Kathleen Gilbert

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The case against Rick Perry - pro-life and pro-family concerns

Kathleen Gilbert
Kathleen Gilbert
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Note: This article is Part III in a three-part series exploring all aspects of Rick Perry’s record on pro-life and pro-family issues. Read Parts I and II here:

Who is Rick Perry? (Part 1 of special report)
Who is Rick Perry? - Part II: A Texas governor’s pro-life legacy

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Since announcing his candidacy earlier this month, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has displayed formidable staying power near the top of the GOP presidential pack – at least in part thanks to the support of pro-life and pro-family advocates.

But while he has been enthusiastically welcomed by many social conservatives due to his very public stance against abortion and same-sex “marriage,” others have expressed concern about some aspects of Perry’s past that they say call into question Perry’s social conservative credentials, and may even indicate a degree of hypocrisy.

Two haunting endorsements

Perhaps most damaging to Perry’s reputation as a social conservative was his 2008 decision to support GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani in a “very strong and proud way,” despite Giuliani’s well-known support for legal abortion, and liberal views on other issues.

“We spent an inordinate amount of time together over the course of the last six weeks talking about issues both on the phone and face to face ... I looked him in the eye and I asked him questions on some issues that we don’t agree on,” Perry said of the former New York mayor on Fox News on October 17, 2007.

“And, but here’s the - I don’t get tied up with the process, what I look for is results,” he continued. “Rudy Giuliani is the individual who will give us the results that will make America safer, that will move our economy forward, will put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court ... that covers a host of issues that are important to me.”

Leading pro-life conservatives at the time took a very different view. Less than three weeks earlier, on September 30, Giuliani’s frontrunning campaign had been shaken after conservative magnates vowed to support a third-party candidate should someone as pro-abortion as Giuliani win the Republican nomination.

“Giuliani is beyond the pale,” said Richard Viguerie, a leading conservative fundraiser who had met with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and former Focus on the Family leader James Dobson. “There’s no way that conservative leaders are going to support a pro-abortion candidate. It was unanimous.”

In an interview with Time magazine August 11 of this year, Perry defended endorsing Giuliani, saying he was effectively supporting a constitutional path to eliminating abortion by backing a believer in conservative jurisprudence.

“He and I were 180 degrees on social issues, but he would put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court, which dealt with those social issues,” he said. “I happen to be comfortable that I was making the right decisions and that as President, when it comes to those social issues, it’s very important to have that strict constructionist view of who you put on the Supreme Court.”

Similar concerns still dog Perry over his ties to Al Gore, for whom Perry served as Texas presidential campaign manager 23 years ago, when Gore was U.S. Senator for Tennessee, at a time when both men were Democrats.

Although much of today’s controversy surrounds Gore’s climate change beliefs, the 1988 campaign was also a sensitive turning point for Gore, who had spent much of the decade transitioning from pro-life to pro-choice talking points, on social issues.

While still opposing federal funding of abortion, by 1987 Gore had stepped away from previous statements - and an 84% pro-life voting record - supporting the unborn’s right to life, and made clear his support for legalized abortion. A New York Times article in 2000 cited critics who pegged the 1988 campaign as the moment Gore “brought his positions in line with the party’s powerful feminist and abortion rights constituent groups.”

Perry, who deserted the Democrat party in 1989, has laughed off the association - at least regarding his erstwhile friend’s flagship position on climate change.

“I certainly got religion. I think he’s gone to hell,” Perry said of Gore in 2009, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The Gardasil controversy

Also prominent in the arsenal of conservative Perry skeptics is the controversy over Governor Perry’s decision in February 2007 to issue an executive order that made Texas the first U.S. state (20 currently do so) to mandate an HPV vaccine for middle school-aged girls – an action that drew national attention. Responding to conservative backlash, state legislators overturned the order within months, and Gov. Perry withheld his veto.

At the time, Gardasil, a drug found in more recent years to cause severe side effects and even death, was the only approved vaccine for HPV – a sexually-transmitted disease.

The drug continues to be advertised as a means of preventing cervical cancer, which has been linked to HPV infection. Colleagues say Perry, whose mother and father both suffered from cancer, has often shown passion over the issue, such as in his pivotal role in creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

But over and against the arguments of conservatives, the Texas governor rejected any suggestion that the STD vaccine encouraged sexual activity.

“Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity any more than the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use,” Perry argued days after issuing the order.

Although some say the executive order violated parents’ rights, the text of the order altered then-current protocol to allow parents to submit a “conscientious objection affidavit” as an opt-out – a provision that opponents denounced as inadequate.

Some also criticized the move as a symptom of political pandering: World Net Daily cites potential ties Perry had to the pharmaceutical giant through two former Perry chiefs of staff who worked for Merck (the pharmaceutical company behind the vaccine), and a current chief of staff whose mother-in-law worked there. Merck’s political action committee also donated $6,000 to Perry’s re-election campaign.

Politico recently reviewed FOIA-obtained emails from Perry’s office regarding the Gardasil decision. They found little defining the governor’s own stance in negotiations, but noted the matter appeared settled before the email chain began, six months before the executive order.

Although he stood firmly beside his “pro-life position” on Gardasil as late as last year, the governor has recanted his position after stepping onto the presidential stage.

“I readily stand up and say I made a mistake on that,” Perry said last Monday on an Iowa radio call-in show. 

Conservatives appear torn over the apology. RedState blogger Streiff has dismissed the HPV hullaballoo as “a nothingburger”; however, National Review’s Michelle Malkin vociferously rejected the backpedaling and accused Perry of “borrowing a tried-and-true Alinskyite page from the progressive left” with “human-shield demagoguery” for his emotional anti-cancer defense of the mandate.

Hate crimes legislation

Another spot on Perry’s record noted by conservatives is his signing of a hate crimes measure, which included special protections based on sexual orientation, shortly after becoming governor in 2001. 

The measure, known as the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, was named after a Texas black man killed by three white men, but also included special protections for sexual orientation, including both homosexuality and heterosexuality. George W. Bush, Perry’s predecessor as Texas governor, had refused two years earlier to support the measure based on his objection to any hate crime law, saying that all crimes are hate crimes.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner did not comment on the matter to LifeSiteNews.com.

Gary Glenn, Executive Director of American Family Association of Michigan, wrote in June that he was “disappointed” in Perry over the 2001 law, which he called “arguably the most dangerous element of homosexual activists’ political agenda.”

An unanswered question

In terms of personal pro-life beliefs, perhaps one of the most salient questions is also the most mysterious.

A quick search on Perry’s pro-life beliefs turns up a claim from OnTheIssues.org that the rural Texan native “said he believes abortion should be legal only in cases involving rape or incest or when carrying a pregnancy to term would threaten the woman’s life.” The site references an Associated Press article appearing on FoxNews.com Jun 25, 2002.

Neither the Associated Press nor Fox News have responded to LifeSiteNews.com’s requests for the article in question, and Perry’s spokesman also did not respond to inquiries. Two top pro-life leaders connected to Perry, one national and one state level, both told LifeSiteNews.com they were unaware if the claim was accurate.

However, one leader, Texas Right to Life executive director Elizabeth Graham, told LSN that Perry did not support exceptions for rape and incest.

“Governor Perry has been consistent in his position in that he opposes all abortion and he recognizes that there are very rare instances in which an abortion may be necessary to prevent the death of the mother,” said Graham.

Texas Alliance for Life founding executive director Joe Pojman, Ph.D., said a recent sonogram bill that excluded children conceived in rape or incest, as well as other exceptions, had not been influenced towards including the exceptions by the governor’s office.

Two local pro-life leaders sound off

The two state pro-life leaders LifeSiteNews.com spoke with were enthusiastic about Perry, although they conceded that the governor erred considerably at least once.

“Almost all the time he’s correct, but this time he wasn’t,” said Pojman, referring to the Giuliani endorsement.

Texas Right to Life’s Graham also said that the Giuliani endorsement was a surprise and a “departure from his typically pro-life views.” “It was just surprising because Gov. Perry has never been compromising with life,” said Graham, who says she tried to talk Perry out of what she described as a purely political move.

The leaders’ faith in Perry’s pro-life beliefs, however, appeared unshaken.

Pojman, a former aerospace engineer who has worked with Perry on pro-life issues since 1999, recalled the candidate’s rumored “serious arm twisting” in the state Senate as lieutenant governor to speed passage of a parental notification law, a legacy followed up by a record of hard work against abortion.

“This issue really is dear to his heart, he understands it and he has always made it a priority,” Pojman said. “He’s not necessarily going to put it in every speech because he knows he’s got to get elected, but ... he’s not going to run from it, because it’s just who he is.”

Peter J. Smith contributed to this report.

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Lisa Bourne

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Cardinal Dolan: Debate on denying Communion to pro-abortion pols ‘in the past’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

As America heads into its 2014 midterm elections, a leading U.S. prelate says the nation’s bishops believe debate over whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians is “in the past.”

The Church’s Code of Canon Law states in Canon 915 that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Leading Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, have said this canon ought to be applied in the case of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. However, prelates in the West have widely ignored it, and some have openly disagreed.

John Allen, Jr. of the new website Crux, launched as a Catholic initiative under the auspices of the Boston Globe, asked New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan about the issue earlier this month.

“In a way, I like to think it’s an issue that served us well in forcing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities,” the cardinal responded, “but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past.”

“I don’t hear too many bishops saying it’s something that we need to debate nationally, or that we have to decide collegially,” he continued. “I think most bishops have said, ‘We trust individual bishops in individual cases.’ Most don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat.”

Cardinal Dolan expressed personal disinterest in upholding Canon 915 publicly in 2010 when he told an Albany TV station he was not in favor of denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He said at the time that he preferred “to follow the lead of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who said it was better to try to persuade them than to impose sanctions.”

However, in 2004 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI the following year, wrote the U.S. Bishops a letter stating that a Catholic politician who would vote for "permissive abortion and euthanasia laws" after being duly instructed and warned, "must" be denied Communion. 

Cardinal Ratzinger sent the document to the U.S. Bishops in 2004 to help inform their debate on the issue. However, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-chair of the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, who received the letter, withheld the full text from the bishops, and used it instead to suggest ambiguity on the issue from the Vatican.

A couple of weeks after Cardinal McCarrick’s June 2004 address to the USCCB, the letter from Cardinal Ratzinger was leaked to well-known Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published the full document. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office later confirmed the leaked document as authentic.

Since the debate in 2004, numerous U.S. prelates have openly opposed denying Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

In 2008, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley suggested the Church had yet to formally pronounce on the issue, and that until it does, “I don’t think we’re going to be denying Communion to the people.”

In 2009, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. in 2009 said that upholding of Canon 915 would turn the Eucharist into a political “weapon,” refusing to employ the law in the case of abortion supporter Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, said in a 2009 newspaper interview that pro-abortion politicians should be granted communion because Jesus Christ gave Holy Communion to Judas Iscariot.

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However, one of the Church’s leading proponents of the practice, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Signatura, insists that denying Communion is not a punishment.

“The Church’s discipline from the time of Saint Paul has admonished those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin not to present themselves for Holy Communion,” he said at LifeSiteNews’ first annual Rome Life Forum in Vatican City in early May. "The discipline is not a punishment but the recognition of the objective condition of the soul of the person involved in such sin."  

Only days earlier, Cardinal Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told LifeSiteNews that he has no patience for politicians who say that they are “personally” opposed to abortion, but are unwilling to “impose” their views on others.

On the question of Communion, he said, “Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that?”

Cardinal Christian Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala, told LifeSiteNews around the same time that ministers of Holy Communion are “bound not to” give the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Pro-life organizations across the world have said they share the pastoral concern for pro-abortion politicians. Fifty-two pro-life leaders from 16 nations at the recent Rome Life Forum called on the bishops of the Catholic Church to honor Canon 915 and withhold Communion from pro-abortion politicians as an act of love and mercy.

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‘His bones are basically like paper’: Parents refuse to abort baby with rare condition

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By Kirsten Anderson

At just 11 weeks old, little Layton Diven is not like other babies. Every time his parents pick him up or cuddle him, there is a chance they will break his bones. In fact, Layton has already suffered more than 20 fractures in his short life – beginning at the moment of his birth.

