Thursday, June 07, 2007

Providence Hits... and Lightning Strikes

While no US bishops have yet held out sanctions for Catholic politicos who support embryonic stem-cell research (see below), Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence has returned to the spotlight -- but this time for weightier matters than the Steelers banners outside his Pats Nation residence.

A week ago today, in his traditional column for the newly-rechristened diocesan paper, The Rhode Island Catholic, Tobin took the episcopal lead in calling out the abortion stance of former New York city Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican candidate for the presidency.

Rudy’s public proclamations on abortion are pathetic and confusing. Even worse, they’re hypocritical.

Now, this is what we get from Rudy as he attempted to explain his ambiguous position on abortion in a speech at Houston Baptist College earlier this month: “Here are the two strong beliefs that I have, here are the two pillars of my thinking . . . One is, I believe abortion is wrong. I think it is morally wrong . . . The second pillar that guides my thinking . . . where [people of good faith] come to different conclusions about this, about something so very, very personal, I believe you have to respect their viewpoint. You give them a level of choice here . . . I’ve always believed both of these things.”

What? This drivel from the man who received high marks, and properly so, for his clear vision and personal courage in healing New York City, and by extension the nation, after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11?

Rudy mentions the two pillars of his position. But you know what happens if you sit on a stool with two legs? Yep, it collapses. And so does Rudy’s position, and along with it his integrity and reputation.

Rudy’s explanation is a classic expression of the position on abortion we’ve heard from weak-kneed politicians so frequently in recent years:

“I’m personally opposed to but don’t want to impose my views on other people.” The incongruity of that position has been exposed many times now. As I’ve asked previously, would we let any politician get away with the same pathetic cop-out on other issues: “I’m personally opposed to . . . racial discrimination, sexual abuse, prostitution, drug abuse, polygamy, incest . . . but don’t want to impose my beliefs on others?”

Why is it that when I hear someone explaining this position, I think of the sad figure of Pontius Pilate in the Gospels, who personally found no guilt in Jesus, but for fear of the crowd, washed his hands of the whole affair and handed Jesus over to be crucified. I can just hear Pilate saying, “You know, I’m personally opposed to crucifixion but I don’t want to impose my belief on others.”

Okay, let’s ask Mayor Giuliani to think about his position for a minute.

Hey Rudy, you say that you believe abortion is morally wrong. Why do you say that, Rudy; why do you believe that abortion is wrong? Is abortion the killing of an innocent child? Is it an offense against human dignity? Is it a cruel and violent act? Does it harm the woman who has the abortion? And if your answer to any of these questions is yes, Rudy, why would you permit people to . . . kill an innocent child, offend human dignity, commit a cruel and violent act or do harm to the mother? This is in the name of choice? Huh?

Rudy’s preposterous position is compounded by the fact that he professes to be a Catholic. As Catholics, we are called, indeed required, to be pro-life, to cherish and protect human life as a precious gift of God from the moment of conception until the time of natural death. As a leader, as a public official, Rudy Giuliani has a special obligation in that regard.
The column had already kicked up national buzz when Giuliani was asked about it during a Monday night CNN debate in the key primary state of New Hampshire.

As Rudy began his answer, however, the building was struck by lightning....

...and, with that, the story got bigger still.

While the former mayor's own ordinary, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, has called Rudy (and Democratic candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton) "friends" of his, saying in a January TV interview that he's been "very, very careful" to avoid "partisan politics of any kind at all," on Tobin's Italian-rich home turf -- where Giuliani held a $500-a-plate fundraiser yesterday -- today's Providence Journal runs pieces keeping up with both the bishop and the candidate, all against the backdrop of the Catholic kickoff to what could well be referred to as "Church-State '08."

In related news, Giuliani may be getting flack from church figures ordained and non, but a growing number of key players among the GOP's Catholic crowd look to be coalescing around the likely candidacy of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

A member of the church of Christ with stances on social issues said to hew more closely to Rome's line, Thompson's already won over much of the contingent that built, then kept, an ad intra base for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. The past-and-present TV actor made an early splash by attending April's National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington and, with his contract to NBC's Law & Order expiring at month's end, is expected to formally throw his hat into the ring sometime around the 4th of July.