Vincent D. Rougeau
Race, religion and the 2008 election
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It has never been easy being African-American and Catholic in the United States. Though many of us, along with our Latino brothers and sisters, trace our Catholic roots to traditions that have been present in the Americas for centuries, we have often been made to understand that we are invisible to many of our fellow U.S. Catholics. How else would one explain the relative insignificance of the political and cultural concerns of African-Americans and Latinos in the rhetoric of some American bishops and other Catholics who heaped vitriol on those of us who supported Barack Obama in the recent presidential election?

Although this hostility was typically directed in that election toward any Catholic who failed to share the view that abortion was the only issue that mattered in selecting a candidate, the message to Catholics of color was particularly stark: Not only were we not “real” Americans in the coded language of Sarah Palin and the Republican Party base; we were not “real” Catholics either.

Being invisible to the Republican Party is something African-Americans have learned to live with. It is one important reason why many of us rarely vote for Republican candidates. Hispanics were perhaps a bit more relevant to the Republicans in past election cycles, but the “real” American response to immigration reform that was championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives has put an end to any meaningful outreach to Hispanics by the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. Yet despite explicit appeals to nativism by some Republicans throughout the campaign, several Catholic bishops—apparently blind to the irony of an immigrant church supporting nativist politics—alluded to Barack Obama’s candidacy in ways that made it clear that the only issue in the presidential race worth discussing, as far as they were concerned, was the criminalization of abortion. This made the invisibility of people of color to certain Catholic bishops even more apparent, and that invisibility was much harder to deal with.

An End to the Status Quo

Given the gravity of the circumstances in which the nation now finds itself, and the undeniable responsibility many in the Republican Party bear for those circumstances due to their adherence to agendas steeped in neoconservatism, libertarianism and free-market liberalism, one would think our fellow Catholics would at least allow a bit of goodwill toward those of us who could no longer abide the political status quo. Might Latinos in particular have assessed, quite reasonably, that John McCain would never be able to get comprehensive immigration reform past members of his own party, were he ever to propose it? And who better than Colin Powell could articulate so eloquently what many African-Americans have long felt about the Republican Party, as if the condescending and dismissive treatment he received from the neoconservatives in the Bush administration was not enough to send a rather convincing message about who really counted?

Still, we were told that no good Catholic could vote for Obama. Or, to make the point affirmatively, good Catholics must vote Republican.

I suppose Catholics of color were expected to shut up and toe this political line no matter how devastating a Republican administration might be to our efforts to announce our presence in this society as something more than afterthoughts, tokens or entertainers; and perhaps it is time to make something perfectly clear. We will not be ignored and treated as if our experiences, our lives and our views are marginal, insignificant and less than central to the American experience. We will not be condescended to, threatened and bullied as if we are somehow too stupid to weigh the serious difficulties that attend one’s political choices when permissive access to abortion is a legal right. Support for human dignity and the common good cannot be reduced to self-congratulatory voting for a “pro-life” candidate. Other things also matter. It was encouraging to see Cardinal Francis George remind his brother bishops at their recent meeting that racial and economic justice are central pillars of Catholic social teaching. Indeed, without them, human dignity becomes a rather empty concept.

Abortion Realities

The conservative commentator David Frum has noted recently that growing economic inequality has become a huge threat to the common good, as middle-class incomes have stagnated and more and more Americans have fallen into poverty. Many recent low-skilled Latino immigrants, drawn to the United States largely by free-market policies championed by the political right, have also become mired in poverty. Low rates of high school completion and high rates of births to single mothers in these communities make this poverty more intractable, as does the marginalization of those with undocumented immigration status. Yet in the minds of many pro-Republican Catholics, it was absolutely impossible for Barack Obama to be honest about his support for increased social spending as a strategy of abortion reduction. Increased social spending attacks the economic inequality that even conservatives like Frum believe is destructive to the nation’s social fabric, fueling the circumstances that lead so many American women to seek abortions.

Let us consider for a moment the reality of abortion in the United States. Abortion rates (which, by the way, have been in a steady decline for some time) are highest in communities that are disproportionately poor. This means African-American and Hispanic communities, which have poverty rates three to four times those of white communities. What does an all-or-nothing strategy toward criminalization of abortion say to women in these communities, women who are also routinely vilified for having too many babies? Rather than being offered hope through support for the creation of a society in which poor mothers could envision futures of solidarity and participation for their children, they are told that more of them need to be prosecuted as criminals.

