HOW PROLIFE IS McCAIN?
In his letter to the editor (“Voting Against Obama,” September 12), David R. Carlin writes as if the current presidential election were a referendum on the issue of abortion. It is not. The tenor of Carlin’s argument suggests that a John McCain presidency would lead to the end of legal abortion in America. It wouldn’t.
McCain has made several promises about what he would do as president. I have yet to hear him pledge that he would end the practice of abortion. He can’t; he won’t. If I believed that he would bring a stop to all abortions in America, I could vote for McCain. But that is not the case. I will not vote for him because with respect to all the prolife issues over which the president has real control, McCain is on the wrong side of the argument. He strongly backed and continues to back the unjust war in Iraq. Because he believes the world’s problems can be solved by the use of U.S. military power, he would all too quickly embroil the armed forces in other ill-conceived missions. McCain does not endorse universal health care, another project important to those who wish to promote a culture of life. His tax plans favor the rich at the expense of the poor. His voting record does not indicate that he would take strong measures to protect the environment.
Obama, by contrast, spoke out against the war in Iraq before it began. He understands that the battle against terrorism cannot be fought the way World War II was fought. In Obama, the poor have a strong advocate. He sees health care as a basic right, and his policies would give all children the opportunity to receive a quality education. Because Obama is strong on these and other prolife and social-justice issues on which the president can have a significant influence, my wife and I, both prolife Catholics, will be voting for him.
THE DEMOCRATS & ABORTION
In your editorial “Into the Home Stretch” (September 12), you write, “Although Obama has spoken of the need for compromise on abortion, the party platform seemed to move in the opposite direction.”
I have not read the Democratic Party platform, but an article in the September 5 National Catholic Reporter seems to contradict your judgment: “This year, for the first time, the Democratic Party platform, using language that urges the reduction of abortions, specifically addresses ways to provide support to pregnant women who want to carry their pregnancies to term. The platform promotes accessible pre- and postnatal health care, help with parenting skills, income support and adoption programs.” I’d appreciate your comment on this.
THE EDITORS REPLY
There is no language in the plank on abortion in the Democratic Party’s platform that calls for a reduction in the number of abortions. (There is a sentence calling for a reduction of the “need” for abortion, which makes a very different point.) In fact, language in the party’s 2000 and 2004 platforms urging that abortion be made “rare” was removed from the current platform at the insistence of abortion-rights groups. It is true that the plank now urges support for women who want to carry their pregnancies to term, and for government programs to support those women and their children. But the Democratic Party’s support of government health and social-welfare programs for women and children is hardly new, even if including such language in the abortion plank is. If this is considered a significant step forward in Democratic Party abortion policy, it only calls attention to how far the party has to go. In our judgment, the prolife Democrats involved in negotiating with the Obama campaign about the abortion plank got steamrolled by abortion-rights advocates, who were determined to exclude any language in the plank that could conceivably be construed as critical of the Roe v. Wade decision and current abortion practice in this country.
Presidential candidates, of course, are not bound by the platforms of their party. Sen. Barack Obama has spoken of the need to reduce the number of abortions. If he is elected, we hope he will act in a meaningful way to meet that need.
THE WORST OF OUR HISTORY
Melinda Henneberger tells it like it is in “Standing Tall: What Michelle Means” (September 12). Racist reactions to Michelle Obama are not her problem. They’re ours. In Newsweek (September 1), Jacob Weisberg argues that racial prejudice could cost Obama the election. Under the subhead “Obama’s defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to,” Weisberg says, “In this event, the world’s judgment will be severe and inescapable: the United States had its day, but in the end couldn’t put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.”
THOMAS E. AMBROGI
Thank you for your courtesy in sending me your September 12 issue, which included an article by Jack Miles (“Anglican Disunion”) that drew extensively on my capsule history of the Lambeth Conference. I think his article provides a helpful perspective on what’s happening in the Anglican Communion and among American Episcopalians. I would take issue, however, with Miles’s characterization of my summary of twentieth-century conferences as “a long, slow walk to the left climaxed by a sudden lurch to the right.” I never intended to characterize them that way nor did I think of them in those terms. “Left” and “Right” are political terms, whereas Lambeth Conferences are attempting to articulate a vision of the Kingdom of God.
To hold that women have as much right to be ordained as men or that family planning is “a right and important factor in human life” seems to me to be part of Paul’s visionary statement that in Christ there is “neither male nor female” but a new creation. Is St. Paul a voice from the Left?
Similarly, to think of the adoption of civil-rights laws and social-security legislation simply as moving to the Left rather than developing the vision of the nation’s founders may be part of our current difficulty as a society. But if we do insist on thinking of it in that way, then it seems to me that moving to the Left is moving toward the Kingdom of God.
CHRISTOPHER L. WEBBER
It is sometimes the case that certain articles, by their richness and insight, can stand for entire books.
Commonweal, in two recent issues, has published two such articles. I refer to John Wilkins’s “Hope Without Illusion” (August 15) and Robert Bellah’s “The Rules of Engagement” (September 12).
(REV.) ROBERT IMBELLI
Newton Centre, Mass.
Cathleen Kaveny is correct: “Not only is torture immoral, it doesn’t work” (“Bad Evidence,” September 12). In 1962, when I was a chaplain in Vietnam with the 101st Airborn Division, the captain of our patrol captured two Vietcong irregulars. He secured them in our camp, gave them our food, conversed respectfully (he spoke Vietnamese) and even gave them cigarettes. Both prisoners were Catholic and attended the Mass I said the next morning. After Mass they sang like canaries and told the captain about an ambush to occur around the river bend because they did not want the priest or such good men to be harmed. They had seen how American soldiers were treated when they fell into Vietcong hands, and were impressed that they were treated with such dignity and respect. Our kindness saved our lives. I have some difficulty coming to the same conclusion when it concerns our soldiers dealing with cruel Islamic terrorists. Even so, torture remains immoral. Moreover, it makes us no different from our enemies.
Thanks to Ms. Kaveny for confirming what I had learned long ago in the jungles of Vietnam.
PETER J. RIGA
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