, Kmiec writes,

“Faulty Conclusion: Obama is ‘participating in or cooperating with’ evil and anyone voting for him is, too. (No, as the discussion in this book will reveal, this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church).”
Excuse me Professor but it is certainly the teaching of the Church that civic leaders who, like Obama, willfully extend access to, funding for, and legal defense of abortion on demand are participating and cooperating with evil. Anyone who votes for this leader, knowing full well of their position, is cooperating with evil, even if it is remote material cooperation.

In the end, Kmiec’s opening salvo falls well short of the standards of honest reason. The tragedy does not end there though. Speaking again about these RFPs, a dastardly collection of rabble-rousers no doubt, Kmiec writes that the performance of abortion is wrong and participating in it is never justifiable no matter what good may come of it. He continues,

“However, that does not mean that public officials cannot work to restructure, for example, tax or economic conditions that make abortion less likely. It would be absurd to call that ‘participating in or cooperating with’ abortion just because the public official thinks it unwise to overturn Roe for the purpose of then convincing the individual states to enact laws that would send the mother or doctor, and the father or clergy person if they were consulted by the mother, as co-conspirators to jail. It certainly does not mean that Catholic voters cannot make candidate choices that can reasonably be thought to establish social justice policies that advance the culture of life.”
Did you, dear reader, catch that? Of course you did. Kmiec states that it is absurd to claim cooperation with evil just because a public official wishes to care for the poor instead of throwing teenagers and their priests into jail, which is what would happen if Roe were reversed of course.

Does the good Professor really think us so dull witted? Does he really mean to say that those who wish to overturn Roe seek that Supreme Court decision “for the purpose” of throwing women and their priests into jail? There are straw men…and then there are straw men. And this straw man smothers a large swath of land when he falls in the next sentence, for Kmiec says that the choice is between those who would imprison wayward girls, impoverished mothers and well-meaning pastors and those who wish to “establish social justice policies that advance the culture of life,” indeed those who advance the cause of sugar and spice and everything nice.

Forgive me for the sarcasm. It is my effort at lightening the mood, for we have here a well respected and nationally recognized Constitutional lawyer who is falling faster than the leaves in Hopkins’ poem, falling far too quickly, for we are only on the third page of Kmiec’s argument. Poor Margaret is grieving.

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