On Monday evening, CNN’s Roland Martin began his eight-week run as fill-in anchor for Campbell Brown on her Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull program, who took maternity leave with the upcoming arrival of her unborn baby. As the show began, he gave an “opening statement” of sorts as to how he hoped to anchor the program: “I’m not going to bother with the silly notion of who’s a liberal or a conservative on this show. I voted for Obama and also for George H.W. Bush -- Republicans and Democrats. On some issues, I might be called a liberal -- on others, a conservative. I judge people based on the issues, and refuse to be pigeonholed and wedded to the ridiculous notion of ideology. Our goal on this show is very simple, that is to speak truth to power, no matter the party or the person.”
Despite this attempt to portray his self as a non-partisan, Martin’s record on CNN betrays his left-wing leanings. He has bashed pro-lifers as being “hateful” and dismissed them as not caring about babies once they are born. He slammed John McCain’s voting record on the Iraq war, and used the cliched “fat idiot” insult against Rush Limbaugh. He was a cheerleader for both Barack and Michelle Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. Martin advised Barack Obama to emphasize his liberal credentials. He also accused conservative critics of Michelle Obama of being “crazy folks on the right” (who also don’t like strong women apparently), and hit “idiot Democrats” when she was accused of using the term “whitey.”
Given this track record, it’s no surprise that the anchor did his best to obscure the issues concerning President Barack Obama’s upcoming commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame. He moderated a panel discussion with Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and Father Jim Martin of America magazine, a Catholic publication which regularly dissents from Church teaching. He teamed up with the liberal Catholic priest to incorrectly give the impression that the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty rises to the same level as its opposition to abortion.
In his first question, Martin asked Donohue if Notre Dame was “out of step” in inviting Obama, despite the fact that the university community specifically and Catholics in general supported the president during the election. As you might expect, Donohue blasted the supporters of the invite:
DONOHUE: The bishops put out a statement in 2004 saying any person who’s going to get an award or get a platform at a Catholic institution shouldn’t be in contrary to some of its major teachings. Now, abortion, like racism, is intrinsically evil. Liberal Catholics would be against a racist getting an award. They’re not against giving an award to somebody who is pro-abortion, and that’s a shame on them.
Martin simultaneously responded to Donohue and asked Father Martin for his take: “Jim, I think he’s talking to you. He’s talking about liberal Catholics.” The Catholic priest then voiced his support for the Obama invite, and set up the anchor’s argument on the issue of the death penalty: “I do think that, you know, abortion is the preeminent sort of problem in the Catholic Church, in terms of its issues, but I don’t think it’s the only issue that we should be looking at.”
For the rest of the segment, Roland Martin did not deviate from trying to give the impression that the death penalty is as serious an issue to the Catholic Church as abortion is. He began by citing the current and the last pope: “One of the critical issues when it came to Bush speaking [in] 2001 [at Notre Dame] -- death penalty. I have heard Pope Benedict, as well as Pope John Paul II, talk about the death penalty, and they rank it just right up there with abortion.”
As an admitted lapsed Catholic, the anchor should know better than to expound on Catholic doctrine as if he is an authority. In reality, these two popes, nor the Church as an institution, does not “rank it just right up there with abortion.” The Church’s opposition to the death penalty is a relatively new phenomenon, and it does not rise to the level of dogma. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear: “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” Whereas, Pope John Paul II wrote that “direct abortion...always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” [the teaching authority of the Catholic Church].
This, however, did not stop either Martin from obfuscating the teaching. The Jesuit priest stated he thought the death penalty is “just as important a life issue.” The CNN anchor later echoed this: “Catholics are just as vigilant when it comes to the death penalty. And so all I’m saying is, if it’s good for one, it should be good for the other.” Donohue would have none of this: “Obama not only is in favor of partial-birth abortion....When he was in the Illinois State Senate, he said, a baby born alive as the result of a botched abortion -- no health care for that kid. He found an exception to his universal health care....There’s not an abortion he couldn’t justify.”
There is one more instance that makes it clear that Roland Martin should probably recuse himself from covering Catholic issues. In March 2008, he twice equated the scandal over former Obama pastor the Reverend Jeremiah Wright to the sex scandals involving Catholic priests. If that doesn’t show that he isn’t an objective party with regards to the Catholic Church, I don’t know what does.