Friday, May 1, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame update - 5/1/2009

Regardless of what some bishops think (57 of them at latest count), most Catholics think that it is right for President Obama to address the 2009 graduating class at Notre Dame. In a poll released yesterday, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 50% of Catholics surveyed thought the university was right to invite Obama and 28% thought it was wrong. Only in the case of weekly mass attenders did the percentage who thought it was wrong exceed the percentage who thought it was right. Among Catholics who had heard about the controversy, the percentage of those supporting Obama's invitation was even greater -- 54%.

In presenting the survey results, the Pew Forum also highlighted that 67% Catholics approve of President Obama's job performance, 47% believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases (42% say illegal in all/most cases), and 49% support stem cell research.

With regard to the abortion figures, some undoubtedly will make much of the fact that Catholics supporting legal abortion decreased from 49% in August 2008 to 47% in April 2009. However, the same Pew Forum survey shows that the percentage of Catholics who say abortion should be illegal in all/most cases also decreased by an even greater margin -- 47% in August 2008 to 42% in April 2009. Are we easing our way into a middle ground on this hot button issue?

President Obama himself seemed to have adopted a milder, more conciliatory position on the issue than his rhetoric during the presidential campaign which many conservative Catholics seized upon as an excuse not to vote for him. In response to a reporter's question on the Freedom of Choice Act at a press conference marking his 100th day in office, the President stated:

The reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think women take that...that position casually. I think that they struggle with these decisions each and every day. And I think they are in a better position to make these decisions ultimately than members of Congress or a president of the United States, in consultation with their families, with their doctors, with their clergy.

So...so that has been my consistent position. The other thing that I said consistently during the campaign is I would like to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in women feeling compelled to get an abortion, or at least considering getting an abortion, particularly if we can reduce the number of teen pregnancies, which has started to spike up again.

And so I've got a task force within the Domestic Policy Council in the West Wing of the White House that is working with groups both in the pro-choice camp and in the pro-life camp, to see if we can arrive at some consensus on that.

Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's...that's where I'm going to focus.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame has found an ingenious solution to the vacuum left by Mary Ann Glendon when she declined the Laetare Medal. They plan not to award a Laetare this year and the speech that would have been given by Glendon will now be given by Judge John T. Noonan, a previous Laetare recipient with unimpeachable pro-life credentials. He has served as director of the National Right to Life Committee. However, the Catholic right is now squawking because of Noonan's support for artificial contraception...

Stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment