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Barack Obama: "A natural for the Catholic vote"

So says Doug Kmiec, writing in Slate...Kmiec isformer dean of the Catholic University of America School of Law and currentlychair of constitutional law at Pepperdine University in Malibu--and nomushy-headed Catholic liberal.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Amen!No candidate is ever going to be able to do anything about Roe V. Wade (the bete noir of conservative Catholics) without the support of Congress and the Supreme Court. Congress will NEVER vote to change and the SC is iffy.That being said, absent RvW, Obama is closer in attitude to the kind of Catholicism with which I was raised than any of the rest of them. Kucinich was better, but he's history.

Obama's Crowds Are Awesome for So EarlyBy THE ASSOCIATED PRESSPublished: February 14, 2008

Even AP is caught up in all of this. I don't think I have ever seen the word awesome in a headline before.

That is really bad.

Of course, the AP story goes on to say that Hillary's crowds are pretty awesome too for a primary--just not as awesome--how about quasi-awesome? Would that fit the space?

R v. W is the bete noir of some liberal Catholics, too, though Jimmy Mac is probabaly right that the case may never be directly overturned. IMO it may be effectively overturned, however, by a series of decisions chipping away at and limiting it with, for example, requirements for waiting periods, mandatory counseling, etc. Such rulings, and an intensive moral and political commitment to the creation of safety nets (financial, medical, psychological, etc.) may make abortion much more of a rarity. Hillary Clinton has spoken some about safety nets. Maybe I've missed it, but I haven't heard such comments from Obama. And Hillary and Obama are on record for backing federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, which in its present form is, even to some liberal Catholics, nothing more than a human spare parts industry.

I really thought the brunt of this was an anti-McCain message from a former Reagan aide, I suspect a pitch for Obama here to Catholics is really anti-Clinton residue dressed up a bit.

William,Is any candidate, even any "pro-life" candidate (or even any "pro-life" organization) advocating laws to regulate fertility clinics, where the embryos used in stem-cell research would otherwise be discarded? From the viewpoint of the personhood-begins-at-conception side, isn't that the logical starting point? And what about George Bush's compromise on stem-cell research? Shouldn't that be undone? As Michael J. Sandel argues (although from the other side of the debate), Bush's compromise amounted to saying that stem-cell research is the taking of innocent life, and that should be left to the private sector. It was a compromise that could be regarded as Solomonic only of Solomon had actually cut the baby in half. Regarding a human spare parts industry, the old urban legend of waking up and finding a kidney missing has actually become a reality in India. I find this infinitely more appalling than stem-cell research.

Who do the Republican strategists think it will be easier to beat?

What is the word for Kmiec? Ingenuous, putting us on, deceitful? I am surprised to see him writing in Slate. Bit of a jump from CNS. Wonder if he congratulates his fellow prof at Pepperdine University, Ken Starr, on his great work as special prosecutor. Kmiec mixes some truth from fantasy which an opportunist will do. On the mark is the statement of Bob Nunz above. When Kmiec forms 'conservatives for Obama" I will begin to find him credible.

You're right, David, regulating fertility clinics and the creation of spare embryos is the "logical starting point." There's at least one "pro-life organization" taking a stand against what goes on in fertility clinics: the Catholic Church. Why is the taking of a kidney from an unconsenting person "infinitely more appalling" than embryonic stem cell research? Is it because the person and the kidney conjure up images of humanity that are more familiar to us than the fully genomed humanity contained in the microdot that is a fertilized egg or new embryo? For myself, I don't find the need to have the appalling nature of the theft of an organ or the destruction of an embryo parsed into degrees of reprehensibility. But for the advent of embryonic stem cell research but a decade or so ago, it could potentially have been any one of us who posts here about whom life and death embryonic stem cell harvesting decisions are being made every day.

Politically conservative Catholics seem to be responding quite vigorously to Kmiec's claim that Obama is the natural choice for Catholics. have no ability to peer into Professor Kmiec's mind to see what his goals in writing this were, but in my view, his statement actually helps conservative Catholics opposed to Obama. How?In the context of the current presidential debate among Catholics, then, the function of Professor Kmiec's article seems to have been to enable conservative Catholics to articulate criticism of Obama from their Catholic perspective, criticism that has not previously come to the forefront of the debate. He has made himself, functionally, the lighting rod to draw the fire of conservative Catholics who do not support Obama. He also made himself, functionally, a lightning rod to draw criticism of the "consistent ethic of life" --which Catholic conservatives have long disdained as insufficiently serious about opposition to abortion. So, by criticizing Kmiec's op-ed, conservative Catholics can criticize Obama's suitability as the beneficiary of the Catholic vote. At the same time, precisely because they're not attacking progressive Catholics, they're not exacerbating the culture wars, and thereby associating themselves with responsibility for the culture wars. Remember, one of the reasons many people are drawn to Obama is that they're sick and tired of the culture wars. So an attack on Obama that seems a continuation of the culture wars is likely to be counterproductive in this political climate. God knows I'm no political strategist. But I now think Obama's Catholic "cred" is on the table in a way it wasn't previously.

Obama seems to be gradually improving his share of the Catholic vote ... He trailed far behind Clinton in New Hampshire, but basically split the Catholic vote with her in Maryland and Virginia. Why? I think Obama's pitch for community - for solidarity - might touch the Catholic imagination. Not everyone, of course, but enough to make a difference. Also, he has not tried to exploit abortion rights as an issue in the same way other Democrats have often done, although he is certainly pro-choice. He has tried to defuse the pro-choice rhetoric and does not demonize those who disagree with him. Factors like that would make it easier for some Catholics to vote for him as they get to know him better.

I vote for Bob Nunz, Paul Moses, and Cathy Kaveny as pundits on the next "Washington Week in Review." Sharp analyses.

Cathleen et al,do you know of any articles that help Obama's credibility with Catholics? I am part of this "awesome" (just kidding) working group of Catholics who have connected via the Obama website. We are constructing what I think will be a really informative and helpful "Catholics for Obama" website, which we hope will persuade other Catholics, especially those who have felt like 'political orphans' of late that he is our best choice. One feature of the site will be links to well-reasoned articles that make the case. Do any of you have any suggestions? We're also compiling a list of prominent Catholics (journalists, academics, politicians, etc) who have endorsed Obama, but hoping not for the usual cast of characters that you would expect to endorse him. Any help any of you can give would be most appreciative! If you'd like to join the working group, let me know!

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