It is difficult to understand why Fordham ethics professor Charles Camosy would take to the pages of Crux — a Catholic news website that is funded by the Knights of Columbus — to attack a pro-life speech recently given at the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus by Carl Anderson, the leader of the Knights of Columbus.
In an article entitled, “Knights Leader Right on Abortion, Wrong on Catholic Voting Duties,” Mr. Camosy, a board member of Democrats for Life, suggests that Mr. Anderson was “absolutely incorrect” to suggest that Catholics cannot vote for the pro-choice candidate. Calling Mr. Anderson a “polarizing figure a champion for many conservative Catholics for many of the same reasons the Catholic left considers him deeply problematic,” Mr. Camosy continues his commitment to promoting Democratic Party politicians — even those with 100 percent pro-abortion voting records — over those who promise to protect the unborn.
Earlier this year, Mr. Camosy strategically deployed the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on “proportionate reasons” for voting for a pro-choice candidate to argue that Catholics can be permitted to vote for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. In Crux, Mr. Camosy called the Republican Party a “fake pro-life party.”
In April, he used the pages of Crux to defend Notre Dame’s decision to award the university’s highest honor, the Laetare Medial, jointly upon the pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden and the former Speaker of the House John Boehner. In an essay titled “Old Abortion Politics Drive Biden Backlash at Notre Dame,” Mr. Camosy criticized the presiding bishop of South Bend-Fort Wayne for his condemnation of the Notre Dame invitation to the pro-abortion vice president. Mr. Camosy asked why Mr. Boehner escaped criticism from Bishop Kevin Rhoades: “On everything from torture to a living wage, to immigration the former Speaker’s positions are at odds with Catholic teachings. Indeed, welcoming the stranger, a preferential option for the poor, and the dignity of the person are non-negotiable Catholic principles.”
Mr. Camosy’s latest commentary should not surprise anyone. In his most recent book, Mr. Camosy claimed that the abortifacient, RU-486, is a form of “indirect abortion” because it does not aim at “death by intention.” But pro-life Catholics know that the abortion pill effectively ends an early pregnancy by turning off the pregnancy hormone (progesterone) necessary to maintain the pregnancy. When the hormone is suppressed, the fetus dies. Yet in his book, he maintains that his view on RU 486 is consistent with “settled Catholic doctrine” on life issues.
While Crux provided a fair and impartial report on the activities of the Knights of Columbus Annual Meeting in Toronto on Aug. 3, the commentary on Carl Anderson’s speech on Aug. 8 was unnecessarily harsh and most unfair. Far from being divisive or polarizing, the leader of the Knights of Columbus has attempted to be inclusive — sometimes drawing criticism from the more conservative corners of Catholicism for what they perceived as the Knights’ refusal to take action against members whose public stands conflict with church moral teachings. In 2010, a national directive from Knights of Columbus leadership warned local councils that they could not suspend the membership of those who hold public positions contrary to Catholic teachings on issues relating to matters of faith and morals.
Some commentators like CatholicCulture.org’s Phil Lawler criticized this decision by the Knights, concluding, “It’s impossible to fight a crusade effectively as long as enemies are welcome within your own ranks.”
Mr. Lawler is correct about the difficulty of fighting the crusade to defend the unborn when there are enemies within the movement. But he needs to also acknowledge that it is impossible for the Knights to attempt to be “more Catholic” than the majority of bishops who remain reluctant to publicly criticize Catholic politicians who continue to support policies to expand access to abortion. The Knights have done exemplary work on behalf of the unborn. They have always been on the forefront of the pro-life movement. Most within the pro-life movement are grateful for Carl Anderson’s courageous speech to the membership at the annual meeting of the Knights of Columbus in Toronto last week. He should be honored for that — not maligned on the very pages of the journal his organization is subsidizing.
On Oct. 27 Carl Anderson will receive the Human Life Foundation’s 14th Annual Great Defender of Life Award at the Union League in New York City. The Human Life Foundation is honoring Mr. Anderson because they know that under his leadership since 2000, the Knights have funded a number of powerful programs to defend life — including the Ultrasound Initiative, in which local councils raise funds that are matched by the Supreme Council to purchase ultrasound machines for pregnancy centers. As a result, more than $16.1 million has been raised to purchase over 540 machines, which allow pregnant women to see their unborn children.
Mr. Anderson has done more to protect the unborn than the Democrats for Life who remain committed to helping to elect Democrats — despite the dismal pro-abortion voting records held by most national Democratic politicians. They continue to support Democrats — despite the fact that the Democratic Party’s newly strengthened pro-abortion platform goes further than previous platforms by championing Planned Parenthood health centers and attempting to overturn all federal and state laws that impede a woman’s access to abortion. The new Democratic platform seeks to repeal the Hyde Amendment — forcing pro-life individuals to pay for the abortions of others.
In his nonpartisan speech last week, Mr. Anderson was willing to tell those gathered in Toronto that “we need to end the political manipulation of Catholic voters by abortion advocates. It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing. It is time to stop creating excuses for voting for pro-abortion politicians.” Carl Anderson was courageous in confronting the culture of death that permeates the Democratic Party today. Perhaps it is time for the Democrats for Life to show some appreciation.
Anne Hendershott is director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life and professor of sociology at Franciscan University. She is the author of The Politics of Deviance (Encounter, 2004).
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