Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

November 10, 2008


The title does not refer to race. It has to do with how one sees the real world. Many of us feel comfortable with our country, despite the campaign-touted crises in the economy, energy world, health insurance, education, and two wars, one preemptive and thus not acceptable, the other forced upon us. We feel comfortable at the election of an African-American as our President and the coming residence of a family of color in the White House. Our nation has come a long way since slavery, police dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham, and back seats in the buses. There was Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Brown v Board of Education in 1954, the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the march on Selma, the Bill Cosby show and other TV shows that brought loving black families into our livingrooms, and the white, black, and brown faces cheering Barack Obama and, then, those same mixed constituencies carrying him to victory on Election Day.

"Change" was the welcome motto after two terms of the George W. Bush presidency with its expansion of the Imperial Presidency, weakening of business regulations, its "go it alone" foreign policy, tax breaks for the rich, and a disastrous war. But all is not black or white. There were bright colors in faith-based initiatives, pro-life views that carried over into presidential executive orders, and the recent stimulative and bail-out measures as the economy plunged.

All is not black and white as Obama's presidential sun rises. He has an extremist pro-choice ideology that extends to accepting partial-birth abortion and a "let them die" view, when a "reproductive health" abortion is unsuccessful and startles its engineers with a really reproductive result - a live infant. It is to be hoped that, as he begins, he will have the mature wisdom to not remove the GWB executive orders banning funding for stem cell research and for over-seas activities that support abortion. The pro-life position has taken on a new politically acceptable status from the powerful fundamentalist Christian presence in the public square. Obama would be ill-advised to alienate a substantiual portion of the nation's citizenry by succumbing to the pressure of the ACLU, NOW, and Planned (non)Parenthood.

Obama's social values about immigration, education, health insurance, energy, the environment, and war are seen by many as more in accord with our Catholic ethos than those that the Republican party has favored. And this to the point, as has been suggested in the November 2007 statement "Faithful Citizenship" by our bishops, even to overriding the high priority we Catholics give to pro-life principles. Nicholas P. Cafardi, former chairperson of the USCCB's National Review Board and former Dean of Duquesne University Law School, and Douglas Kmiec, former Dean of Catholic University's School of Law, are devout Catholics and announced their support for Obama. In the face of criticism by some less discerning Catholics - one such priest, to his deserved embarrassment, and later apology, refused Holy Communion to Kmiec -
both law professors articulated their reasons for supporting Obama.

There are many who see things as all black or all white; no gray area. Bishop Joseph E. Martino of Scranton is one of those. He saw no compromise as possible and, openly disagreeing with the USCCB statement, ordered all churches in his diocese to have his letter read at all the Sunday Masses, in effect telling Catholics not to vote for Obama. A small number of other bishops followed his position. The well-balanced USCCB statement, approved by 98% of the bishops, leaves it up to the voter to make the decision as to what priorities are to followed. It seems conclusive that a bishop's role is to teach doctrine and to leave the sorting out of priorities to the individual's conscience. Perhaps the best illustration comes from John F. Kennedy, campaigning in 1960 for the Presidency. After he described his church-state philosophy to a group of Baptist ministers in Houston, a minister questioned him. "Mr. Kennedy", he said,"you said that if you found a conflict between your church and the constitution, you would resign the presidency..." Kennedy interrupted. "No", he responded, "I said that, if I found a conflict between my conscience and the constitution, I would resign the presidency." How well said, indeed!


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