.- Author and politics writer Mark Stricherz has defended Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput from accusations of partisanship stemming from the archbishop’s vigorous pro-life statements made during this election year. Noting that the archbishop’s critiques are not limited to Democratic politicians, Stricherz argued that advocacy for overturning the Supreme Court pro-abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade is likewise not limited to only one political party.
Writing a Friday post on the Jesuits’ America magazine group blog “In All Things,” Stricherz responded to fellow blogger Michael Sean Winters’ description of the prelate as the nation’s “second most vocal supporter of the GOP.”
Calling the description a “mischaracterization,” Stricherz, a pro-life Democrat, said he thinks it reflects “a larger misunderstanding that progressive Catholics have about their co-religionist opponents.”
He then referenced Archbishop Chaput’s August remarks in which the prelate acknowledged many important issues are relevant to the election, but also asserted that the right to life is “foundational” and all other rights depend on it.
“We can’t build a healthy society while ignoring the routine and very profitable legalized homicide that goes on every day against America’s unborn children,” Archbishop Chaput commented, continuing:
“Yet for thirty-five years I’ve watched prominent ‘pro-choice’ Catholics justify themselves with the kind of moral and verbal gymnastics that should qualify as an Olympic event. All they’ve really done is capitulate to Roe v. Wade.”
Stricherz said the archbishop’s stance should not be interpreted in a partisan spirit.
“This position is not, strictly speaking, Republican or Democratic,” he noted, saying it was the same position of the late Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey, Sr.
Stricherz, whose book Why the Democrats are Blue discusses the secularizing changes the Democratic Party has undergone, reported that during the 1992 Democratic National Convention Gov. Casey organized a full-page ad in the New York Times which called Roe v. Wade “the most momentous act of exclusion in our history.”
The governor had also opposed the re-election of Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mark Singel because the latter reversed his previous opposition to Roe.
Further, Stricherz argued, Archbishop Chaput’s position is echoed in the Catechism, which teaches “The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.”
He then noted the parties’ official positions on Roe v. Wade: “The Republican’s platform calls for the passage of a human life amendment, which if enacted would reverse Roe; the Democrats’ platform calls for preserving Roe. Naturally, the archbishop has made a descriptive statement about the GOP: that on cultural issues the GOP is ‘the natural ally’ of the church.”
“It is true that Chaput has criticized pro-choice Democrats, such as Barack Obama. But that's because they favor abortion rights, not because they are Democrats,” Stricherz wrote, adding that the archbishop did not say “nice things” about pro-abortion rights Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and did not imply support for a pro-life Republican Colorado gubernatorial candidate over his pro-life Democratic opponent.
Stricherz voiced his own suspicions that the archbishop is a Democrat, saying that the prelate as a seminarian was an “active volunteer” for Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and has opposed both the Iraq war and some Republican efforts aimed at illegal immigration.
“Chaput has offered encouragement to Catholics who oppose abortion but don’t seek to criminalize the procedure. But his position, as well as that of Casey, is that overturning Roe is foundational,” Stricherz explained.
Comparing the tolerance of abortion to the tolerance of slavery, he asked whether it was possible to oppose slavery but support the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision which protected the right to own a slave throughout the United States.
“This is a question that I think that progressive pro-lifers need to ask,” he concluded in his post to America Magazine’s blog.
Stricherz expanded on his comments in a Friday e-mail to CNA.
“Many progressive Catholics assume that any criticism on Democratic Party policy is an attack on the Democratic Party,” he wrote. “This is a gross simplification.”
“As blogger Mark Shea once wrote, the logic is reminiscent of Otter's speech in the movie Animal House that any criticism of Americans' conduct was an attack on America itself.
“More seriously, progressive Catholic Democrats assume that they are the only pro-life voices in the party: in fact, plenty of pro-life Democrats wish to overturn Roe and provide necessary resources to women in crisis,” Stricherz told CNA.
On Tuesday Cardinal Justin Rigali, who is chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities, joined Bishop William Murphy in issuing a joint statement from the bishops’ conference on the subject of faithful citizenship.
In their letter, the prelates insisted that reversing Roe v. Wade is not “a mere political tactic,” but is “a moral imperative for Catholics and others who respect human life.”