Hillary’s Catholic Crowd

“Social justice” liberals like novelist Anne Rice thrill to her nanny-state efforts on behalf of life—once out of the womb.

On the issue of abortion, Senator Hillary Clinton is the most extreme presidential candidate ever. In a July 2005 analysis of her abortion views, the New York Times noted that the only part of the abortion debate in which Mrs. Clinton seems to have shown a detectable change over the years is parental notification—on which she has moved even further to the left.

She has voted down bills criminalizing an attack on a fetus by a third party and bills offering federal support for ultrasound machines in abortion clinics— the latter a very revealing refusal from a politician who advocates government support for every conceivable form of women’s “healthcare.”

In her January 22, 2004 keynote address to the abortion group NARAL, celebrating the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Mrs. Clinton assailed the “antichoice” people who oppose the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortions. “Anti-choice forces also argue that our tax dollars should not pay for abortion under any circumstances,” said Mrs. Clinton. “On the surface, this argument also sounds reasonable. But by imposing this ban, Congress has denied access to a legal procedure for women who depend on the government for their healthcare—poor women, women in the military stationed overseas, Native American women, women in prison, federal employees, Peace Corps volunteers….”

While additional stances by “antichoice forces” might “seem reasonable,” averred Mrs. Clinton, they are not. Among them, she noted, “It’s a crime to harm a pregnant woman, so it should be a crime to harm the fetus, as well. Right?…We even believe in protecting the rights of doctors and nurses to act on their conscience in deciding what medical procedures to perform.”

She warned her supporters: “We should be careful in our complacency. Many of these policies sound perfectly reasonable to the untrained ear. But they are not reasonable when you realize the true intention—which is not to protect fetuses from crime, to expand access to prenatal care, to involve parents more thoroughly in their children’s medical decisions, or to protect the civil rights of medical professionals. These policies are meant to chip away at all reproductive rights.”

If elected, Hillary Clinton would be the Planned Parenthood President. That being the case, why would a serious Roman Catholic consider voting for Hillary Clinton? One could understand why, say, a serious Methodist would consider voting for Mrs. Clinton. Her denomination, the United Methodist Church, advocates the legalization of abortion, and is a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Philip Wogamon, the pastor of her church in Washington, DC—the historic Foundry United Methodist Church—is one of the top Methodists in the country, and a strong advocate for abortion rights. In 1995, Mrs. Clinton’s church invited Justice Harry Blackmun, fellow Methodist and author of Roe v. Wade, to the pulpit. But after the visit was cancelled due to the prospect of pro-life picketers, the usually smiling, charming Wogamon lost his cool, fuming that the actions of the pro lifers represented a “tragedy.”

As a Methodist, Hillary Clinton sees no incompatibility between her position on abortion and her views of a loving Jesus. This was conveyed to me early on in my research on Mrs. Clinton, particularly in lengthy e-mail exchanges with William F. Harrison, a prominent abortion doctor in Arkansas, who in 1974 became Hillary Clinton’s gynecologist and friend. Harrison estimates that he has conducted at least 20,000 abortions since the 1970s. He candidly calls himself an “abortionist” and concedes, “I am destroying life.” He believes he is giving life by saving women from botched abortions, and thus declares his patients “born again.”

When I asked Harrison if he could explain how Hillary Clinton could be a self-professing Christian and so passionately in favor of legalized abortion, he was baffled, almost offended, since he, too, is a Methodist—a “pro-choice Christian.” “Hillary [is] a Methodist and I was raised a Methodist,” he said flatly. “The Methodist church [is] very strongly pro-choice.”

So, yes, a Methodist committed to the denomination’s Book of Discipline would have no difficulty reconciling a vote for Hillary Clinton. But how about a Catholic committed to the Catechism? The question is worth pondering in light of the fact that, given recent trends, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee can expect to receive roughly half the Catholic vote.

Though a slim majority of Catholics voted for George Bush in 2004, 15 million Catholics still voted for John Kerry, a Catholic with an appalling record on abortion. In April 2004, Kerry took a timeout from the presidential campaign to appear on the Senate floor to join Mrs. Clinton in voting against a bill that made harming a fetus during an assault on the mother a crime. He also joined Senator Clinton in voting against the ban on partial-birth abortion.

Should she win the party’s presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton is likely to do even better with Catholics. (In the 2006 congressional elections, the Catholic vote swung back to the Democrats.) Many elderly pro-life Catholics may vote for her out of an allegiance to the party of their youth. Other Catholics may be swayed by her talk of “social justice”—the same group that John Kerry targeted when he said, “My faith affects everything I do, in truth” (adding at alternate times, “why I fight against poverty,” “why I fight to clean up the environment,” and “why I fight for equality and justice”).

Millions of liberal Catholics find such rhetoric appealing, even at the expense of the unborn. For such Catholics, stopping abortion seems less crucial than issues like a 15-cent hike in the minimum wage, a tax increase on wealthy Americans, signing of the Kyoto Treaty or stopping oil drilling in Alaska.

“Social justice” Catholics thrill to Hillary Clinton’s nanny-state efforts on behalf of life—once out of the womb. This explains why she has already received so many endorsements from Catholics. From Congress, Catholic Democratic politicians have stepped up to back her candidacy, including such members as Loretta Sanchez, Dennis Cardoza, Hilda Solis, Diane Watson, Bill Pascrell, and Ellen Tauscher. Outside of Congress, her Catholic supporters among politicians and public figures include Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Geraldine Ferraro, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Terry McAullife.

