Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MIchael Gerson on "Obama's Catholic Strategy"

In a column in today's Washington Post, Michael Gerson reviews President Obama's visit to Notre Dame in 2009, where "[h]e extended a 'presumption of good faith' to his pro-life opponents. Then he promised Catholics that their pro-life convictions would be respected by his administration."

That was then.  This is now:

Now the conscience protections of Catholics are under assault, particularly by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). And Obama's Catholic strategy is in shambles.

* * *

"We are in a war," [Obama's HHS Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius told a recent pro-choice meeting. Opponents of the administration, she said, are trying to "roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America." This is no longer the "presumption of good faith." It has all the hallmarks of a vendetta.

In 2008, President Obama's campaign was greatly assisted by high profile support from some Catholic leaders and academics, which allowed him to more plausibly portray himself as a new kind of politician and a moderate on social issues.  We were assured that President Obama was a different kind of politician and that he would respect and honor Catholic conscience and not aggressively promote pro-abortion policies.  Most Catholics were dubious even then.

As the 2012 campaign approaches, can any pro-life Catholic still claim that the cause of human life is not under assiduous attack by this administration?  And, on the fundamental question of religious liberty, can anyone seriously deny today that, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan observes, the Obama Administration is levying an "assault [on Catholic rights of conscience] which now appears to grow at an ever-accelerating pace in ways that most of us could never have imagined"?


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Truth begets truth, error begets error, which is why compromising truth, which always leads to error, can never be for the common good. Unless Archbishop Timothy Dolan was able to convince President Obama that from the beginning, God created every human individual equal in dignity while being complementary as male and female, President Obama's strategy remains the same, to try to convince Catholics that Christ, The Truth of Love, was willing to compromise The Truth for the sake of the common good thus we should not recognize Christ to be The Way, The Truth, and The Life of Love but rather he should be known as the great compromiser.

Posted by: Nancy D. | Nov 16, 2011 9:41:43 AM

As a long-time pro-life Democrat, I was among those "dubious" in 2008 of Obama's promises of moderation on hot button bioethical issues and his support for conscience objections. I'm even more dubious now. However, I'm not drawn to the Republican track record on the same bioethical issues. Without a comprehensive pro-life policy that includes much more support for pregnant women (and, yes, it's going to be expensive), a hearts and minds change in a large swath of the American populace on the dignity of all human life just isn't going to take place. Bottom line: As things now stand, both the Democrats and the Republicans are woefully deficient when it comes to effective pro-life policies, and I'm tired of making political choices based on a "lesser of two evils" calculus.

Posted by: Bill Collier | Nov 16, 2011 11:38:37 AM

I think Mr. Collier hit the nail right on the head and he parallels my thoughts. I'd like to also add that the majority of those pro-life officeholders (Catholic and otherwise) also supported our invasion of Iraq (which broke every rule of Catholic Just War theory) and supported our use of torture during the Bush Administration (also against the Cathecism). I have no doubts that if Senator McCain had won in 2008, we'd be at war with Iran right now and there would have been no further traction on overturning Roe Vs. Wade.

Posted by: Edward Dougherty | Nov 16, 2011 12:32:01 PM

Of course Obama is at war with the Catholic Church. Haven't they been listening to him?

Posted by: Fr. J | Nov 16, 2011 1:32:25 PM

How exactly can one be a Pro-Life Democrat when The Democratic Party does not recognize that every human individual, from the moment they are brought into being, has been created equal in dignity, while being complementary as male and female? What precludes The Democratic Party from being Pro-Life and thus respecting the Sanctity of Life and the Sanctity of Marriage and the Family?

Posted by: Nancy D. | Nov 16, 2011 3:02:00 PM

Easy, Nancy, one keeps bearing witness within the party in the attempt to change that view. Also, when one views (many but not all of the alternatives in the GOP), that makes the choice all the easier.

Posted by: Edward Dougherty | Nov 16, 2011 3:06:00 PM

Also, Nancy, take a look at the vote on Roe Vs. Wade. It was 7-2 and, of those seven justices, Justices Stewart, Brennan (Eisenhower), Blackmun, Powell and Burger (Nixon) were all appponted by Republican presidents. And of the two dissenting votes, one of the (and the only one to point out the moral implications of the case) was passed by Byron White, who was appointed by President Kennedy.

Now, I know that was in 1973 and that things have certainly changed since then. But I wouldn't put my faith in the GOP to change things when they haven't shown the track record to do that.

Posted by: Edward Dougherty | Nov 16, 2011 3:12:56 PM

Edward, what precludes The Democratic Party from respecting the Sanctity of Life and The Sanctity of Marriage and the Family even though some members continue to bear witness to the Sanctity of Life and The Sanctity of Marriage and the Family?

Posted by: Nancy D. | Nov 16, 2011 3:19:02 PM


The DFLA (Democrats for Life of America) is admittedly small in comparison to the entire constituency of the Democratic Party, and the DFLA faces a Sisyphean task in rolling back the DP platform on many bioethical issues, but the DFLA is a place where an estranged Democrat like me can park for the time being. If a third party were to come along, however, that embodied Catholic social principles on bioethical issues and could advocate them in a secular fashion that would appeal to many disgruntled voters, I'd likely join that party in a heartbeat.

The DFLA's website: https://www.democratsforlife.org/

Posted by: Bill Collier | Nov 16, 2011 3:37:05 PM

What precludes The Democratic Party from respecting God's intention for the Sanctity of Human Life and the Sanctity of Marriage and the Family, is that The Democratic Party no longer believes that respect for the Sanctity of Human Life and respect for the Sanctity of Marriage and the Family, is a universal truth.

Posted by: Nancy D. | Nov 17, 2011 9:02:14 AM

It's less an intentional 'assault' than it is obtuse or reckless indifference. The same manner of error as afflicts the social Darwinist Republican candidates for the Presidency, who take the preferential option for the poor about as seriously and conscientiously as the Obama administration takes Catholic conscience.

Posted by: Robert | Jan 27, 2012 5:24:00 PM