We need to be alert: he is not without influence, even on this side of the pond
Is Barack Obama the most anti-Catholic American president in living memory?
I don’t mean, of course, that he has openly attacked the Church (though it was noted that, at his inauguration as president, contrary to normal practice there was among the clergy invited to attend not one single Catholic, though he made a point of inviting the controversial — because openly and actively homosexual — Episcopalian (i.e. Anglican) bishop, Gene Robinson).
What I mean, though, is that across the whole spectrum of contemporary moral issues, he is passionately committed to a series of views which run directly contrary to those of the Church. All this has caused at least one Catholic bishop (there are probably others) to call him anti-Catholic.
As a Senator, he supported sex education, to be provided by Planned Parenthood, to children of five years old. He consistently voted for abortion, including partial birth abortion. He voted (twice) against Bills prohibiting public funding of abortions; he voted in favour of expanding embryonic stem cell research; he voted against notifying parents of minors who had undergone out-of-state abortions; he voted for a proposal to vote $100,000,000 for the funding of sex-education and contraceptives (including abortifacients) for teenagers; he opposed the “Born Alive Infants Protection Act” on the Senate floor and in 2003 killed the bill in committee. This would have outlawed “live birth abortion,” where labor is induced and an infant is delivered prematurely and then allowed to die.
In the US, Catholics, of course, have noted all this, though their reaction to it has been inconsistent to say the least. In April 2009, the supposedly Catholic University of Notre Dame scandalously conferred on him an honorary degree. Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis protested, and demanded that the invitation be withdrawn. His letter, to the president of Notre Dame, Fr John Jenkins (a Catholic priest, if you please) was a real stonker:
“Dear Father Jenkins:
“I have just learned that you, as President of the University of Notre Dame, have invited President Barack Obama to be the graduation commencement speaker at the University’s exercises on May 17, 2009. I was also informed that you will confer on the president an honorary doctor of laws degree, one of the highest honors bestowed by your institution.
“I write to protest this egregious decision on your part. President Obama has been a pro-abortion legislator. He has indicated, especially since he took office, his deliberate disregard of the unborn by lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research, by promoting the FOCA [Freedom of Choice Act] agenda and by his open support for gay rights throughout this country.
“It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic University, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician.
“I hope that you are able to reconsider this decision. If not, please do not expect me to support your University in the future.
“The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis”
Obama now has the institution of marriage in his sights. He last year issued a “proclamation” (which you can read on the White House website) on the occasion of the “Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Pride month”, indicating his intention to “give committed gay couples the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act….”, and his conviction that “An important chapter in our great, unfinished story is the movement for fairness and equality on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.”
The Defense of Marriage Act was, ironically, signed into law by another Democratic President, Bill Clinton. Under the law no state (or other political subdivision within the United States) needs to treat as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered to be a marriage in another state; it defines marriage clearly as a legal union between one man and one woman. It passed both houses of Congress by large majorities: Obama has no chance of getting it repealed. So he is now doing what he can to undermine it. This is where things get complicated for a limey who doesn’t quite understand the convolutions of the American legal system. According to the CNS,
“In a Feb. 23 statement, Attorney General Eric Holder said that although the administration has defended the 1996 law [i.e. the Defense of Marriage Act] in some federal courts, it will not continue to do so in cases pending in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Unlike in the previous cases, said Holder, the 2nd Circuit ‘has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated’.”
This, apparently, is enough to impede the Act’s operation, enough, at least, seriously to alarm the American Catholic Bishops: here’s CNS again:
The U.S. bishops’ Office of General Counsel said the Obama administration’s decision to no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges ahead “represents an abdication” of its “constitutional obligation to ensure that laws of the United States are faithfully executed.”
“Marriage has been understood for millennia and across cultures as the union of one man and one woman,” the office said in a statement issued Feb. 23 after President Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the federal law passed by Congress and signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.
That’s how things stand. How much effect in practice will Obama’s initiative actually have? Maybe someone who understands American jurisprudence better than I do can explain. At the very least, as the American bishops say, refusal to support the law is “a grave affront to the millions of Americans who both reject unjust discrimination and affirm the unique and inestimable value of marriage as between one man and one woman.”
What next? The fact is that on this side of the pond, as well as in the US, President Obama needs watching. He may have been weakened in the Congress: but a President of the United States always has considerable power, to do evil as well as to do good. He is much more popular in many European countries than he is in the States: and he is not without his influence here. A man who is admired and respected as much as he has been, and in many places still is, can do harm through his words and deeds, even where he has no direct power.
I think he ought to be admired and respected very much less than he is.