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See No Evil

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September 2018

We all know—or should know—that suffering can be redemptive. Too bad we didn’t appreciate it during high school English literature class. We could’ve shaved at least two years off our upcoming purgatory sentences. It’s not that the subject matter was bad; it’s just that it was so hard to figure out what those Brits were saying.

“For loue is blynd alday and may not see.” Chaucer wrote it around 1405. Imagine a bunch of 15-year olds reading it and you get the point. In 1596, Shakespeare restated it: “But love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit.” There’s a certain amount of truth to those words. When we love, or think we do, we tend to close our eyes to the faults or problems of others. Everything seems wonderful, even when it’s not.

This summer President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. His credentials and character are impeccable. For the last 12 years he’s been a judge on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he has served with integrity and distinction. Those with whom he has worked praise him as a hardworking, conscientious, and truly decent person. His nomination should sail through the Senate confirmation process. But it won’t. That’s because his vote may be the vote needed to overrule Roe v. Wade. It’s likely that all 47 Democratic senators (and the two independents who caucus with them), will vote against him. Among those 47, there are 15 Catholics. In lockstep with their party, they will not allow the people in each state to decide whether to keep abortion legal.

It’s a sad fact that today virtually no national Democratic official opposes legal abortion. Disagree? Name three who do. Even sadder, Church clerics in America had something to do with it. We need to understand what happened years ago because it explains why there is now such a huge difference among Catholic voters over the abortion issue.

During the 20th century, there was something of a love affair between the Church and Democrats. They were allies in the worker movement and in President’s Franklin Roosevelt’s depression-era social welfare agenda. It was then that Joseph Kennedy, an ambitious, successful Catholic businessman and government official began his quest for higher office for himself, and later, for his sons. He curried the Church’s favor with large donations and expected its support in return. In 1960, his son John was nominated to run for president, the second Catholic so chosen. Catholics were thrilled, but not everyone else. John needed to convince non-Catholics that the Pope would not control him. Though maintaining his Catholic persona, he publicly separated religion and politics. Some Church leaders were concerned that John would not follow his conscience. John won his election, but in 1963 an assassin’s bullets shortened his term.

There were two other Kennedy sons—Robert and Ted. In 1964, Robert announced that he would run for a U.S. Senate seat in New York. At the time, the abortion rights movement in New York was picking up steam. How should Robert react? That summer, the Kennedys assembled a group of priests—Charles Curran, Robert Drinan, Joseph Fuchs, Richard McCormick, and Giles Milhaven—to give them cover among Catholic voters. They told the Kennedys that they could support legal abortion under certain circumstances if political efforts to oppose it would imperil social peace and order. Robert won his election and eventually tried to become president, but in 1968 he, too, was assassinated.

Less than five years later, the Supreme Court legalized abortion at all times and for any reason. It raised huge moral concerns among many Catholics, including many Catholic politicians. Women’s rights had become a pressing issue nationwide. Sensing an opportunity to collect money coming from the abortion lobby and votes from women, the Democratic party decided to support legal abortion. But it still needed political cover for its Catholic candidates and a rationale for Catholic voters to support them.

That came in 1984—an election year—at a Notre Dame-sponsored symposium on religion and politics. New York governor Mario Cuomo, a Catholic Democrat, argued that though he was personally opposed to abortion, neither he nor anyone else should force their beliefs on others. This included taxpayer funding of abortion. To Cuomo, not opposing abortion was a matter of prudential judgment, much like trying to best deal with slavery. His speech became an excuse for Catholics to support pro-abortion candidates. They still do.

Cuomo’s message remains deeply flawed. True, Catholic elected officials cannot force citizens to believe in the Trinity, attend Sunday Mass, or swear allegiance to a bishop. But issue here is whether they can oppose legislation protecting the unborn—fully human from the moment of their conception—from legal slaughter by abortion. The right to life comes from our humanity, not our religion. Government’s greatest responsibility is to protect life. There is nothing socially good about killing innocent unborn, and nothing prudent about allowing it to continue. Or to use Cuomo’s slavery analogy, no Catholic politician could ever support a slave auction so as to not impose his moral beliefs on the slave owners.

Political affiliation is a powerful thing. For voters, it is generational and even lifelong. For politicians, it is the avenue to power itself. But the political ties must be broken when the political message is “see no evil.” We cannot turn a blind eye to the killing of over 60 million unborn babies and the untold suffering of those who have experienced abortion’s impact. It is terribly important to find our how your senator plans to vote on Judge Kavanaugh and to act on it. We mustn’t blow this chance to protect God’s most defenseless ones.

And as for true love, it’s not blind. Jesus saw us and our faults as He hung on that Cross.

 

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2018. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/ and on Facebook.

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