Cardinal George – “Good law defends the defenseless.”

Misreading Cardinal George

By Richard W. Garnett

Monday, September 15, 2008, 8:08 AM

My friend and former colleague, Prof. Douglas Kmiec, opened his September 9, 2008 Chicago Tribune op-ed (“How Catholics can oppose abortion, back Obama”) with an endearing expression of respect for Chicago’s cardinal archbishop, Francis George. He then continued with his ongoing, tenacious effort to convince Catholics that a vote for Sen. Obama is, notwithstanding his unswerving and emphatic support for expanding abortion rights, actually a pro-life vote. Unfortunately, in so doing, he appears to have misunderstood the cardinal he so admires.

On September 2, Cardinal George reminded Chicago Catholics that “one cannot favor the legal status quo on abortion and also be working for the common good.” He said this out of concern for the fact that “matters of public policy that are also moral issues sometimes are misrepresented or are presented in a partial or manipulative fashion.”

The cardinal also wrote: “Our present laws permit unborn children to be privately killed. Laws that place unborn children outside the protection of law destroy both the children killed and the common good, which is the controlling principle of Catholic social teaching.” “The unborn child,” he emphasized, “who is alive and is a member of the human family, cannot defend himself or herself. Good law defends the defenseless.” That last sentence is worth reading again: “Good law” does not merely permit us to hope that the defenseless will be well; it “defends” them.

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