This post is another in the series of interviews with my colleague Paul Kengor regarding social issues and the 2008 election. This one veers off this track a bit in that we discuss the recent conversion of author Anne Rice to Catholicism as well as the endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Ms. Rice. However, the interview reflects different views about how Christians of various stripes will handle the values issues in the coming election.
THROCKMORTON: What’s your take on the endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president by Anne Rice, the famous author of The Vampire Chronicles and recent high-profile convert to Catholicism? That endorsement, which is posted on her website (www.annerice.com), is making quite a stir.
KENGOR: A reader alerted me to this via email. I’ve visited her website and taken a close look at her position.
First off, I must say that I’m impressed with Rice’s earnestness, her sincerity. Her endorsement was made with kindness and charity, with the Christian virtues that she is clearly taking to heart. It is a heartfelt, careful, conscientious endorsement. I mean that sincerely, and not to be patronizing in any way.
That said, it can’t help but clash with Rice’s statement (which was made to Alan Colmes and is posted on her website) that, “I believe the life of the unborn is sacred….. I’m pro-life, I’m not for abortion.” Given that belief, Anne Rice faces a huge hurdle in endorsing Hillary Clinton. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Hillary shares that view.
In fact, ironically, I noticed that immediately after the endorsement posted on her website, Anne Rice inserted a link to the website for Feminists for Life, which she rightly calls a “wonderful” website.
Well, Feminists for Life, which describes Anne Rice, is not a group that Hillary respects. Hillary Clinton is a pro-choice feminist who has been downright nasty to pro-life feminists.
THROCKMORTON: Is Hillary really that hard on rank and file pro-lifers?
KENGOR: Oh, yes. She has demonized pro-lifers. I’ll give you an example.
On January 22, 2004, she gave the keynote address at the NARAL dinner celebrating the 31st Anniversary of Roe v Wade, where she described pro-lifers as insidiously plotting behind closed doors to plan the quiet overthrow of America’s greatest right: the right to an abortion. Here’s an excerpt:
“They [pro-lifers] have realized it cannot be done quickly and in the light of day. They can’t just propose a constitutional amendment, and make the debate public. No. Our opponents are patient. They are going to do it slowly, quietly, one justice at a time, one legal battle at a time, one state at a time. As we gather today, forces are aligned to change this country and strip away the rights we enjoy and have come to expect. Slowly, methodically, quietly, they have begun chipping away at the reproductive rights of women. And if those rights fall, other rights will follow. Their goal is to supplant modern society with a society that fits into their narrow world view.”
She lambasted pro-life stances by “anti-choice forces” that “seem reasonable,” but, in her view, are not. Among them, she noted, “It’s a crime to harm a pregnant woman, so it should be a crime to harm the fetus, as well. Right?… We even believe in protecting the rights of doctors and nurses to act on their conscience in deciding what medical procedures to perform.” She warned her sisters: “We should be careful in our complacency. Many of these policies sound perfectly reasonable to the untrained ear. But they are not reasonable when you realize the true intention—which is not to protect fetuses from crime, to expand access to prenatal care, to involve parents more thoroughly in their children’s medical decisions, or to protect the civil rights of medical professionals. These policies are meant to chip away at all reproductive rights.”
She did the same on the issue of the use of federal tax dollars to pay for abortions: “On the surface, this argument also sounds reasonable….”
As the speech went on, she grew more angry, ultimately launching into a tirade about how pro-lifers were seeking to end “all rights of privacy.” She ripped pro-lifers as allegedly being opposed to both science and progress, even though, obviously, pro-lifers include scientists, doctors, medical professionals, people with doctorates and various other professional degrees, writers—people like you, like myself, like Anne Rice and many of your readers.
She finished by shaking and shouting at the NARAL audience: “Our rights are at stake. Our freedom is at stake. Our way of life is at stake. Let’s wake up America!” It was a very ugly political speech, and it was evident from the speech that no other issue so animated Mrs. Clinton. In fact, having written a book on her faith, her behavior in the speech reminds me of her statement that, “I wrestle nearly every day with the biblical admonition to forgive and love my enemies.” This would seem a particularly acute challenge in the case of pro-lifers.
THROCKMORTON: This, of course, is not the view of Anne Rice’s newly found Catholic Church.
KENGOR: No, it is not. The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, said last month that “the fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself.”
Senator Clinton completely disagrees. She sees the right to an abortion as among the greatest of all human rights. In fact, ever since Hillary Clinton and Al Gore began working on the September 1994 World Conference on Population Development in Cairo, the Vatican has been fearful that Mrs. Clinton will fight for abortion as an official, internationally defined “basic human right.”
Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II were constantly working on both the Clintons on abortion, and made no impact at all. They were very fearful of Hillary’s crusade for abortion rights. Mother Teresa pressed her constantly, by letter, by phone, in person.
THROCKMORTON: In light of the stark difference between Catholicism and Hillary Clinton on life, what, do you think, is Anne Rice’s thinking? How does she come to her position?
KENGOR: Like many liberal Christians and Democrat Christians, she seems to be looking past abortion when she states that the Democratic Party and “Hillary in particular” are “more concerned with the life and death issues” than the Republicans. By this, she means several issues other than abortion. She cites healthcare, Katrina, Iraq, and global warming. Rice told Alan Colmes, “abortion is not the only issue here.”
But here’s the problem with that thinking: All Christians, all Catholic Christians, whether Democrat or Republican, whether liberal or conservative, can reasonably disagree over the best way to handle issues like Iraq–which, by the way, Bill Clinton bombed repeatedly while he was president, each time killing not Saddam and his sons but innocent Iraqi bureacrats in government buildings–global warming, healthcare, and disaster relief. This is a matter of disagreement on means to an end, not the ends themselves. Poverty is the same kind of issue, based on whether you tend to favor government or private-sector solutions.
Yet, abortion is an end in itself. It is the deliberate, willful end of a human life. It is the destruction of the most innocent and helpless among us. And there has never been a presidential candidate in all of American history–ever–as uncompromising and strident on the abortion issue than Hillary Clinton. Abortion–as well as embryonic research–is much more directly a life-death issue.
That’s where I respectfully but strongly disagree with Anne Rice. She says that “unborn human life is sacred.” I agree. Neither of us, surely, would say that global warming is a sacred issue; it might be important, even very important, but it is not sacred. The act of global warming is not on the same moral plane as the deliberate destruction of an unborn human life resting comfortably in the protection of its mother’s womb, nor the generation of human embryos simply for cells prior to their destruction.
So, I’m thrilled about Anne Rice’s conversion and her new commitment to writing about the life of Christ in her work, but I think she is way off base here in her endorsement of Hillary. I believe that her commitment to the sanctity and dignity of human life does not reconcile with her endorsement.
This occasion interview series will continue through the election year and feature various candidates and their views on social issues.