Can A Catholic Still Vote For Him… Even Now?

When professor Doug Kmiec asked and answered the question in 2008 about whether Catholics could vote for Barack Obama he didn’t manage to convince a single soul. I mean that no one changed their vote based on his book. But he did demonstrate how hard one had to suspend disbelief in order to vote for for then-Senator Obama.

Kmiec quoted Pope Benedict on page 78 of Can a Catholic Support Him?: Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama. And so we read:

“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principle focus of her interventions in the public area is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today: the protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family, as a union between one man and one woman based on marriage… and the protection of the rights of parents to educate their children.” (Address to Members of the European People’s Party 30 March, 2006)

Kmiec should at least be credited with putting forward the toughest argument against his candidate. According to the Pope the non-negotiable issues are abortion, embryonic destructive research, euthanasia, cloning, traditional marriage, and parents’ rights in education. But in answer to this, Kmiec defends Obama.

He writes:

“Does Senator Obama contradict any part of that papal list? He is on record as wanting to ‘discourage’ abortion; he has spoken in favor of the importance of family and supports a definition of marriage that is limited to a man and a woman – its ‘natural structure.’ The Senator’s faith-based initiative is strongly aimed at assisting parents – in the best traditions of Catholic subsidiarity – with education.”

Kmiec goes on, but the above paragraph is damning enough. President Obama has done nothing to discourage abortion. Indeed, he has insisted, in a manner much bolder than even I thought possible, that abortion be made more available, that citizens pay for it, that Catholic institutions pay for health plans that now have to cover abortifacient drugs, and that any attempt to resist will be met with penalties…or fines… or taxes… I can’t keep track.

President Obama has done anything and everything he can to carry through several parts of the Freedom of Choice Act without having to pass the act itself, which Kmiec believed was not likely given the Barack Obama he knew, the Senator he had spent time with, the man he had grown to admire.

In an October 2008 interview, Kmiec was asked by an Eric McFadden whether or not Obama would try to overturn the Hyde amendment which bars federal funds from going to pay for abortions and mandate coverage for abortion on demand. To this Kmiec answered in part:

“Again, ‘mandate coverage for abortion on demand’? This has never been Senator Obama’s position.”

Yet here was are, four years later, finding ourselves dealing with a health care law with mandates that include federal funding of abortion… just as we thought… just as the bishops warned. Were those warnings paranoia? Were they Religious Faith Partisans, as Kmiec labeled them? Or were they really just people who knew that a Democratic politician from Chicago who had voted three times against saving babies born after botched abortions could do nothing else but to expand abortion?

As for marriage, well we know that the President has “evolved” on that issue. He has directed that his Justice Department refrain from enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act. He has thrown his support behind attempts to repeal it. He has said that the States should be able to decide for themselves what marriage means. He has no problem with it personally.

This ought not be a surprise though. The political base of the Democratic Party simply would not stand for it much longer. But more than that Barack Obama has always just said what he needs to say in order to get elected. He was for gay marriage in 1996 when running for Illinois State Senate. He was undecided while running for re-election in 1998. He was against it 2004. Then in 2006, after becoming a Senator from Illinois, he wrote in The Audacity of Hope that he could be wrong. What exactly did Professor Kmiec see or not see here?

Finally, in terms of parental rights, it was President Obama who ended the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program by capping it at the current students enrolled. The program is a proven help to low-income, mostly African American children in the Washington D.C. area who can get vouchers to attend private and parochial schools. The rights of parents to send their children to the best schools so that the kids can escape the grinding poverty of the District didn’t matter to President Obama in 2009 and it still doesn’t.

While an agreement to re-fund the program was reached recently, Obama’s 2013 budget requests zero funding for the program. Nothing. Sorry, parents. You gotta send your kids to the failing school down the street.

If nothing else, this demonstrates the kind of self-delusion one has to adopt in order to defend then-candidate and certainly now President Obama over and against the words of the Holy Father. Perhaps Ambassador Kmiec can be excused for having been too starry-eyed. Perhaps he was just so offended by having been refused communion – which I do think was an injustice – that his judgment was clouded… for several months afterwards.

Whatever the case, let’s pray that Kmiec, who does still on occasion attempt to defend Obama, comes to his senses and rejoins reality.



