+This is a response to Pepperdine Professor Douglas Kmiec’s "A Tangled Web: the Election & the Blogosphere,"
which appears in the January 16 issue of Commonweal. We begin with a few general observations, followed by some exploration of them:
- Mr. Kmiec is openly and unabashedly mesmerized by Barack Obama.
- Mr. Kmiec’s understanding of his obligations regarding his Catholic faith has been completely distorted by and subjugated to his hero-worship of Obama.
- A double standard is employed throughout this article. Mr. Kmiec repeatedly deplores what he apparently considers to be savage, personal attacks against him, yet as he deplores this, uses pejorative language which is equally inflammatory.
- One of Mr. Kmiec’s two themes is that “right-wing bloggers” (see: pejorative language) have politicized his support of Obama, using the abortion issue to “drive a wedge” between the Vatican and the new administration. Yet it is Mr. Kmiec himself who attempts to politicize the issue.
- The second of Mr. Kmiec’s themes is that he is a victim of “right-wing bloggers.”
I. Hero Worship
- Mr. Kmiec has also politicized the Eucharist.
- One explanation for the apparent anomaly between Kmiec’s presence in the Reagan Administration and his effusive support and admiration for Obama is this: Mr. Kmiec finds himself irresistibly inspired by good communicators, no matter what their political stripe. Yet one has to wonder how Mr. Kmiec found himself happily installed among Reaganites in the first place, given his stated esteem not only for Obama, but for FDR, JFK, and RFK (all good communicators) as well.
II. A Double Standard and the Victim Mentality
- The tempting conclusion to be drawn here is that Mr. Kmiec is swayed by style over substance – a conclusion that is supported by the embarrassing emptiness of his arguments – and so is dazzled by orators who seem to appeal to unity, to “common ground,” to selflessness and service to country. To which we can only say, we hope that Presidential actions match the candidate’s rhetoric. But we have to ask this: if Mr. Kmiec is so deeply drawn to public figures who espouse civic idealism, why is he not even more attracted and committed to the spiritual ideals of the Catholic Church?
- This piece may be accurately characterized as one long howl of indignation and hurt at being challenged, questioned and called names, as if Kmiec’s purity of character and motives are above reproach. The writer’s choice of terms to describe his critics’ behavior is revealing: “animosity,” “unrelenting personal attacks,” “lack of civility,” “highly concentrated rhetorical venom,” “tormentors,” “personal contempt,” “vilification,” “scurrilous remarks,” “demonizing me,” “blog calumnies,” and of course, the ever-popular “right-wing bloggers.”
- Not one of these right-wing demons is named, nor a definition of “right-wing bloggers” offered, nor any of their “calumnies” specified - but given the unrelenting self-pitying tenor of this article we may safely speculate that Mr. Kmiec’s enemies list includes any and all critics, and that The Flying Buttress will soon be added to the list. But why do we point to a double standard?
III. A Self-Serving Political Fantasy
- We have already cited his pervasive use of inflammatory language to decry inflammatory language. Here, though, is how Kmiec justifies his use of the word “boneheaded” to criticize Obama’s support for FOCA: “…we all occasionally speak too glibly for our own good…” and “honest, substantive dissent.” Is this furtive glance in the mirror the extent of your examination of conscience, Mr. Kmiec? May we then use the term “boneheaded” to describe your fawning support for the most radical elected representative of the culture of death in American history?
- Mr. Kmiec’s “wedge” scenario (“…the attempt to use FOCA to drive a wedge between the church (sic) and the incoming administration…”) is just dismally vacuous nonsense. Mr. Obama’s voting record, his recorded statements and his chronic history of affiliation with radicals has already opened a bottomless chasm between his administration and the Church – a chasm into which any wedge would fall harmlessly as it dropped deep into darkness.
- Does Mr. Kmiec only understand the world in terms of political motives? Is this why he feels compelled to impute a religious question to such motives? Is he just attempting to gain the upper hand over his critics by cheapening their point? Or is this really a straw man which he can then use to flatter himself? (“Having drawn the blogs’ Machiavellian FOCA gambit into the open…”)
IV. The Sacred Deposit of Personal Waivers
- The criticism of Mr. Kmiec stems from one thing and only one thing: his public and insistent infidelity to his faith. There is nothing “political” about this infidelity, yet Mr. Kmiec attempts to make it political. So who is politicizing the issue?
- Mr. Kmiec admits that “FOCA runs contrary to the pursuit of the common good,” yet this fails to diminish his fervor for Obama, as if Obama’s repeated promises regarding this demonic legislation were a minor exception to an otherwise commendable platform. He further glosses over the barbaric horror of FOCA by dismissing Obama’s commitment as a “one-time pledge of support.” Kmiec has also stated, elsewhere, that he believes Obama wants to reduce the number of abortions.
- Reduce the number of abortions? How is that reflected in this statement, which went up on the White House website as soon as Obama was sworn in?
- “President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Adminstration. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in that case.”
- (So much for the inaugural theme of “unity”!) The cold reality of the situation is that abortion has been the centerpiece of Obama’s radical leftist beliefs throughout his political career, and will continue to be so. If Mr. Kmiec requires further proof, perhaps he would be kind enough to consult Obama’s immediate reversal of the Mexico City policy.
