Kathleen Sebelius and the Fight Over Who's Truly Catholic

Some opponents of abortion say the Health and Human Services secretary-designate isn't really Catholic.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

Lots of response to my post on Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Kathleen Sebelius's explanation for personally opposing abortion while supporting abortion rights. Most comments are from opponents of abortion, many of whom object to Sebelius calling herself a Catholic.

Noreen from Texas writes: 

Just another politician afraid to stand up for their beliefs. I wish they'd stop saying they're Catholic. It's a lie. 

Antiabortion activists have long made a sport of doubting the purported Catholicism of supporters of abortion rights. But the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that 49 percent of American Catholics believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, versus 47-percent who believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. According to Noreen's standard, that's an awful lot of disingenuous Catholics.

At the same time, Pew notes a correlation between church attendance and abortion rights views among Catholics:

Nearly six-in-ten (57%) white non-Hispanic Catholics who attend church at least once a week, for instance, oppose legalized abortion, including 27% who say it should be illegal in all cases. By contrast, among white Catholics who attend church less frequently, a large majority (62%) say abortion should be legal and just 35% say it should not.

That adds some credence to the pro-lifers' penchant for distinguishing between "real" and "alleged" Catholics.

M. Forrest of Massachusetts writes:

Notice that the governor admits that abortion is "wrong." The people that try this line she is using (personally oppose abortion, don't want to use the law to stop it), never quite come out and say WHY they think it's wrong. Again, they use ambiguity in the language to escape the monstrous horror of what abortion is.

Not sure I agree. Here's the relevant quote from Sebelius, which is unambiguous. She thinks that abortion is wrong but that criminalizing isn't the way to right that wrong:

My Catholic faith teaches me that all life is sacred, and personally I believe abortion is wrong. However, I disagree with the suggestion that criminalizing women and their doctors is an effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of abortions in our nation.

Michael of New Jersey makes a poignant comparison between the traditional antiabortion position and the civil rights movement:

How's this sound?

Put your self in America, circa 1950.

"I'm personally against segregation, but its the law."

Sounds like an intellectually flaccid coward, no?

This is why many traditional opponents of abortion can't countenance the "common ground" approach to reducing abortion that many Democrats and religious moderates have taken up. For them, it's a matter of right or wrong, with no room for compromise.