Phil Lawler

To fix the American political system, first fix the American culture

Phil Lawler
By Phil Lawler
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November 9, 2012 (CatholicCulture.org) - Let’s face facts squarely. We have lost an election. We are in grave danger of losing a nation.

The 2012 elections were a decisive defeat for the culture of life. But this defeat did not “just happen” on November 6. It was the result of a long trend. If we don’t take action now to reverse that trend, we can expect even more disastrous defeats in 2014, 2016, and beyond.

The re-election of President Obama—who did his utmost to make unrestricted legal abortion a major campaign issue—is only the most obvious of the losses the pro-family movement suffered. In four different states, voters chose to move toward legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Up until this week, when American voters had the opportunity to weigh similar proposals, the results had been 32 victories for traditional marriage. It was 0 for a change. Now that perfect record has been broken; the momentum has shifted. In Massachusetts, the electorate only just barely defeated a bid to legalize assisted suicide, and the slim margin of victory for life is probably attributable to the fact that the legislation was very poorly crafted; advocates of suicide will surely try again soon. In Missouri and Indiana—states with strong pro-life leanings—Senate candidates were savaged for making ill-phrased remarks about abortion in extreme cases, and ultimately went down in defeat.

Yes we lost, and lost badly. Liberal commentators have been quick to conclude that the pro-life/pro-family cause was a burden that Republican candidates could not carry. Dan Gilgorff of CNN proclaimed happily that “Tuesday’s election results seemed to mark a dramatic rejection of the Christian right’s agenda…”

Not so fast. Was the agenda of the “Christian right”—the culture of life—ever really presented to the American public to be accepted or rejected? Certainly Barack Obama rallied his hard-left supporters by depicting the pro-family movement as a threat. But was there any corresponding effort by Mitt Romney and his Republican supporters to make the case of the pro-family cause?

Sure, Romney did occasionally claim the pro-life mantle—when he was speaking to a friendly audience. But he admitted that he had no plans to change the status quo (which allows for abortion on demand), and he never argued the case for pro-life policies. His running-mate Paul Ryan began to make that case during a televised debate with Vice President Joe Biden, but stopped short of making the natural-law argument in defense of human life, and failed to to show the true appeal of the pro-life cause.

So the Obama-Biden campaign scored a tactical victory by successfully portraying pro-lifers as extremists. This was an astonishing coup. Poll after poll shows that most Americans do not support unrestricted legal abortion on demand, and would support modest efforts to protect unborn children and their mothers. Yet the Republicans, who quietly support such modest measures, are perceived as the extremists, while the Democrats, who insist on protecting and even subsidizing abortion in every possible circumstance, have successfully presented themselves to the American people as the “moderates” in this debate!

How is this possible? How can it be that after nearly 40 years of energetic effort, the pro-life movement has failed to persuade the American public of the justice of our cause? My college tennis coach had a favorite maxim: “Never change a winning game. Always change a losing game.”

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There’s an old adage in politics: “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” Or as a grizzled campaign veteran once put it in a conversation, “You can’t make bear soup without a bear.” That compelling logic applies to political causes as well as political candidates. If only one side of the debate is heard, that side wins.

Forty years later I still find his logic compelling.

Back in the 1980s, pro-life campaigners could safely state their opposition to legal abortion and assume that a majority of constituents would agree with them. No longer. The climate of American public opinion has changed; acceptance of legal abortion has spread. What was self-evident in 1776 and in 1976 is not evident to most Americans today. The voters need to be persuaded; the natural-law argument needs to be made.

Unfortunately, at precisely the time when we should have been emphasizing that natural-law argument, many pro-life activists adopted a very different strategy. Rather than urging political candidates to make the arguments forcefully, pro-lifers began embracing candidates who downplayed the abortion issue, hoping to avoid debates. Sometimes the strategy was successful, and the candidates won. But over time, because the pro-life cause was not actively presented, the terms of the debate shifted toward acceptance of legal abortion. Soon we were being asked to accept candidates who were unwilling to endorse any pro-life legislation, simply because they were less objectionable than their rabidly pro-abortion opponents.

Many candidates who won pro-life endorsements because they seemed friendly to the cause have proved unreliable. Quite a few politicians who were elected with the enthusiastic support of the pro-life movement failed to deliver on their campaign promises. Some have openly deserted the case and joined the swelling ranks of the “pro-choice” crowd. There has been precious little movement in the opposite direction; the political current flows only one way.

For years the pro-life movement has tried to win elections without winning hearts and minds. We have been willing to compromise our fundamental principles in the quest for a temporary political advantage. Now we are left with neither. It’s time—past time—for a change in our approach.

In the argument above I have concentrated on the abortion issue, because it has been the focus of so much attention since 1973. But the same arguments could be made about issues such as same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, gays in the military, euthanasia, and religious liberty. On every front, the pro-life/pro-family movement has been yielding ground. On every issue, Republican political campaigners have, as a rule, been loath to take a stand, anxious to avoid a confrontation, during general elections.

