Last week Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, told John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter that he would "obviously" vote for Barack Obama if he were an American citizen.
Obviously? Forgive me for being dense, but why is it obvious that an African prelate would support one American presidential candidate rather than the other? Is it because Obama is African-American? That would explain a certain feeling of kinship. But you'd like to think that a Catholic bishop would feel a stronger bond with his brother bishops in the US, who have been decidedly uncomfortable with the prospect of an Obama presidency. Obviously.
Yes, there's that pesky abortion issue. Obviously. Archbishop Onaiyekan explains why Obama's impeccable support for the slaughter of unborn children does not alter his opinion:
You can be anti-abortion and still be killing people by the millions through war, through poverty, and so on.
How original. With political sophistication that would draw approving smiles from the teacher in a 1st-grade civics class, the Nigerian archbishop is suggesting that John McCain favors war and poverty, and these are greater evils than abortion, since they result in a greater number of deaths.
Or do they? The war in Iraq is producing casualties by the thousands; abortion in American costs lives by the hundreds of thousands. It's true that millions of people die each year from the effects of poverty, hunger, and disease, but it's not at all clear how any given public-policy choice would alter those casualty figures.
And we haven't yet come to the question of intention. Nobody actually favors poverty. One might argue that a particular economic policy will have adverse consequences on needy families, but there is invariably a counter-argument. American abortion policies, on the other hand, are tailored quite deliberately to allow doctors to dismember the bodies of unborn children in utero; that is the acknowledged intent of the policies.
As for deaths in warfare, we can argue back and forth about the justice of American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan; those are debatable issues. War is a nasty business. But consider this: Suppose a presidential candidate said that he supported a military campaign, and if enemy soldiers survived assaults and were taken as prisoners, those survivors should be deliberately and systematically exterminated. Could you vote for that candidate in good conscience? Of course not. Obviously.
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