As his op-ed in today’s Chicago Tribune makes clear, Douglas Kmiec has no intention of dialing back his support of Obama. By arguing, publicly and repeatedly, why a staunch opponent of abortion like himself can, as a matter of moral principle, vote for the presumptive Democratic nominee, he is becoming the most important national voice against the argument that opposing legalized abortion is so imperative that it trumps all other issues when it comes to casting one’s vote. Nor has it hurt his stature that he does so as the victim of a priest’s decision to deny him communion as the result of his endorsement. (Note that this is now featured in his op-ed i.d.)
The U.S. Catholic bishops have, of course, not said that it is forbidden to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights. What they have said is this:
Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. 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. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.
There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would
be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.
Kmiec makes the case for voting for Obama by laying out such “truly grave moral reasons.” This forces those who oppose Obama on pro-life grounds onto a field of combat where they might not like to fight it out. But fight it out they will have to, sooner or later.