- Note also that although Mr. Kmiec admits that FOCA “runs contrary to the common good,” he fails to acknowledge that it is anathema to Catholic teaching, which just happens to be the foundation of the common good. Not only fails to acknowledge it, but then has the temerity to state that he voted for Obama because of his Catholic faith! What Catholic faith is it, Mr. Kmiec, that can so casually ignore the very core of Obama’s professional life: his affirmation of the culture of death? And what Catholic faith is overridden by an “alluring gift of inspiration”?
- Kmiec cites Archbishop Burke’s description of the Democratic Party as “the party of death” for its embrace of abortion, but instead of taking this to heart, Kmiec finds it “hurtful” to his father and to “millions of...lifelong Democrats.” In other words, the affirmation of Catholic teaching, and His Excellency’s solicitousness for souls, is now “hurtful” and a source of resentment! This is the selfsame attitude of the homosexual radicals, who find Catholic teaching about their disorder to be offensive, hateful, and discriminatory.
- (By all means, Professor, urge your father and millions of Democrats to continue to ignore the truth, and to condemn it, as long as it makes them feel better. After all, the human race, and Democrats in particular, have outgrown the need to be instructed by the Church.)
- As it turns out, Archbishop Burke has plenty of company in his “hurtful” crusade. A few citations from that company:
- Fr Matthew Habiger, Human Life International: “It is a scandal that Catholic politicians vote for bills which fund or otherwise advance abortion. They should be named, publicly shamed and admonished so that they can cease their evil and return to God. To vote for such a candidate is to willfully participate in that candidate's choices and deeds. It is a sin, and must be repented.”
- Bishop Rene Gracida: “...the issue of voting for a pro-abortion candidate is primarily a moral issue rather than a political issue. Therefore, every Ordinary has an obligation to teach the people entrusted to his pastoral care without ambiguity that a Catholic cannot vote for a pro-abortion candidate.”
- Bishop Robert Vasa: “...when candidates for office in these United States make bold assertions that they have every intention of working to assure that the alleged right of a woman to kill her pre-born child is either preserved or even expanded, many Catholics seem to think that it would be morally acceptable to vote for such a candidate as long as they somehow miraculously excised the candidate’s pro-abortion mindset out of the equation. A vote for such a candidate, like it or not, is likewise a vote for the firmly held abortion position; it is inseparable from the person.”
- Kentucky Bishops’ Pastoral Letter of 1/22/08: “Catholics cannot vote for a political candidate that takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion, unless there is a morally grave reason to do so.” (Mr. Kmiec, is the exhibition of inspiring oratory a morally grave reason?)
- Bishop Joseph Martino, Pastoral Letter of 10/4/08: “Being “right” on taxes, education, health care, immigration, and the economy fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of a human life. Consider this: the finest health and education systems, the fairest immigration laws, and the soundest economy do nothing for the child who never sees the light of day. It is a tragic irony that “pro-choice” candidates have come to support homicide – the gravest injustice a society can tolerate – in the name of “social justice.”
V. The Eucharist as a Weapon?
- But Professor Kmiec doesn’t care to form his conscience by the words of faithful clergy. No, he would rather turn to those infamous members of the Lavender Mafia, Cardinals Mahony and McCarrick, for political and emotional support.
- Mr. Kmiec’s response to every corrective action and teaching of the Church directed at him is to take it as a severe blow to his ego and reputation, and an offense to his feelings (again, a reaction identical to that of the homosexual radicals). Thus it is predictable, though tragic, that he should describe the denial of the Eucharist as a “weapon” to punish him.
- No Mr. Kmiec, the Church has not punished you. You have already punished yourself by voting for a notoriously unrepentant pro-abortion candidate and foolishly assuring others that they may do so. You have placed your soul in grave danger by these actions. What the Church does in denying you the Eucharist is to ensure that you do not receive Communion while in a state of mortal sin. Therefore, this action actually protects you from further harm to your soul!
- But why hasn’t that simple fact occurred to you? It is because you do not think as a Catholic thinks, which is to consider first and foremost what is good for his soul. As your article demonstrates, you only think of what is good for your reputation; consequently your words reek of egotism and narcissism.
- Furthermore, being denied the Eucharist is not an invitation to “discussion,” it is an invitation to Confession and penance. But rather than face this, the Professor suddenly drags those of other faiths into the picture, who “do not see themselves as bound by the Magisterium.” Why this non sequitur? When did this become a matter involving other faiths? The answer is that it never did: this is just another evasive maneuver produced by pride.
- In conclusion, we assure Professor Kmiec that we do not presume to effect a change of heart and mind in him, though we do implore him to humble himself before his Creator in the Confessional and repair the damage he has done to his soul and the souls of others. Mr. Kmiec, it is indeed a tangled web we weave - when we seek to deceive ourselves. Has it once occurred to you that you could be completely, irrevocably, unmistakably, absolutely and finally…WRONG?
- No, we write this in order to resist the efforts of those who attempt to reconcile the culture of death with the teachings and the sanctity of the Catholic Church. There can be no rapprochement between the sanctity of life and the evil of disposable life. No rapprochement, no détente, no compromise, and, ghost of Joseph Bernardin, no common ground.
- Let’s not forget to address the periodical who solicited Mr. Kmiec’s self-pity, self-absolution and evasion of responsibility and then had the poor taste and bad judgment to publish it, thus lowering Catholic discourse to the level of the Oprah Winfrey Show. If our readers hadn’t already concluded that Commonweal was no friend of the Church, they should surely be convinced of it after reading Kmiec’s piece. Or should we just portray them in the same idiom and spirit employed by Kmiec: as a left-wing propaganda sheet?