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September 01, 2009

The Kennedy Legacy and Pro-Life Catholicism

The Anchoress describes a bit of a storm brewing in the Catholic online community over the attempts by some Catholic writers, particularly among the blue rinse set, to lionise Ted Kennedy. I'll be honest with you, I don't know these characters (excepting my dear Internet-friend, the Anchoress), but I think her point about being a condescending, elitist prick towards fellow well-meaning writers is a good one.

Setting aside the foofaraw, the real reason I'm linking is for her consideration of Kennedy's attempts to reconcile his Catholicism with his public stance on abortion:

He and other Catholic politicians made America dizzy with the oddball notion that one could be “personally opposed” to abortion but too broad-minded to “impose my views on others.” That sounded so reasonable and tolerant that it simplified the abortion debate for people who did not care to consider how nonsensical it was. Being “personally opposed” to the death penalty, would Kennedy have tried not to “impose those views” on states, had he the chance? Had he been “personally opposed” to slavery 150 years ago, would he not certainly have tried to “impose” his views on others?

In terms of perception, Kennedy’s public positions did and do make life difficult for priests and bishops, but scandal is not at issue, here. Catholics find myriad ways to bring scandal to the Bride of Christ, every day. This is about the credibility that Kennedy’s endorsement gave to the abortion movement, and how that endorsement contributed to the subsequent decrease in respect for, and defense of, life-issues.

It could be reasonably argued that Kennedy’s pro-abortion stand gave permission for millions of Catholics to, in 2008, fully ignore Barack Obama’s 100 percent NARAL rating and his lack of support for state and federal born-alive initiatives (which equates to infanticide) and to justify their support with a blithe, “but he’s so good on other Catholics issues” (that has turned out to be debatable) and “his policies will reduce the need for abortion,” which is fodder for another argument.

Ted Kennedy’s positions on life-and-death issues encouraged the euphemistic and muddled thinking that has proceeded apace in the culture, helping vague rhetoric about common ground seem credible, sophisticated and easy to digest. This ultimately enabled then candidate Obama to skate around his pro-life Catholic supporters with smooth but empty assurances that he respected their positions and would work to assuage their concerns, even as he promised the opposition that he would sign a comprehensive “Freedom of Choice Act” to address their concerns, too.

I don't know how much of Kennedy's reversal and subsequent incoherence on abortion and Catholicism can be blamed for current attitudes among Catholic laiety; I wasn't there. However, it interests me as a precursor to the kind of absurdity demonstrated by some noteable—and perhaps not coincidentally elitist—Catholics, for example now-Ambassador Doug Kmiec and the dean of the University of Notre Dame.

Consider: the headline to this post does not contain a redundancy; it is not unreasonable to note that there are pro-life Catholics and Catholics who are simply not.

There is much, much more over at her place, including more links than you can shake a stick at.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 02:16 PM

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