A Lenten Resolution for Liberal Catholics: Come Clean on President Obama

Lent is a time for self-reflection and amendment of one’s ways. It’s a time to ask ourselves, “What more can I do? What must I refrain from doing? What have I done wrong?”

I have a sincere suggestion for liberal and progressive Catholics this Lent: Come clean on Obama.

Life moves fast these days, and it’s easy forget even the recent past. But as recently as two-and-a-half years ago, Catholic after Catholic publicly came out in support of Barack Obama for President.

You know the names: Doug Kmiec (whose loyalty was awarded with an ambassadorship), Nicholas Cafardi, Lisa Cahill, Cathleen Kaveny (and numerous other Commonweal contributors), the editors of the National Catholic Reporter, contributors to America magazine, U.S. Catholic … as well as groups that have long since forfeited any semblance of Catholic identity, notably Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

It’s surreal to visit old sites launched with great fanfare during the ’08 Presidential Campaign, like “Catholics for Obama” which asks in big red letters, “Is Barack Obama Really Pro-Life?” and proceeds to answer the question “The answer is ‘yes'”. It’s even more jarring to read the 58-page manifesto the website published where, in painstaking detail, the author tries to make the Catholic case for Obama.

What a lot of wasted effort, if you ask me.

The thing that gets me about this whole concerted “Catholic” effort for Obama is how this cast of characters, for all intents and purposes, exited stage-left as soon as the election results were in. Instead, they left the rest of us – those who opposed Barack Obama – to continue the sad, heavy lifting of opposing his anti-life, anti-family agenda.

Sure, they come out of their foxholes every once in awhile (like during the Health Care debate), but on the whole, liberal and progressive Catholics for Obama only show up when their dissenting voice is needed to help propel their favored candidate into office. As soon as that goal is achieved, they disappear.

Don’t believe me? Answer this question: where is the liberal/progressive equivalent to CatholicVote? I’ll save you the trouble of scouring Google: it doesn’t exist. Liberal Catholics work to elect liberals to office, then they go on vacation.

Orthodox Catholics, on the other hand, work 24/7, during election seasons and in between too. In fact, President Obama and the liberals elected to office in 2008 have kept me and my faithful Catholic friends so busy these past two-and-a-half years that we are rarely granted the privilege of sitting back in our armchair, powering down our computer, brewing a cup of hot tea, and thinking about what’s happened.

So what has happened? Something extraordinary. You see, Catholics in 2008 who supported Obama said they did so because they believed Obama was better for enacting laws and policies in accord with the Church’s Social Teaching, including life, marriage, family, war, torture, health care, education, fiscal responsibility, subsidiarity, etc.

On each of these issues, President Obama has turned out to be a colossal failure:

On life, Obamacare opened up new funding streams for abortion, planned parenthood’s business is booming, all the anecdotal evidence suggests the abortion rate is rising (the administration has been coy about releasing updated abortion statistics), and his administration just eroded conscience rights protections for health care professionals. Throughout all this the liberal Catholics have actually supported Obama’s moves. There’s is far more I could say, but you get the idea.

On marriage and family, Obama (through his DOMA dereliction) has unilaterally declared that sexual orientation is protected class, that the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional and tantamount to discrimination and bigotry. He has appeared before and taken council from LGBT activists who actively oppose and attack the Catholic Church. He appointed Harry Knox, a gay man who virulently hates the pope and has blamed him for the deaths of AIDS victims in Africa, to his faith advisory council.

On war and torture, aside from the scaled-down operation in Iraq that was initiated by the outgoing Bush administration, Obama has ramped up military efforts in Afghanistan, etc. Guantanamo Bay – the closing of which was his first executive order – will now remain open indefinitely. Bush pursued the war effort despite domestic opposition, Obama does so amidst domestic disinterest.

On health care – it’s been a disaster. Over 1,000 waivers granted. Movement in the courts suggest a showdown over the law’s constitutionality this summer, and it’s not looking good for the Patient and Affordable Care Act. All the promises we were given about the law saving health care and remedying our sinking economic situation have turned out to be lies, or at least supremely naive. (Watch HSS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ recent testimony, or peruse the updated CBO numbers.)

On education? Kevin Jennings. ‘Nuff said. (Do a Google search). Look at the administration’s support of unions in Wisconsin which will continue our national dysfunctional approach to education that rewards seniority and protects union benefits over incentivizing young teachers and student outcomes.

On fiscal responsibility, Well, how much time do you have? Obama is the “spending-ist” President in American history. What happened to inviting financial ruin being morally irresponsible and reckless? When greedy people on Wall Street are reckless with our investments it is condemned. When greedy politicians in Washington are reckless with our tax dollars it is called progress.

On subsidiarity and the idea that those closest to the problems in our society should be given the freedom to fix it – not some bureaucrat or appointed panel of “experts” in Washington DC – Obama’s administration could not have a more opposing political perspective.

On this issue as with every issue where Catholic social teaching has a differing perspective, liberal Catholics have given Obama a pass. Imagine if any of the things we have seen happen over the past two-and-a-half years had happened under George W. Bush. The cries of complaint originating from the Catholic left would be deafening.

Here’s why they are silent: because my firm conviction is that the majority of liberal Catholics put their political views in front of their faith-formed conscience. That’s the only explanation I can formulate for why, because the President who is doing these things has a (D) after his name, liberal Catholics can’t find it in themselves to repudiate his policies.

