Bruce Babbitt

Broadly speaking, it is my conclusion that a pretty good guide to most issues of natural law is to look at those areas where you find a consensus in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I think that is roughly, not unerringly, the outline of what I would call natural law.There must be some moral values underlying any civilization; that’s my guide.

We do not put enough emphasis on early childhood years. We neglect children in this society; as a society we’re guilty of child neglect. If we could eliminate the vestiges of racism, if we could develop a more powerful agenda for child care, child development, and a more powerful education system, we could prevent a lot of the incapacities which in turn tend to generate structural unemployment.

I have been very outspoken in my opposition to cuts in what I would call the means-tested entitlement programs: Medicaid, food stamps, and all of that. I feel very, very strongly that those cuts as proposed are unjust, but I am not prepared to label Ronald Reagan a “sinner.”It seems to me that when you invoke the adjective “moral” you must be careful to distinguish what it is you mean by that.

I was nurtured in the church; I went to a Catholic school; I was an altar boy; I went to a Catholic university; I was steeped in the moral tradition of the Catholic Church. My Catholicism plays a very strong role. But I thought President John F.Kennedy answered rather well when he said that ultimately my conduct as a public official does not come ex cathedra from Rome; it comes from my conscience.

I think the Ronald Reagan tax reform proposals are a step toward distributive justice. They redistribute the tax burden more equitably and more progressively among individuals and call upon business to carry a somewhat larger proportion of the total tax load. Both of these are steps toward equity and distributive justice.

I have no question that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that abortion in virtually all circumstances is wrong. I think the church’s position at all times in modern history has been that it is unequivocally opposed to abortion.But that’s not the question for a Catholic who is a public official. I happen to subscribe to the church’s position as a person. Still the question, as Governor Mario Cuomo suggested, is: what is your obligation as a civic leader? I agree entirely with John F. Kennedy. I answer only to my conscience in my public life and that’s that.

On areas like abortion where there is major disagreement among the mainstream religious groups in the Judeo-Christian tradition, I believe that requires a lot more caution. The Jewish position on abortion is very different from the Roman Catholic position. That is reason to be cautious about enacting laws rather than saying to the religious group: instruct your followers on these matters as matters of personal religious belief.