Common Ground Quicksand In Obamaland

The US News headline “Obama woos Catholics with nuanced abortion talk” sounded an alarm that I could not ignore or resist commenting about. After all, how many ways can this president insert his clever rhetoric into the Catholic arena before someone reveals the guile behind the smile?

It seems, at least according to US News, that Obama used his speech at Notre Dame to prove to the world that his allegiance to outright advocacy of abortion on demand was perhaps not as solid as one first might suspect. After all, according to the article,

Obama made his clearest statements yet on a "common ground" approach to the nation's biggest political wedge. "There is potential that he improved his relationship with Catholics who disagree with him on abortion but who agree with him on economic and foreign policy matters,” says John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

So what did the president say to garner such praise? Well let’s see, and perhaps we can detect a little good old manipulation. Quoting his commencement address:

[W]hen we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe — that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.

That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.”

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women. Those are things we can do.

Now, understand — understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it — indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory — the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely, we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

Suffice it to say, the common ground to which the president refers can only be achieved by individuals who are willing to set aside basic scientific and logical facts such as the truth that every preborn human being is a human individual. Instead, those who wish to work together in this effort must agree that “the moral and spiritual dimensions” of abortion are totally subjective and differing views are equal; therefore one cannot enunciate the fact that every act of procured abortion is an act of murder. That’s an absolute and would not advance a good working relationship with those who disagree. No facts, please.

This is probably why Obama can suggest reducing the number of women seeking abortion. One can readily understand that he means to accomplish this by increasing the level of availability of chemical abortions via birth control.  President Obama has always been an advocate of the full range of reproductive health services. Based on his record, this makes perfect sense.

When the president says that he intends to support a “sensible conscience clause,” we need only refer to his own public position on this question to see what he really means. For example, when speaking about his views on human embryonic stem cell research, he said

But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.

I am uncertain about how anyone would pursue the killing of embryonic human beings with “the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.” The only way I can see this happening is if the perpetrator denies that the human embryo is actually a human being. This is an example of moral relativism. In such a case, there is no problem of conscience because right and wrong are relative.

This is why I have the feeling that the president is calling on sensible people to set aside truth, forget any pangs of conscience and move forward in a haze of confusion commonly known as common ground.

President Obama spoke to the graduates of Notre Dame on Sunday, May 17. Two days earlier, during a meeting of pro-life leaders with Obama administration representatives focused on common ground, Melody Barns of the Obama staff said that common ground did not mean that the White House goal was to “reduce the number of abortions.” Rather, she said, it was to “reduce the need for abortion.” Say what?

As Frederick Zarf of Wentzville, Missouri, wrote in the St. Louis Post Dispatch shortly after the Obama Notre Dame speech,

Quotes on the subject of abortion rights attributed to President Barack Obama are voluminous and consistent. However, none states his position as clearly and succinctly as his statement made in July 2007, while addressing Planned Parenthood, when he avowed, "There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice. On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield."

This quote is in sharp contrast to his disingenuous outreach at Notre Dame last weekend, where he called for "open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words" in the ongoing debate. For those who viewed Mr. Obama's comments as an attempt to bridge the chasm between pro-life and pro-choice, don't focus on his well-honed words or delivery. Instead, look at his consistent message through the years. And look at his current positions in areas such as overseas abortion funding, stem cell research, Roe v. Wade and on and on.

These positions and his declaration to "not yield" on his viewpoint paint the picture in abject clarity; "common ground" is nothing more than a political safe haven, not a desired state.

Just yesterday we witnessed a concrete example of the Obamaland version of common ground in the latest pick for Vatican ambassador. A Hispanic Roman Catholic theologian, Miguel H. Diaz, who has been an Obama supporter from the beginning is described by the Catholic News Agency:

His body of work, which includes some controvesial positions on “inclusivity,” has gained him significant praise from the Catholic left, and his nomination was immediately hailed by pro-Obama Catholics such as “Catholics United” and “Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good,” as well as Prof. Douglas Kmiec.

Diaz's election seems to be the first return that Catholics who have unconditionally supported Obama's policies and appointments have received for their investment in the ticket. Diaz, in fact, is listed as a member of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, although he explains his relationship with the pro-Obama group founded by Democratic activist Alexia Kelley as “a response to an invitation to become a theological advisor.”

Diaz is said to be a proponent of the theology of Karl Rahner, which means that Diaz is a dissenter from Catholic teaching in at least a couple of areas. I presume this is why he was chosen by the clever president.

Over the years, we have come to understand that a desire for common ground translates into the view that principle must yield to pragmatism, and after that, to acceptance of abortion in some cases and after that, to abysmal defeat. The common ground theory and those who advocate it remind me of quicksand … the slow, certain sinking of truth into the sands of deceit that clearly represent, among other things, Obamaland.