Barack Obama’s simple presence in the Oval Office will probably do more to reduce abortions than any possible further restriction of the abortion laws that might have occurred during a McCain-Palin administration. For the first time in American history, women of color can look at their children, particularly their sons, and say with conviction that American society sees them as full, dignified members of the community for whom anything might be possible. Why isn’t that something worth voting for?

Reconciliation and Solidarity

Many Catholics of color feel deeply wounded and betrayed after this election, and although we are used to such feelings, they still hurt. Our experiences in this society have something to teach our fellow Catholics about the limits of the law, the realities of racism and exclusion and the real possibilities for change offered by a meaningful commitment to the values of solidarity and participation that form a fundamental part of Catholic social thought. As Pope John Paul II stated so eloquently in his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis: “Solidarity seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimension of total gratuity, forgiveness, and reconciliation. One’s neighbor is not only a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father.”

We hear much talk about Latin America, Africa and Asia being the future of the church. If this is going to be more than just a platitude, more American Catholics need to take seriously the concerns of people of color at home. President Obama has already begun to demonstrate through his appointments that he is not going to govern this country as a liberal ideologue, and he has spent an extraordinary amount of time listening to the voices of people from a broad cross-section of views within the Democratic Party—including pro-life Democrats—and beyond. Indeed, his political appointments thus far have demonstrated a remarkable sense of balance, pragmatism and concern for the good of all Americans, a far cry from the ideological steam-rolling we were subjected to under two Republican administrations.

Catholics on the political right might benefit from Obama’s example by spending a few moments listening to the concerns of their brothers and sisters in faith who may have experienced the world in a different way and who, if engaged from a position of respect, might be able to communicate experiences of suffering, love and transcendence that could transform both the church and the nation for the better. If the preferential option for the poor is truly meaningful in the life of our church, we should be spending a lot more time considering the abortion issue from the perspective of those who are most likely to resort to the procedure because of feelings of exclusion and desperation. Do these women have any reason to believe that if abortion were recriminalized, authorities would take the difficulties of their lives seriously and temper justice for the unborn with mercy for their suffering mothers? One did not sense this in the rhetoric of the Republican presidential campaign. The longstanding tendency of our legal system to punish the poor and minorities excessively and disproportionately in comparison to those with means is indisputable.

Real reconciliation begins with real listening. Have Catholics been listening to one another with a commitment to hearing what others have to say? Eight years of Republican leadership have failed this nation. President Obama gives many of us hope that the United States can once again be something more than a trading floor for monied elites so shameless in their greed that, having fought tooth and nail for decades to prevent meaningful regulation of their financial activities, they now seek to cover their outrageous losses with public funds.

Why is it acceptable to assume the worst of Barack Obama when he has only just begun to govern? Where is the Christian charity in that? What will it take for those of us who have been invisible for so long finally to have a face? We are ready to join hands with our fellow Americans and begin in solidarity the long walk toward a political life in this nation in which all people matter. We may disagree on some of the paths to take, but we agree on the destination. Will you join us? The world exists in more than black and white.

Three writers reflect on Catholic political activity under a new president. Read their articles here.

Vincent D. Rougeau, an associate professor at Notre Dame Law School, is the author of

Comments

Paul Louisell | 2/24/2009 - 7:38pm
Hard to read. When one's essay has for its premise "moveon.com" platitudes, it is hard to take it seriously.
Michael Bindner | 2/23/2009 - 10:21am
The Declaration was followed by the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution was crafted because the system of state supremacy set out in the articles did not work - which is telling in relation to the abortion debate and the desire by some to let each state decide policy for itself. I can understand the desire to do this, as it may seem desireable to pick the low hanging fruit - however doing so does violence to the structure of the government. There is a right way and a wrong way to recognize the rights of the unborn. A state by state approach is the wrong way, especially as women and girls travel across state lines to obtain abortions. It is more important to actual protect life than to feel like one is doing so by creating fake "abortion free zones."
Ed Wade | 2/21/2009 - 9:12pm
Professor Rougeau rightly points out the difficulties that blacks have had in our society, in our religion and in our politics however, since the era of Martin Luther King black voices have been heard and are having an effect in changing some of the enequities. Most of the black rhetoric is positive and progressive however, there are times when individual instances are broad brushed to whole segments of society. I feel the professor's article is an example of this "social broad brushing". He cites that some bishops and some other Americans heaped vitriol on those who supported Barak Obama in the presidential election...true. But, he then personalizes this vitriol to only black Catholics that voted for the president. Does he realize that 40 million American blacks do not equal 53 million American voters who voted for Obama? There were black, white, yellow and red Americans voting for the president. Some millions were even white Catholics for whom the vitriol was equally shared. The professor then states that comments by Catholic bishops regardidng the criminalization of abortion (re the Roe v Wade reversal)was again directed specifically at blacks. I remind the professor that it was white, Catholic, presidential candidate John Kerry who was threatened with refusal of the sacraments for his stand on abortion as were ALL Catholics, black, white, yellow and red who shared this same opinion. Rougeau's saves his final "brushing" on society for the conditions within the black community particularly for abortion. He correctly notes that abortion rates are four times greater in the black community than in the white community and that black women are unfairly being threatened with criminilization for having abortions. He rationalaizes that "Obama will do more to reduce abortions than any restrictive law" (I hope so). He further states "for the first time in American history, woman of color can look at their children, particularly their sons, and say with conviction that American society sees them as full, dignified members of the community for whom anything may be possible" HE IS CORRECT. EXCEPT, no where does he address that balck women are being impregnated by black men who thus far are not accepting responsibily for these acts. Instead, pregnancies for black men have become a "badge of honor", like a notch on a gun handle. I endorse more support for black women and their children in our society and within the black community; the professor is mute regarding the dignity of black women and their capabilities within our society. Many black men state (believe) that black society has been victimized by "them" and tend, like the professor, to blame "them". I would have appreciated the article challenging black men to become responsible and begin doing what other black men; a president, a secretary of state, senator, governors, mayors, doctors college presidents and a law professor from Notre Dame have done...assume the roll of a full, dignified member of the community for whom anything may be possible. Respectfully, Ed Wade
Nancy Danielson | 2/16/2009 - 10:38pm
Michael, with all due respect, when the Declaration of Independence was drafted, it was understood that The Constitution of the United States would follow with the details. The unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness does not depend on citizenship, which is why the word unalienable, was placed BEFORE the ordered listing of the Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. According to our Founding Fathers, the unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is not reserved just for those residing in the United States of America.
Rick Malloy, S.J. | 2/14/2009 - 1:18am
Overall, an excellent article calling us to reexamine our thoughts about, and attitudes toward, many issues in our political and social lives. One caveat. Law Professor Rougeau states: "Still, we were told that no good Catholic could vote for Obama. Or, to make the point affirmatively, good Catholics must vote Republican." Those statements are incorrect. The Bishops called on Catholics to form our consciences and vote accordingly. Any Bishop who deviated from this was out of line with his fellow Bishops. The Bishops’ provocative and prophetic statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” (http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org) clearly articulates the Catholic position much better than self-appointed, supposedly Catholic but actually Republican cover websites like catholicvote.com. Let the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ words speak for themselves. Here are some pertinent quotes from “In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth. We recognize that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience....” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” 2008, p. 2). “There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” 2008, p. 8). “Two temptations in public life can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity: The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed. The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues. Clearly not every Catholic can be actively involved on each of these concerns, but we need to support one another as our community of faith defends human life and dignity wherever it is threatened. We are not factions, but one family of faith fulfilling the mission of Jesus Christ” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” 2008, p. 9). Sen. McCain was not pro-life. He favored sending the issue back to the States (which would virtually assure legalized abortion, at least in some states). The only pro-life candidate was Ron Paul. Those who claim Pres. Obama is pro-abortion also do a disservice to the truth. Obama is pro-choice, but is not putting a gun to any woman's head forcing her to have an abortion (or a man to pay<
Rick Malloy, S.J. | 2/14/2009 - 1:17am
Overall, an excellent article calling us to reexamine our thoughts about, and attitudes toward, many issues in our political and social lives. One caveat. Law Professor Rougeau states: "Still, we were told that no good Catholic could vote for Obama. Or, to make the point affirmatively, good Catholics must vote Republican." Those statements are incorrect. The Bishops called on Catholics to form our consciences and vote accordingly. Any Bishop who deviated from this was out of line with his fellow Bishops. The Bishops’ provocative and prophetic statement “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” (http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org) clearly articulates the Catholic position much better than self-appointed, supposedly Catholic but actually Republican cover websites like catholicvote.com. Let the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ words speak for themselves. Here are some pertinent quotes from “In this statement, we bishops do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote. Our purpose is to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with God’s truth. We recognize that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience....” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” 2008, p. 2). “There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” 2008, p. 8). “Two temptations in public life can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity: The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed. The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues. Clearly not every Catholic can be actively involved on each of these concerns, but we need to support one another as our community of faith defends human life and dignity wherever it is threatened. We are not factions, but one family of faith fulfilling the mission of Jesus Christ” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” 2008, p. 9). Sen. McCain was not pro-life. He favored sending the issue back to the States (which would virtually assure legalized abortion, at least in some states). The only pro-life candidate was Ron Paul. Those who claim Pres. Obama is pro-abortion also do a disservice to the truth. Obama is pro-choice, but is not putting a gun to any woman's head forcing her to have an abortion (or a man to pay<
Michael Bindner | 2/13/2009 - 10:10am
Robert, overturning the Mexico City policy frees up family planning funds, not funds for abortions. Your opinion of the Democratic Party as the "party of death" seems to confirm the belief of many who suspect that the Right to Life movement is the religious wing of the Republican Party, whose aims are primarily political. If this is truly the case, it is no sin to ignore bishops who call abortion the first among issues. Nancy, there is no argument about the Constitution, which states that unless Congress says otherwise, citizenship and legal personshood starts at birth (Amendment XIV, Section 1). The unalienable right of which you speak is found in the Declaration of Independence, which is not constitutionally enforceable. Always listen to your opponents when they bring you inconveniet facts - you will be better able to adapt your startegy for success.
Michael Bindner | 2/12/2009 - 1:34pm
Ashley, I regard all children to be fully human at gastrulation (and potentially fully-human before that). Whether they get full protection under the law is a separate question, since full protection in the first trimester means just that - exactly the same rights that an infant gets. This would make all pregnancies public events. The last thing I want is for some investigator to come knocking on our door after my wife has had a miscarriage in order to make sure that it was legitimate. I certainly don't want some lawyer to come around saying we have a right to damages from the OB, whose insurance company will settle rather than let the case go to trial (even though it is most likely that a genetic defect caused the miscarriage). The rights of some are always balanced with the power of the state to enforce these rights. I do not believe in increasing the police power of the state in the first trimester. After the point where the vast majority of natural miscarriages occur is a different matter. The method by which the rights are recognized is also important. The plain text of the 14th Amendment shows that Congress is the correct entity to do this.
Robert Koch | 2/11/2009 - 9:36pm
Vincent Rougear writes about Obama's message of hope and change while Mr. Obama is the leader of the party of death. With Mr. Obama's past pro abortion, pro partial birth abortion, and even voting for the "legal" killing of babies who survive failed abortion, there if absolutely NO WAY I or any real Catholic could ever vote for him with good conscious. One of Mr. Obama's first functions was to reascend President Reagan's Mexico City Policy, and allocated $400,000,000 of American tax payer dollars to pay for abortions of foreign women. No professor, Catholics of good conscious cannot, and should not, ever vote for such politicians.
