- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009

Unfortunately I was out last week because of shoulder surgery and was only able to observe l’affaire Notre Dame from my living room couch.

Despite my OxyContin-addled brain, a lot did not seem right about this picture of President Obama, resplendent in a royal blue academic gown, waxing eloquent about life issues at a Catholic campus. Especially about “common ground” on an issue that has none.

Does this “common ground” idea really work? On peripheral issues, yes. On life-and-death issues, no.

Plus, I wondered, to what other audience has the president lectured as to needing to find “common ground” with their opponents?

When he goes to Egypt in a few days, will he lecture his Muslim listeners on finding common ground with Jews?

Did he tell the mostly Muslim Turks in April they need to find common ground with the Orthodox Christian Armenians? And, during his well-publicized July 2007 speech at a Planned Parenthood banquet, did he tell his listeners they need to find common ground with pro-lifers?

It seems that one side of the debate is always told it needs to move to the center on a given issue, while the other side is told it needs to stand firm.

“So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies,” the president said Sunday at Notre Dame. But how does one do so? One way is through contraception, which the Catholic Church opposes. Another is through abstinence education, which the Obama administration opposes and is doing everything in its power to defund.

“Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause,” he went on to say. Wait a minute; the Bush administration overhauled the conscience clause last year, partly for the benefit of Catholic hospitals and medical professionals. And the Obama administration has been working nonstop to rescind it.

As I listened to TV clips of his speech, I kept on thinking there was a huge disconnect somewhere.

Maybe it’s that some issues don’t have a common ground. Life-and-death issues have a problematic way of being black and white.

Either you abort an unborn child or save it. An unborn child is either human or not.

Or, either Saddam Hussein was a villain and killed thousands of Kurds, or he was not and did not.

Or close to 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, or they were not.

The president did allow that both sides of the abortion debate have “irreconcilable” views, but he did not take the next step of saying that some views are more right than others. When he appealed to the Golden Rule as a principle uniting all faiths, he did not add that treating others as we wish to be treated might include allowing that other a right to be born.

And Martin Luther King, who the president quoted, did not waste his energies trying to reach common ground with his racist persecutors. Instead, he took prophetic stances against them.

Here in Washington on May 8, Archbishop Raymond Burke, a top Vatican official, tore into Notre Dame, saying its invitation to Mr. Obama was “a source of the greatest scandal.” In this “death” culture, he added, it’s the nature of Catholicism to be countercultural.

Not jostling for common ground.

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column runs on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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