In his stump speeches Mitt Romney pounded relentlessly on the theme that his policies would help create more jobs. This was unquestionably an important issue in a time of economic distress. But keep in mind that President Obama, too, claimed that he would create new jobs. Obama’s argument was implausible, but the point is that some voters accepted it. The main thrust of Romney’s message was persuasive only to those voters who accepted the Republican narrative regarding job creation. Meanwhile the unhealthy trend that affects every American household just as surely as job losses and economic recession—the decline of healthy family life—was nearly ignored in this presidential race.

Our economic problems may seem more pressing today, but the questions of family life—of what sort of society we choose to be—have far more long-term impact. Writing for National Review, Mark Steyn made the point:

If this is the way America wants to go off the cliff, so be it. But I wish we’d at least had a Big Picture election. The motto of the British SAS is “Who dares wins.” The Republicans chose a different path. A play-it-safe don’t-frighten-the-horses strategy may have had a certain logic, but it’s unworthy of the times.

But before we pin all the blame for our current troubles on shy Republican candidates, let’s be honest enough to look at things from their perspective. They feared that if they made the cause of life a major theme of their campaigns, they would lose. Alas, Tuesday’s results suggest that they might be right. We aren’t ready to win these arguments; we haven’t persuaded the American public. That’s why unless something changes—unless we adopt a different approach, and start quickly down a new route—we’ll lose again in 2014.

In a short but incisive analysis for World magazine, the evangelical scholar Marvin Olasky argues that our losses in 2012 were the fruit of 50 years’ worth of mistaken strategic decisions. Christians allowed liberal secularists to gain control of academic life, and indoctrinate the rising generations. We acceded to no-fault divorce, and the subsequent breakdown of families. We allowed ourselves to be caught up in the details of political contests, when we should have been noticing the adverse long-term cultural trends. We accepted noisy talk-show hosts as our main sources of information, when we should have been developing our own means of communication. Now after a full generation of political activism, the “Christian right” is worse off than when it first appeared on the American political scene.

Mitt Romney worried aloud about the growing number of Americans who now rely on government largesse. But there are far more disturbing trends in American society: the percentage of children born out of wedlock (a stunning 41%, and rising!), the number of marriages that end in divorce; the number of pregnancies ended in abortion; the number of young people living together without benefit of marriage; the number of families that never go to church. We aren’t just losing elections. We’re losing a way of life.

Look at the exit polls from Tuesday’s elections. The voters who attend church services regularly, the voters who live in intact families: these constituencies are still strongly supportive of the “culture of life.” We have been trying, for far too long, to use political methods to change cultural trends. It’s time to turn that approach around completely. If we can reverse the deadly trends in American social life, political success will naturally follow.

Twelve years ago, after my own unsuccessful campaign for elected office, I wrote: “My excursion into secular politics leaves me more convinced than ever that we cannot expect reform in society at large until we achieve reform within our Church.” To revitalize our country we must revitalize our culture. And to revitalize our culture we must revitalize our faith.

How appropriate, then, that Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed this a Year of Faith! At his public audience on November 7—coincidentally, the day after the American elections—the Pope said that Christians must help their secularized neighbors to recognize the “mysterious desire for God” that is an innate aspect of human nature. We must, he said, lead our neighbors in “learning or re-learning an authentic taste for the joys of life.” Every man and woman on earth is predisposed to religious faith, and to seek contentment in a happy family. If we can help people to realize these desires—which are pre-programmed in their nature—we can still recover our culture and our nation.

But how?

First, I suggest, by encouraging marriage. Be civil to unmarried couples who are living together, but don’t accept their situation as normal. Encourage married couples who are having tough times to stick together. Next by education—beginning in our homes and in our neighborhoods. Eventually we must join the battle to recapture the schools. Then by active involvement in the public battle of ideas. Since the mass media are hostile we must establish our own lines of communication, and the new social media give us ample opportunity. Most all, by example. Happy households are attractive; our neighbors will want to know our secrets. (If you are a regular visitor to the CatholicCulture.org website, I’m sure you will notice that the path I am recommending is one that we have been traveling for several years. I encourage you to join the campaign!)

We cannot and should not expect easy victories. This will be a long, difficult campaign. Things may get worse before they get better. In fact, with the renewed mandate of the Obama administration, they probably will. Cardinal Francis George has made the point in dramatic fashion, saying that “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.” We all may be asked to pay a price for our faith—perhaps not at the cost of our lives, but at the cost of popularity or professional standing or even the cost of a job. But courageous witness will not go unrewarded. As Cardinal George said, in the long run a faithful Church will “pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.” If enough Christians are willing to pay the price our success is assured.

How can we restore the culture of life in America? It’s simple, really—not easy, but simple: by practicing our faith.

Reprinted with permission from CatholicCulture.org.

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Four Indiana abortionists could lose their licenses over reporting violations

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By Ben Johnson

The attorney general of Indiana, Greg Zoeller, has asked a state board to review the medical licenses of four abortionists, including an out-of-state abortionist who failed to report two cases of statutory rape.

