Second, I am a Democrat and have been since before I was old enough to vote for a lot of reasons, primary among which I come from a working class family, a modest background in every way. Last night, during his speech, President Clinton reminded me of all the reasons I am a Democrat and made me want to vote for him again. Given my second confession, I have never in my life voted a straight party ticket and I do not plan to do so this year. I plan to do something I did not do in 2004, vote for Jon Huntsman, Jr. as governor of my state. He is, by all measures, worthy of my vote. By identifying myself as a Democrat, I freely admit that the party's positions on marriage and abortion trouble me greatly, as do the increasing number of Democrats who support the death penalty, to the point that I lament and long for the old days, which I am too young to remember, and, in some instances, cause me to vote across party lines. I think these confusions are inexcusable, especially in a party that still has so many prominent Catholic members. Nonetheless, apart from these, admittedly fundamental issues, I am a Democrat through and through.
Presently, the two most prominent practicing Catholic Democrats are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and vice-presidential nominee, Senator Joseph Biden, both of whom are alright with the abortion status quo and desirous of dismantling marriage if not by legislation, then by judicial fiat. Now, it is important to note that both are married and are parents. Speaker Pelosi has five children, the same number we will have come October. Senator Biden, who in his better moments sounds a lot like RFK and who looks, acts, and speaks like my uncles on my Dad's side of the family, had four children, one of whom died in the same car crash that killed his first wife, just after he was elected to the U.S. Senate (see Greg Kandra's blog for an interesting note on Sen. Biden's speech- fellow celini please note the consonance of this with Don Gius' stance on work, especially in the Assembly at the end of chapter two of Is It Possible . . .). So, on a personal level, they both live their faith as it pertains to marriage and family. I firmly believe that actions speak louder than words. This is a far cry from the pro-family, not to mention the pro-life, hypocrisy of so many Republicans (Newt Gingrich, et. al.) that have ultimately betrayed many Christian voters.
In recent days, as my dear friend Rocco, writing over on Whispers, reports, Speaker Pelosi, justifiably, has come under the scrutiny of Cardinal Egan, archbishop of New York, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver for remarks she made on NBC's Meet the Press that stand in sharp contrast to clear church teaching. In the 5 September issue of Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, her ordinary, a man I admire greatly and who I am so glad was the one who ordained me a deacon, Archbishop George Niederauer, will respond in his column to her statements (I will post the link). Besides, it was the so-called Bluedog Democrats, who are young old-school Dems, like me, and who are socially conservative, who beat Republicans in Republican-held districts in the south, mid-west, and west, that gained control of Congress for the Dems in 2006. Let's not forget that folks!
From where I sit, abortion among Catholics often comes down to a disagreement about means, not ends. Both Speaker Pelosi and Senator Biden have said that they believe abortion is morally wrong. I believe them. It is not my right to question their moral convictions as they express these. On the other hand, I lament their inability to make a consistent judgment on the basis of what they believe and what is true and their unwillingness to acknowledge that church teaching on both abortion and marriage is rooted, in the first instance, in reason and not revelation. So, it is not a case of imposing one's religious beliefs on others. Acknowledging all of this, it is still incumbent on us to articulate our positions in the public square to people of different faiths and of no faith at all. But, Senator McCain, in his support for embryonic stem cell research, is also logically inconsistent and only slightly less confused. Hence, he is unable to make a clear and consistent judgment on the basis of his expressed belief that life begins at conception. His support for marriage seems unwavering, even though he opposes a constitutional amendment to define marriage properly. I also believe that we need to have social policies that make it easier, given their legal option to have an abortion, for women in crisis pregnancies to have their children. Enacting such policies has proven to be effective in decreasing the number of abortions. I urge everyone to read the best article on abortion I have read in recent years, written for America magazine by Dennis O'Brien, No to Abortion: Posture, Not Policy.
As far as I can tell, Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Biden are confused about marriage and about abortion as it pertains to public policy as expressed in law. I surmise that their confusion stems from the same impulse, namely their desire to be compassionate and their confusion about what compassion means, which is to suffer with. Speaker Pelosi needs to recognize, especially on this, his feast day, that St. Augustine is not the final word on Catholic teaching. Hence, her response, which you can read in Rocco's post, constitutes an evasion. Among the several things for which President Bush deserves credit, the ones that loom largest are his appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
Tuesday evening, Senator Bob Casey, Jr., Pennsylvania's (my wife's home state) junior senator and the son of the late, great Bob Casey, Sr., who if he had not died a premature death from cancer would have been one of the party's leading lights today, perhaps even its presidential nominee and who was denied the chance to speak at the national convention in 1992 due to his pro-life stance, spoke to the convention Tuesday evening. Like his dad, he is unapologetically Catholic, and, hence, pro-life, and unapologetically a Democrat. Here's what he said, making reference to his father's 1992 snub:
"Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I’m speaking here tonight is testament to Barack’s ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him."I also have to add that I am very uncomfortable with the false messianism that seems to have become a hallmark of Sen. Obama's campaign. We must always remember some fundamental facts: only Jesus is the Christ, only he is Lord and the kingdom is not yet. All our judgments are to be made in light of these facts.
More on prudential judgment in due course. Along with Suzanne, I want to be in Rimini. Meanwhile, Sharon, who is in Rimini, is bloggin'.