Denver archbishop calls on Catholics for Obama to face the senator’s views on abortion

Denver archbishop calls on Catholics for Obama to face the senator’s views on abortion

Sen. Barack Obama / Archbishop Charles Chaput
Sen. Barack Obama / Archbishop Charles Chaput


Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver is calling on the group Roman Catholics for Obama ‘08 to convince Sen. Barack Obama to become pro-life, instead of overlooking his support for abortion in favor of other issues of concern to Catholics.

Recalling his own political involvement in the Bobby Kennedy’s campaign in 1968, his support for Jimmy Carter’s first presidential bid and then his subsequent re-election campaign, Archbishop Chaput explains how he came to his convictions about politics and abortion. 

Archbishop Chaput writes in a column titled, “Thoughts on ‘Roman Catholics for Obama’,” he “eventually got involved with the 1980 Colorado campaign for Carter’s re-election.”

“Carter had one serious strike against him.  The U.S. Supreme Court had legalized abortion on demand in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and Carter the candidate waffled about restricting it.  At the time, I knew Carter was wrong in his views about Roe v. Wade and soft toward permissive abortion.  But even as a priest, I justified working for him because he wasn't aggressively ‘pro-choice’.” 

Chaput acknowledges that Carter “held a bad position on a vital issue, but I believed he was right on so many more of the ‘Catholic’ issues than his opponent seemed to be.  The moral calculus looked easy.  I thought we could remedy the abortion problem after Carter was safely returned to office.”

Yet, Carter lost his re-election bid, and the archbishop notes that “even with an avowedly pro-life Ronald Reagan as president, the belligerence, dishonesty and inflexibility of the ‘pro-choice’ lobby has stymied almost every effort to protect unborn human life since.” 

What changed Chaput’s mind about his earlier decision to support a “pro-choice” candidate was that he began to notice “that very few of the people, including Catholics, who claimed to be ‘personally opposed’ to abortion really did anything about it.  Nor did they intend to. For most, their personal opposition was little more than pious hand wringing and a convenient excuse -- exactly as it is today.”

“In fact,” the archbishop says, “I can't name any ‘pro-choice’ Catholic politician who has been active, in a sustained public way, in trying to discourage abortion and to protect unborn human life -- not one.” 

Instead, the situation has become one in which, “In the United States in 2008, abortion is an acceptable form of homicide,” Chaput says.

Archbishop Chaput writes that the situation will only change when “Catholics force their political parties and elected officials to act differently.”

At the beginning of 2008, Archbishop Chaput wrote a column which focused on the role of Catholics in the public square. The archbishop’s January 16 column explained how this type of interaction between Catholic voters and the political parties should take place.

Archbishop Chaput wrote:

"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."

“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.”

However, the archbishop points out that Roman Catholics for Obama chose to use only the first paragraph of his explanation as justification for their support of Sen. Barack Obama, an unflinching supporter of abortion.

According to their website, the Obama supporters say that they have faithfully thought and prayed about who they should support and “have arrived at the conclusion that Senator Obama is the candidate whose views are most compatible with the Catholic outlook, and we will vote for him because of that -- and because of his other outstanding qualities -- despite our disagreements with him in specific areas.”

Noting in his column today that this kind of moral calculus sounds like the same reasoning he used 30 years ago, Archbishop Chaput says, “30 years later we still have about a million abortions a year.” 

While holding out the possibility that “Roman Catholics for Obama will do a better job at influencing their candidate,” Chaput also highlights the February 2008, ‘100 percent pro-choice voting record both in the U.S. Senate and the Illinois Senate,’ that the senator received from the Planned Parenthood of Chicago.  

The archbishop closes by saying, “Changing the views of ‘pro-choice’ candidates takes a lot more than verbal gymnastics, good alibis and pious talk about ‘personal opposition’ to killing unborn children.  I’m sure Roman Catholics for Obama know that, and I wish them good luck.  They’ll need it.”

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