Discussion between D. Kmiec and R. George on the Obama Administration

On Thursday, 29 May there was a very interesting "discussion" held by Catholic University of America on "The Obama Administration and the Sanctity of Human Life: Is there a common ground on life issue? What is the right response by ‘Pro-Life’ Citizens?"

This is a very interesting video through C-SPAN.

I am sure you will learn something!

The length is 1:20.

Mary Ann Glendon moderated a discussion between

Douglas Kmiec
Robert George
Each speaker makes presentations and then they all sit down for further discussion.

Watch this riveting video and then vote in the POLL and discuss below, avoiding all knuckle-headishness and ad hominem attacks.


Also this might be helpful for you to review.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Prof. Kmiec made little apparent effort to persuade; his purpose seemed more to excuse: excuse his support for Obama, excuse Obama’s support of abortion, excuse his failure and the failure of allegedly pro-life Obama supporters to make any evident effort to persuade pro-choice Democrats to be converted to a pro-life position.

    Too, contrary to Prof. Kmiec’s assertion, denial of communion is not “intimidation,” it is protecting the sacrament from profanation. I hope that if, God forbid, I should ever be turned away from the Blessed Sacrament, it would be more of an occasion for me to question how my own beliefs, actions and statements might have departed from Church teaching than it has been for Prof. Kmiec.

    Prof. George pointed out many inconsistencies in the President’s positions, actions, and statements, and drew the only possible conclusion: that Obama is merely stringing along pro-lifers while he continues to implement his anti-life policies. Prof. Kmiec made no attempt that I could detect to refute these points.

    I personally feel that Prof. Kmiec should not be afforded any more such opportunities as this debate to give scandal to the faithful. Prof. George (out of a sense of mere courtesy, I am sure) repeatedly affirmed that Prof. Kmiec is, indeed, pro-life. I simply don’t believe that that’s true.

    I am scandalized by the attitude of Prof. Kmiec and others that while abortion might be mortally sinful, actively working on behalf of pro-abortion candidates is not only not sinful, but positively virtuous. That he continues to be offered so much deference and respect in Catholic and pro-life circles is source of continued scandal to me.

  2. What I found interesting is that, toward the end, Prof. Kmiec seemed to fall back on the argument I pointed to in my “talking points” post, namely, that we have lost the public debate and therefore we must simply do what we can. Fine, if at this point we are not winning, then we must figure out how better to win without compromising our Catholic teaching.

  3. Denise says:

    I was fortunate enough to attend this discussion yesterday. I would like to compliment Catholic University of America for sponsoring the event. This is how a truly Catholic university engages in dialogue.

    In his introductory remarks, Profesor Kmiec claimed that if we did not get on board with Obama, we would just relegate ourselves to the sidelines to talk among ourselves. I would rather be on the sidelines proclaiming the truth than a silent member of the inner circle. Ironically, I think it is Professor Kmiec’s refusal to criticize President Obama that renders one ineffective in addressing the evil of abortion. When pointedly asked what has President Obama done to further the pro-life cause, the best he could do was say the President is getting the economy back on track so that fewer women will want abortions.

    One of the most salient points made by Professor George is that unlike Biden, Pelosi, and Kerry, President Obama is not personally opposed to abortion. He sees it as a good thing. The situations that cause a woman to seek an abortion may be a tragedy, but he views abortion as a welcome solution to such problems.

  4. The Astronomer says:

    It begins and ends with ‘Catholic’ identity. Compromising that inevitably leads to surrender and the eternal consequences of that in our case. I for one would not like to face the Lord Jesus at my particular judgment and say “well, you see, I was trying to be reasonable and find common ground…..so if I had to bend Your principles here and there…”

  5. Erin in PA says:

    I found it telling that P. Kmeic had so many notes. It’s as if he has to be constantly reminded of his arguments. His arguments did not flow, and he seemed confused at points. P. George on the other hand was confident, no notes, his arguments flowed naturally. He was confident in his convictions. These are my first impressions.

  6. Paul Haley says:

    Professor Kmiec seemed more intent on campaigning for President Obama, even though the campaign is over, while Professor George nailed it when he used the President’s own words against him as when he said the two sides of the abortion question were irreconcilable. So, therefore how can there be such a thing as common ground? Kmiec, in my opinion, also misrepresented the positions of Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Bishops when he inferred that one could vote for the lesser or two evils when a clear alternative existed for the Good.