The Indiana Medical Licensing Board will review the cases of Dr. Ulrich “George” Klopfer, Dr. Resad Pasic, Dr. Kathleen Glover, and Dr. Raymond Robinson.

A press release from the attorney general's office called Klopfer's “the most egregious complaint.” Klopfer, who lives in Crete, Illinois, failed to report abortions of two 13-year-olds – one at his Women’s Pavilion abortion facility in South Bend and another in his office in Gary.

All abortions must be reported to the Indiana State Department of Health, and abortions performed on minors younger than 14 must also be reported to the Indiana Department of Child Services within three days. Under state law, children under the age of 14 are incapable of consenting to sex, so any sexual relationship with them is considered likely statutory rape.

Klopfer reported the two abortions 116 days and 206 days afterwards, something he described as “an honest mistake.” Klopfer faces a misdemeanor criminal charge in both Lake and St. Joseph county in connection with those allegations.

Every single one of the 1,818 abortion reports Klopfer turned in to state authorities between July 2012 and November 2013 was false or incomplete, Zoeller says. The doctor often omitted the father's name and had a habit of listing the date of every abortion at 88 weeks gestation.

The abortionist is also charged with 13 violations of the state's informed consent law.

“The pending criminal charges brought by county prosecutors along with the sheer volume of unexplained violations...merits review by the Medical Licensing Board to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted,” Zoeller said.

The other three abortionists work at the Clinic for Women in the Indianapolis area. According to a press release from the state attorney general's office, they “are in alleged violation of similar record-keeping and advice and consent laws regarding abortion procedures,” but they face no criminal charges.

The allegations were collected and submitted by Indiana Right to Life, which combed through Klopfer's records. “Our legislators passed laws regarding consent and record keeping to ensure high standards of quality and care for Hoosier women,” Indiana Right to Life President and CEO, Mike Fichter, said. “We're disappointed that these abortion doctors apparently did not willingly comply with Indiana law. We hope the Medical Licensing Board immediately schedules hearings.”

“If found guilty, we believe the abortion doctors should be fined and their licenses to practice in Indiana should be revoked," he added.

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His views were shared by national pro-life leaders. “We are encouraged by the filing of these Administrative Complaints today and urge the Board to revoke Ulrich Klopfer’s medical license due to the fact that he placed young girls in serious risk of continued rape and other abuse by neglecting to report,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “Each of these abortionist require stiff discipline in order to impress it upon others that laws are meant to be followed and that they are not above it.”

Zoeller's complaint did not mention a third abortion of a 13-year-old that Klopfer reported after the legal date. The abortion took place in Fort Wayne in February 2012, but he did not report the procedure until July. Police subsequently filed two charges of child molestation against Ronte Lequan Latham, who was then 19-year-old.

Tensions this produced with another physician in his Fort Wayne office led to the first abortion facility closure of 2014.

The epidemic of underreporting presumed statutory rape is not limited to Klopfer. Between 58 and 75 percent of abortions performed on Indiana girls under the age of 14 were not reported in accordance with the law, according to an investigation by Amanda Gray of the South Bend Tribune.

Klopfer had a history of run-ins with authorities. In 2010 and 2012, state inspectors found that he allowed the bodies of aborted babies to be stored in a refrigerator alongside medicine the office gave to women who came in for the procedure.

The board has not yet set a date to hear evidence and make a judgment about their fitness to practice. If the board objects, it could respond by issuing a reprimand, suspending a license, or revoking the abortionists' medical license and imposing fines.

The accused may continue performing abortions until the board makes a final decision. 

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Obama remakes the nation’s courts in his image

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By Dustin Siggins
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It has often been said that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is President Obama's greatest achievement as president. However, that claim may soon take second place to his judicial nominees, and especially their effect on marriage in the United States.

In a new graphic, The Daily Signal notes that while President George W. Bush was able to get 50 nominees approved by this time in his second term, Obama has gotten more than 100 approved. According to The Houston Chronicle, "Democratic appointees who hear cases full time now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals. When Obama took office, only one of those courts had more full-time judges nominated by a Democrat."

Three of the five judges who struck down state marriage laws between February 2014 and the Supreme Court's Windsor decision in 2013 were Obama appointees, according to a CBS affiliate in the Washington, D.C. area. Likewise, the Windsor majority that overturned the Defense of Marriage Act included two Obama appointees, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Obama has nominated 11 homosexual judges, the most of any president by far, says the National Law Journal.

Only one federal judge has opposed same-sex "marriage" since the Supreme Court's Windsor decision. He was appointed under the Reagan administration.

This accomplishment, aided by the elimination of Senate filibusters on judicial nominees, could affect how laws and regulations are interpreted by various courts, especially as marriage heads to a probable Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of state laws.

Democrats eliminated the filibuster for all judicial nominees except for Supreme Court candidates last year, saying Republicans were blocking qualified candidates for the bench. However, the filibuster was part of the reason Democrats were able to keep the number of approved Bush appointees so low.

The Supreme Court may hear multiple marriage questions in its 2015 cycle. 

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

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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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