Benedictions: The Pope in America

Benedictions: The Pope in America

Archbishop Chaput weighs in against “Obama Catholics”–and for…?

Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput combines an intellectual’s depth with the doughty persona of a politicker, which is what he used to be–he worked for the RFK campaign and later, even as a priest, was a campaign volunteer for Jimmy Carter. Some say he’s still a political operative, though for the other side. Over at First Things, Chaput gives his critics more fodder for that view with a brief essay in which he takes Obama’s Catholic supporters–including Doug Kmiec–to task in a reprise of Bill Donohue’s even feistier forays. Chaput writes:


Earlier this spring, a group called “Roman Catholics for Obama ’08” quoted my own published words in the following way:
“So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can’t, and I won’t. But I do know some serious Catholics– people whom I admire–who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don’t keep quiet about it; they don’t give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite–not because of–their pro-choice views.”
What’s interesting about this quotation–which is accurate but incomplete–is the wording that was left out. The very next sentences in the article of mine they selected, which Roman Catholics for Obama neglected to quote, run as follows:
“But [Catholics who support pro-choice candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life–which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.”


Several questions come to mind, one being that if the archbishop is renouncing his prudential judgments of years ago, how does that reflect on the authority of his prudential judgments today? Also, should he himself have been denied communion for his work on behalf of Carter? (Or, more properly, as a priest, should he have denied himself communion?) And finally, his political past is interesting, and his political conversion from Democrat to (apparent) Republican is not unusual. But what would he say to one of his own priests if the man became directly involved in a campaign? Is that a problem? Or does it depend on the campaign?
One more thing: The archbishop is pretty well saying you can’t be Catholic and support Obama (although he carefully qualifies that at the end). At what point does that become an endorsement of John McCain? And if it’s not, who will the archbishop vote for? That’s the real question. The Catholic hieracrchy is rightly cagey about not endorsing candidates. But their pronouncements against candidates are so numerous that it’s difficult for Catholics to figure who they should vote for, if anyone.
In any case, interesting stuff. I thought that with no Catholic candidate in the mix, we might enjoy a truce in the “communion wars.” Apparently not.

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posted May 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I don’t agree with, “One more thing: The archbishop is pretty well saying you can’t be Catholic and support Obama (although he carefully qualifies that at the end).” Doug Kmiec and other Catholic Obama supporters have reached the conclusion that they can, in good conscience, explain their actions. Maybe the archbishop does not think he could…that’s fine, although I wonder whether he can, in good conscience, say he supported the actions of the Bush administration for the past 8 years. Was torture a faith-based initiative? Can an unjustifiable war be supported in good conscience? Those and a host of other issues must also be faced.

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posted May 24, 2008 at 2:59 pm

I would go one step farther, and say that no practicing Catholic can vote for any Democrat because of the anti-life, amoral platform of the Party. Gme2 is a victim of the Democrat propaganda wars. Attacks against terrorists on their home ground that prevent attacks on our nation is justifiable. Suicide is neither a good conscience nor a moral option. Interrogation that saves the lives of our military personnel against an enemy with no conscience is justifiable. The terrorists are engaged in perpetual warfare – not our President. If Democrats do not have the will to exert the necessary force to prevail against terrorists, they surely deserve to be slaves. Those willing to do what is necessary to prevail deserve the freedoms they preserve. Negotiation, appeasement, and treason are synonyms.

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posted May 26, 2008 at 9:08 am

I believe that your vote is your own. But he hs a point, you have to look yourself in mirror in the morning. You have to be able to justify your opinion and your vote. I don’t believe in torture, but there as not been any attacks against us in this countrysince 9-11. As to the war being unjustifiable I do believe that the chemical weapons use a the villages in the northern Iraq could be WMD. They kill alot of poeple don’t they? Or do we not remember the photos by the AP? But to get to the point all I think he’s saying is to your own self be true.

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posted May 27, 2008 at 1:03 pm

God’s truth is perfect. Human conscience is too easily rationalized.

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posted May 31, 2008 at 5:10 am

I don’t think that the issue of political partisanship is necessarily clerical or lay partisanship. It’s fully appropriate for a clergyman or a layperson to publish opinion articles in a Catholic publication. Yet I’m very much against mixing politics and the pulpit. It’s appropriate to present Church teaching and let a layperson exercise her own reason and conscience. Exhortations and apologetics do not require political examples for effectiveness. Evaluating politicians, even indirectly, only insults the intelligence and reason of laypersons. Also, consistent political activism might divide parishes into “conservative churches”, “liberal churches” etc. All Catholics should be comfortable worshiping in any form of liturgy or any parish without feeling pressured by activism of any sort.

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Leticia Velasquez

posted June 1, 2008 at 8:27 am

In a two party system, criticism of one presidential candidate will inevitably favor his opponent, however, that should not curb the free speech rights of the Archbishop. Archbishop Chaput has a longstanding reputation for clear, unabashed moral leadership, so if he should remain silent while the single most pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the Presidency, Barack Obama is running, his silence might be construed as consent.
Barack Obama was THE ONLY senator who voted “present” when the “Born Alive Infant Protection” act was passed 99 to 1. Even NARAL darling, Hillary Clinton voted to let late term viable infants born during abortions live. When a similar bill was in the Illinois Senate, Obama killed it in committee. This firmly puts Barack Obama firmly on the side of the Culture of Death.
THE only issue which is non-negotiable for Catholics is abortion, which is NEVER justified. Thus, the Archbishop is merely reiterating Catholic doctrine when he reminds the faithful that they can’t support Obama for president.
Those who wish to obfiscate the issue by bringing up the war in Iraq or the death penalty merely display their ignorance of Catholic teaching.

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posted June 2, 2008 at 5:27 pm

So they wont give communion to an Obama supporter but they will give it to pedophiles in their own mist?

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posted June 27, 2008 at 1:51 am

Are not all religions bassed on faith???
Is not faith a guarantee of absolutely nothing to absolutely no one,akin to wishful thinking,and hope???

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Bill Henzey

posted April 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Dear Mr Gibson,
Your article on April 20 was very suggestive to many Catholics concerning our Holy Father attempt to get our Church more Orthodox so that people like myself who have suffered through the ambiguities of “churchstuff” in America over the past 38 years can know for sure what It stands for and what it must believe. You don’t believe something you undertand. Your first believe something and then you will understand. Belief is a gift, which one needs to understand the Papal structure, the magisterium, etc.Why do so many people believe scientist and their beliefs; They first believe and then if there be time they understand. They did not watch the scientist create their theories, do whatever experiments they did, they foolishly accept the scientist claims because they believed. Growing up during Vatican II was a nightmare.

I can only say that the damage done clergy and laity here in the US will take God’s hand to correct it was so bad. Nothing wrong with Vatican II but America’s version of it called “Spirit of Vatican II” was every Pastor, Bishop and Associate pastor coming at you with their ideas and it took a goof number of years to realized I had been swindled by may false ideas. So having a Pope who will straighten this out is a God sent, even if the Church grows smaller but purer with a Blessed Holy Father Like Benedict XVI.

Yoursin Christ,

BILL Henzeym MA, JMJ, MI

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