    Professor George also leaned heavily on natural rights including the rights of all humans, born and unborn, and that is the one standard that the pro-choice crowd cannot accept. It is based upon the natural law which is written in the hearts of all men. In my mind, there’s no question about who had the right position. The right to life trumps all other rights.

  7. TNCath says:

    Professor Kmiec can continue to rationalize his support of the President’s policies, but his trying to manipulate the Truth to suit his own positions simply didn’t and will never work. He is effectively hitching is wagon to a “star” that will, in time, fall.

  8. johnny b says:

    The statement from Robert George is one of the best I have heard from the pro-life field. I thought his opening few lines about showing “respect for the other person by being candid” was great.

    I thought that Doug Kmiec lacked a certain candidness.

    The best/worst part of the whole debate was that in conclusion Kmiec could not give one piece of evidence (besides the Porkulus bill?!?) that Obama was in any way helping the pro-life cause.

  9. Patrick says:

    I though Kmiec’s body language was telling, slumped over mostly, caved shoulders, just projecting a defeatist’s physical stance.

  10. Rob says:

    My stomach turned and my heart dropped when Professor Kmiec called the denial of Holy communion “intimidation”. This denies the fact that to offer communion to someone who is plainly outside of the communion does cause scandal to others present as well as putting the soul of the one receiving at risk. At some point one’s actions must match up with what they are saying, otherwise they give the appearance that they are disingenuous and eventually they would be considered a liar. I accept Professor Kmiec is pro-life, but he continues to support President Obama even after his decisions on ESCR and on conscience protection for health care workers(the president’s comments at Notre Dame having yet to be born out).

    Eventually Professor Kmiec will have to either recognize that he was duped by President Obama in order to be seen as sincere, or we will have to assume that Kmiec’s actions are a better gauge of what he believes than what he says.

  11. Christian says:

    Kmiec should not be treated with this kind of public respect by a Catholic forum. Pro life or not in theory, he is practically pro death. He has really gone down a very demonic path; what can we do but pray for him? [On the contrary: It is good to have this sort of public discussion. What did you think of Glendon’s comments at the end?]

  12. Kevin L says:

    Fr. thank you for making this available. I’m of the opinion that Prof. Kmiec is one of those poor souls that has so deeply invested himself in the vision of the “ONE” that he dare not back away lest he admit that he is wrong in everything he wants to be true.

  13. Rob: My stomach turned and my heart dropped when Professor Kmiec called the denial of Holy communion “intimidation”.

    However… it was good to hear that enunciated in this forum. It gave George a chance to cut Kmiec’s assertion to pieces.

  14. chironomo says:

    Professor Kmiec can continue to rationalize his support of the President’s policies, but his trying to manipulate the Truth to suit his own positions simply didn’t and will never work. He is effectively hitching is wagon to a “star” that will, in time, fall

    And what a long way down it will be falling when that eventually happens. I think to call Kmiec a “shill” is to give shills in general a bad name. He tries to pretend to be an example of the Good Catholic who is able to support Obama, when in fact the only truth in that persona is that he supports Obama. I agree with the above poster who says that he is likely lying when he claims to be pro-life. More likely he is “personally pro-life”, meaning that he accepts the pro-choice position as an equally valid option for those who choose it. That’s the only explanation for what we see here….

  15. tertullian says:

    Robert George deserves credit for his effective presentation of Catholic doctrine. His is a sometimes lonely voice at Princeton.

  16. George’s argument was very clear and focused on abortion and the unborn child. Kmiec never really addressed the importance of that focus and the distinction between reducing the need for abortions and reducing the number of abortions. He made arguments that Obama really may have done something positive barely escaping the claim tha he’s not at all concerned about abortion, and apparently seems to accept that we must bypass the discussion of the rights of the child. And of course he justifies his support with more proportionalism.

    I believe George showed with great clarity that the pro-life position consists precisely in dealing with the issue of protecting the rights of the unborn child and that the Catholic notion of justice and equality deals directly with the unborn child’s life once he/she is born. Obama is not concerned for the needs of the child but only the needs of the mother and family as understood by them. Ultimately George argued well that Obama can’t be pro-life because of his lack of concern for unborn children.

  17. mpm says:

    Comment by Denise — 29 May 2009 @ 2:44 pm


    Thanks for your post. I agree with your point about the proper forum and approach to engaging in a dialogue.