Nancy Danielson | 2/11/2009 - 6:01pm
http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=2222
Nancy Danielson | 2/11/2009 - 5:53pm
At the end of the Day, there is no argument that can change the fact that a Child in their Mother's Womb is a Human Individual, which is, the definition of a Person. Once the Life of a Human Individual begins, they are entitled to all the Rights that are protected in the Constitution of the United States of America beginning with the fundamental, inalienable Right to Life, without which, there can be no other Rights. Roe v Wade must be reversed because it is not consistent with the Constitution of the United States of America. It is nonsense to assume that if this is done, abortion may become a States Rights issue. Personhood does not depend on location. No one could make the argument that someone could be a Person in New York but not a Person in Alabama. The Person inside their Mother's Womb is the same Person that comes forth from their Mother's Womb. A Person is a Person in every location, which includes inside and outside of their Mother's Womb.
Ashley | 2/11/2009 - 12:37pm
Michael, I for one have never advocated a Right to Life strategy that focuses on the overturning of Roe v. Wade as the principal goal, since, even in the unlikely event that a Supreme Court reversal of Roe ever became an accomplished fact, the impact on the overall rate of abotion would be minimal given that this would simply return the issues to the states and that there is practically no chance of state governments aboloshing abortion in states where the vast majority of abortions occur. I hate to beat a dead horse, but you seem to believe, along with Mr. Rougeau, that an absolute right to life cannot be extended to the unborn without compromising the moral justice that is due to other members of society. I believe this to be a serious error in judgement. For justice to the innocent cannot ever be intentionally denied or compromised with moral justification. Again, the crux of the matter seems to be whether or not an unborn child growing in its mother's womb is to be regarded as a full-fledged human being, with all of the natural rights of human beings extended to it, or whether it is less than fully human and therefore not to be accorded such rights. For to have a class of human beings who are, through no fault of their own, divested of the rights normally attributed to the status of human being is morally indefensible. I take it by your post that you do not regard unborn children as fully human in the same sense that a child who has been born is fully human and that you do not agree that they are deserving of the full protection of the law from any intentional harm to their persons. Am I incorrect?
Michael Bindner | 2/11/2009 - 11:17am
Ashley, there is a difference between compromising ones moral position on abortion and recognizing the thorny political issues involved in reducing it. It is amoral to say that one must support every means in law to do so, regardless of effectiveness or the impact on others - particularly the unborn who are not to be aborted. The ends do not always justify the means. Since Catholic Justices Roberts, Alito and Kennedy seem to know that, we will not soon see the judicial overturning of Roe (which would have grave consequences for law and society beyond abortion - a potential consequence not unintended by some true believers in the power of the tyranny of the majority on sexual matters). For the Right to Life movement to continue to focus on a strategy that won't ever work is an abuse of its membership and rank opportunism, the benefits adhereing mainly to the leaders themselves and to the Republican candidates they support.
Mike Appleton | 2/10/2009 - 6:29pm
Prof. Rougeau's essay is insightful and remarkably gentle. It is insightful because it thoughtfully describes some of the more blatant examples of hierarchical hypocrisy which has characterized the Church's alignment with the Republican Party. It is remarkably gentle because its criticisms are grounded in a Christian love which a less charitable person might argue is ill-deserved. The Republican Party has for years courted Catholics and evangelicals on the abortion issue. It has used faith-based initiatives to appeal to southern conservatives who have spent years forming private academies to avoid desegregation orders. It has incited fear of immigrants to arouse xenophobic and jingoistic passion among the uneducated and underemployed. The recent campaign was awash in overt racism, appeals to an America that no longer exists (if it ever did) and charges that those who espouse "social justice" are simply communists in disguise. Because of the abortion issue, many Catholics have ignored a philosophy that supports budget cuts for the poor, the young and the elderly; opposes health care as a human right; expounds a just war theory that concludes war is just if "The Decider" says so; believes that the powerful can be trusted because wealth is God's reward to the virtuous; and trumpet's capital punishment as a righteous declaration of social condemnation. And in the aftermath of its repudiation, the Republicans concluded that it was not its message, but its messenger, that needed to be changed and given a black face, a final, defiant act of cynical arrogance. It is time to realize that this was an unholy alliance to begin with.
David | 2/10/2009 - 5:12pm
Fabulous article. Although I think the writer might be a bit naive about why many women want aobrtions: they don't want the baby! It's not necessarily economics or poverty or race. What are we doing to encourage men to support pregnant women? Much less abortions would happen if the young women had the love and support of the father of the child. I love EWTN but they really made me angry during and after the election for protraying pro Obabma Catholics as not real Catholics or badly educated Catholics. Thanks for the article.
