... CNN anchor Fredricka Whitfield and Rev. James Martin, S.J., associate editor of America magazine. From the transcript of the conversation, which took place on Sunday following President Obama's speech at Notre Dame:
WHITFIELD: So Reverend Martin, I’d like you to weigh in on this. Are -- are you in concert with all that Mr. Arroyo is saying?
REVEREND JAMES MARTIN, AMERICA MAGAZINE: Not exactly. I mean, I think first of all, if anyone deserves a degree in law, it’s this constitutional law scholar. I think that needs to be kept in mind. But also, I think the pro-life world is a lot broader than simply abortion. I don’t think you can just sweep the death penalty, torture -- things like that under the carpet. The pro-life world is really what Cardinal Bernardin called ‘a consistent ethic of life.’ I think, unfortunately, for a lot of people in the pro-life movement, life begins at conception, but seems to end there. I mean, it just cannot be about simply abortion, and I really lament the fact that -- that some of the bishops have turned the Gospel of Jesus Christ into simply abortion. And so, I think we need to look at a broader perspective here.
In other words, the most radically pro-abortion president in U.S. history is deserving of honor and praise from a Catholic university, while those in the "pro-life movement," including several dozen bishops who have criticized Notre Dame for honoring Obama, are narrow-minded, even extremist, in their understanding of Catholic social doctrine and the Gospel. I think, unfortunately, for a lot of people claiming to be pro-life, life begins at conception, but does end there because that life is destroyed before it can come forth from the womb. And then, as Arroyo rightly notes, it's too late for that person to be worried about poverty or clean air or whatever. And, as I noted recently, the mindless mantra that the pro-life movement has no interest in babies once they are born is either a knowing lie or a mindlessly repeated falsehood.
WHITFIELD: So Reverend Martin, does it concern you that there is almost a selective understanding about what is permissible and what is not permissible?
MARTIN: No, it concerns me that life issues are being reduced to simply abortion, and I think the Gospel is a lot broader than that. If we’re going to look at someone who accepts or rejects the Gospel, we cannot simply boil it down to one issue, and I really think that does a disservice to all of Catholic moral teaching. It’s certainly the preeminent issue for the Catholic Church, but it’s not the only issue, and it’s certainly not a litmus test upon which we should judge people.
When pro-lifers oppose euthanasia, it's because, we're told, they are too narrow-minded. When they oppose contraception and "reproductive services," it's because they are too focused on one issue. When they express concern about sexual immorality, homosexuality, child abuse, single parent homes, divorce, and the weakening of the family, it's because they have blinders on as to the bigger, broader picture. And when they fight for the lives of the most vulnerable and innocent, they are skewered for "reducing" Catholic social teaching to a single issue—despite having also been criticized for addressing all of those other issues. This is a straw man, and Fr. Martin's entire argument is based on that straw man. Yet he then admits that abortion is "the preeminent issue for the Catholic Church," even while dismissing those Catholics who make it the preeminent issue. That is simply illogical. At best.
As for a "litmus test," I'm not sure what Fr. Martin is getting at since the pro-life movement is simply saying this: If you support abortion as Obama does, you are obviously supportive of abortion. Duh. It's not rocket science. God will judge the soul, but we must, in making all sorts of decisions everyday, judge the public actions of people.
MARTIN: Yeah, I don’t --
ARROYO: That’s what’s at heart here. The politics is really irrelevant.
MARTIN: I think the politics is very relevant here. I don’t think you can call President Obama pro-abortion. I mean, someone who talked about convening a task force between pro-life and pro-choice people is certainly not someone who is pro-abortion. I don’t know anyone who’s pro-abortion, and I think that label is really very misleading.
And so Fr. Martin takes up, verbatim, the argument used by candidate Sen. Obama: "I don't know anybody who is pro-abortion. I think it's very important to start with that premise." Those, in fact, may be some of the most revealing words spoken by Obama. As I wrote back on January 24, 2008: "Obama's 'premise' is essential, because as soon as you give into the 'argument' that, 'Hey, no one really is pro-abortion,' you are engaged in a highly subjective argument over sincerity and intention, not about whether or not the abortion kills a child."
In his January 2008 interview with Christianity Today, Obama said, "But what I believe is that women do not make these decisions casually, and that they struggle with it fervently with their pastors, with their spouses, with their doctors." And the President, in his speech on Sunday, stated, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions." It's a brilliant tactic precisely because we've been taught (in school) and told (by politicians and the media), ad nauseum, that having an abortion is a private, personal decision filled with anguish and agony, so it must not be judged or criticized. But this completely side steps the real, bedrock moral questions: Is abortion wrong? Is it the killing of an innocent? Is it objectively evil? The Catholic Church says, "Yes," to all of those questions. Obama doesn't so much say, "No," but says, "You aren't in a position to make that judgment." And that, to me, is the Big Lie here, or at least one of the Big Lies, right there with, "I don’t know anyone who’s pro-abortion."
Imagine if someone said, "I'm struggling with whether or not I should cheat on my wife," or, "I'm wrestling with how I might get away with molesting a child," or, "I'm making a heart-wrenching decision about killing a co-worker I don't like." Horrific? Sure. But why? Seriously, why?