Douglas Kmiec, a 51-year-old legal scholar, has taught at Pepperdine University Law School, Notre Dame, and the Catholic University of America, where he was the law dean. He is a Catholic firmly opposed to abortion, personally and in public policy.
After cutting his political teeth with Bobby Kennedy’s run for the White House, Kmiec became a Reagan Republican and social conservative. He now makes news as an “Obamacon.” While he supports Barack Obama despite — not because of — his position on abortion, Kmiec continues to oppose Roe v. Wade.
Yet when Kmiec recently expressed his public support for Obama, he was refused communion by a local priest, though the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ actual rule on support of pro-choice candidates by Catholics states:
“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.”
Kmiec opposes Obama’s pro-choice stand, and publicly advocates for a consistent “pro-life” position beyond abortion to include, for example opposition to war.
In 1985, after my public excommunication from the Catholic Church — because of my work at Planned Parenthood and its abortion service — the Diocese of Providence at-tempted to withhold confirmation from my then 14-year-old daughter. Her “offense” was being my child. Pro- and anti-choicers alike expressed public outrage, the church backed down, and an innocent child was confirmed after years of preparation.
In the 1980s, former Sisters of Mercy Arlene Violet and Liz Morancy were forced by the bishop of Providence to choose between their vocations and their elected offices as, respectively, state attorney general and state legislator. Both chose to continue to serve people through their government work. Both were also pro-choice, upholding the Constitution, as they had sworn to do in their oaths of office.
Kmiec took no such oath as a professor, and he has consistently opposed abortion. The punitive action of one misguided priest, therefore — as well as the arrogance of clergy pretending to know who is worthy or unworthy to receive the sacraments — only resurrects the pelvic fixation of a hypocritical Catholic code.
There is no similar prohibition against offering communion to others who may kneel at the rail guilty of having stolen, for example, or “coveting a neighbor’s spouse.” A priest on the altar cannot know who is or who is not “pro-choice.” And the pedophilia pandemic in the church raises again the question I asked of my pastor in 1985:
“Father, let me get this straight. Because of my work at Planned Parenthood, you don’t want me to take communion from the hands of a man who may sexually abuse children. Is that right?”
US Senator Ted Kennedy, a prominent Catholic, has been a leading proponent of reproductive rights. He is also battling brain cancer. Does anyone really believe he is going to be (or should be) denied sacramental comfort?
Catholic priests call themselves “vicars of Christ,” so those giving communion need only recall Christ’s forgiveness of a thief on an adjacent Calvary cross, and ask, “What would Jesus do?”