Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr. - May He Rest in Peace

(1925 – 2008)

With the passing of a cultural icon such as William F. Buckley, Jr., there will be the appropriate tributes and acknowledgment of his contribution, not just to the American political scene, but also to the American culture at large. But it is especially appropriate to address is very strong pro-life stand, not just because he was a practicing Catholic (as we see many Catholics in politics today who publicly dissent from the Church’s teaching on the subject), but because he addressed the issue as a universal moral concern for human rights. As he wrote almost four years ago to the day on February 25, 2004 in National Review Online in his criticism of John Kerry’s position on abortion,

“It is true that the Catholic Church as an institution is the most visible opponent of routinized abortion. But its opposition to the practice is not based on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is based on the proposition that human beings are human beings even if they have not yet been born. Those who are helpless are, it is all but universally held in America, to be protected. The one-day-old child is protected with the full force of the law. The proposition that he is without rights when he is minus one day old is nothing more than a social convention conflating various concerns. One is for the mental health of the mother, one for the perceived satisfaction of the mother, another for the national birthrate, and still another for the unspoken hope that we'll have fewer black and Hispanic births.” (emphasis added)

Buckley was staunchly pro-life and castigated against the politicians and judges who believed that they could deny the right to life to the unborn. His brother can for the U.S. Senate and introduced the Buckley Human Life Amendment. He encouraged people to make a difference, but asked that they do so with logic and common sense.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting WFB when I was a college student at the University of San Diego in 1974. As a part of the Speakers Bureau, we had arranged for a debate that was held in the Camino Hall theatre between Buckley and the major of San Francisco, Joseph Alioto. Needless to say, Mr. Buckley embarrassed the major and entertained the packed house of college students. He was witty and at the same time could use words to slice and dice and opponent. It was not my first meeting of an important political figure, but having watched him on his show Firing Line, I must recall be very impressed over all with his normalcy.

As I was learning how to discuss the issues of abortion, I remember his approach was always to address the reason of the argument and to avoid the emotional rants that often inflict themselves in a debate. I would use for example the notion that there really was not a debate about the humanity of the child because the science had conclusively proved the point. The only thing up for debate was whether one should be able to kill innocent children because they lived in the womb and had not been born. This approach did not sit well with my law professors or fellow law students who did not share my enthusiasm for using science to prove my point. But WFB gave young pro-life lawyers bent on making a difference encouragement by his columns and his life. For that I am appreciative. I also think that his interviews with Malcolm Muggeridge provided us with a salient example of defending Christianity and specifically Catholicism during a time (and it has not ceased) when the Church and her defenders were under attack. For a young man discerning that which was true and not in a college and later legal environment, such conversations were very helpful.

So it is that every life can add to the betterment of the world and her people. We need only realize the gifts which God has given us and then decide to share them with those around us.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sorry Doug Kmeic, but this Catholic isn’t buying Obama

There must be something about February that brings out the weird, the unusual and the strange in politics. Wait a minute – those words all mean the same thing. Ah, but it sounded poetic. You all remember your English teacher reminding you to set up your speech with triads. After all, half the battle in giving a speech is to make sure that it resonates with the audience. For those who have purchased a vacuum cleaner at your front door or the today’s version of the Yugo, you know what I mean. He was nice and it all sounded so good!

Well, that my friends is my reaction when I read Doug Kmeic’s article in Slate, claiming that Barack Hussain Obama is a “natural for the Catholic vote.” Now I know and respect Doug as a brilliant legal mind and a good man. But, I must take issue with him on his ability to take such talents and apply them to the current situation in this crazy and often mixed up world of politics. I will defer any comments on his selection during the primary. Mr. Romney was gracious in realizing that he could not win and as I am preparing this article, he is releasing his delegates to Senator McCain and announcing his support for the Arizona Senator.

Doug’s first error is in comparing the substance and style of Ronald Reagan with Obama. Certainly anyone who can give a good speech can be hailed has a great communicator. But the reason that Reagan attracted so many Catholics and Democrats was because they knew him. They knew him as the actor who played George Gip in “Knute Rockne.” They knew him from the days when he introduced the stories on Death Valley Days. They knew him as the governor in California who stood up to the student sit-ins, and did all of this with a smile. They remembered the days when he traveled the country giving speeches on economic freedom and against communism. So when he ran for president and repeated principles based upon respect for the sanctity of life, economic and personal freedom, and national security, the much of the Catholic population responded positively. When he spoke of a shining city on the hill, and that America’s best days were ahead, he reminded many Catholics of the hope that comes from God. Reagan never tired of reminding people that our rights are a gift from the Creator, especially the right to life.

Ronald Reagan spoke a language that Catholics and those who believed in God could understand.

Now let us look as Senator Obama. He is an attractive articulate voice for secular liberalism, wrapped up in a mantle that eschews labels and speaks about hope, and unity and the future. He creates energy, much like a movie star or celebrity. How much of it is a reaction to Hillary is a legitimate question. After all a year ago, all of the pundits were telling the great unwashed (and those of us who do bathe) that the general election was going to be between Hillary and Rudy. We pro-lifers were told to get use to it. When we objected, we were ridiculed. Such are the vagaries of life. Obama to his credit has run a positive campaign (notwithstanding his positions on issues which are not very positive at all). People like positive messages. They may not have much substance but the people like them. Hillary represents the scandals of the previous Clinton era. A lot of people are simply tired of the Clintons. Obama gives them an excuse to vote for “change” and break with the tired policies of the Clintons.

But that does not translate into Catholic support for Obama.

When Catholics learn how violently pro-abortion Obama is, they will ask how he can argue for hope and the future when he supports killing the least of our brethren.

The teaching of the Catholic Church is clear. You cannot vote for a person who thinks that killing children is permissible when there is a reasonable alternative.

And most Catholics will not be turned off by McCain’s support for the death penalty. It is not a non-negotiable like abortion. Catholic teaching permits the use of the death penalty in certain situations. This argument is a liberal canard used to excuse voting for someone who is pro-abortion. Educated and practicing Catholics are not going to vote for a person who supports partial birth abortion and voted against a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act while in the Illinois Senate.

Barack Obama is a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act, a proposed federal law to nullify virtually all federal and state limitations on abortion. As this information is brought to the public’s attention, the luster will soon dim from the media’s latest darling.

As for Catholics “giving up McCain for Lent,” the truth is that many who were not originally keen on McCain are and have been giving him a second look. Some pro-life advocates are still concerned about his lack of understanding on the stem cell issue, but the latest scientific discoveries may render that discussion moot. He is and has been for the 24 years of his political life, pro-life. There are some who are concerned about the Iraq question. His knowledge and understanding of national security will serve him well. But where McCain will score well is on his love of his country and the story of his life. If he can translate that story into one of one that promotes the best interests of the United States in a very dangerous world, if he can remind people that it is in freedom that we as a people can accomplish the greatest good, and if he can defend the rights of all persons, born and unborn, to live in dignity and opportunity by scaling back the destructive growth of government, then Catholics and others will be drawn to his message.

I do not see anyone who knew and appreciated Ronald Reagan joining the band wagon of a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, anti-family radical like Obama once they know his positions and can envision what he intends to do to this country. Indeed the clash of ideas and the clear differences in position once again may be the best avenue for our country to take as we move toward the election in November. To that end more Catholics will find it “natural” to vote for the candidate that chooses life and will protect the lives of all Americans.