Catholic World News News Feature
Archbishop Chaput analyzes election, challenges pro-Obama Catholics February 25, 2009
In an address delivered Monday evening in Toronto, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver analyzed the implications of the election for Catholics in the United States. The lecture was cosponsored by the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, the Toronto Legatus Chapter, and the University of St. Michael’s College.
After discussing themes of his bestselling book Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, Archbishop Chaput turned to the November election. “As Catholics, we at least need to be honest with ourselves and each other about the political facts we start with. Unfortunately when it comes to the current administration that will be very hard for Catholics in the United States, and here’s why. A spirit of adulation bordering on servility already exists among some of the same Democratic-friendly Catholic writers, scholars, editors and activists who once accused prolifers of being too cozy with Republicans. It turns out that Caesar is an equal opportunity employer.”
Catholics, according to Archbishop Chaput, need to remember that “we owe no leader any submission or cooperation in the pursuit of grave evil. In fact, we have the duty to change bad laws and resist grave evil in our public life, both by our words and our non-violent actions. The truest respect we can show to civil authority is the witness of our Catholic faith and our moral convictions, without excuses or apologies.”
[I]n democracies, we elect public servants, not messiahs. It’s worth recalling that despite two ugly wars, an unpopular Republican president, a fractured Republican party, the support of most of the American news media and massively out-spending his opponent, our new president actually trailed in the election polls the week before the economic meltdown. This subtracts nothing from the legitimacy of his office. It also takes nothing away from our obligation to respect the president’s leadership. But it does place some of today’s talk about a “new American mandate” in perspective. Americans, including many Catholics, elected a gifted man to fix an economic crisis. That’s the mandate. They gave nobody a mandate to retool American culture on the issues of marriage and the family, sexuality, bioethics, religion in public life and abortion. That retooling could easily happen, and it clearly will happen-- but only if Catholics and other religious believers allow it.
The archbishop then honed in on failures in catechesis:
The Church in the United States has done a poor job of forming the faith and conscience of Catholics for more than 40 years. And now we’re harvesting the results-- in the public square, in our families and in the confusion of our personal lives. I could name many good people and programs that seem to disprove what I just said. But I could name many more that do prove it, and some of them work in Washington.
The problem with mistakes in our past is that they compound themselves geometrically into the future unless we face them and fix them. The truth is, the American electorate is changing, both ethnically and in age. And unless Catholics have a conversion of heart that helps us see what we’ve become -- that we haven’t just “assimilated” to American culture, but that we’ve also been absorbed and bleached and digested by it – then we’ll fail in our duties to a new generation and a new electorate. And a real Catholic presence in American life will continue to weaken and disappear.
Archbishop Chaput was equally unsparing of pro-abortion Catholics.
Every new election cycle I hear from unhappy, self-described Catholics who complain that abortion is too much of a litmus test. But isn’t that exactly what it should be? One of the defining things that set early Christians apart from the pagan culture around them was their respect for human life; and specifically their rejection of abortion and infanticide. We can’t be Catholic and be evasive or indulgent about the killing of unborn life. We can’t claim to be “Catholic” and “pro-choice” at the same time without owning the responsibility for where the choice leads – to a dead unborn child. We can’t talk piously about programs to reduce the abortion body count without also working vigorously to change the laws that make the killing possible. If we’re Catholic, then we believe in the sanctity of developing human life. And if we don’t really believe in the humanity of the unborn child from the moment life begins, then we should stop lying to ourselves and others, and even to God, by claiming we’re something we’re not.
The archbishop concluded his address with a discussion of hope, “the only word in the English language more badly misused than ‘love.’”