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?