Notre Dame Disgrace
And the Kmiec/Kaveny embarrassments.


On top of that, the much-derided “surge” worked magnificently. Gen. David Petraeus turned out to have a better grasp of Iraqi reality than Senators Reid, Clinton, and Obama, to name but three.

Most impressively of all, Iraqi democracy seems to be growing slowly but steadily from strength to strength. Violence in Baghdad is at lower levels than in Chicago — although, granted, Chicago does not experience bomb attacks killing 20 or 30 at a time.

Iraq today boasts the largest functioning democracy among the Arab states. It is certainly far ahead of Iran, Syria, and others of its neighbors — even Egypt across the Mediterranean. There is new hope for the protection of human rights, the liberation and education of women, and a new level of religious liberty.

Now that he has been fully briefed on the available intelligence on terrorism, on Iraq, and on Iran, President Obama has been pushed by facts into positions quite close to those of President Bush. This has dismayed many on the left. But it is a tribute to the facts, honestly studied. The gains in Iraq are too hard-won to squander. President Obama has now acknowledged that a contingent of 50,000 Marines and soldiers will remain in Iraq (as in South Korea) until the beginning of 2012. One may doubt that he will remove them during that election year.

Finally, Cardinal Ratzinger cut through the Kmiec/Kaveny argument about the relative moral importance of the issues of war, poverty, capital punishment, and abortion, in his famous letter to the American bishops during the 2004 campaign:

Not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

I respect Doug Kmiec, Cathleen Kaveny, and others for publicly putting themselves on the line to support Obama, based on their position regarding the war in Iraq and their preferred strategy and tactics for reducing abortions in the United States and around the world. But their arguments are not very persuasive.

Even weaker have been the arguments by the leadership of the University of Notre Dame. It may be that President Obama is looking for a chance at Notre Dame to announce a new position in favor of life and against death. But that seems wildly naïve. It may be that Notre Dame is hoping for an argument, a discussion, an engagement, a dialogue on the side of life. Yet it seems that this is not the time nor the place for that — not at a commencement address, not given the glowing citation for the honorary degree, not with so much going at on at graduation. This is a time to shower the president of the United States with praise.

President Obama would feel perfectly entitled to use this honor from Notre Dame as leverage in favor of his full-tilt support for the falsely named “Freedom of Choice Act,” whose real point is not freedom, but the suppression of all consciences that find abortion an evil like slavery.

– Michael Novak’s latest book is
No One Sees God. His website is


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