The selection of Senator Joseph Biden as the running mate of Democratic Nominee Barack Obama elicited the predictable responses from a raft of extremist Catholic Republican surrogates. A unifying theme of their criticism toward Senator Obama was their childishly simplistic rehashing of the trash-talking that characterized their similar criticism of Senator John Kerry four years ago.
One small reactionary operation that is much-quoted in the media, despite being supported by Republican fund-raising efforts and consisting of a thread-bare staff, couldn't sling the insults fast enough. Using the degrading and false slur "pro-abortion politician," this group called for Senator Biden to be denied Communion. The bald partisanship of these calls is revealed in their choosing to single out Senator Biden precisely because he is a major party vice-presidential candidate, clearly hoping they can smear his character and affect the outcome of the presidential election. Certainly more alarming is their indifference to the immorality of using Holy Communion as a political weapon against the opposing party's candidates.
The (willful?) stupidity of such a response on their part is revealed when one realizes that their preferred party has a much poorer record in dealing with abortion than do the Democrats: new data has indicated that abortion rates fell 50% faster during the Clinton years than under Mr Bush. The knee-jerk mischaracterization of the abortion issue as consisting only of a yes-or-no stance on Roe-v-Wade is a testament to an ignorance of both the facts and the theology.
These self-styled experts speak as if no abortions ever occurred prior to 1973, and seem to believe as a matter of faith that reversing Roe-v-Wade would have some magic effect on the number of abortions performed in the US--despite much evidence to the contrary. Indeed, they must be aware that abortion rates in countries like Brazil and across Latin America, where abortion is illegal, are often twice as high as here in the US.
The theology too is false. The intellectually weak protests of the likes of George Weigel are evident in their public statements about Senator Biden that ignore the Catholic Bishops' statement in their Faithful Citizenship document last November that efforts to reduce the incidence of abortion (the Democratic approach) were as important as efforts to criminalize it (the Republican approach).
The embarrassingly simplistic responses of this smattering of partisans are even more striking when one realizes that, over Republican objections, the Democrats passed the first major abortion reduction legislation in a generation last year--which was promptly vetoed by President Bush (with the 2008 Health & Human Services Appropriation) because he said it cost too much.
Conservative Catholics who think Senator John McCain will do anything to solve the abortion problem are betting on the wrong horse. Aside from his serious consideration for a running mate (Tom Ridge) and selection of a Republican Convention keynote speaker (Rudolph Giuliani) who have views on abortion indistinguishable from Senator Biden's, Senator McCain has on a number of occasions in the past indicated that he does not think Roe-v-Wade should or would be overturned.
Perhaps most importantly, the decisions of these right-wing radicals to attack a fellow Catholic precisely because of his Catholicism smacks of a form of defamation that can only be characterized as putting their politics before their Christianity, and not deserving of anything like the kind of publicity they have received.