Layton has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a rare disease that makes his bones brittle and prone to breakage. There are several types of OI, and Layton’s type, OI Type III, is the most severe type found among infants. Most babies born with the disease, like Layton, are born with multiple fractures, especially along the rib cage. Many struggle to breathe or swallow. The incurable disease is progressive, so it will get worse as he gets older.

Layton was diagnosed with OI in the womb, but abortion wasn’t an option for his parents, Chad and Angela Diven, who considered their baby a gift from God, no matter his condition.

“We weren't going to have an abortion, so he was born with the disease,” Angela Diven told KSLA. “God chose me for him, to be his mom, so I have to take that huge responsibility and do what's best for him.”

That responsibility comes with a heavy price. Layton requires 24-hour care, but both Angela and Chad have full-time jobs. He can’t go to regular daycare, because it’s not safe for him.

“You can't just pick him up like a normal baby,” Diven said. “You can't dress him like a normal child; his bones are basically like paper. He can't go to daycare because of his condition. He's medically fragile, and a daycare can't handle him."

Childcare costs are just the beginning, though – the treatments Layton will need throughout his life are expensive and may not be covered by insurance.

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Layton is currently receiving pamidronate IV therapy, which will help to strengthen his bones. But in order to be able to stand or walk, he will need metal rods implanted in his legs – an operation that will cost the Divens $80,000. The OI specialist coordinating Layton’s care is in Omaha, Nebraska, while the Divens live in Louisiana. As he grows, Layton will also require special equipment, such as a wheelchair, along with extensive physical therapy.

Despite the hardships they knew would come, the Divens stepped out in faith to bring Layton into the world. Now, they are reaching out to the internet for help to shoulder the financial burdens that came with their baby blessing. The family has set up both a GoFundMe and a Facebook page called “Lifting Up Layton Diven,” where people can receive updates on Layton’s condition and contribute to the cost of his care.

To donate to baby Layton’s medical trust fund, click here.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Signatura Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Sources confirm Cardinal Burke will be removed. But will he attend the Synod?

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By John-Henry Westen

Sources in Rome have confirmed to LifeSiteNews that Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, is to be removed from his post as head of the Vatican dicastery and given a non-curial assignment as patron of the Order of Malta.

The timing of the move is key since Cardinal Burke is currently on the list to attend October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family. He is attending in his capacity as head of one of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, so if he is removed prior to the Synod it could mean he would not be able to attend.

Burke has been one of the key defenders in the lead-up to the Synod of the Church's traditional practice of withholding Communion from Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.

Most of the Catholic world first learned of the shocking development through Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, whose post ‘Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke’ went out late last night.

If Burke’s removal from the Signatura is confirmed, said Magister, the cardinal “would not be promoted - as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere - to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous - but ecclesiastically very modest - title of ‘cardinal patron’ of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80.”

At 66, Cardinal Burke is still in his Episcopal prime.

The prominent traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli goes as far as to say, “It would be the greatest humiliation of a Curial Cardinal in living memory, truly unprecedented in modern times: considering the reasonably young age of the Cardinal, such a move would be, in terms of the modern Church, nothing short than a complete degradation and a clear punishment.”

On Tuesday, American traditionalist priest-blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf also hinted he had heard the move was underway. “I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now,” he wrote. “The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.”

“It’s not good news,” he added.

Both Magister and Zuhlsdorf predicted that the controversial move would unleash a wave of simultaneous jubilation from dissident Catholics and criticism from faithful Catholics. The decision to remove Cardinal Burke from his position on the Congregation for Bishops last December caused a public outpouring of concern and dismay from Catholic and pro-life leaders across the globe.

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Both men speculated on the reasons for the ouster. 

Magister pointed out that Burke is the latest in a line of ‘Ratzingerian’ prelates to undergo the axe.

“In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most ‘Ratzingerian’ of the Roman curia,” said Magister.

He added: “Another whose fate appears to be sealed is the Spanish archbishop of Opus Dei Celso Morga Iruzubieta.”

Fr. Zuhlsdorf observed that Pope Francis may also be shrinking the Curial offices and thus reducing the number of Cardinals needed to fill those posts. He adds however, “It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.” 

“This is millennial, clerical blood sport.”

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