Archbishop Chaput has a fascinating and hard hitting article on the First Things blog. The Archbishop relay a little of his own history with supporting pro-choice candidates.
After Robert Kennedy died, the meaning of the 1968 election seemed to evaporate. I lost interest in politics. I didn’t get involved again until the rise of Jimmy Carter. Carter fascinated me because he seemed like an untypical politician. He was plain spoken, honest, a serious Christian and a Washington outsider. So I supported him during his 1976 campaign when I was a young priest working in Pennsylvania. After his election as president, I came to Denver as pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton in 1977. I eventually got involved with the 1980 Colorado campaign for Carter’s re-election on the invitation of a parishioner and Democratic party activist—Polly Baca, who was and remains a good friend.
Carter had one serious strike against him. The U.S. Supreme Court had legalized abortion on demand in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and Carter the candidate waffled about restricting it. At the time, I knew Carter was wrong in his views about Roe and soft toward permissive abortion. But even as a priest, I justified working for him because he wasn’t aggressively “pro-choice.” True, he held a bad position on a vital issue, but I believed he was right on so many more of the “Catholic” issues than his opponent seemed to be. The moral calculus looked easy. I thought we could remedy the abortion problem after Carter was safely returned to office.
Since then, the Archbishop gradually learned that not being aggressively “pro-choice” or the personally opposed prevarication is not much different than active support of abortion.
In the years after the Carter loss, I began to notice that very few of the people, including Catholics, who claimed to be “personally opposed” to abortion really did anything about it. Nor did they intend to. For most, their personal opposition was little more than pious hand-wringing and a convenient excuse—exactly as it is today. In fact, I can’t name any pro-choice Catholic politician who has been active, in a sustained public way, in trying to discourage abortion and to protect unborn human life—not one. Some talk about it, and some may mean well, but there’s very little action. In the United States in 2008, abortion is an acceptable form of homicide. And it will remain that way until Catholics force their political parties and elected officials to act differently.
Th Archbishop takes issue with a group called Roman Catholics for Obama ’08. The group selectively quotes the Archbishop to support their position pointing out that they left out the following:
But [Catholics who support pro-choice candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life—which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.
I don’t think that this is a case that any Obama supporter can honestly make. The Archbishop finishes by pointing out the obvious:
Changing the views of “pro-choice” candidates takes a lot more than verbal gymnastics, good alibis, and pious talk about “personal opposition” to killing unborn children. I’m sure Roman Catholics for Obama know that, and I wish them good luck. They’ll need it.