Regarding Ramesh Ponnuru’s comment about Barack Obama’s recent discussions with me and other religious leaders, his question about FOCA is a good one. Senator Obama did not address the topic in the meeting. As for me, I would oppose FOCA employing the same rationale I explained in House testimony when it was first introduced in the 1980s.
Mr. Ponnuru’s accompanying personal libel, however, is much to be regretted. He is apparently unable to contemplate someone as open and fair-minded as Senator Obama – that is, a presumptive presidential nominee having the courage to engage the ideas of his opposition, and in so doing, to bring the clashing sides of the sensitive abortion topic together for civil and constructive conversation. Whether or not Mr. Ponnuru views my essay in the Chicago Tribune summarizing this meeting as “spin” or not subtracts nothing from the considerable praise due Senator Obama for making the effort to open this dialogue. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the moment has the potential for giving respect to unborn life in ways that transcend overturning Roe on paltry federalism grounds, and of course, the Senator’s effort is light years more important than acrimonious blog entries.
As for the tag line referencing my denial of the sacrament, it was added by the Chicago Tribune editors who apparently felt it good journalistic practice to give the reader this factual background. I have kept the priest’s name and religious order confidential out of charity, but I am certain Cardinal Mahony would confirm – without breaking this charitable confidence – what he called the “shameful,” partisan denial of communion based on improper pulpit criticism of my endorsement of Senator Obama.
I have no desire to have this “un-priestly” action contrary to Catholic teaching emblazed upon any “business card,” as Mr. Ponnuru sneers. It is more than enough that the humiliating and hurtful experience is etched in my memory in a manner that is – unfortunately — inescapable whenever I now approach our Lord in the Eucharist.
As a natural law conservative anxious to preserve that which really matters, I had always associated the National Review with a higher and more responsible voice than the assertions Mr. Ponnuru tosses off so casually toward my name with actual malice, that is, in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity.
It may be in the corporate thinking of the National Review to make sure Catholics don’t wander off the McCain reservation in the hope, however vain, that it represents more Reagan than Bush. But political rationalization or disagreement aside, it cannot be the role of a member of the writing staff of the electronic sibling of a provocatively important magazine to simply demean those who disagree with him. Is there no editor still ambling about Bill Buckley’s enterprise who possesses the decency of mind and a classically-formed character not to trivialize something which ought always be held sacred?