I opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and still think it was, on balance, a bad mistake. I hoped John Kerry would beat George W Bush in 2004. So what the heck am I doing rooting for the McCain-Palin ticket? What's different this time around?
For a long time I've been mulling over writing something about the U.S. election, which has become an absorbing passion for me, much more than the Canadian one a few short weeks ago. And yet I hardly know where to begin.
If you visit this blog at all regularly or follow my Delicious bookmarks or my Facebook profile you'll have figured that for me the overriding "political" issue of our era is the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.
It's on that basis that I consider Barack Obama one of the most dangerous politicians on the continent. Obama is, as Robert George has pointed out, "the most extreme pro-abortion candidate to have ever run on a major party ticket."
But aside from the conservative blogs I read faithfully and a circle of orthodox Catholic friends, I generally find indifference about what Obama represents, or even enthusiasm for it. Hope. Change. Promise.
I'm not wild about Bush and never have been, though I've long been repulsed by the staggering personal contempt freely poured upon him by some people who claimed to believe in loving their enemies. In 2004 there were the fresh revelations about torture at Abu Ghraib. The conduct of the war, the prospect of more war--more than anything else, these left me hoping, if half-heartedly, that Kerry would keep Bush from a second term. I preferred Bush's positions over Kerry's when it came to abortion and same-sex relationships, but I just couldn't countenance his record on the war.
Well, Obama may sound sometimes as if he's running against Bush, but of course his actual rival is McCain. And while I still believe it would have been better not to invade Iraq, having become Catholic since the last U.S. election, I now have the vocabulary to identity the war as a matter of prudential judgment--something upon which reasonable people can disagree in good conscience.
Abortion is different. It is intrinsically evil, always and everywhere, to deliberately kill an innocent human being.
Torture is intrinsically evil too, and according to Bishop Anthony Fisher, OP, of Sydney, Australia, "there is no basis in Church teaching for comparing two very different 'intrinsic evils' and determining that one is objectively and absolutely more grave than the other." But this year (now that Romney is out of the race) neither of the main candidates is soft on torture.
We have McCain, who supports the grave evil of embryonic stem cell research--cannibalizing tiny, new human beings for spare parts. And we have Obama, who supports the grave evil of ESCR (with fewer restrictions than McCain would impose) and the grave evil of human cloning, the grave evil of abortion, and the grave evil of what amounts to legalized infanticide.
Then there is Joe Biden, who at best is woefully ignorant and confused on basic Catholic social teaching. If, as some thoughtful conservatives have charged, Sarah Palin has failed to demonstrate a solid grasp of some important issues, she's still right on the fundamentals.
And this is the thing: we can disagree about the best way to reduce child poverty, the best policies on health care, the best way to protect the environment. "Drill, baby, drill"? Even if offshore drilling in Alaska should be a bad idea, it's not on a par with tearing a baby limb from limb in his mother's womb. The former may be justified under some conditions; the latter is never acceptable.
And when one presidential candidate pledges as his first act in office to wipe away federal and state laws limiting abortion "rights," this is topsy-turvy thinking. In logic, when one starts from a contradiction, one can derive any conclusion at all. If evil is called good, then nothing is safe, not health care, not the environment, not education, not social policy.
Bush has given the Supreme Court John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Obama will appoint only justices pledged to uphold Roe v. Wade. McCain will appoint justices who believe it's outside their mandate to read new rights into the constitution.
Abortion has killed 40 million unborn children in the United States since 1973. What could outweigh that? To date Inside Catholic counts more than 115 American bishops who have stated that life issues take precedence in this election.
And yet I've had several exchanges lately with Christians who I know take their faith seriously but still don't see it. I'm frustrated.
I hear the usual lines about how changing the law should not be the be-all-and-end-all of pro-life activism. As Amy Welborn points out, backed up by Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy, this is a straw man.
And so on. Stopping abortion in the black community isn't going to solve the problems of absent fathers and young men in prison. Well, no, of course it's not sufficient, and no one says it is, but it's a necessary step, because how stable and strong can a family grow when everyone knows that some lives are disposable?
These lines, I should clarify, I'm hearing from people I wouldn't classify as theologically liberal. What they are, though, is Protestant, and I think that makes a difference. Not because opposition to abortion is a uniquely Catholic position--as someone pointed out, the anti-abortion statutes struck down by Roe v. Wade were all passed by Protestant-dominated legislatures. Indeed, one does not need to be a theist to see the evil of abortion, as Nat Hentoff illustrates. What one generally needs, though, is a firm appreciation of natural law. And built into Protestant "private judgment" is a tendency toward relativism and hence to compromise with the prevailing culture. There are, of course, very many honourable exceptions, such as William Wilberforce, but after all, who am I to stand up and say that the culture is wrong on an issue, dead wrong?
The Church's answer is not that I personally have special powers of moral discernment but that She does, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. I'm not standing alone. So even though Obama is wildly popular among Canadians, I need not waver in the conviction that his promotion of abortion is gravely evil. And that we will all be called to account for whether, even if out of misplaced compassion, we went along with his abominable plans.
The time is short. Somehow I had to get this written, but now I'm going to ask you to just pray. Pray the Rosary if you will--Our Lady of Victory will not fail us--but fast and pray for life, until the polls close in the last swing state.