Donohue, Sebelius- And JFK
I had thought John F. Kennedy settled all of this, for Presidents and others of the Executive Branch, on September 12, 1960:
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept (sic) instructions on public policy from.... (any) ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials....
I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or anyother subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views- in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates.
Apparently, William A. Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, disagrees, if his attack on the appointment of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius by President Obama to head the Department of Health and Human Services is any indication. Which it is, as revealed by this exchange (video below) from the March 1 edition of the CBS Evening News, reported by Media Matters:
PINKSTON: She is not without controversy. Sebelius, a Catholic who supports abortion rights, has received harsh criticism from anti-abortion groups.
DONOHUE: She is the champion of abortion rights right through term, and for Obama to choose somebody who has sown such division within the Catholic community to head HHS really is an insult to Catholics.
PINKSTON: But Governor Sebelius has at least two powerful GOP allies. Both U.S. senators from Kansas -- Republicans -- endorse her appointment and complimented President Obama for sending a Kansan to the White House. Randall Pinkston, CBS News, New York.
Never one to retract, or even modulate, divisive and idiotic rhetoric, Donohue reiterated his stance the following day on a pro-life website, writing
Catholics do not expect that abortion-rights presidents will go out of their way to choose pro-life Catholics to be in their administration. But they also don’t expect them to go out of their way to offend them. Obama has done just that. As I said last night on the CBS Evening News, ‘She is the champion of abortion rights right through term, and for Obama to choose somebody who sews such division within the Catholic community to head HHS really is an insult to Catholics.’ Indeed, she has been publicly criticized by the last three archbishops of Kansas for her radical views on abortion.
Leave aside Donohue's history of bombastic and thoughtless rhetoric; his stereotypical implication that all Roman Catholics oppose abortion rights (rather unlikely if a pro-choice opinion is able to engender the "division" he says it does); and his assumption that all Roman Catholics who do oppose abortion rights would believe that an HHS Secretary's abortion views, in a country with an uneviable health care system and a President who has declared his dedication to reform of that system, would trump that official's views on health care and qualifications to lead a drive to reform. (And, especially, ignore a run-on sentence.)
No, Donohue is most exorcised by the support of a Catholic appointee for a woman's right to choose an abortion- otherwise, he would not have contended that the nominee "has sown such division in the Catholic community." And his diatribe runs counter to the remarks of the first (and only) Roman Catholic president in our history, who asserted that he would make his decision on "whatever issue may come before me" .... "on the basis of what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest." It is a rebuke, undeserved and unjustified, to a Presidential candidate who declared "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic." Fortunately, the religion of Kathleen Sebelius appears to be far less important to most Roman Catholics (and non-Catholics) than to Mr. Donohue.
Kathleen Sebelius, as John Kennedy and the vast majority of Roman Catholics understand, is a candidate for a cabinet position- not the Roman Catholic candidate for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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