Catholics give mixed reviews to Obama

  • February 24, 2009
{mosimage}OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit to Canada struck some positive notes on the environment and on trade, say Catholic observers.

But Campaign Life Coalition focused on the one issue that was not on the agenda of the Feb. 20 working visit: abortion.

In a news release, Campaign Life president Jim Hughes urged America’s first black president to “help save the lives of 4,000 African American babies who die by abortion every day in the United States.” African Americans make up only 13 per cent of the U.S. population, but 37 per cent of aborted babies are black, Hughes said.

“In the last 36 years over 17 million African American babies have died by abortion alone,” he said.

Obama, who as an Illinois legislator voted against a bill that would have made medical care mandatory for babies born alive a the result of botched abortions, has promised to support the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) that would override any state laws that regulate abortion, such as parental consent requirements.

Though Obama said he wanted abortion to be rare during his campaign, one of his first acts as president was to sign an executive order to free funds to promote and finance abortions in developing nations, Hughes said.

Abortion never came up in the working visit that focused on trade, the environment, open borders, national security and the war in Afghanistan. At a joint news conference Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Obama seemed to have little distance between their respective positions.

The most noteworthy element was the establishment of a Clean Energy Dialogue that would commit “senior officials from both countries to collaborate on the development of clean energy, science and technologies,” Harper said.

Citizens for Public Justice executive director Joe Gunn called the establishment of the dialogue a “step forward.”

“Polling has shown that Canadians wants action on the environment and the Canadian government has not provided the leadership it should,” Gunn said.

Obama and Harper focused on clean technology for both coal and oil sands and what is known as Carbon Sequestration Storage, which Gunn described as grabbing the carbon and shoveling it back into the earth.

For domestic consumption, Obama has been much more “green.” Gunn pointed out his  stimulus package included many “green” initiatives, but that Harper “missed that opportunity” in his.

“We know that we have to have more than technological fixes,” Gunn said. “We need to have lifestyle changes and an ecological conversion.”

But not all Catholics agrees on climate change. 

“The whole global warming issue is such a colossal sham that I don’t waste time reading about it,” said economist Richard Bastien, who represents the Catholic Civil Rights League for the National Capital Region.

He called the visit “a bit of success” because it dealt with free trade, a concern to Canada because of “protectionist sentiments in Congress.”  “Buy American” provisions in the Obama stimulus package have alarmed Canadians. In Ottawa, Obama provided Harper assurances he wants to “grow trade and not contract it.”

Bastien did not care for the fawning coverage of America’s first black president, however.

“What disappointed me most was that he was seen as a hero by most Canadians and he’s an anti-hero in a sense,” he said. “He’s a demagogue.”

He meets the definition because of his chameleonic adjustments to please his audience and because he “promises to redeem the world and he doesn’t have a clue as to how he’s going to do it.”

On Afghanistan, Obama said he did not press Harper for additional commitments beyond Canada’s 2011 deadline for troop withdrawal. Harper said he wanted to shift Canada’s engagement from military to economic development. Harper said Canada’s principle goal is training the Afghan army so “Afghans themselves can become responsible for their day-to-day security.”

Both leaders talked about the need to address security concerns while maintaining an open border.  

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