  • Kevin

    The House GOP recently voted to raise defense spending and to maintain a “balanced budget,” cut food stamps. Wouldn’t the pope have a problem with this?

    • Christine

      Omar’s article pointed out the pope’s non-negotiables.

      The rest of us can make sure that we give generously to those in need. Remember the corporal works of mercy? It’s our job as Christians, not the government’s:
      To feed the hungry;
      To give drink to the thirsty;
      To clothe the naked;
      To harbour the harbourless;
      To visit the sick;
      To ransom the captive;
      To bury the dead.

      If we were doing our job better, we wouldn’t need the government to fill in.

    • Tim

      Do you support Obama? Let’s see on the GOP side….defend the nation, balance the budget, and stop creating massive dependency…as a ruse for a power base… on the Obama side…kill the unborn, destroy religious liberty, and tax the Church into the ground….The GOP are no angels, they have many problems no doubt…but there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever for a properly catechized Catholic…Obama cannot be supported, period.

    • Antonio A. Badilla

      Are you actually telling us that a nation, particularly a world power like the United States, does not have the right to have a well-funded military because, somehow, that would be in violation of the Church’s social justice?
      Can you point out “where” in any social church document, it “literally” states food stamps have to be given to those in need? Have you ever heard of the principle of subsidiarity? Have you ever heard of what “prudential judgment” means in the Catholic Church?

    • Omar Gutierrez

      Let’s be clear about some facts Kevin. First, if the pope is always against cutting food stamps then funding it by 15 gazillion dollars is not a problem right? Or is there a limit to how much we should spend on food stamps. If there is one, then what the pope has said is that the experts in the field ought to be the ones making that decision on the level of prudence. Do you agree with that? Or would you argue that the pope only believes Democratic experts are real experts? Second, the cuts were to increases. Third, despite unemployment having gone down during the last two years, enrollment in food stamps has gone up. There is something significantly wrong with the system Kevin. Should we just ignore that? Simplistic arguments like yours may be well-intentioned but they are simple and do not take into account a) the fullness of the Church’s social teaching, and b) reality.

      • Joe M

        What Common Good does a welfare program serve if its cost causes more people to require a welfare program to get by?

  • Gail Finke

    It kills me too, but there it is. I am from what was supposedly pro-life Democrat Steve Driehaus’s district. I did not vote for President Obama, because I did not believe any of the stuff Kmeic etc. said, but I did hope there could be a real pro-life wing within the Democrats that would prove me wrong and that I could vote for in the future — though I was pretty sure it wouldn’t happen. Talk about dashing hopes! And he is STILL suing the SBA List for saying he was lying about being pro-life. The Democratic Party is married to death. I don’t know why, but it is. Abortion, euthanasia, demographic suicide, the destruction of the family, the degradation of marriage, sterilization as a path to personal freedom: It’s sick, really. There is a lot of talk about nobler things, but it comes down to these in the end. And that’s why I can’t vote for that party.

    • Stephen De Luca

      Wow, well said, Gail: “The Democratic Party is married to death. I don’t know why, but it is. Abortion, euthanasia, demographic suicide, the destruction of the family, the degradation of marriage, sterilization as a path to personal freedom: It’s sick, really.”

      And Pax, thanks for sharing your experience. I too wish we had better choices than Obama and Romney. I don’t trust either of them to protect the most vulnerable: the unborn.

      I certainly don’t trust Obama after telling USCCB President, then Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan not to worry about the HHS health insurance mandate, and then going ahead and mandating it for all but houses of worship.

      After he received an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame and promised to protect rights of conscience, and then breaking that promise with the HHS mandate.

      And so it’s not just a one issue thing, I thank Gail for so succinctly stating how true it is that the Democratic party is the party of death. I encourage everyone to check out Faithful Citizenship on the USCCB website for a discussion of all the issues and the teaching of the Catholic church on these issues.

      I’m a pro-life devout Catholic. I serve my church as a Lector and Eucharistic Minister, RCIA Director, Pro-Life Chair, and Parish Representative to the Catholic Men’s Commission of the Archdiocese of Newark. I’m now running as an independent for congress in NJ CD-8. I pray the Holy Rosary and Breviary and go to Mass every day. I hope you’ll pray for me, support me and ask your family and friends to support me, too.

