Can a Catholic Support Obama? New Book says Yes

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“Douglas Kmiec’s Can a Catholic Support Him? may very well become the most important comprehensive document written to date on American Catholics, abortion, and candidates for public office.” –Martin Sheen

On April 18, 2008, Douglas W. Kmiec was denied Communion at a Catholic Mass in Westlake, California. Ironically, Kmiec had been invited by a Catholic business group to give a dinner address on the Bishop’s teaching of “Faithful Citizenship.” Kmiec had served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel for both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. But now, he found himself rejected by his faith—simply for endorsing the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama. More after the jump:

In Can a Catholic Support Him?, Kmiec offers us a thoughtful explanation of his rationale. He addresses the difficult questions at the core of his decision: Can a Catholic support a Pro-Choice candidate? Can there be a reverence for life that embraces a larger set of values? How does a Catholic citizen balance his obligations to the Church and to community? In asking these questions, he challenges those whose partisan interests are provoking a false rift between the Catholic Church and the Democratic party.

This inquiry could hardly be more timely. Catholics have been on the side of the top vote-getter in the last nine presidential elections, and make up roughly one fourth of the electorate. This provocative book—at once a legal and religious treatise and a sincere and personal journey of faith—will be an irreplaceable contribution to the conversation, in 2008 and beyond.

About the Author
Douglas W. Kmiec is the Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University’s School of Law, and has previously held prestigious positions in the law faculties of The Catholic University of America and of Notre Dame. He served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

  10 comments for “Can a Catholic Support Obama? New Book says Yes

  1. sweetelle
    September 20, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    I am pleased to see this post because I don’t hear much discourse about this subject. I am Catholic, and I fervently support Barack Obama. During Mass three weeks ago, I became livid when the priest used the homily to suggest you could not be Catholic and vote for a candidate who was pro-choice. Thankfully, I was surrounded by equally appalled parishioners, one of whom wrote a letter to the pastor saying she would report the church to the IRS if it happened again!

    This is the question I can’t reconcile: If you’re not supposed to support a pro-choice candidate, then how can you be Catholic and vote for a candidate who is pro-war? Or one who will not support universal health care? How many people living in the here-and-now are killed because of those choices that the church is somehow willing to tolerate? How can a pro-choice candidate be discounted despite the myriad of other life-saving, life-giving tenets their platform offers?

    This sounds like a good book. I’ll definitely have to check it out.

  2. September 21, 2008 at 7:46 am


    Curious to know, did the preacher say you could not vote for a candidate who was pro-choice – or did Father say you should be seeking candidates who will protect life? And your outrage is less over the fact that he does not support Obama and more over what you saw as an endorsement of McCain? Because I would be willing to bet that if he was in line with your political choice, then Father is just guiding his flock towards free will and evreything is good under heaven.

    Of course, either way, he was right. The Church’s teachings on abaortion are clear, notwithstanding Nany Pelosi’s “DIY” catechism. And the concern of your priest is that there is a question of you engaging in sin by helping to promote abortion.

    I would suggest you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church to view the Church’s teachings on abortion and war. And while the Church teaches, of course, that we should all strive to support charity, that does not mean the solution is universal health care.

  3. September 21, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Where’s Jubal? This is his metier. But one thing we know about him, he won’t chime in if he can’t say something that sounds smart and devastating. (To him.)

  4. sweetelle
    September 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm


    It would have been interesting had the priest chosen the phrase “to protect life.” Would I not have bridled because that phrase includes “my” candidate? No, I’d like to think I’d be equally irritated. I don’t believe the homily is a place to espouse support for any candidate, no matter who the invididual is. That is why the separation of church and state is so brilliant and has allowed religious diversity without the tumult many other countries experience.

