The President’s Speech; Why I Wasn’t Impressed
Since that deadly day nearly two weeks ago, the story has dominated the news; we’ve learned many details about the deranged shooter and his innocent victims; we’ve debated the causes and consequences of the event; and we’ve prayed for all those who have suffered so much from the violence.
President Obama traveled to Tucson and did his level best to offer his sympathy and support, to encourage a city and a nation, and to invite us all to a better future marked especially by more civility in public discourse. In asking us to learn from and move beyond the terrible moment, the president appealed to Holy Scripture and to the better instincts of the human family. Noble sentiments all. As some have said, and I agree, it was his best moment as president.
As I watched Mr. Obama, though, and later reflected on his speech, I sensed there was something missing; there was something that left me cold, unimpressed and unmoved.
And suddenly it became clear. The problem, at least for me, is that President Obama’s persistent and willful promotion of abortion renders his compassionate gestures and soaring rhetoric completely disingenuous. “O come on, Bishop Tobin,” I hear you say. “Abortion’s not the only moral issue in the world.” Correct, I respond. Abortion’s not the only moral issue in the world but it is the most important. And, I confess, abortion policy is the prism through which I view everything this president says and does.
Is there any longer any doubt that Barack Obama is the most pro-abortion president we’ve ever had?
President Obama has enthusiastically supported the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade that has allowed virtually unrestricted access to abortion in our nation and has resulted in approximately 50 million deaths since 1973.
President Obama has consistently surrounded himself with pro-abortion advisors, and has appointed pro-abortion politicians to key positions in the federal government, including his two nominees for the Supreme Court.
President Obama has promulgated policies, including the overturn of the Mexico City Policy (within the first few hours of his presidency) that requires taxpayer monies to provide abortions around the world. Similarly he signed an executive order that forces taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research; he signed a bill that overturned the 13-year-long ban of abortion funding in the nation’s capital; and he directed the passage of health care legislation that opens the door to federal funding of abortions and could eventually limit the freedom of religion for individuals and institutions who find abortion morally repugnant.
President Obama has made abortion a key foreign policy issue, pressuring nations to accept abortion policies; he’s supported several pro-abortion initiatives of the United Nations; and he’s appointed Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State. Secretary Clinton has had a consistent pro-abortion record and in her international travels has promoted abortion as a human right.
The full accounting of President Obama’s track record on abortion goes on for eight typed pages, a very sad and discouraging litany. The net effect, though, is that President Obama’s shameful record on abortion leaves his touching tribute and appeal to goodness in Tucson – and other expressions of compassion – sterile and meaningless. As he stood on the stage in Tucson, he was a prophet without credentials; his speech, a song without a soul.
Perhaps the president’s most moving rhetoric was that about Christina Taylor Green, the precious nine-year-old slain in the barrage of bullets. As a father of two beautiful daughters himself, the president’s words were surely personal and sincere. Of this child he said: “In Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic . . . So deserving of our love.”
But I can’t help but ask, respectfully, “Mr. President, why can’t you see our other children – so curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic, and so deserving of our love – in all of the unborn children who didn’t live because of our nation’s embrace of the abortion option?”
And in one of the most dramatic moments of his speech, Mr. Obama announced that the wounded congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, opened her eyes for the first time just after he’d completed his visit to her. “A miracle” some proclaimed, and certainly a welcome sign of recovery at which we all rejoice.
But I can’t help but wonder how many tiny eyes will never open, will never see the light of day, because of this president’s shortsighted and zealous promotion of abortion.
It’s truly tragic that our president – for whose safety and well-being we pray all the time and who has demonstrated an impressive ability to inspire other people – is unable to see the deadly consequences of his abortion agenda. Perhaps we need another miracle, to open his eyes, that he might see and understand how wrong abortion is, how sinful it is, how violent it is, and how it’s destroying the life of our nation.
If President Obama and the Congressional leadership truly wanted health care reform, they would maintain the 33 year precedent of not forcing those who do not agree with abortion to pay for it with their tax dollars. If they respected the consciences of individuals and truly sought common ground, health care would now be law. But they see an opportunity–perhaps their only one–to expand and solidify into law what they perceive to be an absolute right, abortion. The following article is an excellent analysis:
Throwing the Bathwater Out With the Baby?
by Pat Archbold
In all the discussion about whip counts it is easy to lose sight of what really counts and what the health care debate is really all about. It should come as little surprise that this is all about abortion, or more specifically about the federal funding of abortion.
However, conversely to what the media would have you believe, it is not primarily about Bart Stupak and a handful of pro-life Democrats holding up health-care reform. Rather, it is about the leadership of the Democrat party’s willingness to sacrifice their electoral livelihoods and/or health-care “reform” in order to make sure abortion is covered.
The real truth is that if health-care reform were the true overriding objective of President Obama and the Democrat leadership in Congress, then they could have passed this bill months ago. Instead, Democrats in the Senate refused to compromise on keeping the status quo—an over three decade prohibition on federal funds for abortion. If they had crafted language similar to the Stupak amendment in the House, which merely reflects the status quo, Obamacare would now be the law of the land.
They refused. Now again in the House, Nancy Pelosi has struggled for months to find votes for the bill. Even now, the Democrat leadership would rather risk their careers and blatantly violate the Constitution rather than give in on abortion and the Stupak language. This gives proof to the lie that Obamacare does not change current law on abortion and makes inexplicable the willingness of some Catholics to blindly accept this falsehood.
This bill is all about funding abortion. The Democrats understand that this may be the one chance in the next decade to get this done and they will not sacrifice it. They will sacrifice the Constitution and their own jobs, but not federally funded abortion.
I am not the only one who thinks so. Bart Stupak appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s show last night and stated that the Democrats know this is their opportunity. The Democrats have made clear they intend to throw out the baby, the only question is whether they are willing to throw out the bathwater to do it. It seems the answer is yes.
There has been much “flap” about the funeral of Senator Kennedy, some justified but most ridiculous. Aside from the ‘strange’ liturgy, recited Mass parts, abominable prayers of petition, what follows represents the most measured analysis of the whole affair, By Cardinal O’Malley of Boston.
From Cardinal Sean’s Blog
Saturday was the 39th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, at St. Augustine’s Church in Pittsburgh by Bishop John B. McDowell, who is still going strong today. In the Church’s calendar, the feast day for August 29 is the Beheading of John the Baptist. People usually take note when I tell them that I was professed to religious life on Bastille Day, July 14, and ordained on the feast of the Beheading. Not that I am superstitious.
On Saturday morning I attended the funeral Mass for Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Father Donald Monan, S.J., former president of Boston College, celebrated the Mass and Father Mark Hession, pastor of Our Lady of Victories in Centerville, preached the homily.
The music was outstanding with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus enriching the liturgy along with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham who later sang an absolutely striking rendition of Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Cellist Yo-Yo Ma graced us with his beautiful solo performance of Bach and later joined Placido Domingo, who sang the “Panis Angelicus.” Placido has a superb voice. I told him how much I like the Zarzuela, the Spanish classical musical theater productions. His family had a troupe that presented Zarzuelas in Mexico and he promised to arrange a performance.
The venue for the funeral Mass was Mission Church, the magnificent Redemptorist Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Senator Kennedy prayed often in this church when his daughter, Kara, was stricken with cancer. It is a church where countless faithful have gone to pray and ask for healing, grace and forgiveness.
In light of these themes, I wish to address our Catholic faithful who have voiced both support and disappointment at my having presided at the Senator’s funeral Mass.
Needless to say, the Senator’s wake and Catholic funeral were controversial because of the fact that he did not publically support Catholic teaching and advocacy on behalf of the unborn. Given the profound effect of Catholic social teaching on so many of the programs and policies espoused by Senator Kennedy and the millions who benefitted from them, there is a tragic sense of lost opportunity in his lack of support for the unborn. To me and many Catholics it was a great disappointment because, had he placed the issue of life at the centerpiece of the Social Gospel where it belongs, he could have multiplied the immensely valuable work he accomplished.
The thousands of people who lined the roads as the late Senator’s motorcade travelled from Cape Cod to Boston and the throngs that crowded the Kennedy Library for two days during the lying in repose, I believe, were there to pay tribute to these many accomplishments rather than as an endorsement of the Senator’s voting record on abortion.
The crowds also were there to pay tribute to the Kennedy family as a whole. On the national political landscape, if Barack Obama broke the glass ceiling of the presidency for African Americans, Jack Kennedy broke it for American Catholics.