    To the Kmiec concept that Obama is getting “the economy back on track so that fewer women will want abortions” I would make 2 observations using economic reasoning:

    a) the ecomomy is very likely attempting to get itself back on track, with or without help from the President (who truly does not run the economy — yet);

    b) using Kmiec’s logic, perhaps there will be more abortions in a flourishing economy, since if it’s economics that drives that decision, the stakes are higher the more money you could make.

  18. stgemma says:

    It is fundamental to Kmiec’s understanding that law determines truth. Now…this would normally be case if said law was Divine Law as given to us in Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the Teaching of the Magesterium. But the problem is…he gives one the impression that it ok to undermine the essential dignity of the human person, so long as everyone else thinks either that it is ok or that it has no effect on their life, so why should I argue with what others do. This “turning a blind eye” towards what others do, based solely on the idea that every man is their own island, is morally unacceptable.

    Getting into his idea of whether it is permissible for a Catholic to vote for Obama, I can’t even fathom what kind of understanding of Truth he is “contemplating”. Even in a basic platonic understanding of Truth, there is the understanding that Truth must be objective. Or else there is no claim of falsity. Kmiec simply is not promoting truth…but rather erasing out the meaning of what is false, incorrect, wrong, or evil.

    I just can’t fathom the world that he thinks he lives in.

    I wish someone would let him know that when you are excommunicated, you excommunicate yourself. That when you are separated from the body of Christ…you do it of your own free will.

    Oh…and to go on the point of intimidation. The reason why Catholic bishops DO NOT endorse candidates nor tell their congregations to vote for any particular candidate is because the US government, specifically the Democratic Party, has threatened to remove the 501 C3 status from all Catholic churches, should it choose to do so. If Kmiec would like to speak of intimidation, he should speak of it from both sides and not from the back pocket of Barack Obama.

  19. Lepanto says:

    It seemed to me that towards the end, Kmiec was having a little meltdown. His arguments seemed disorganized and incoherent as he babbled about blood and bones vs. embryos (I still don’t know what his point was there). On several occassions he actually started to make pro-choice arguments (calling the embryo a gift to be used for experimentation) before catching himself and clarifying that those weren’t his beliefs. I think that he’s defended Obama so much that he is starting to confuse himself on where he stand.

    As for Robby George, he was excellent as always and is truly a tribute to our Catholic Faith and the American academy.

  20. Christian says:


    I find Glendon’s comments in the beginning and at the end, that both George and Kmiec are pro-life Catholics, troublingly misguided (with all respect to her of course) and potentially scandalous. Why do you think this kind of public respect (particularly calling both of them pro life Catholics which really colored the way the discussion was framed by Glendon) is good for a man who has clearly gone down a very evil path, and is giving theoretically pro-life but practically pro-death Catholics, an intellectual refuge and strong support in their false opinion? Again, what can we do but admonish Kmiec in private and pray for him?

    It is very easy to over value dialogue in our tolerance driven culture. Sometimes we should not cast our pearls before swine as they often turn and tear us finding allies in the demons who attack us daily. In this instance I say dialogue is misguided, but I do very much value it in other circumstances. Perhaps if this “discussion” was billed as a debate I would be ok with it, but as it is it was billed as a pleasant talk between pro-life Catholics who disagree, who just have different opinions that do not modify their Catholicity and pro life stances.

    I think you will agree Father, after reconsidering, that this particular kind of “discussion” that allowed Kmiec to clothe himself in false catholic identity was on the whole misguided, although well intentioned and perhaps not without some positive results.

    In Christ,


    PS On one website I saw the “discussion” billed as an “abortion reduction discussion.” I wonder why the event was billed in the way it was billed by Glendon? Because Kmiec wanted it that way as a condition for participating? Because CSPAN would not air it if it were divisive? Because the real pro-lifers involved did not want to be seen as contentious and marginalized after the horrible Notre Dame Obama crisis.

    “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.”

  21. EJ says:

    I must say that my gut reaction after watching all of this is profound disgust in Kmiec.. in the insanity of his own reasoning. I apologize if this is even remotely “ad hominem” against Kmiec, and I suppose with the Father Cutie news yesterday I’m having trouble with formerly orthodox Catholics who then stab Mother Church in the gut with their respective betrayals.. but what sort of HANDLE does Obama and this administration have on Kmiec for him to have changed so radically and almost blindingly in his favor? I don’t want to think the worst, but I truly don’t get it… “…but for Wales?…” to quote St. Thomas More I suppose.

  22. Londiniensis says:

    Those used to the bear-pit of politics, or to what passes for discourse on many “traditionalist” forums, will no doubt be aghast at the measured politeness, even cordiality, on display during the discussion. But this is exactly how truly knowledgeable, cultured and civilised people behave.

    Robert George (and Mary-Ann Glendon) took Douglas Kmiec at his word that he is pro-life, but George cooly, meticulously and devastatingly – without one ad-hominem argument or insult – demolished any pretensions Kmiec may have had as to the internal logic or intellectual honesty of his position.

    Crudely put, Kmiec was shown up to have made a pact with the Devil, admittedly with the intention of salvaging some good, but in the process de-sensitizing himself to the evil actually being done.

    Reminding him that he professes to be pro-life and Catholic should now spur him on to a re-examination of his position, both intellectually and as a Catholic. As a realist, I am not exactly holding my breath, but bad-mouthing the man and calling him an apostate would have closed even this possibility.

  23. Jeff M says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z, for posting this. There was a point when Kmiec made it quite easy to see through his argument. One of the audience questioners asked: name one thing Obama has done to actually reduce abortions? This is a great question. Pro-lifers can, and George did, name a list of things Obama has done to promote abortion–if he is so committed to reducing abortion, the crux of Kmiec’s argument, then what specifically has he done? Kmiec’s answer here was weak. Obama, he said, supports the office of faith-based initiatives, and is (theoretically) improving the conditions of the poor so as to make abortions less necessary. But Kmiec couldn’t name one specific measure Obama has taken that is directed specifically at reducing abortion. When real people’s lives are at stake, when human beings are being killed in such large numbers, actions matter, empty words don’t. And we haven’t seen any concrete action from Obama other than to promote abortion.

  24. Hidden One says:

    I wonder how intimidating Prof. Kmiec would find it to be denied Communion himself.

  25. churchill says:

    Prof. Kmiec is basically advocating the position of Neville Chamberlain — peace in our time

  26. Londiniensis says:

    The Daily Politics take on the discussion – http://tinyurl.com/l7uk5y

  27. Londiniensis says:

    National Catholic Reporter says that Kmiec won the debate: “Kmiec persuasive at press club” and “Kmiec wins by just showing up. After all, Professor George’s position boils down to the assertion that there is nothing to discuss”. Wow! http://tinyurl.com/n5et49

    Were they watching the same discussion?

  28. Londiniensis says:

    Professor George\’s opening statement in full here: http://tinyurl.com/ljvzde

  29. LCB says:

    I thought you were joking when you quoted, “Kmiec wins by just showing up. After all, Professor George’s position boils down to the assertion that there is nothing to discuss.”

    But no, Michael Sean Winters ACTUALLY says that. Wow… Wow…

  30. Hidden One:

    I wonder how intimidating Prof. Kmiec would find it to be denied Communion himself.

    Prof. Kmiec was denied communion; that\’s what he was talking about. In fact, he didn\’t find it intimidating at all. He seems to revel in having been made a martyr of some sort. He has included in his resume (and, I suspect, his business card) and trots it out as part of his standard stump speech at virtually every appearance he makes.

    As I said previously in this thread, I hope that if, God forbid, I should ever be turned away from the Blessed Sacrament, it would be more of an occasion for me to question how my own beliefs, actions and statements might have departed from Church teaching than it has been for Prof. Kmiec.

  31. Athelstane says:

    “Were they watching the same discussion?”

    Apparently not. But then Sean Michael Winters, like NCR, is pro-choice, not pro-life. Just as they dissent from a wide range of Church doctrine on life and sexual issues.

    I found it bizarre that Winters could deny that Obama is in favor of federal money to fund abortions. He has repeatedly said as much. It is essential to his support for FOCA. And his revocation of the Mexico City policy is just his latest effort to put that into action.

  32. TJM says:

    I find Doug Kmiec’s apostasy breathtaking. It almost makes one wonder what blackmail the left (Obama Administration) has on him. It’s really the only explanation. Otherwise, I can only conclude that he’s gone nuts. If I were his bishop, I would excommmunicate him (I guess he’s lucky I’m not a bishop) .Tom

  33. Jim says:

    I certainly agree that it seemed as though Kmiec was speaking from his own point of view when he commented about embryos being “gifts” for medicinal research. His apparent irratation during the Q and A, i.e. refering to George’s speech as “rhetoric,” betrayed where his heart is really at.

    If Kmiec’s primary goal was to demonstrate how Catholics can work with Pres. Obama, then he needed to demonstrate very effectively how Obama’s increased financial support for abortion and promised easing of abortion laws are actually working or will work in favour of the pro-life position. He absolutely failed at doing this. If Obama is doing nothing to reduce abortions, indeed nothing to even reduce the NEED for abortions, then where other than good ole rhetoric is there a common ground?

    I really would have liked for Kmiec to have made a few solid arguments. In the end though Kmiec’s position will only ever be attractive and persuasive to those already trying to sooth their consciences (if indeed its there at all) where abortion is concerned so they may uninhibitedly welcome Obama’s other agendas. I am fairly confident there is not one pro-life Catholic that also is opposed to Obama on non-abortion issues who will be persuaded by Kmiec, not one. On the contrary, there are many who support Obama on all issues except abortion. I think this alone undermines the integrity of Kmiec’s position.


  34. Rose says:

    I thought Professor George was brilliant. He made a great case that the prolife cause is a justice and peace cause. Reminds me of something Pope Benedict said about peace in the womb.
    I learnt a great deal from watching this event. Thanks Fr. Z for posting it.

  35. Steven R. says:

    I found it quite intriguing that these two well-educated and articulate individuals so aptly represent the struggle in the fight for Catholic identity. Professor Kmiec represents “right thinking,” scholarly Catholics who sincerely want to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, but who remain sincerely wrong in fooling themselves that they can somehow twist and “fudge” those teachings and internal laws in order to meet the world on its own terms – without conflict. (I am reminded of James 4:4 and the encyclical of Pope Pius XI ‘Mortalium Animos.’) Professor George, however just as scholarly, is more than happy and able to let the facts as well as the Church speak for themselves, each as bearers of the truth. Professor George’s argument, though almost entirely factual, did not require the high brow arguing that Kmiec’s argument did, because he simply did not need it. Indeed, it was necessary for Professor Kmiec, as he strained, to perform some pretentious intellectual leaping with grandiose holding of certain moral postures in his argument in order to place some much needed window dressing in his cottage as it opposed Professor George’s cathedral.

    Much gratitude to you Fr. Z for relaying this video and for all you do.

  36. Mike M says:

    Professor George left me a little bit more disturbed than I was going into this. It dawned on me just how little common ground we actually have with this administration. Obama does not care to reduce the number of abortions. He wants to reduce the need, but, while George didn’t discuss this, even there we’re pretty lacking in common ground, since for Obama that means pushing the contraception agenda onto even more people.

  37. Mark VA says:

    Professor Kmiec, in his remarks about the moral permissibility to vote for the lesser of the two evils, failed to contrast Senators McCain’s and Obama’s actual positions and history on the issue of abortion. By omitting this, he obscured the reality of the choice Catholics had this last November. Because on this, his appeals to Veritatis Splendor rang hollow in my ears.

    To me, he acts as a front, one of the faces of the administration to the Catholic voters. Reading between his lines, he consistently pushes the notion that positions on abortion are fixed, and acquiescing to this reality, the best we can hope for is to dialog and work on the edges. He fails to make the central case by clearly, and with charity, explaining why the unborn should be considered fully human, and that many, upon hearing it and thinking about it, change sides.

    I see a parallel between his thinking and the thinking of those who argued for the permanency of the Free World/Soviet World divide. Both appealed to a “reasonable” view of this “unchanging reality”, and promoted “sensible” thinking of “grown” men. Such thinking always weakened the resolve of the free, and strengthened the other side.

    In my mind, abortion arguments of Professor Kmiec are accomodationist, have never been proven to change anything, and should be rejected.

  38. I am not Spartacus says:

    I actually almost felt sorry for Prof. K. He still appears to be in full campaign mode. “Zippy Catholic” has him pegged:


  39. I agree with the first sentence of the first comment here of Paul, Just the Guy, You Know’s. Kmiec came across as a starry-eyed juvenile propoganda minister for Obama and pro-abort politicians.
    Early on he quotes JP II that “an elected official” can support a law which will reduce abortions. This position can only be taken when there is no alternative. I don’t think it’s a valid position in our democracy where pro-life is a valid position. Rather, it would seem to be only a position an elected official in a state like China might take. In any case, JP II clearly excluded the position I am publiclly pro-abortion but personally opposed. But, Kmiec defends this position of Sebelius, Biden, and Kerry. How have they reduced abortions by their pro-abort votes. The truth is they haven’t.
    Finally, Kmiec speaks of Obama’s “sympathy” for the pro-life position and wants us to bow before Obama for this. He never suggests that we must consistently proclaim the scientific fact of what happens in abortion in opposition to Obama. We must just trust Obama’s presumed good will and blinded be satisfied that he’s listening to us.

  40. RBrown says:

    1. DKmiec served in the Reagan administration, but his political opinions, abortion notwithstanding, don’t seem to be those of a small govt/low tax conservative. He seems more like a Gerald Ford Republican than a Reagan conservative.

    2. Although I had already read some of his political opinions, I was nevertheless a bit surprised by his poorly constructed arguments. He sounded too much like a defense lawyer pleading for the acquittal of someone against whom the evidence is overwhelmingly obvious. For example, he likes to posit a worst case scenario for any opposing opinion against his own dreamy scenario.

    3. He seems to lack the ability to see the distinction between voting for a candidate in private and endorsing one publicly.
    He also seems incapable of seeing the link between ethics and politics.

    To me he sounded like someone in way over his head.

  41. I believe it was Mother Teresa who said that we are called to be faithful and not successful……

    Just because we have not succeeded in overturning Roe vs Wade at this point does not mean we must stop opposing it or trying to overturn it. As faithful Catholics it is our duty to oppose injustice even when we are unsuccessful at changing it. Also, as Prof. George pointed out, I would be happy to assist any President or gov’t official in incrementally reducing the numbers of abortions. If it was not politically feasible to make abortion illegal then I would vote for the next best thing which is to severely restrict it with, of course, the ultimate goal being to stop it.

    However, as Prof. George demonstrated so well from President Obama’s own rhetoric and actions, that he believes that abortion is not wrong but is merely a medical procedure that could be prevented under better circumstances sort of like how a knee operation is not desirable but could be prevented if someone took better care of their knees……….This view, in and of itself, demonstrates how difficult it will be to reach any type of common ground with this administration.

    Also, this idea of a “sensible” conscience clause that President Obama continues to talk about seems to be a code word for a policy that would require health care professionals to perform procedures that they believe are immoral when there is an “emergency” involved. This “emergency” could be defined as having only one doctor on call when a patient comes in demanding an abortion. If that doctor objects to performing the abortion in what the patient determines to be an “emergency” situation that doctor could lose his/her job.

    It remains to be seen, how an “emergency” will be defined and if this is the out that will be used by those who wish to force (some would say intimidate) those health care providers who oppose abortion out of the health care field.

    In any case, I really believe that Professor Kmiec has lost his way and is in desperate need of our prayers.

  42. The Nyssan says:

    Like the rest of you, I saw George present his position more clearly than Kmiec did. I thought George started a little too emotionally (intentional I imagine, I just thought it overdone a tad) and then settled down into an excellent presentation. Loved the bit on the solution/knee replacement angle. Kmiec, on the other hand, began just as emotionally–difficult to listen to him praise Obama so overtly in this context–but he never really settled down into a strong presentation. From what I can gather he loves Obama, doesn’t like being denied communion, and thinks that “reducing need” is a good enough grounds to vote for Obama.

    I will say, I did not read into his closing remarks and critique of George’s “rhetoric” the way the rest of you did. I think he was trying to (pompously) “aid” George by pointing out that the human person possessing rights exists before there are bones and blood, and in the case of ESCR exists outside the womb. So George’s appeal to “bones, blood, womb” is rhetorically effective but potentially misleading, since that is only one part of the opposition to abortion. I agree with that point, although I think it merely underscored how mediocre Kmiec’s presentation had been up to that point. Why grasp at that weird straw except to boost his “pro-life cred?”

  43. Carina says:

    Honest question: I have not seen many videos/lectures of Doug Kmiec. Is he always like this?

    As someone had commented earlier, his body language was very telling. He looked like someone who was pushed into a corner.

    As for his speech and answers…he seems to have a very poor understanding of the Eucharist. And he only really answered one question, and even the answer provided was rather lame. I also found his comments about personhood disturbing. Is he even still pro-life? Even though he claimed that some of those things were not his own point of view, it sure seemed to be that way.

    It was very wonderful, on the other hand, to listen to Prof George as he clearly presents the pro-life position. He presented his position well, his body language was confident without being arrogant, and he one by one dismantled Obama’s claims in reducing the number of abortions.

  44. Michael J says:


    You make some very good points about how a more aggressive confrontation could easily close the door to Kimec ever having a change of heart. At the same time, your later post referencing the NCR article shows that this is no longer (if it ever was) just about Kimec. How many souls are lost because now many Catholics have the impression that it is acceptable to have fundamental disagreements with Church doctrine?

    I do not know the correct answer myself, but you should be aware that while an aggressive approach will have negative consequences, the passive approach you seem to advocate has at least equally negative consequences.

  45. Rick says:

    Year ago I read Robert Bork’s book “Slouching towards Gemorrah (sp?).” In it, he has a chapter on abortion. Bork had been pro choice in the 1970s, but then changed his position. He explains why in the book. The chapter is a great one. Bork uses surveys taken in the 1980s of women who had had abortions. The surveys (which were NOT commissioned by pro-life organizations) found that in almost 90% of the time, the women who had the abortions listed their reasons for aborting their babies as “convenience.” I believe Bork even titled this chapter in the book “Killing for Convenience.” The evil Catholic left ALWAYS uses the argument that we need to help the poor in order to reduce abortions. But according to the evidence Judge Bork presented in his book, few women in the US kill their children because of poverty. These facts should be brought up to the Kmiecs of the world. Don’t EVER concede any ground to the left — unless they happen to have the facts on their side, of course. Bravo, Dr. George.

  46. Kevin says:

    I agree with Paul, Nyssan and, I think, all of the comments so far.

    I think the debate – and it was a debate – would have been more rewarding had both parties believed that abortion is murder.

    Kmiec appears to espouse relativism. Yes, all moral value judgments are relative (which is an absolutist assertion), but once you have made your own value judgment, your morality obliges you to act on it in spite of others’ judgments.

    I once had a brief discussion with someone who asserted that cannibalism, where practiced, is a relative matter for the peoples involved. I replied that that is true, but if our relative judgment is that cannibalism is wrong, then we are morally obliged to stop its practise.

    To argue the contrary is to abandon the practise of all justice. (Nor have I ever heard anyone consistently maintain such a position.)

  47. The Nyssan says:

    Kevin, I don’t think he was espousing relativism so much as talking about how differing moral views jostle or work together in the democratic process. It was more pragmatist than relativist.

  48. Maryanna says:

    In the movie “Schindler’s List,” much of the action takes place in a Nazi Labor camp. The camp commandant decides to take a young, Jewish girl to be his personal maidservant. At one point in the film, this girl has a private and very disturbing conversation with another man, Oskar Schindler, the protagonist of the film. With deep fear in her voice she says to him, “I know that someday my master will shoot me.” Schindler at first can’t believe what he is hearing, and he does his best to reassure her that the commandant is really quite fond of her. But she insists, “No, someday he will shoot me.” She then speaks of what she had witnessed the previous day. She had seen him walk out of his quarters, draw his gun, and shoot a Jewish woman who was walking by with a bundle in her hand. She described the woman: “Just a woman on her way somewhere. No fatter of thinner, or slower, or faster than anyone else; and I couldn’t guess what she had done [to provoke him.] The more you see of the commandant, the more you see there are no set rules that you can live by. You can’t say to yourself, “If I follow these rules. I will be safe.” Fr. Raymond Suriani, commenting on this famous scene from the movie noted how this girl was absolutely correct: “In a world of moral confusion, in a world of moral relativism, there can be no safety, and, consequently, no peace.” From Thinking About Moral Absolute, Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, The Pilot, Boston, MA

  49. Marie says:

    Two things struck me in this video. My first thought was Prof. Kmiec’s statements re: being denied the Eucharist being an “intimidation” tactic. I realized how lacking in a firm understanding of the Church’s teachings on the Eucharist and on spiritual works of mercy he has. Having one’s sin/failings pointed out to you and in a public way is, I am sure, difficult and embarrassing. None the less, it is a necessary job of the Church. I am sure no priest enjoys being in such a position. The molding of the Church’s teachings to fit his beliefs left me speechless. I realize Prof. Kmiec most likely does know the Church’s teachings, he just doesn’t want to accept them. I shudder to think how many Catholics he may be leading astray.

    The thought I couldn’t shake was I could see how easily any Catholics lacking a firm understanding of the Church’s teachings could easily be swayed by Prof. Kmiec’s statements. That is a scary thought.

    I enjoyed learning from this video. Thank you for posting it.

  50. Thank you, Father, for posting this, as you say, riveting video. Prof. George was obviously precise and objective, while Prof. Kmiec’s opinions appeared colored by political considerations, to whit, where he might possibly benefit from supporting the Obama Administration among Catholics. If memory serves, his arguments and Prof. George’s would have been identical in the past.

  51. Kevin says:

    “Kevin, I don’t think he was espousing relativism so much as talking about how differing moral views jostle or work together in the democratic process.”

    “differing moral values” – as if they were all equal. That is relativism.

  52. The Nyssan says:


    I certainly agree with you that “differing moral views are equally valid” is relativism (and silly). I simply disagree that Kmiec claimed that was the case or that his position implied its necessity. In a democratic process of “what is to be done now” I have to find some way to work with people who think and believe differently than I do. I’m sure we both agree that the first step is evangelization and conversion on points pertaining to morality, but meanwhile “the gutters have to be cleaned.”

  53. Charles R. Williams says:

    Kmiec believes that the benefits of a European-style welfare state, especially with respect to the reduced “need” for abortions, outweigh the costs of Obama’s pro-abortion policies. He also seems enamored of the man Obama. The thrill still runs up his leg.

    This point of view is naive and Kmiec’s defense will convince no one other than those who desperately want to believe it. A Catholic can take Kmiec’s position, just as a Catholic can believe the Holocaust didn’t happen. Stupidity is not a mortal sin nor is it a reason to refuse a man communion.

    Unlike the Sibelius’s and Bidens of the world, Kmiec seems to be sincere. And like many academics and intellectuals, he seems to be utterly blinded by Obama’s style. Perhaps, when Kmiec is thrown in front of the bus like Rev. Wright, he will come to understand that Obama is not Apollo but another politician and “that’s what politicians do.”

  54. Kevin says:

    Nyssan, where I think you and I disagree is that, for me, if participating in the democratic electoral process causes one to sin, one ought not to do it.

    George gave a searing indictment of Obama’s pro-abortion stance. If conscience cannot allow one to vote for an alternative candidate, then, as with any other moral dilemma, there is no room for the argument of the lesser of two evils.

    It may be worth considering that the first millennium of Christianity appeared to demonstrate categorically that universal suffrage is not part of the Deposit of Faith.

  55. The Nyssan says:


    No, we don’t disagree on that point either. I wasn’t actually thinking of voting for someone in my various responses to you, because I don’t think of voting and election cycles as the primary political reality–I think of actual governing, law-making, law-judging, law-executing, etc. In that realm of democracy pragmatism is simply necessary–elected officials must work together with other elected officials who disagree with each other on any number of important matters.

    When it comes to voting, however, I do agree that we cannot support a candidate who supports grave moral evil unless every other candidate supports grave moral evil of the same degree. If every Catholic in this country simply stopped voting for Democrats until the party dropped the pro-abortion part of its platform, it would do so in one election cycle.

  56. I would like to see more of these type of discussions. And I really appreciated the fact that each professor directly answered the question put before them to the best of our ability. I think we all can see how in many discussions or debates people tend to ignore the question and say what they want when they have the floor. I really felt that everything was cut short and more could have been said. I don’t like how Prof George did not say anything about the Eucharist and Kmiec’s comments about intimidation. Unless he chose to ignore it due to the absurdity of it all, however, I think several thousands of American Catholics could have benefitted from hearing about the defense of profanation. I enjoyed seeing it here in the comments. People think the world revolves around them…

    I would love to see a discussion about relativism and the Church in America! Or, about our Catholic Identity and what needs to be done. Or, about sexuality and the Church with Theology of the Body.

    I agree that we need to treat people with love and respect. However, it is not charitable to allow our desire to not hurt another person’s feelings to outweigh the truth of the matter and open doors for them to discover the truth. (I recall a statement from a bishop Some people will never see it unless they are told. We don’t really believe in a merciful God who does not believe in justice, right? We can go to confession all we want but that only guarantees us that we aren’t going straight to hell. The absolution does not take away our time to be spent in purgatory. Correct me if I am wrong but that is what I have been told. Anyway, I hope you see my point.

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