ROOM FOR DEBATE?
In his article “A Tangled Web” (January 16, 2009), Douglas W. Kmiec acknowledges the clarity of the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion before asking the following question: “Is it not proper for the burden of evidence now to shift to those who, for religious or nonreligious reasons, believe unfettered abortion ought to be permitted? It is a valid question; and were the right-wing Catholic blogs not so preoccupied with demonizing me and other brothers and sisters in Christ who backed our president-elect, perhaps the question would receive some competent discussion.”
I have no doubt Kmiec has been exposed to some nasty bloggers over the past several months, but his point here is rather incredible. One would never know from Kmiec’s article that the official position of the Democratic Party, a position shared by President Barack Obama, is not only that abortion ought to be permitted, but that it is a fundamental human and constitutional right, one not subject to restriction by the will of the majority. Kmiec is concerned that the bloggers who have savaged him do not appreciate the way the Constitution subjects contentious issues to democratic debate. But when the now-dominant political party holds a view that rules out democratic deliberation on abortion, it is more than a trifle odd to blame right-wing bloggers for the lack of competent response to the Catholic position. The Democratic Party wants to keep the issue out of the people’s hands by continuing the judicially imposed abortion regime—on the other hand, some right-wing bloggers have been mean to Kmiec. It should be clear to the rest of us which of those two facts is more significant.
JOSEPH R. ZEPEDA
Notre Dame, Ind.
THE AUTHOR REPLIES:
I cannot help wondering whether Joseph Zepeda is the son of Andrew Zepeda, whom it was my pleasure to teach at Notre Dame Law School. Certainly, the excellence of his exposition would suggest it. That said, Mr. Zepeda overstates his case. How, exactly, does President Obama’s view deny democratic deliberation? As far as I can tell, the rules of neither house of Congress preclude debate on the personhood of fetal or embryonic life. While Roe v. Wade precludes absolute protection for the unborn, later cases invite limited legal restriction of abortion, and Article V of the Constitution permits democratic efforts at constitutional amendment to ensure fuller protection. Moreover, Zepeda misses altogether the president’s very important call during the campaign for abortion reduction—through the funding of prenatal and postnatal care, maternity funding, and the proper instruction of juveniles (all of which would require democratic deliberation).
The effort to defend human life is clearly more important than whatever rough treatment I received in the blogosphere. But it is, or should be, possible to demand greater respect for children, born and unborn, while maintaining an attitude of fair-mindedness and civility.
DOUGLAS W. KMIEC
I appreciated Melinda Henneberger’s recent column (“Cold Comfort,” December 19, 2008), which gave readers a glimpse of the difficulty she’s had forgiving President George W. Bush. But I have been perplexed by the number of people who blame Bush for America’s ills. The thought of my country having to go to war in March 2003 was heartbreaking, but I remember the atrocities of 9/11 and the continued threat of terrorism, which requires the persistent attention of our leaders. Bush acted decisively and according to his conscience, basing his decisions on intelligence reports. His tough stance against terrorism has been reassuring to me, and his respect for life, inspiring.
La Grande, Oreg.
I was surprised that you published Melinda Henneberger’s column “Cold Comfort.” Her commentary on the Bush administration was just an angry rant, nothing more. It offered no insight into Catholic social thought or any other Christian principles that might elevate the discussion beyond partisan bickering. In fact, Henneberger finishes her article by suggesting that it’s the people around Bush that we shouldn’t forgive. Is that the message Commonweal wants to send to the world? It seems inconsistent with Christ’s instruction to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
In a nation already divided between blue and red, conservative and liberal, pro-Bush and anti-Bush, shouldn’t Commonweal seek to be more than another voice in the cacophony of partisan complaining? It was your Christmas issue, for goodness sake. Where was the message of hope and the reminder that Christ—not the president—is king? America will learn little from Catholicism if this is what Catholics are offering. Come on, Commonweal—it’s time to elevate the discussion.
One reads with sympathy Ned O’Gorman’s article on the plight of homosexual Catholics (“Untouchable,” December 5, 2008). I imagine, though, that some—perhaps many—lesbian and gay Catholics follow the example of the heterosexual Catholic majority’s stance on birth control: form your own conscience and live out your faith in trust and happiness.
New York, N.Y.
HERE COMES EVERYBODY
Thanks to Fr. Toan Joseph Do for his recent article (“All In?” December 19, 2008). Christ came to offer salvation to all: to men and women, to old and young, to the born and the unborn, to all who have ever lived and to all who will ever live. If the Latin expression pro multis ever meant even one person less than that, it was wrong. If today it means even one person less, it is still wrong and must be corrected. Latin, like all languages, is a tool for communication. It is not sacred. It would seem that some in the Vatican think that the Latin language is more important than the message of Christ.
Dix Hills, N.Y.
Let me congratulate Leslie Woodcock Tentler for her great review of the book The Fertility Doctor (“Bitter Pill,” November 21, 2008). It made me feel great sympathy for Dr. John Rock, who was “popularly viewed as the ‘father’ of the birth control pill.” I’m not a medical doctor or a researcher, but, like Rock, I’m a cradle Catholic and a “nearly daily communicant” and I share some of Rock’s reservations about the Catholic Church’s teachings about sex and reproduction. I know Catholic parents who would never have had children without some of Rock’s discoveries. Perhaps the celibate hierarchy who pass on the church’s doctrine should visit with them.
J. M. ZATLUKAL
Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
How encouraging to read Christian Krokus’s account of the Christian and Muslim pilgrims praying together in northwestern France (“The Seven,” January 16, 2009). Such efforts, building on the understanding and determination of Louis Massignon (and, before him, Charles de Foucauld), show how people of different faiths can work together. These two great men of prayer who lived among—and learned from—Muslims show the imagination and courage it takes to change attitudes. At St. Paul Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we are following Massignon’s example by meeting once a month for the Badaliya prayer for understanding between Christians and Muslims.
MARY ALICE STANTON