In his memoir, "Inside: A Public and Private Life," Joseph A. Califano Jr. - a Catholic Democrat who worked in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations - expounds on his struggle with the abortion issue. After being nominated as Johnson's secretary of health, education and welfare, Califano, who opposed federal funding for abortion unless the woman's life was jeopardized, consulted his pastor, a Jesuit priest named James English. Califano writes, "I first confronted the tension between my religious beliefs and public policy on the searing issue of whether Medicaid should fund abortions." He says his priest told him while most of our laws are founded on moral values, "my obligation to my personal conscience was satisfied if I expressed those views forcefully. If another view prevailed, however, I was free, indeed obliged, to enforce the law. 'In a democratic society, you are free to struggle to change the law even as you enforce the one on the books,' he said." (Califano was interviewed on my TV show, where he talked about this and other issues.)
The problem for Kerry is that he won't even go that far. He is pro-abortion, for any reason and at any time. He has not said how he would work to make abortion "rare," except that like others who hold this position he would probably advocate more birth control, which would also place him in opposition to the teachings of his church.
Like the pro-life hospital administrator and nurses, Kerry has a choice: either "resign" as a Catholic, or withdraw from the presidential race. To be president and not even attempt to make abortion "rare" by changing the law that has permitted so many, even for convenience, ignores the power of the presidency and trivializes his faith. In the one case, it leaves an individual open to a charge of hypocrisy. In the other, it puts him in jeopardy of being labeled a heretic.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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