In Denver this evening, Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke to a group dedicated to promoting the “genius of women” and what they contribute to society. During his talk, Chaput sharply disagreed with Doug Kmiec’s promotion of Sen. Obama, calling him the “most committed ‘abortion-rights’ presidential candidate … since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973.”
The Archbishop of Denver began his thoughts by offering what one of his friends calls his “Litany to the IRS”: “I’m not here tonight to tell you how to vote. I don’t want to do that, I won’t do that, and I don’t use code language -- so you don’t need to spend any time looking for secret political endorsements.”
Moreover, Chaput emphasized that what he had to say was “as an author and private citizen” and not on behalf of “the Holy See, or the American bishops, or any other bishop, or even officially for the Archdiocese of Denver.” He did, however, say that he believes that he believes his views are “pretty solidly grounded in Catholic teaching and the heart of the Church.”
After speaking about the role of Catholics in the public square and why he wrote his recently published book “Render Unto Caesar,” Chaput then turned to how it has been treated by Pepperdine Law School professor Douglas Kmiec.
“I began work on ‘Render Unto Caesar’ in July 2006. I made the final changes to the text in November 2007. That’s a long time before anyone was nominated for president, and it was Doubleday, not I, that set the book’s release date for August 2008,” he noted.
“So -- unlike Prof. Douglas Kmiec’s recent book, ‘Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama,’ which argues a Catholic case for Senator Obama -- I wrote ‘Render Unto Caesar’ with no interest in supporting or attacking any candidate or any political party,” Chaput explained.
While noting that “Prof. Kmiec has a strong record of service to the Church and the nation in his past,” Chaput took exception to Kmiec’s claim that “his reasoning and mine are ‘not far distant on the moral inquiry necessary in the election of 2008’.”
“Unfortunately, he either misunderstands or misuses my words, and he couldn’t be more mistaken,” Chaput stated.
Archbishop Chaput even further specified his stance saying, “I believe that Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the most committed ‘abortion-rights’ presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973.”
“Despite what Prof. Kmiec suggests,” he continued, “the party platform Senator Obama runs on this year is not only aggressively ‘pro-choice;’ it has also removed any suggestion that killing an unborn child might be a regrettable thing. On the question of homicide against the unborn child – and let’s remember that the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer explicitly called abortion ‘murder’ – the Democratic platform that emerged from Denver in August 2008 is clearly anti-life.”
Chaput also addressed Kmiec’s assertion that there are “defensible motives” to support Obama. “Speaking for myself,” he said, “I do not know any proportionate reason that could outweigh more than 40 million unborn children killed by abortion and the many millions of women deeply wounded by the loss and regret abortion creates.”
The archbishop also offered his analysis of Catholics who argue that “Senator Obama is this year’s ‘real’ prolife candidate.” For Catholics to believe this “requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse,” he stated.
Such a portrayal of the “2008 Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred ‘prolife’ option is to subvert what the word ‘prolife’ means,” he charged, pointing his audience towards Prof. Robert George’s essay “Obama’s Abortion Extremism,” which was published earlier this week on the web site of The Public Discourse.
Groups friendly to the Democrat Party such as “Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good” were also criticized by Chaput.
In his words, they have “done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress prolifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”
According to Archbishop Chaput, there is irony to be found in all of the arguments being made by Catholics in favor of Sen. Barack Obama—none of them are new. “They’ve been around, in one form or another, for more than 25 years.”
“All of them seek to “get beyond” abortion, or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won’t be necessary. All of them involve a misuse of the seamless garment imagery in Catholic social teaching. And all of them, in practice, seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues.”
“This is a great sadness,” Chaput said.
“Meanwhile, the basic human rights violation at the heart of abortion – the intentional destruction of an innocent, developing human life -- is wordsmithed away as a terrible crime that just can’t be fixed by the law. I don’t believe that. I think that argument is a fraud. And I don’t think any serious believer can accept that argument without damaging his or her credibility. We still have more than a million abortions a year, and we can’t blame them all on Republican social policies. After all, it was a Democratic president, not a Republican, who vetoed the partial birth abortion ban – twice.”
Archbishop Chaput, did not flinch from calling out those Catholics who are uncomfortable with fighting against abortion. Describing the cause as “not the kind of social justice they like to talk about,” he alleged that, “It interferes with their natural political alliances.”
The novelty to Catholic Obama supporters’ approach, explained the archbishop, is “their packaging,” charging that they have mimicked the abortion lobbies’ attempt to undermine the bishops teaching authority in the 70s.
“I think it’s an intelligent strategy,” he commented, adding, “I also think it’s wrong and often dishonest.”
Chaput also disputed the charge leveled by some, including Prof. Nicholas Cafardi, who claim that the struggle over abortion is legally lost. These people “are not just wrong; they’re betraying the witness of every person who continues the work of defending the unborn child. And I hope they know how to explain that, because someday they’ll be required to,” he said.
The archbishop closed his remarks on political life by noting that the country is undergoing difficult times and that “a deep spirit of conflict and anxiety” has crept into this election in particular. Nevertheless, Chaput pointed to Christ saying, “I do believe Scripture when it tells us not to be afraid. God uses each of us to renew the world if we let him.”