    I have read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was a catechist. I don’t believe I’m “engaging in sin by helping to promote abortion” by supporting a candidate who is pro-choice and who stands to protect far more life than his adversary. In fact, Stephanie, I’d be willing to bet that Barack epitomizes substantially more individual tenets of the Catholic faith than John McCain. You get into that conjugal fidelity arena and McCain loses a LOT of virtue points. So in my decision making process, I measure the totality of the individual, not just one issue. I also firmly believe that by properly educating young people, the incidence of abortion will continue to decline. There are a lot of ways to protect life, Stephanie…

    And back to engaging in sin by helping to promote abortion… That was kind of presumptuous to write. I have spent countless hours volunteering to provide services for women who chose to give birth to their babies. But, you know what? That doesn’t mean I get to judge women who chose other options. God is the only one who gets to do that. And isn’t it interesting how many parables Jesus uses to illustrate the distastefulness of judging?

    Still, no one has yet to answer my question. It remains curious/hypocritical/disturbing to me that Catholics believe some wars are just but not some abortions? A thinking individual might conclude it’s because men don’t have to worry about abortions. You can bet if men bore children, that there would be circumstances under which abortion would be tolerated, just like there are for war.

  5. Larry
    October 4, 2008 at 6:19 am

    Thank you for this book review. I am a Protestant, and have found myself in exactly the same boat. So many time you hear from the right evangelical churches that one cannot be a Christian, and also vote for Obama.

    Hearing this makes me think of one of our Lord’s greatest passions…love for the poor…something which the Republican platform doesn’t seem particularly fond of. I think of the Republican love of guns…an issue I’m fairly certain would not have been a priority of Jesus. I think of over a million innocent souls killed in Iraq in an unjust war begun by a Republican president…even though Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Yet, I’m suppose to vote Republican because in their platform they make the dubious claim to be anti-abortion?

    It was 6 Republican-appointed judges serving on the Burger court of the 1970’s that decided Roe v. Wade. Seven of the current Supreme court justices were appointed by a Republican president, while only two current justices were appointed by a Democrat. Abortion was made legal under Republicans, and continues to be legal under Republicans. One wonders how seriously the Republican party wishes to bring an end to an issue which was won them so many elections.

    As Christians, we cannot allow the manipulation of our hearts over the abortion tragedy to blind us to Republican hypocrisy while ignoring other issues dear to the heart of our Lord.

    I’m looking forward to reading this book.

  6. sweetelle
    October 4, 2008 at 2:31 pm


    Thank you for raising so many interesting points I had not contemplated. Very eloquently stated.

  7. October 7, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    My research indicates that prior to Roe v Wade, there were 1.2 million abortions
    Since Roe v. Wade, there are about 1.4 million abortions per year, or an increase of about 200,000 abortions each year.

    Further research indicates that abortions during the Clinton administration — the 90s — there were 30% fewer abortions than during the 80s and 2000s, during Reagan and Bush administrations, conservative, “pro-life” administrations; 30% of 1.4 million is 400,000 or 200,000 fewer abortions during a liberal “baby killing administration of godless democrats” than during “holy, obedient, pro-life” Republican administrations. Makes one wonder whether the anti-abortion crowd really wants fewer abortions or do they just want to be heard saying they want fewwer abotions.

  8. October 7, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    add “annually” in the first paragraph after 1.2 million abortions.

  9. Jennifer
    October 10, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Catholics shouldn’t consider voting for Barack Obama pretty much for anything he stands for… And Biden and Pelosi are definitely NOT Catholic. Just because a “Catholic” business group talks to a liberal… Finally Catholic groups are speaking out and bishops are having discussions with liberal catholic leaders. As for the war, war is okay if it’s justified, which I completely believe ours is. That’s just life but we pray for peace and do what WE can to stand up for what’s right in society. I know way too many soldiers that know more than we know about this war and I support them because I trust their reasonings.

  10. Dan Chmielewski
    October 10, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Should we should vote for McCain who cheated on his first wife with his second one? I would love to have a discussion with any Bishop abotu this election. Could you set it up with one for me please?

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