There has been some upset in the ranks of the Knights of Columbus about an open letter from Supreme Knight Carl Anderson to Senator Joseph Biden about the matter of abortion, politics and our Catholic faith.
The letter was little different in kind from several that had been released from various bishops in regard to public statements from both Biden and Nancy Pelosi on television news programs. He wrote as one Catholic layman to another.
I am not sure which came first, the organization CATHOLICS FOR OBAMA or the KNIGHTS FOR OBAMA, but I am disturbed that Catholics would surrender their moral values to any party or candidate.
This rebellion against the Supreme Knight is being led by Rick Gebhard, a member of K of C Council #853 at Guardian Angels Parish in Manistee, Mich. I read Carl Anderson’s letter and thought it was rather tame. He did not tell anyone for whom they could or could not vote. All he asked was that Senator Biden might be more courageous in standing up for the lives of the unborn. In reference to Senator Obama, the issue of abortion should never be taken off the table, even for those who supported his candidacy. The problem, I suspect, is that we have Catholics who say they are pro-life but then lose the issue of abortion in a long list of lesser social issues. There are also too many believers who regard abortion as a personal or private matter. However, the murder of any class of human beings must always be a subject for the larger community to discuss and to guard against.
The first part of Anderson’s letter acknowledges Biden’s friction with various bishops and the correction already given by them to his remarks. The Church had to say something for fear that false teaching might be passed along as doctrine.
- Bishops took public issue with his remarks as not representative of Catholicism.
- Biden ignored most ancient and recent Church declarations and errantly appealed to the 13th century view of the unborn purportedly held by St. Thomas Aquinas.
- A failure to stress the constant teaching of the Church against abortion might lead women into confusion about the moral gravity of the matter.
- While Biden voted against partial birth infanticide, his unconditional support for Roe v. Wade endorses the current situation where abortion is practically possible at any stage of pregnancy.
- The truth that a person’s life begins at conception is not simply a personal matter of faith but is a fact of science.
- If Biden genuinely accepts Catholic moral views about abortion, then his failure to act upon them in the public forum (even supporting the opposition) is both a troubling and untenable position.
St. Thomas Aquinas did not understand the biological mechanics of human development in the womb. However, he would contend that such human life, even if in potency, must remain inviolate. Abortion is always a grave sin and must be avoided all throughout pregnancy. Anderson rightly remarked that Christians have always condemned abortion, evidenced as far back as the Didache written in the 2nd century. He wrote that such a prohibition is “found in the letters of Tertullian, Jerome, Augustine and Aquinas, and was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which described abortion as ‘an unspeakable crime’ and held that the right to life must be protected from the ‘moment of conception’.”
After dealing with the general issue of Biden’s dissent from Catholic social teaching and the full implications of the Gospel of Life, the letter focused on the situation of Biden as Senator Obama’s vice presidential running mate.
Anderson writes: “Lincoln fought slavery in the name of ‘a just God’ without embarrassment or apology. He confronted an America in which black Americans were not considered ‘persons’ under the law, and were thus not entitled to fundamental Constitutional rights. Today, children of all races who are fully viable and only minutes from being born are also denied recognition as ‘persons’ because of the Roe v. Wade regime that you so strongly support. Lincoln’s reasoning regarding slavery applies with equal force to children who are minutes, hours or days away from birth.”
This is very true. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas wrote a fabulous paper on this point and based his argument on the natural law. There is a terrible irony today that those who were regarded as partial persons or merely as property, should support an abortion industry that tries to strip the unborn child of dignity and personhood. The numbers of abortions among women of color arguably makes this a matter of black genocide.
Anderson continues: “The founders believed that we are ‘endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights,’ and that first among these is ‘life’.” The Catholic faith makes no compromise about this truth. Yes, there are other issues; but, take away a person’s life and there are no more issues. Dead people do not care about hunger or housing or social security or war and peace.
The so-called Knights for Obama should be ashamed of themselves. No, I am not faulting them for their support of a charismatic leader. My problem with them is that they would dismiss the Gospel of Life or be silent so as not to make waves in the Democrat party. We must be Catholics first, not Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians or anything else! Can they not support Obama and still urge him to modify his view about the unborn? Our Savior is Christ, not the secular or black “messiah” Obama hailed by Farrakhan. We are Catholics in America, not homogenized American Catholics! The so-called knights for Obama condemn Anderson and yet his views merely echo the living and teaching Church. The role of every Knight is humility before his priests, bishops and especially the Pope. When so many Catholic groups defected from true Catholic unity; the Knights of Columbus remained the one group that we could count upon. Let us not fool ourselves. What we are dealing with here are pro-choice or more succinctly, pro-abortion Catholics. They are mad at Anderson because they see themselves condemned with Biden. Anderson is blunt but truthful when he challenges Biden (and them): “You have a choice: you can listen to your conscience and work to secure the rights of the unborn to share in the fruits of our hard-won liberty, or you can choose to turn your back on them.”