As a young lad, I saw photographs of both Pope John XXIII and President John Kennedy hanging in the thatched cottages of County Mayo and heard the Gaelic greeting, “God and Mary be with you.” Three of the Kennedy brothers died in service of our country in the prime of life. And Eunice Shriver, who died just a few weeks ago, was an outspoken defender of the unborn and an apostle of the Gospel of Life. She taught us all how to love special children and to make room for everyone at the table of life. In 1992, Eunice petitioned her party’s convention to consider “a new understanding” of the issue, “one that does not pit mother against child,” but instead seeks “policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth.”
Much of what is noble in the politics and work of the Kennedys had its origins in the bedrock of the faith of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. As a young woman she had a profound experience of God’s love that transformed her life. She strove to communicate that faith to her large clan. Since the time of her funeral Mass I have kept her memorial prayer card, inscribed with Rose Kennedy’s own words:
“If God were to take away all His blessings, health, physical fitness, wealth, intelligence, and leave me but one gift, I would ask for faith – for with faith in Him and His goodness, mercy, love for me, and belief in everlasting life, I believe I could suffer the loss of my other gifts and still be happy – trustful, leaving all to His inscrutable Providence.”
There are those who objected, in some cases vociferously, to the Church’s providing a Catholic funeral for the Senator. In the strongest terms I disagree with that position. At the Senator’s interment on Saturday evening, with his family’s permission, we learned of details of his recent personal correspondence with Pope Benedict XVI. It was very moving to hear the Senator acknowledging his failing to always be a faithful Catholic, and his request for prayers as he faced the end of his life. The Holy Father’s expression of gratitude for the Senator’s pledge of prayer for the Church, his commendation of the Senator and his family to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and his imparting the Apostolic Blessing, spoke of His Holiness’ role as the Vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd who leaves none of the flock behind.
As Archbishop of Boston, I considered it appropriate to represent the Church at this liturgy out of respect for the Senator, his family, those who attended the Mass and all those who were praying for the Senator and his family at this difficult time. We are people of faith and we believe in a loving and forgiving God from whom we seek mercy.
Advocating for the dignity of life is central to my role as a priest and a bishop. One of my greatest satisfactions in my ministry thus far was helping to overturn the abortion laws in Honduras. The person who answered my call for help with that effort was Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who had been a prominent leader in NARAL and the abortion rights movement. His own change of heart led Dr. Nathanson from a practice of providing abortions to becoming one of the most eloquent exponents of the pro-life movement.
Helen Alvaré, who is one of the most outstanding pro-life jurists, a former Director of the Bishops´ Pro-life Office and a long standing consultant to the USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities, has always said that the pro-life movement is best characterized by what it is for, not against. We are for the precious gift of life, and our task is to build a civilization of love. We must show those who do not share our belief about life that we care about them. We will stop the practice of abortion by changing the law, and we will be successful in changing the law if we change people’s hearts. We will not change hearts by turning away from people in their time of need and when they are experiencing grief and loss.
At times, even in the Church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us. Jesus loves us while we are still in sin. He loves each of us first, and He loves us to the end. Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the Church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.
President Obama and three former presidents attended Senator Kennedy’s funeral. I had the opportunity to speak briefly with President Obama, to welcome him to the Basilica and to share with him that the bishops of the Catholic Church are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but we will not support a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortions in the future. The President was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying.
Democrats and Republicans sat side by side in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, praying for Senator Kennedy and his family. It is my sincere hope that all people who long to promote the cause of life will pray and work together to change hearts, to bring about an increased respect for life, and to change laws so as to make America a safe place for all, including the unborn.
Good thing we don’t mix religion and politics anymore.
By Mona Charen
Well, thank Heaven George W. Bush is no longer president! Gosh, all of that mixing of religion and politics darn near subverted our Constitution — which, as all good liberals know enshrines the “wall of separation” between church and state.
What? That phrase doesn’t appear in the Constitution? No matter. Democrats know that conservative Republicans, particularly Christians, are dangerous religious fanatics.
When Democrats invoke the Almighty, though, it’s altogether different. Religion in a Democrat is evidence of deep moral commitment, even of greatness. Many of the eulogies to Teddy Kennedy mentioned his “quiet Catholic faith.” His self-identified favorite parts of Scripture, we were told, were “Matthew 25 through 35: ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, and thirsty and you gave me to drink.’”
The Democrats, perhaps as a political Hail Mary pass in light of the resistance health-care reform has encountered, are now hitting the religion angle pretty hard. At a Tennessee fundraiser over the weekend (at which Bill Clinton arrived early — a modern miracle if you’re looking for one), the reunited team of Clinton and Al Gore pushed health-care reform as a “moral imperative.” Playing off the Kennedy eulogies, Gore invoked the Christian obligation to care for “the least of these” as the force behind H.R. 3200.
