Center for Ethics and Leadership

Friday, June 20, 2008

Professor Kmiec and Father Pfleger

Catholic politics is getting interesting. A few weeks ago, Douglas Kmiec, a law professor with impeccable Catholic and conservative credentials, was denied communion by a priest who claimed the former member of the Reagan and senior Bush teams had stepped outside the lines with his surprising columns supporting Barack Obama. The issue was abortion, and this rendered the priest's remarks all the more surprising since Kmiec is outspokenly opposed to abortion. Nearly a month ago, Fr. Michael Pfleger, an activist Chicago priest was told by Cardinal George to apologize for remarks about Sen. Clinton that focused on white privilege.

I must have a higher tolerance level than most. Perhaps it is the academic in me. I watched the YouTube of Fr. Pfleger, and it did not seem to me that he was endorsing any particular candidate from his guest pulpit at Trinity United Church of Christ. And I made a point of reading some of Kmiec's columns and liked his argument. He speaks of politics as the art of the possible when discussing abortion and refuses to make it a candidate's litmus test. He also has a few wise things to say about using the Supreme Court as a political football in the controversy. I liked even better his remark that we cannot use religion as a political weapon.

It is a cliche, but moral leadership requires more conversation, not less. There are few issues more volatile in the public forum than white privilege and abortion. Fuller discussion is warranted.


  • On the topic of abortion - it seems certain to me that the future will look back on us in horror - as we already look back on the racial crimes of our past. But it is the obligation of the present to minimize current suffering and I'm sure that argues in favor of continuing to offer safe legal low cost abortion...

    On the larger topic - how religion should interface with politics - I find it hard to judge.

    I am frequently upset by what I see as attempts to impose religiously inspired morality on others - e.g. gay marriage, public prayer - and attempts to interfere with education based on religion (evolution).

    On the other hand - much of the change I see needed in the world has a moral flavor - e.g. environment, social justice, etc. So is my morality better for not being religiously inspired? Perhaps (I might argue)because it's based in reason - but what is reason?

    I guess I'm really a Darwinist. Although I frequently despair of the course of the present, I firmly believe that things have generally gotten better over time. I ascribe this improvement to the, often painful, process of social evolution. Good ideas raise to the top. Like real evolution, sometime we go along way down a dead end, but generally we seem to improve.

    So, bring it on. Let's talk religion and politics. Let's have politics in religion. Let's see what raises to the top.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 23, 2008 4:31 PM  

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