I figured out why I have such a visceral dislike of "Catholics for [Insert Kill The Babies Democrat]" organizations. It's not the weakness of their arguments, as I used to think, but the wrongness.
Pro-life Catholics who think Catholics, as Catholics, should support a Kill The Babies Democrat offer arguments along these lines: "My candidate is at or nearer than everyone else to the Church's position on almost every social issue. Yes, the obvious exception is legalized abortion, which regrettably he favors, and we must continue to work to change his mind on this most critical issue, about which the president can do little in any event. Nevertheless, summing over the whole of his platform, it is clear that his presidency would be more 'pro-life' in all its aspects than that of any other candidate."
An argument like this is susceptible to attack on many fronts, and I've been sketching out some attacks to myself for a while. Now, though, I realize that, before worrying about the various weaknesses of the above argument, we should confront its fundamental falsehood.
The Democratic presidential candidates do not merely hold the wrong position on the grave matter of abortion. It's not, as their pro-life Catholic supporters want to believe, simply a matter of a red X in a table of Candidates' Positions vs. Catholic Teaching.
John Kerry makes a positive fetish out of legal abortion.
Howard Dean makes a positive fetish out of legal abortion.
I will not knowing vote for anyone, for any office, who makes a positive fetish out of legal abortion.
This is what is wrong with the "Catholics for [Insert Kill The Babies Democrat]" argument: The candidates don't support legal abortion. They love it. They revel in it. They positively glory in it.
A pro-life Catholic who offers an argument like the above is like a person who says, "Sure, John is a werewolf. But that's only three nights a month. When he's not out on the moors ripping out throats, he's a dedicated surgeon giving sick children hope. We should do what we can to keep him caged up when the moon is full, but on the whole he's the finest man in the village," but doesn't seem to notice that, on nights when John isn't a bloodthirsty wolf, he's in the pub bragging about how many throats he's ripped out and how sleek and strong and merciless he is under the light of the full moon.
So sure, we can point out that fatuity of saying things like, "Other than abortion, he's pro-life." We can question the truth of the claims of fidelity (or infidelity) to Catholic teaching. We can quote the bishops on the importance of the right to life of infants in the womb relative to other issues. We can distinguish between moral principles and prudential policies. We can point out the effects a president can have on the state of the question of legal abortion, which do not touch the yet-remote hope of overturning Roe and Doe.
But first, I think we should point out to the pro-life Catholic supporters of Kill The Babies Democrats that their position ignores what we've long known about the candidates: they don't simply have one monstrous policy, they absolutely worship it.