That’s why, this Lent, I’m calling on liberal Catholics to Come Clean on Obama.

Take the opportunity of Lent – where all of us are called to admit that we are imperfect and have failed – to come clean on your blind support of politics over principle.

Demonstrate to the rest of us (and yourselves) that you when you speak you do so with a truly independent Catholic voice – a faithful voice. Don’t wait until the next election cycle to speak with a Catholic voice. Establish the good habit now of calling out the President when he pushes policies and legislation which are firmly against the Church’s social teaching. Other Catholics look to you. Don’t confuse them as you have confused yourselves.

Right after the 2008 election I wrote about my concerns for the future, and about my hope that I would be proven wrong about my fears about an Obama Presidency. If I had been wrong about my predictions – that Obama would not be a “Catholic” President – I would feel in honesty the need to right the record. I wish I could say that I have witnessed liberal Catholics equally feel the need to clear the air about when they were mistaken in their judgements.

Here’s a practical starting point for those who may want to make things right, which is informed by the rightful hierarchy of moral goods established by the Church’s social teaching (life and marriage):

Obama has clearly worked against protecting the right to life of the unborn – has done functionally nothing to “reduce the abortion rate.” He has also just made his most blatant assault on traditional marriage and the institution of the natural family. Call him out on that.

If you can’t, I’ll be forced to do my best to inform as many Catholics as possible that the prominent Catholics who supported Obama in 2008 and will attempt to support him in 2012 are doing so for purely personal and private reasons, not because they are Catholic.

And what is closer to the purpose of Lent than to strive to become more Catholic, to strive to more closely follow the teachings of Christ and His Church?



  • David L. Cannard

    As a practicing Catholic I strongly object to your trashing of the President.He or our Government does not promote abortion nor does our Gov pay for same. As to Obamacare the compromise with the Bishops concerns were to provide same at no cost to the affiliated institutions.I have the 8 pages fromHealth and Human Services that address that issue including self insured plans. Then the NYT had an articleentitles Republicans vs Women. They point out that eliminating Obamacare would eliminate contrecept options which would result in some unwated pregnacies which would result insome abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the leading Foundation on womens health issues this action would result in400,000 abortions a year. As I wrote my
    Archbishop. a great legacy for the Church. I can send you all of the documentation if you are interested.As a graduate of the Holy Cross U of Portland and the logic class I was required to take the facts are overwhelming in favor of
    The Pres. If Rommney gets in watch him chop the $300,000 plus dollars the gov. contributes annualy to Catholic Charites. David Cannard 360-606-7163 david.cannard@gamil.com
    catholoic charities

  • Susan

    VERY well written indictment of the Obama Administration. Thank you for writing it and I will share it on FB and Twitter.

  • Mike

    How convient that you were absent on the day in Sunday school when they reviewed the Church’s teaching on the death penalty, just war, and the fundamental right to join a union.

  • The Sheepcat

    I agree that Obama is grievously wrong on non-negotiable moral issues, and I too am offended that some Catholics still provide cover for his anti-life, anti-family agenda. That said, I am disappointed, Thomas, to see you use Lent as an occasion to create a program for the spiritual improvement of those people over there.

    This is not at all to suggest that admonishing sinners–a spiritual work of mercy, after all–should be off limits during Lent. But the penitential character of Lent is better expressed through what you started with in your first paragraph: “It’s a time to ask ourselves, ‘What more can I do? What must I refrain from doing? What have I done wrong?'”

    Ourselves. How can we, as pro-life activists, prune habits of our own that bear no fruit? *That*’s the Lenten essay I would like you to have stayed on course with.

    For what it’s worth, I appreciate how Jeff Mirus includes himself in his warning against “tak[ing] pride in the good that comes easily to us and ignor[ing] our deeper need for continual transformation in Christ.” I know it applies to me.

  • Justine

    Given the choice between McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden, I would still vote for Obama/Biden. In the years following the election, Palin has shown herself to be incapable of handling the pressures of governing a state, plus she cannot handle the press. This is not to mention her lack of intelligence regarding foreign policy. Yes, she is pro life, and that’s great, but it is not enough.

    • Bruce

      Oh yeah! Because at the end of the day, handling the press is far more important than the lives of babies. Gotta have those priorities straight, eh Justine? No need to be concerned with the murder of millions of children…just make sure you handle the press well. Holy cow is that stupid.

      • Francis

        I don’t think it means that Justine is not concerned about abortion, but that electing McCain/Palin would not have changed anything regarding abortion in the U.S.

  • Katherine

    The President won the Catholic vote in 2008 and he will win it again in 2012!

    (* Obviously, there was diversity of opinion among Catholics. When various factors are applied, the most profound clevage among Catholics is between those who attend all-white parish churches (the most Republican inclined) and those whose parishes are not all-white (the most inclined to support the President.)


    • Bruce

      Race…its so 1960s. Homosexuality…its so 1990s. Haven’t you heard, my gray-feathered friend, the new “black” and the new “gay” is the unborn child. The unborn are the only ones left in the world without civil rights…and yet you keep silent on that. Wonder why?….

      • Francis

        “Race…its (sic) so 1960s.” Race will continue to be a concern as long as there are multiple races in a society. The idea that you relegate it to the sixties simply indicates how out of touch you are. Do you realize that there are more hate groups in the U.S. now than there were five years ago? Being concerned about abortion does not mean that all other concerns simply don’t exist or are “out of style”.



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