President Obama too has donned the preacher’s mantle. Speaking to a coalition of 30 faith-based groups, he thundered that opponents of health-care reform were “frankly, bearing false witness.” He then offered a religious justification for his policy preference that somehow failed to make liberal Democrats uncomfortable about church/state entanglement: “These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation: that is, that we look out for one another; that is, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper. And in the wealthiest nation in the world right now we are neglecting to live up to that call.”
But the president really hit his stride when he spoke by conference call to about a thousand mostly Reform rabbis, asking for their support of health-care reform when they address their congregations at the upcoming High Holiday services. As Tevi Troy blogged on National Review Online, the Jewish New Year observance features a prayer called U’netana tokef which reads, in part, “On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the Earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die . . . but repentance, prayer, and charity can remove the evil of the decree.”
According to Rabbi Jack Moline of Alexandria, Va., who Twittered the event but later removed his Tweets from the Internet, President Obama referenced this prayer and then told the rabbis that “I am going to need your help” in getting health-care reform passed. “We are God’s partners in matters of life and death,” the president added.
One cannot even fathom the sort of media firestorm that would have erupted if someone like Sarah Palin had said that. But beyond the blazing double standard, does President Obama really want to venture this deep into moralizing? This is treacherous ground for him. For one thing, a man who is already known for his messiah complex ought to choose his words more carefully. Religious people may think of themselves as striving to do God’s will, but declaring yourself God’s partner is a just a tad presumptuous. Besides, there are very good reasons to believe that Obama’s health reform would lead to worse outcomes, not improved care. More particularly, the administration has recently been drawn into controversy (rightly or wrongly) over “death panels” and also over the Veterans Affairs department’s endorsement of a pamphlet that seemed to encourage the elderly and frail to consider whether their lives were really worth extending and/or whether they were “a burden” to their families. In light of that, some may hear a degree of menace in the phrase “God’s partners.”
But above all, President Obama has previously told us that questions about life were “above his pay grade.” He has now pivoted to claim that his health-care reform is a matter of life and death. If he is now going to invoke religious authority, his opponents are entitled to recall not only that Barack Obama has a perfect pro-abortion voting record, but also that just a few years ago he spearheaded opposition to legislation that would have simply required that an infant who accidentally survived an abortion be given medical attention.
Some highlights of what was said during the meeting have filtered down from Vatican Radio and official press statements. (Blog title comes from a witnessed banner in the Vatican press office by a French correspondent.)
In the course of their cordial exchanges, the conversation turned first of all to questions which are in the interests of all and which constitute a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience. (According to the radio update, President Obama “reiterated his commitment to reducing the incidence of abortions”)
Reference was also made to immigration with particular attention to the matter of reuniting families.
The meeting focused as well upon matters of international politics, especially in light of the outcome of the G8 Summit. The conversation also dealt with the peace process in the Middle East, on which there was general agreement, and with other regional situations. Certain current issues were then considered, such as dialogue between cultures and religions, the global economic crisis and its ethical implications, food security, development aid especially for Africa and Latin America, and the problem of drug trafficking. Finally, the importance of educating young people everywhere in the value of tolerance was highlighted.”
The gifts exchanged were:
From pope to president–a framed mosaic of St. Peter’s, an autographed copy of his new encyclical Caritas in Veritate, and his 10k word apostolic letter on bioethics and stem cell research entitled Dignitatis Personae. Obama promised to read them on the plane home.
From president to pope–a stole worn by St. John Neumann, a 19th-century Redemptorist priest who is the patron saint of sick children and immigrants. Born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1811, he died in Philadelphia in 1860, was beatified in 1963, and canonized in 1977 by Paul VI.
President Obama reportedly hand delivered a sealed letter from Senator Kennedy addressed to the Holy Father and asked Pope Benedict to pray for the ailing senator. After the papal audience President Obama had a 10 minute phone conversation with Sen. Kennedy.
After much anticipation in the media and enduring some of the most inane pieces of journalism and bloggery, the meeting between Pope Benedict and President Obama took place today at the Vatican. Protocol divides presidential and prime ministerial visits into three categories with an increasing degree of ceremony: private visit, official visit and state visit. Today’s meeting with President Obama was considered private.