Ashley | 2/10/2009 - 9:39am
This is in may respects an insightful article, and I agree with many of its points. I also voted for Mr. Obama, with the intent of opposing another four years of Republican rule, for many of the same reasons that Mr. Rougeau gives for his own support of Obama and opposition to the Republican platform. And I agree with Mr. Rougeau and what seems to be the majority opinion here that abortion should not be the only issue that matters when deciding for whom to vote. I must object, however, with Mr. Rougeau's statement that "justice for the unborn must be tempered with mercy for their suffering mothers". This is confused moral thinking on two fronts: it proposes a false dichotomy between justice for the unborn and compassion for the mothers of the unborn; and it fails to recognize that the right of an unborn child to not be deprived of its life is a moral absolute that can never be mitigated with moral justification for any reason whatsoever. For comparison, Mr. Rougeau, nor any of us I presume, would never say that the right of a child to be protected from abuse must be tempered by compassion for the adult who chooses to abuse her. The reason then that so many people are willing to compromise the rights of the unborn can only be that the full humanity of the unborn continues to be denied, either implicitly (as in the case of this article) or explicitly by the pro-choice advocates. Full recognition of the humanity of the unborn is the only argument that does justice to the unborn. Once this recognition is compromised, however slightly, then there is no end to how far the injustice can be taken.
Carolyn | 2/9/2009 - 11:11am
I am " a catholic of color (black)" and I want to point out that the opinions reflected by this author does not represent my views or the views of my best friend, a Mexican American catholic, or the views of the other women of color who had dinner with yesterday. I have never felt overlooked by the Catholic church, and I was not disappointed by the response of catholic bishops towards Obama. The only thing that disappoints me is how many people were willing to put their race before their catholicism. Carolyn
Chris Thigpen | 2/8/2009 - 6:47pm
"Abortion reduction efforts?" One of President Obama's first acts as President was to rescind the Mexico City Policy, first implemented by Reagan, that prohibited federal funding for groups who promote abortion as a method of birth control in poorer countries. We mustn't congratulate ourselves for (as yet unseen) efforts to reduce abortion in this country while promoting it in others.
Jack Slade | 2/8/2009 - 12:13am
Oh this makes me nauseous. Be honest that you're a party hack, don't flatter yourself with this high-handed rhetoric. Both Democratic and Republican politics are consistent in their limited way with Catholic morality and no one is villified by any good shepherd in the Church for voting any which way his conscience demands. Those clergy who do try to exert undue influence over their congregants' sovereign right to choose their own candidate come down more or less equally on both sides. I was once personally denounced from the pulpit by a priest who was openly using his ministry to campaign for Kerry--So I've got more right to cry "Boo-hoo, I'm not a 'real' Catholic" than you do, but I'm not exercising it, because having more than zero is still having less than one. Finally, I noticed you've made no effort to reiterate that infanticide is indeed an unacceptable social mortal sin, other than your vague promise that Obama's "simple presence" will yakkity-yak. Just another in the already far too long foolish assertions that in the magical era this superhuman has ushered in, our troubles will be over! Indeed Obama is so wonderful that he will even end those problems which he has repeatedly, publicly and privately sworn to perpetuate. Give me a break.
Douglas Kmiec | 2/7/2009 - 11:32pm
Vince Rougeau’s essay in America is nicely presented, and it raises the question of how we can build common ground with those who are visibly angry at having lost the election and the Catholic vote on November 4. The majority of Catholic voters, I believe, recognized from the campaign that there was a powerful Catholic social justice case for President Obama. Most Catholics today likely see that promise being at least partially fulfilled by, among other things, the President’s spending priorities in the stimulus measure. The majority of Catholic voters, I believe, also recognized during the campaign, what Rougeau insightfully reveals, that there is a very positive Obama-effect in black and white community alike inspiring a desire to make progress on a myriad of social issues about which it was in the nature of the GOP to be only divisive. The majority of Catholic voters I suspect are also pleased that the President in his first weeks has highlighted, not the signing of FOCA, but the creation of a subsidiarity-focused Office of Neighborhood and Faith-based Partnerships, which the President described as playing an important role in his abortion reduction efforts –which more than a few Catholic McCain supporters insisted he would never articulate, let alone, create a structure to implement. I would hope that all Catholics, whether they voted for the President or not, would wish to come together to rejoice over these matters and give them encouragement.
JUAN PABLO PALOMAR | 2/7/2009 - 5:36pm