  • Pax

    “he didn’t manage to convince a single soul”

    I voted for Barack Obama. I very much wanted to marry my Catholic beliefs with my Democratic political identity, so I was very vulnerable to Kmiec and others’ arguments. And, it’s easy to dismiss the opposition as partisans trying to exploit people of faith and then forget about them until the next election. I think this happens with a lot of people, and because of partisan suspicions, I think it is hard mentality to counter.

    After the Stupak thing, I reluctantly concluded that the barriers to a real pro-life/Catholic contingent within the Democratic coalition are just too high to be worth the effort. And, the effort, at least now, isn’t just ineffective, it’s counterproductive. I decided I couldn’t vote /for/ Democrats anymore (maybe vote independents or stay home). Then, with the HHS mandate and the way it’s being played politically, I resolved that I have to hold my nose and vote /against/ Obama and other Democrats.

    People who say that this hasn’t really cost Obama any Catholic votes are wrong. I don’t know how big a group I’m in, but we exist. I still think two pro-life, pro-conscience parties would be better than one, and it pains me to admit it, but that’s a foolish idealism.

    So, if I’m going to be voting Republican because of the life issues, then you better believe that’s what I’m going to focus on. It kills me that I have to settle for Romney.

    • Omar Gutierrez

      It’s killing a lot of us Pax. But bless you for seeing the light and standing by principle.

      • TAC

        I think the easiest way for me to look at any Catholic who voted for Obama in 08, is to say, Since Obama has been in office, every person who voted for him is directly responsible for the murder of every child lost to abortion. And I will pray hard for their salvation. As Catholics there is no choice other than life, His will be done,….NOT ours! As a Catholic we can not pick and choose our morals and values like produce in the grocery store. There is only God’s law, and there is no argument with God that any man will win when it involves the sanctity of life.It’s God’s way or you’re on the way to Hell’s way

    • patback

      The HHS mandate has been politically played by the Bishops. The truth is that the mandate simply allows workers to chose what services they want covered. It doesn’t require that the employer do one single thing. If anyone is being played, it’s you.

      • Pax

        @atback That kind of rhetoric might work with people who don’t know anything about Catholic bishops (or the HHS mandate for that matter), but it hardly passes the smell test around here.

      • Antonio A. Badilla

        No, this time the bishops did what they had to do, protest a government bent on telling the Church what to do. If one works in a Catholic institution, one can’t expect that insurance cover that which the Church considers immoral. If a person, be he or she Catholic or not, does not like that arrangement, he or she is free to work for a non-Catholic institution.
        The fact is that Obama with his HH mandate wants the Church to pay for abortion in its own medical institutions. Some view the separation between Church and State as meaning we Catholics and people of other faiths should not have a say in the public square. Many of us view it correctly, the State has no business getting into the Church’s business, nor can the Church tell the government what to do, except in moral matters when the Church has no choice but to speak its mind through the bishops.

  • Braden

    As the Bishops place torture at the same level as abortion–an intrinsic evil–can any Catholic vote for Romney?

    • Antonio A. Badilla

      Yes Braden, we can vote for Romney because neither he nor all the Presidents, Democrat or Republicans, have ever favored torture.
      Today Obama would like to present himself as the champion of human rights by saying water-boarding is torture and against the best traditions of this nation, but he does not have a problem supporting abortion, the killing of the innocent nor does he care about leaving the economy a disaster for future generations, nor does he care one hoot about marriage, and he has become the most divisive President in American history. If you think you can vote for him again, be my guest but know you are betraying the Church Obama is now persecuting with his HH mandate.

    • Shawn

      The non-negotiable issues are abortion, embryonic destructive research, euthanasia, cloning, traditional marriage, and parents’ rights in education. So you are incorrect in saying torture is on the same level as abortion.

    • Omar Gutierrez

      Yes, Braden, torture is an intrinsic evil as is abortion so you are absolutely right that the bishops equate the two of them on some level. But the notion that the killing of a million innocents every year is “at the same level” as torturing hundreds (?) of murderers over the last 10 years or so is ridiculous. What’s more, I’m not sure that Romney is on record as supporting torture, though you can correct me if I’m wrong. What we do know is that President Obama has no problem running a drone program that has recklessly killed scores of innocents. Where is the left’s outrage about that? Well, it’s almost completely silent. Is it okay for Obama to be against torture but push a drone war that kills innocents? Lastly, I never said anyone had to vote for Romney… I just think it is next to impossible for a Catholic to vote for Obama.