Anderson finished his letter by appealing to Biden on behalf of the 1.28 million Knights of Columbus. The pro-abortion Knights flipped. Okay, maybe it is time to trim the bush. It would be better to have only one million or 800,000 good pro-life knights so as not to be compromised on abortion and the Gospel of Life. Maybe we should rewrite the Form 100 used in membership and ask in a clear way: Are you pro-life and support the eradication of abortion in our country and the world. If a candidate says no, then he is not worthy to be a Knight and he is also a disgrace to Mother Church. Our Lord identifies himself with the child in the womb. Every child is a reflection of the Christ-child. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father” (Matthew 10:32-33).
The letter from Anderson was basically a cursory representation of Catholic teaching. Gebhard told the CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE (September 30): “He wasn’t speaking for me.” While he acknowledges that the Knights are not a partisan group, Gebhard’s website, KNIGHTS FOR OBAMA, certainly crosses the line. He writes: “I guess I am trying to level things out a bit to show that the Knights are not a partisan group and to show there’s a mix of beliefs.” The problem is that we are supposed to embrace and share all our important Catholic beliefs; not merely those from which we pick-and-choose as convenient to hold. Certainly, we should not give greater gravity to opinions contrary to our faith and values.
It would seem to me that Gebhard and his group have directly violated a basic dictum of the Knights of Columbus about causing scandal and disharmony in the ranks. This would certainly open them up to censure and possible removal from the K of C. Indeed, unless there is some fancy footwork by his home council, they might also suffer the loss of their charter. It will be interesting to see how Supreme responds to these dissenters.
Catholicism is first of all a religious faith. However, it also signifies a rational way of looking at the world. The Church’s argument for the sanctity of human life does not necessarily require a person to convert to the truth of Christ. The truth about our humanity and personhood is something we might discern from the natural order. It is obvious that the embryo and fetus is human and given a little time we will see the developmental trajectory extend from the womb to birth to adolescence to puberty to adulthood and maybe even to old age. What we call the soul is often discussed by philosophers as the mystery that imbues every human person. Unlike animals or plants, the human person has an incommensurate value and has a right to life that must be safeguarded. Reagrding this right, the Knights of Columbus always add to the pledge of allegiance, “…for all, born and unborn”. Some of these so-called KNIGHTS FOR OBAMA claim to be against abortion, but they are in essential agreement with Biden and Pelosi who are political enablers for the holocaust in children. It is not a matter of imposing whimsical views upon others. Rather, it is about sustaining the truth and protecting the most vulnerable. If we cannot promote that which is our deepest conviction as Catholics and human beings, then we are in essence saying that it does not matter all that much.
Those who contend that Obama will reduce more abortions than Bush or what McCain would have done, really have no way to substantiate such a wild claim. Bush restricted the federal funding for new lines of embryo stem-cells. Who knows how many embryonic thousands or millions this saved? He revoked the abortion incentives associated with foreign aid that was part of the Clinton travesty. He placed judges on the Supreme Court who will probably interpret the Constitution more honestly and literally than someone like Obama who promises pro-choice appointments. Obama has promised to sign FOCA which will strip away every right to life gain over the past 35 years. Bush was also a friend of Pregnancy Crisis Centers. McCain would probably have been likewise. Obama is the poster boy for Planned Parenthood. Do we really think he will block the efforts of Planned Parenthood and NARAL lawyers who are seeking to legally shut down all our Pregnancy Crisis Centers? Will he help Catholic hospitals which are being told to do abortions and to give abortion referrals or be fined and possibly shut down? Will he help doctors who have been stripped of a conscience-clause in law, forcing them to prescribe abortifacients or lose their licenses? The Church already operates all sorts of programs to help women and would welcome more government cooperation. However, the government under Obama will probably brush aside abstinence programs for condoms and contraceptives. Despite what the KNIGHTS FOR OBAMA say, we are not on the same page with Obama on many moral issues or in aggreement about the treatment for those problems upon which we agree.
Men who are Knights of Columbus might support and have voted for Senator Obama; but, the Knights of Columbus have endorsed no political candidate. If only organizations like the NEA and AFL-CIO would do the same, people would feel better about membership in these organizations. It is okay to say that an organization does not speak “for me” or for you; however, there will be consequences. Anderson’s letter was critical of the pro-abortion stance of Biden and Obama, but he never told knights that they could not vote for them. Those who orchestrated the KNIGHTS FOR OBAMA had no right to make such a connection and will have to pay the consequences for it. I would suggest that those knights listed on the dissenting webpage and those who have noted elsewhere such affiliation face censure from Supreme. Otherwise, others might think they have the right to corrupt the good name of the Knights of Columbus.
The Knights of Columbus always support the Holy Father and our bishops and priests. They are not allowed to bring partisan politics into the council chambers. However, they are free to engage in politics as free and faithful citizens. Knights have supported Obama, McCain, Ron Paul and others. That is their right. Anderson said nothing that would subtract this right. It is unfortunate that one political party is largely in the pocket of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry; but Catholics might seek to change such a situation by their participation and by raising their voices. Those who would eclipse the issue of abortion forget that the sanctity of life is at the very core of the Gospel. Indeed, the only Gospel is a Gospel of Life. There is no such thing as a pro-abortion Christian. It is a sham or utter counterfeit. Abortion attacks the mystery of the incarnation itself.