How difficult to make a balance conclusion after reading the keen comments made out so far. Definitely I agree with the opinion that poverty does not justify unborned killing, but...¿Does it imply we necessarily must cast our vote in favor of a party whose political action brings about economic inequality as well as certain types of exclusion? As Rougau says, "Other things also matter". In any case, for sure I would never ever label such article as an "emotional garbage". Rather I would say that it is an extraordinary and reasonable statement, regardless the fact that we might agree or not with all or a share of what it's been assesed. Let us not forget respect and politeness when facing another one's opinion. It is both a right and an obligation we all have.
JUAN PABLO PALOMAR | 2/7/2009 - 5:19pm
How difficult to state a balanced conclusion given the keen comments issued by the readers who made their comments before me. No wonder I agree with the assesed fact that poverty does not justify unborned killing. Of course it doesn´t. But...¿does it imply we definitely must cast our vote in favour of a political party whose political action allows increasing social unequallity and certain types of exclusión?. As Mr Rougeau says, "Other things also matter". In any case, I would never ever define the article I read as an "emotional garbage". Rather I label it as an extraordinary and reasonable statement, regardless the fact that we might agree or not with all or a share of what he said. Let us not forget the respect when facing and labeling another one's opinion.
CFinNaples | 2/7/2009 - 3:21pm
Thank you, Dr. Rougeau, for one of the most cogent and sincere commentaries I have read this month. Your honesty and courage are refreshing. Abortions will go up this year. More moms and dads will murder their children--we've lost several in my small town already. That's what happens in depressions, and it's been happening since the days Hansel & Gretel were led into the woods and abandoned when their parents could no longer feed them. Whether a Republican or a Democrat sits in the White House is irrelevant. In this case, the Koran says it better than our Bible: "Do not kill your children for fear of poverty." If faithful Catholics put even a tenth of the effort they now use to lobby for throwing people into prison into eradicating poverty, increasing strength of labor unions, and funding the social bandaids so often derided as 'entitlement programs', our abortion rate would plummet as it did under the Clintons. I regret to share that most of the pro-Republican sentiment down here is very thinly veiled racism; over the past six months, I cannot tell you how many anti-immigrant (mostly they're from the Caribbean and South American here) and racist emails I have received from those who also are militant "pro-life" Catholics. How can they claim to believe in the 'dignity of human life' when they treat their neighbors so badly? More to the point: Why do our priests let them serve as Eucharistic ministers (or even receive communion!) when they are in a state of mortal sin?
leonard Nugent | 2/6/2009 - 7:17pm
Catholic republicans were not willing to put pressure on President Bush for the anti-life positions he took. Tell us professor how much pressure you will put on President Obama for the anti-life positions he takes?
Brendan Hyde | 2/6/2009 - 4:44pm
"Barack Obama’s simple presence in the Oval Office will probably do more to reduce abortions than any possible further restriction of the abortion laws that might have occurred during a McCain-Palin administration." What on earth is that supposed to mean? Our president is simply magical, I suppose. "For the first time in American history, women of color can look at their children, particularly their sons, and say with conviction that American society sees them as full, dignified members of the community for whom anything might be possible. Why isn’t that something worth voting for?" Because it's nonsense. If you need a member of your group to ascend to the presidency to think your society sees your group as dignified then I really don't know what to say to you. Would we reject an openly racist candidate despite what he or she might want to do policy-wise? Yes. Why don't we all reject a candidate that openly thinks the unborn are expendable, that the unborn child is a punishment if the mother didn't mean to have him/her? In fact, this is much worse than racism. How long will emotional garbage such as this article win praise from so many?
Kate | 2/6/2009 - 2:51pm
I never had the opportunity to take a class from Professor Rougeau while I was an NDLS student, something I deeply regret. But I increased my donation this year largely because of the great work he and Cathleen Kaveny have done to advance the work of progressive, pro-life Catholics. Bravo.
Timothy E Tilghman | 2/6/2009 - 2:28pm
Good article. Far too often some Catholics choose the candidate who parrots the bishop's language re: dignity of life when Catholics should demand concrete action to insure the dignity of life. Life is much more expansive than stopping abortion - youth die in our inner-cities every day; they die a slow death in the worst schools and quite often they are ignored by we Catholics who profess a commitment to the dignity of human life. We prescribe solutions to their problems rather than asking them what God called them to do, then acting in concert with them. For those who take exception to the article, I suggest reading Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, which is very clear on what we the Church should do re: dignity of human life, then check your response based on our faith as articulated by the pope who synthesized what has become Catholic Social Teaching.
Cecilia Olea | 2/6/2009 - 11:13am
Beautiful Article! I have been judged for voting as a Democrat only because of the abortion issue. I suppose, starving children in our own Country because they are illegal and killing innocent children and families in other countries because of war is O.K. Has the Republican Party try to invoke the abortion law? Perhaps I'm wrong. We are still the greatest country because we can have legal elections.