      • TTT

        Omar, I appreciate your responses and reasoned discourse. I think the original article comes across as a bit too much like what Randall is erroneously suggesting. Your interpretation of “the protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death” seems to leave out several issues like torture which is very convenient for anyone lobbying for a Republican. I pray that we don’t elect Obama but Romney is only marginally better if at all.

        • Omar Gutierrez

          TTT, it would also seem to leave out racism and genocide and other things, but I don’t think I need to list them all to avoid the kind of brutish, lets-cut-them-all-off logic of Randall. Also, though Romney is no where near my ideal candidate and certainly not my favorite during the primary, his defense of marriage and his fiscal responsibility make him heads and shoulders a better candidate than Obama. You didn’t say this, I know, but I get tired of the there’s-no-real-difference meme out there. There are stark differences, and those differences matter. Thanks for commenting.

  • Randall

    It’s time to take the kid gloves off with all these Catholyc Obama voters. Look, we all know who they are. Some of them proudly display bumper stickers or buttons, some belong to unions. Unfortunately our priests can’t come out and say what needs to be said directly, so we the faithful laity need to do so. Next time you see a Catholyc at Mass — wait, I’m sorry, you can’t wait that long because they only show up at Christmas and Easter — ok next time you see a known Catholyc at the store, use this step by step strategy. 1) Question. “Why are you voting for Obama?” Guaranteed they will say some social justice claptrap about “ohhh we have to help the less fortunate” or “healthcare access to all regardless of income will help our society” or something equally ridiculous. 2) Inform. Tell them very explicitly WHY Obama is worse than Hitler and Stalin, combined. Pro-abort, anti-family, pro-socialism, pro-Islam, anti-Catholic. If they are still not convinced, 3) Attack. Remind them that if they vote for Obama, they are personally enabling death, destruction, collapse of modern society, and the active persecution of the Catholic Church including people they know, and they will be held responsible at the Last Judgment. Finally, if they are still not convinced, 4) Ostracize. We need to excise the cancer of liberal thought from our faith community so that it does not spread. Unfortunately we lay Catholics cannot formally excommunicate people, but we can shun them!

    • Omar Gutierrez

      I think that’s a bit harsh Randall as you’re presuming an aweful lot about a persons interior discernment. Words like “attack” and “ostracize” are not exactly in Jesus’ tool kit for loving as He loved. What’s more, we do have to help the less fortunate and healthcare access to all regardless of income will help our society. This is actually Church teaching. Randall, this is not about kid gloves, this is about truth. I’ll try to tell it like it is, but I’m not going to condemn someone and ostracize them. That’s the very definition of the kind of judgment that Jesus warned us about. If what you describe weren’t judgment, my goodness, what would it look like?

      • Randall

        Alright Omar. Please explain to me what type of “interior discernment” makes someone in the Catholic Church look at 0bama, who is personally responsible for the gleeful deaths of millions of unborn children, and say “well, yes he’s done that, BUT I have a reason to vote for him regardless that outweighs it.” It’s the most black-and-white, cut-and-dried moral choice someone could possibly make. And you’re not going to call them out on it? You’re going to walk away and say, maybe I just don’t understand their viewpoint and I shouldn’t judge their opinion? Amazing…

        • Omar Gutierrez

          Okay Randall, et al. I didn’t say one couldn’t “judge their opinion.” Of course you can. I said you cannot judge them, and words like “attack” and “ostracize” labels like “Catholycs” and such are judgments not of opinion but about the heart. There are a million and one reasons why someone would vote for Obama: from misinformation, to poor formation, to some trauma, what have you. But I’ll not judge them and say they should be ostracized from the Church after one conversation.

      • patback

        What exactly did you expect when you wrote the article? Randall’s comment is just your article distilled to the essence of what you wrote. He didn’t whitewash it enough for you I guess.

        • Joe M

          patback. You make a curious claim. Can you please provide a breakdown of the points that Omar makes that can be construed to mean anyone should be attacked or ostracized?

  • Zeus



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