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Public Discourse: Ethics, Law and the Common Good

A Letter to the Editor from Charles J. Chaput

by Charles J. Chaput

Nov 05, 2008

Archbishop Chaput writes to the editors of Public Discourse


Warm thanks to Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis for their excellent commentary of November 3rd. The church will have no lack of intelligent and faithful young scholars in the years ahead. Thanks also to veteran scholars Gerard V. Bradley, Robert P. George, Michael New, Hadley Arkes and the other contributors to Public Discourse who have made it such a strong resource in so short a time.

I'm grateful to Prof. Doug Kmiec as well for his letter. While we do not share a friendship and have had little contact in the past, Prof. Kmiec is right about the need for civility in public debate. Since I belong to a growing number of bishops excoriated by blogs on the cultural left--including blogs tied to otherwise respected Catholic publications and to scholars that, in the words of Prof. Kmiec, ''should know better''--I understand his discomfort with the tone of this election.

Nonetheless, good manners do not trump facts, and as an attorney himself, Prof. Kmiec surely knows the importance of candor. Anderson and Girgis are neither misleading nor uncharitable in their critique of his partisanship. On the contrary, they identify serious falsehoods and misdirections in Prof. Kmiec's ''prolife'' advocacy for Sen. Obama. I'm disappointed that in the course of his advocacy, the professor has apparently never faced up to the facts of Sen. Obama's longstanding and extensive efforts to deprive an entire class of human beings--unborn children--of basic legal protections against homicide, or Sen. Obama's pledge to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion, thus coercively implicating Catholics and other prolife citizens in the killing. Nor does Prof. Kmiec acknowledge that the foundational principle of the entire social Gospel is the right of every member of the human family to protection against unjust violent attack.

Prof. Kmiec's stated desire to cooperate in building a culture of life is, of course, gratifying. As Cardinal Francis George has noted, America's addiction to abortion has left it a nation ''drenched in blood.'' Having spent months urging Catholics to vote for Candidate Obama despite the senator's promises to remove all meaningful restrictions on abortion and to make abortion more widely available, Prof. Kmiec has a unique opportunity to press a newly elected President Obama to reconsider his most extreme positions, such as his support for partial-birth abortion (which the senator justified with the false claim that it is sometimes ''medically'' required) and his opposition to the Born Alive Infants Protection Act (which he untenably claimed was unnecessary because the laws of his state already adequately protected babies who survived abortions).

Sen. Barack Obama has promised to sign a sweepingly abortion-friendly ''Freedom of Choice'' Act; authorize human cloning to produce embryos for stem cell research in which they are killed; cut off funding for prolife pregnancy clinics; and nominate only ''pro-choice'' judges to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maybe all of these commitments are an elegant charade. Maybe I've missed a ''prolife'' theme in here somewhere. But no matter. Along with many, many other Catholics and prolife citizens, I look forward eagerly to Prof. Kmiec's vocal advocacy against these profoundly unjust policies.

+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the author of Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (Doubleday, 2008) and the Archbishop of Denver, Colorado. Copyright 2008 the Witherspoon Institute. All rights reserved.



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