As a liberal Catholic, there is a side of me that delights when conservatives are mauling each other in the press. I know it is a sin, but it is such a delicious sin and far from my most grievous. But, the recent intellectual scuffle between
legal scholar Doug Kmiec and former Crisis magazine editor Deal Hudson is not only good news for liberals. Kmiec’s position is good for conservatives who have been too cozy with the Bush administration. Kmiec’s first article – "Reaganites for Obama?"
– raised several conservative concerns about John McCain’s record as well as an appreciation for Obama’s candidacy. Kmiec especially lauded Obama’s remarks that "we should not use faith as a wedge to divide, but instead use faith to resolve cultural tensions..." Kmiec acknowledged his difficulty with Obama’s pro-choice position and the difficulty any Catholic must feel about voting for someone who, so alert on other issues, is determinedly opposed to laws that would protect innocent fetal life. There should be no doubt about Obama’s pro-choice position. It is wrong. And, it is not going anywhere fast. It is doubtful he will ever support overturning Roe
. That said, in his book The Audacity of Hope
he begins his discussion of the role of religion in politics by recounting the story of his own interaction with a pro-life voter in which Obama admits the knee jerk liberalism that sees all pro-life advocates as reactionary was not good for America. And, one of the consequences of the ugly anti-Obama emails and phone calls that have been paid for by pro-choice women’s groups like Emily’s List is that, unlike so many Democratic candidates, Obama will not owe one iota of his campaign’s success to the organized pro-abortion lobby. I don’t want to raise false hopes, but one can imagine a President Obama trying to tackle the issue of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies with vigor in a way no Republican could do effectively. It took Nixon to go to China. But, the real import of Kmiec’s article is his insistence that "as a Christian, I am neither left nor right, nor Democrat nor Republican axiomatically." He points out that the Iraq War is a life issue as well as abortion, and notes the disturbing way that McCain abandoned his previous support for reasonable immigration reform. It can never be said too often: cafeteria Catholicism exists on the right as well as he left. Hudson may be content to repeat the talking points coming from the White House. His access to power has too long blinded him from the one political stance that Christianity always imposes upon its adherents, a stance of critical distance and reflection towards all political power. Kudos to Kmiec for reminding his conservative friends of the limits of the culture war model, the "anti-approach to effecting social, political and judicial change...[that] focuses on criticizing what is unjust and wrong and little on offering a compelling vision for a truly just social order." When even conservative Republicans who held appointments from President Reagan and George H. W. Bush are looking to Obama’s campaign and responding to the hope he has put at its center, then we know that this is indeed an exceptional election year. And the fireworks are just beginning. Michael Sean Winters