Many of these endorsements are not surprising and can be explained by simple politics. But more telling are cases like Anne Rice, the famous writer of The Vampire Chronicles, whose recent highprofile conversion to Catholicism was warmly received and regaled on the front pages of numerous Catholic publications, including some of the conservative ones.

Rice, who describes herself as pro-life, has proudly endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Rice’s endorsement is posted on her Web site, and she further elaborated on it in an interview with Fox News’ pundit Alan Colmes, to whom she insisted, “I believe the life of the unborn is sacred….I’m pro-life, I’m not for abortion.”

Also posted at her Web site is a link to the group Feminists for Life, which Rice calls a “wonderful” group. The plug for Feminists for Life immediately follows her endorsement of Senator Clinton—a juxtaposition that seems confusing, if not, contradictory. After all, Hillary Clinton regards groups like Feminists for Life as insidious.

In that January 22, 2004 address to NARAL, Mrs. Clinton cast pro-lifers as shadowy agents who plot behind closed doors to engineer the overthrow of America’s greatest right. “They [prolifers] have realized it cannot be done quickly and in the light of day,” said the former first lady. “They can’t just propose a constitutional amendment, and make the debate public. No. Our opponents are patient. They are going to do it slowly, quietly, one justice at a time, one legal battle at a time, one state at a time. As we gather today, forces are aligned to change this country and strip away the rights we enjoy and have come to expect. Slowly, methodically, quietly, they have begun chipping away at the reproductive rights of women. And if those rights fall, other rights will follow. Their goal is to supplant modern society with a society that fits into their narrow world view.”

“In this society, progress has no place and science doesn’t matter,” insisted Mrs. Clinton. “In this society, fact is forgotten and evidence is ignored. All that matters is contained in their extremely limited world view.”

Yet Anne Rice judges that the Democratic Party and “Hillary in particular” are “more concerned with the life and death issues” than Republicans. She cites health care, Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, and global warming as areas where she believes Hillary and the Democrats are preferable to the Republicans. As Rice told Alan Colmes, “Abortion is not the only issue here.”

Though Rice concedes that “unborn human life is sacred,” she appears to be placing abortion on the same moral plane as global warming, or at least is doing so in her personal voting priorities. To their credit, the American Catholic bishops have recently spoken out against this muddled approach to Catholic voting. According to their recently issued guide on citizenship and voting, the bishops warned the Catholic faithful against the “temptation” of a “moral equivalence” that equates an issue like the sanctity of human life with environmental or economic concerns. Abortion is a serious crime against humanity, and thus obviously of much greater moral weight than, say, a 5 percent increase in an hourly wage.

Anne Rice is only one example, but she is representative of the mindset of left-leaning Catholic voters, many of whom are products of the liberal world of Catholic academia. Last October, Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire opened its doors to the Clinton campaign, inviting former Secretary of State (under Bill Clinton) Madeleine Albright to present a lecture titled, “Restoring America’s Leadership: Madeleine Albright Speaks About Senator Clinton.”

The talk was part of Albright’s work on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign. The two women share a long history of not only joint political work in the Clinton administration but also work on behalf of promoting global abortion. Together they supported the spread of abortion services throughout Latin America, beginning with calls to overturn what they view as fascistic pro-life policies in Mexico City. The two of them also spoke at the horrific March 2004 “March for Women’s Lives” in Washington, DC, where militant abortion activists hoisted placards bearing such messages as, “The Pope’s Mother Had No Choice.”

By its invitation to Albright and the Clinton campaign, Benedictine Saint Anselm College seemed to be disregarding the bishops’ mandate that Catholic universities not offer “awards, honors, or platforms” to individuals who reject the “fundamental moral principles” of the Church.

And Saint Anselm isn’t alone in hosting the Clinton campaign. In recent years, Catholic colleges like Jesuit Canisius (January 2005) and Marymount Manhattan (May 2005) warmly invited Senator Clinton to come speak to them about “social justice.” Canisius boasted of its invitation to Senator Clinton to speak in its lecture series on the “Governmental Role in Effectuating the Corporal Works of Mercy,” co-sponsored by the college’s Committee for the Promotion of Justice. The press release added that Canisius specialized in preparing leaders— ”intelligent, caring, faithful individuals”— who would “promote excellence in their professions, their communities and their service to humanity.”

Catholic charitable organizations have also extended speaking invitations to Hillary Clinton, such as Chicago’s Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, which invited her to be the keynote speaker for the group’s spring 2007 fundraiser. The home for young adolescents is run by Catholic priests. When asked by the online journal, LifeSite News, if the invitation stood in violation of Church teaching, a spokesman for the home replied: “Mercy Home adheres to all the principles of the Catholic Church and the church’s teaching of the right to life,” but added that the invitation was “not an endorsement of any kind. We’re not taking a stand on the senator’s [presidential] candidacy.”

But in the coming weeks and months, Catholic voters will be asked to take a stand on the senator’s presidential candidacy (or that of the equally pro-abortion Barack Obama). How Catholics apply their faith—and its central teachings on morality—to their pattern of voting, and particularly to the case of Senator Hillary Clinton, looms as one of 2008’s most important questions.


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About Dr. Paul Kengor 54 Articles
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage, and, most recently, The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism's Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration.