Politicians, abortion, religion and rhetoric
Catholic Sen. Tim Kaine as Democratic VP nominee has roused much debate and raised old arguments
For many months, I’ve been wondering aloud (on radio with various guests) about the unusual lack of media attention in this election cycle on ‘the Catholic vote’ since news folks have always focused at least some attention on those voters in campaign coverage over past elections. This year it seemed that attention on the religiously informed, actively engaged faith-based vote was focused squarely and almost solely on the Evangelical vote.
Until Tim Kaine was announced as Hillary Clinton’s pick for Vice Presidential running mate, as the Democratic National Convention was about to open. Kaine’s acceptance speech was featured in one of the prime time nights of news coverage. Loyola University Law Professor John Breen wrote this post on a law blog soon after, challenging some of Kaine’s own personal claims (that he’s personally opposed to abortion but would continue to recognize and uphold the legal right to it provided by Roe v. Wade) and his statements referring to Catholic social teaching (that his Jesuit training made him a ‘man for others’, dedicated to social justice).
To truly be a “man or woman for others” is surely to follow the “north star” by which to set one’s course in life. But to do so authentically and with integrity means acting with justice towards all the members of the human family.
And this includes the unborn.
Unfortunately, Tim Kaine’s political career is marked by a conscious disregard for the most vulnerable human beings. He insists, of course, that he’s “kind of a traditional Catholic” in that “personally I’m opposed to abortion”…but he strongly affirms Roe v. Wade.
Catholic bishops, including his own, quickly voiced concerns over this newly high profile, highly placed Catholic politician expressing moral relativism in their views of how to treat human life.
His record on the issue of abortion is complicated. While he says that he personally opposes abortion, he supports it politically.
It’s really not complicated, said the late, wise former feminist Elizabeth Fox Genovese, whose husband Eugene Genovese in a book recalling that Betsey called it ‘what everyone knows.’
The book is called Miss Betsey: A Memoir of a Marriage. “Betsey” refers to Genovese’s wife, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, who predeceased him. Fox-Genovese created the leading women’s-studies department in the country (at Emory).
Genovese writes, “She gagged on abortion for a simple reason: She knew, as everyone knows, that an abortion kills a baby.” Everything is perfect about that passage — but I especially like “as everyone knows.”
Doesn’t everyone know it, including the most fervent abortion advocate? What is the purpose of an abortion? What is an abortion? There is a baby (or whatever you’d like to call it). Now there isn’t. That’s the deal. Now, we might defend this, or say that it should be legal. But an abortion — as an act — is a lot less complicated than people often want it to be.
People want it to be, and there’s plenty more coverage out already, and more to come, on this issue alone.
But here’s a preview. Some media quickly reported ‘a Catholic civil war on abortion’ has been revived. Interesting metaphor, given the centrality of slavery to the Civil War, and its direct analogy to abortion.
And the fact that the first person to use or at least make famous the ‘personally opposed, but…’ argument against that moral evil was Stephen Douglas in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates.