Peter Kreeft on liberals: “A Catholic cannot be today what is called a liberal about abortion.”

From the Wisconsin State Journal we have a tale of the visit and speech given by Dr. Peter Kreeft at the Pastoral Center of the Diocese of Madison, where the H.E. Most Rev. Robert Morlino reigns.

In the Spirit: Can a Catholic also be a liberal?

Sunday, November 27, 2011 9:00 am

To certain Catholics, Peter Kreeft is a rock star.

That was evident Nov. 18, when nearly 500 people filled an auditorium at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison to hear him talk.

Kreeft, a Catholic author and Boston College philosophy professor, had been asked by the Catholic Diocese of Madison to speak on whether “a Catholic can be a liberal.” Kreeft called it “a very challenging question” and said he’d never spoken on it before.

Kreeft is a strong defender of the Catholic Church against what some people call “modernists” or, more derisively, “cafeteria Catholics,” people who pick and choose which church teachings to follow.

There is no middle ground to Kreeft. It would be silly and redundant to him, for instance, to call someone a “pro-life Catholic.” You cannot be anything but against abortion to be a Catholic, Kreeft said.

To be a Catholic is to take the whole deal,” he told the crowd.

Kreeft said several definitions of a liberal can and should fit Catholics, including “someone who is generous and unselfish” and “someone who highly values liberty and freedom.”

On abortion, Kreeft contended Catholics are the “true liberals,” because a liberal wants to extend liberty to the oppressed, and “the unborn are the most oppressed,” he said.  [Amen and Amen!  Do I hear an “Amen!”?  I have been hammering this for ever!  The greatest achievement of the liberals, moderists, feminists, etc., was to divorce the right to life of the unborn from “social justice”.  They attached it to “women’s rights” or “morals” or some category, when in fact it is also a matter of true social justice.]

Yet, in the political realm, the term liberal has been hijacked by abortion rights activists, Kreeft said. “A Catholic cannot be today what is called a liberal about abortion. That’s obvious. That’s a ‘duh.'”

Kreeft mentioned other issues, such as homosexual marriage and euthanasia, that he said Catholics cannot take politically liberal positions on, yet he focused most on abortion. Coming in for the most criticism were elected officials who call themselves Catholic yet support abortion rights. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

During the Q&A, an audience member brought up the Kennedy political dynasty and how a group of leading theologians and Catholic college professors had met with Kennedy family members in the mid-1960s and came up with a way for Catholic politicians to support a pro-abortion rights platform with clear consciences.  [McCormick, Fuchs, Curran, Drinan… grrrrrr…. ]

Kreeft said these Catholic advisers “told the Kennedys how they could get away with murder.” Kreeft then made one of his boldest comments of the evening, suggesting the theologians who first convinced Democratic politicians they could support abortion rights and remain Catholic did more damage to the Catholic Church than pedophile priests. [Which is obviously true.]

These were wicked people. These were dishonest people. These were people who, frankly, loved power more than they loved God,” Kreeft said. “Sorry, that’s just the way it is. In fact, I’d say these were even worse than the child molesters — though the immediate damage they did was not as obvious — because they did it deliberately, it wasn’t a sin of weakness. Sins of power are worse than sins of weakness. Cold, calculating sins — that’s straight from the devil.

A few minutes later, the talk over, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

How I regret not hearing that talk!  I hope there is a video or audio available.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Thank God for Peter Kreeft! A Catholic C.S. Lewis of our time.
    For more of Dr. Kreeft’s talks, check out his website with free audio and also lectures for 2$.
    He’s been a tremendous help for me and we listen to his lectures in the car all the time.

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    The article & Dr. Kreeft are getting thoroughly trashed over at Wisconsin State Journal.
    Some of the comments are truly horrendous.
    And, naturally, faithful Catholics are called child molestation enablers . . . of course.
    Anytime somebody wants to discredit anything a Catholic says, they just bring up child molesters.
    I wish there were a Godwin’s Law on that point. I also wish that the people involved had realized just how much harm they were doing to the Church.

  3. KAS says:

    BRAVO Peter Kreeft,
    and Fr. Z,


  4. wanda says:

    There is a post over at of Dr. Kreeft. Video of his recent talk at Steubeville (40 min.) He speaks in the person of Screwtape to Wormwood. Excellent IMHO.

  5. Elizabeth D says:

    I was present for this talk. It was not a prepared talk he’d given before, but rather those who invited him (local men’s group founded by Fr Rick Heilman, Knights of Divine Mercy) gave him his topic, “Can a Catholic be a Liberal?” which he developed philosophically and in a very fair minded way (in some senses of the word liberal, a Catholic must be a liberal), but absolutely firm that no a Catholic cannot be a liberal in the sense of a contemporary political liberal where being pro choice (which is effectively pro abortion) is a (or even the) defining, invariable and non negotiable issue for them. His verbal, philosophical and moral clarity in how he says things is very valuable. He is not afraid to put a razor edge on it, and did so without being mean or unfair.

    He is surely VERY right that the idea the Kennedys (among others) bought into, that they could be publically pro choice and still be “good Catholics”, has done more harm to the Church than the (also deeply serious) abuse scandal which has caused much more fireworks.

    I am not aware of whether the talk was recorded and I cannot find it online anywhere.

  6. oldCatholigirl says:

    Thanks to wanda for the information about the video of Dr. Kreeft’s talk at Steubenville. It was spot on. (I would say enjoyable, but, of course, he makes one uncomfortable, too.) I would have liked to hear this one, too.

  7. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Good for Peter Kreeft! It is a scandal that the Kennedys continue to be the focus of any American/Canadian/Irish Catholic hero-worship, and it is a scandal that they so much were in the 60s. What an absolute disaster.

  8. Andreas says:

    AnAmericanMother notes that Dr. Kreeft was being ‘trashed’ for the views expressed. I assume she is referring to the messages deposited in the ‘Comments’ file following the article. In this regard, I make it a rule to stay away from most internet ‘comboxes’ and chats (except this one, of course) as they tend to be toxic. In many cases, the occasional thoughtful narrative is submerged midst miscreant rants hiding behind the firewall of electronic anonymity. It is therefore not surprising that intelligent discourse regarding Dr. Kreeft’s views was given short shrift on the link provided.

  9. Joseph-Mary says:

    He is right and it makes me incredibly sad. And those who follow the “I am Catholic BUT…” have risen to high places both within the Church and in politics and in academia. As one person said not long ago: “I have had enough of catholic butts….”

    I agree that the scandal of those dissenters is far worse for they have affected uncountable souls.

  10. Kreeft then made one of his boldest comments of the evening, suggesting the theologians who first convinced Democratic politicians they could support abortion rights and remain Catholic did more damage to the Catholic Church than pedophile priests

    What leaves me perplexed is how dissident Catholics (which to me, is a more fitting term), feel that a child outside of the womb is more important, more precious, etc., than the unborn child. These people are big on feelings and it’s easy for them to relate to a heinous violation of a 5 year old than the snipping apart of limbs within the womb of a developing baby. They have empathy for a mother struggling with her pregnancy, and not wanting to “ruin” her future, her college education, or social life. The feelings of the mother are more important than the life growing within her. Rather than take the more difficult route of providing genuine Christian assistance (materially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally) , they choose the “low-hanging fruit” solution, which is to simply get rid of the baby to end her “problems”. That’s not charity – not for the mother, nor for the baby. People I know at crisis pregnancy centers work tirelessly to assist women after they decide to forgo an abortion to bring the baby to term. If it’s not practical to keep the baby they help them with the adoption process.

    But as you can see, those things take time and are not quick solutions. It involves spending time and money to bring about a solution where mother, baby, and the world come out as winners.

  11. The point that I forgot to make in my statement above, is that both the 5 year old child and the unborn child are equally important, but if you ever converse abortion advocates, they don’t even consider the unborn to be persons worthy of the same consideration.

  12. Glen M says:

    It’s sad Dr. Kreeft even had to give this lecture. Too many Catholics today don’t know their faith. They don’t know that ‘pro-choice’ and Catholic are mutually exclusive. They don’t know what the popes taught about socialism. If priests weren’t afraid of offending some special interest group, if parishes had catechism groups instead of all the social justice lobbies we’d have a stronger church.

  13. Mrs. O says:

    I would like to hear the whole talk as it sounds like a good one. Those 60’s dissenters numbed and deformed the consciences of fellow Catholic politicians and the rest.

  14. Mrs. O says:

    One comment about the comparison to abuse victims/priests who abused. On one hand, being denied life and killed is very evil and serious. What should not be forgotten is that it is not uncommon for abuse victims to become enemies of God / outright hatred toward him. Although we have hope that those aborted babies will be in heaven, causing someone to hate God because of your actions and carrying that cross your life seems worse in some ways. Just wanted to point that out.

  15. Supertradmum says:

    The trouble is that the average man and woman in the pew do not read or know Peter Kreeft, as excellent as he is, because he moves in the academic world. When good priests start saying such things from the pulpit, then we shall see a change in the Church in America and elsewhere. The vast majority of Catholics are, sadly, anti-intellectual and choose to read what is either in the bulletin or placed in the back of the Church for sale (fishwraps galore). It would be a reasonable expectation for good priests to digest such wonderful talks and give them to the people in the pew, even over a few weeks. Kudos for bravery to Kreeft. Every Catholic in my family but myself vote Democrat, and have never, never heard anything against the Democratic position on abortion from the pulpit, or in the local, famous Catholic newspaper. Until the message gets to the source of the problem, tunnel-vision ignorance of Catholics themselves, until priests challenge their congregations, the Dems will flourish in the voting booth. And, I am from Iowa…the land which gave Obama the foot-up on the ladder to the presidency.

  16. Elizabeth D says:

    Supertradmum wrote: “The vast majority of Catholics are, sadly, anti-intellectual and choose to read what is either in the bulletin or placed in the back of the Church for sale (fishwraps galore).”