Obama arrived at the Vatican shortly before 4 p.m., and a squad of Swiss Guards saluted him in the St. Damasus Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. First greeted by U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household, he was accompanied to a meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. This usually occurs after the meeting with the pope but for undisclosed reasons it occurred first. After a private discussion with Pope Benedict, Obama introduced the First Lady and his two children to the pope. A group photo, pope and president exchange gifts and the first family will leave for the airport. The whole affair took an hour.
Wild prognostication has been proffered about a “frank discussion” and “common ground” as people on all sides look to have their expectation met as to the outcome of this meeting. So far we know the President told the Pope it was a great honor to meet him and they spoke about the G8 Summit. No surprises there for the sensible. We’ll be looking out for how this meeting is spun to bolster agendas. In the meantime here is a BBC video:
Bishop Tobin of the Diocese of Providence writes a weekly column in the Rhode Island Catholic entitled Without a Doubt. It is always well done, thought provoking and pastoral but this past week made me cheer at one point and feel utterly frustrated at another. In his most recent submission, Bishop Tobin briefly addressed several issues, including the Fr. Cutie scandal in Miami, the murder of Dr. Tiller, President Obama’s reception of an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame, President Obama’s declaration of the month of June as Lesbian,Gay, Bi-sexual Transgendered pride month, and a couple of other random wanderings. First the ‘home run’ then the ‘swing and a miss’.
On the “gay agenda” he wrote:
I see that President Obama has declared June to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) month. The President has called on all Americans to “turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.” In other words, if you’re opposed to the homosexual sub-culture and behavior, you’re now a presidential bigot. “If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit,” the President said. In that spirit, I can’t wait for the President’s declaration of a month dedicated to pro-life Americans. After all, our Nation was founded on the principle of life – along with liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Speaking of the gay agenda, the left-leaning columnist of the “Providence Journal” Bob Kerr, who frequently sounds the trumpet on behalf of the gay lobby, has asked why some people feel the need to defend traditional marriage. “What are they protecting it from?” he pleads.
The answer, Bob, is identity theft. From the very beginning of recorded history, marriage has had a very specific identity – the union of one man and one woman, joined together for the dual purpose of mutual love and the creation of new life. Because of its essential contributions, marriage has been afforded special rights and privileges in every culture. Now, in just the last few years, some individuals involved in other forms of immoral sexual liaisons have appeared on the scene to say, “Hey, we want to be married too. We hereby claim your identity, your rights and privileges, for ourselves.” So that’s the answer, Bob. We’re protecting the fundamental institution of marriage from identity theft.
Identity theft…I like that. Now on to the strikeout. On President Obama at Notre Dame:
I didn’t offer any public comments about President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame last month for several reasons: Lots of other bishops made excellent public statements that covered everything I would have said; I have no jurisdiction over Notre Dame and my voice would have meant little; and along with Notre Dame, there’s lots of other Catholic colleges and universities across the country that could be challenged for similar situations.
Nonetheless, to say that I was disappointed by the decision of Father Jenkins to invite the President and award him an honorary degree is a huge understatement. The invitation seriously compromised the Catholic identity and integrity of Notre Dame and gave plenty of encouragement to the pro-abortion folks around the country who love to see the Church divided over this issue. Accordingly, even if asked, I won’t be writing any letters of recommendation for anyone applying for Notre Dame any time soon. Or Georgetown either, for that matter.
These last two paragraphs are contradictory. The latter is a very strong statement which articulates the heart of the issue and the gravity of the scandal. Merriam-Webster defines scandal as “discredit brought upon religion by unseemly conduct in a religious person; conduct that causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another; loss of or damage to reputation caused by actual or apparent violation of morality or propriety : disgrace.” This is exactly the detrimental outcome Bishop Tobin observes, and it is the very reason it necessitated a public statement.
To make a public statement when ‘lots of other bishops’ are doing the same is not “piling on”, but an important sign of solidarity. Silence is affirmation and it spoke more loudly and added to the fervor of controversy because it was perceived as tacit support. Even though Bishop Tobin has no canonical jurisdiction in South Bend, the effects of the scandal reached the faithful he is charged with shepherding–in his jurisdiction. And lastly, the fact that many other Catholic institutions could be challenged for similar incidents is a sad commentary on the state of Catholic higher education, and no excuse for ignoring the most public display of Roman Catholic Identity crisis.
The Church in the United States is at the bottom of the ninth inning and we’re on our feet. We just need our shepherds to step up to the plate.