- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009



For a professor wishing to illustrate the meaning of the word “sophistry,” Jon O’Brien’s letter (“Keep politics out of the church,” March 27) could not have been a better illustration of “a plausible but fallacious argument,” as the American Heritage Dictionary defines the term.

To state that Archbishop Joseph Naumann “concurs” with Mr. O’Brien’s statement that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius seems able to “reconcile her faith with her political beliefs, including … abortion,” implies that the archbishop is somehow comfortable with the governor’s pro-choice position when actually he has repeatedly condemned it. Mr. O’Brien’s use of statistics is equally problematic. Even if 54 percent of Catholics voted to elect Barack Obama, it does not necessarily mean they voted for him because his was the “pro-choice ticket.”

One assumes that Catholics for Choice, Mr. O’Brien’s group, favored Mr. Obama predominantly for that reason. However, other Catholics undoubtedly voted for him despite his pro-choice positions because they sought “change” from the Bush administration’s policies.

Others voted for the chance to make history by electing an African-American. Almost certainly many Catholics voted out of party loyalty, including some of my acquaintances, who are otherwise very “traditional” Catholics.

These reasons seem far more plausible than Mr. O’Brien’s assertion that “most” Catholics believe their faith supports a woman having complete freedom of action regarding contraception and abortion. The Pew Research Center reports that the president’s disapproval rating increased 14 percent among Catholics from February to March - that is, since he funded overseas abortion providers, sought to remove protections for pro-life health-care providers and lifted restrictions on federal funding for experimentation on human embryos. This increase in Mr. Obama’s disapproval rating is six points greater among Catholics than it is among Americans as a whole during the same period.

While it is possible that the church might modify its position on contraception in the future, it is impossible to conceive of it changing its position on the sanctity of human life, which is the issue at the heart of the abortion controversy.

The fact that abortion is fundamentally a moral - not a political - issue is one that Mr. O’Brien wishes to avoid by asserting that should Mrs. Sebelius be denied Communion, it would be based on politics rather than moral concerns. How Catholic politicians reconcile their religion and their politics is up to them, but to deny that basic human morality underlies the issue of abortion, as Mr. O’Brien does, is the rankest bit of sophistry.



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