    Well there are better things today to place or sell in the back of the church. Faithful leaflets explaining various Catholic topics from Catholic Answers, Knights of Columbus, CTS, etc, Lighthouse Catholic Media CDs, superb Catholic Truth Society booklets (now distributed in the US by Ignatius which also sells racks for them), and you can even host an Ignatius Press book fair at your parish (I have done this and it was a great experience, terrific products, well received by all, and Ignatius is GREAT to work with, I recommend this program very very highly They also have a program for Catholic schools that is like the Scholastic book order forms). When we were at St John Cantius recently they had a stack of “The Wanderer” in the back of the church. There is nothing to say other parishes can’t have The Wanderer (or National Catholic Register) instead of Fishwrap.

    To the people who are repulsed by comboxes on secular sites, how about you have some pity on the inmates of the secular asylum and take a moment to leave a kind and faithfully Catholic comment, as if dropping down justice like dew from heaven above. If nothing else, you may be some consolation to the next Catholic who happens by and won’t feel as if they’re the only person left who believes.

  17. Athelstan says:

    Harsh words from Prof. Kreeft, but necessary ones.

    And let us name those names who met at the Kennedy compound: Fr. Albert Jonsen, SJ (subsequently left the priesthood); Fr. Joseph Fuchs, SJ; Fr. Robert Drinan, SJ; Fr. Richard McCormick, SJ; and Fr. Charles Curran. That’s right: four of the five were Jesuits.

    They have a lot to answer for. Three of them have already met their maker. Pray that they repented before they died.

  18. Raymond says:

    As an immigrant to the US, I find the attitudes of the apostate Democrat politicians really appalling. In Europe, at least, the Socialist politicians are very vocal about their support for abortions rights, so-called gay marriage, etc., AND at the same time proclaim that they are not (or no longer) Catholics. They don’t attend Mass, much less take Communion. Now, why couldn’t the Kennedys, Pelosis, Bidens, and Kerrys do likewise?

  19. Patti Day says:

    ElizabethD says: To the people who are repulsed by comboxes on secular sites, how about you have some pity on the inmates of the secular asylum and take a moment to leave a kind and faithfully Catholic comment, as if dropping down justice like dew from heaven above. If nothing else, you may be some consolation to the next Catholic who happens by and won’t feel as if they’re the only person left who believes.

    Amen. Preach it sister!

  20. Supertradmum says:


    Your perspective is very astute. What has happened in the States is that “going to Church” gets votes, and voters tend to congregate around certain denominations; this means politicians go after the Catholic Vote, or the Evangelical Vote, the Jewish vote or the Muslim vote. There are not such groupings in Europe, as there is not the identification with religious groups and voting as there is in the States. The development is not new and goes back to the very beginnings of our country and early voting. If one looks at the history of the United States, one can trace such identification with religions and parties even in the early part of the 19th Century. All these types of democratic groupings simply have not happened in modern, post-World War II Europe, although before that, there were such identifications, especially with such issues as slavery and women’s rights to vote, etc. heavily connected to certain Christian denominations, especially in Great Britain.

    Remember that the Catholic Church in Germany came out against the Nazi Party, as was discussed on this blog weeks ago. So too, the Catholics are not to support Socialism and Communism, condemned by the Church,but Europeans are is disobedience concerning those Modernist ideas as well.

  21. dnicoll says:

    The statement that stands out to me here is “To be a Catholic is to take the whole deal”. Yup. Absolutely. I’m amazed anyone thinks otherwise. But then I’m a convert currently going through RCIA and as part of my preparation read the whole Catechism start to finish. Worth doing as there’s a lot of good stuff in there.

  22. Trad Tom says:

    I am constantly amazed at the number of snarky comments from fellow Catholics (?) who criticize my car’s bumper sticker that reads: “You Can’t Be Both Catholic & Pro-Choice.” They truly feel that such a statement is ‘not necessarily true…’ Unbelievable!

  23. tealady24 says:

    Amen and amen, and amen again, I say!

    Just stick with the truth folks, God’s truth, and you’ll never go wrong. Neither will you ever be led astray. You are either in it all the way, or don’t call yourself a Catholic. There is only one road, and it is narrow for a reason.

  24. PostCatholic says:

    I think that I probably agree with the conclusion that “one cannot be a liberal and a Catholic,” but I would have to have heard more of this lecture in order to be sure it wasn’t a straw man argument. The talk seems to equate liberalism with the American Democratic Party’s political platform positions. They’re two very different things in my opinion.

    I certainly think the recent Popes have made it clear that pro-choice politics are incompatible with your Church’s faith.

  25. Del says:

    “How I regret not hearing that talk! I hope there is a video or audio available.”

    The was recorded. Let me see what I can do for you, Father Z.

  26. DeProfundis says:

    As Director of the Knights of Divine Mercy , I want to let you and your readers know that we did record Dr. Peter Kreeft’s talk “Can a Catholic be a Liberal” from November 18 at the Bishop O’Connor Center Auditorium in Madison, WI. Please keep checking our website for the audio link in the next few weeks.

  27. EXCHIEF says:

    Kreeft says what the vast majority of Priests and Bishops don’t say—though they should

  28. DeProfundis says:

    The audio recording of Dr. Kreeft’s talk “Can a Catholic be a Liberal?” is now posted on our Knights of Divine Mercy site:

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