Catholic World News

Archbishop Chaput discusses school shooting, presidential election, HHS mandate

December 19, 2012

In a radio interview that took place on the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia advised priests, as well as friends of the victims’ families, to make themselves available without being intrusive on the sadness of the families.”

“I went around and visited some of the families, Catholic families in the Columbine tragedy, and it was obviously the most important thing for them were friends and pastors being available,” he said, recalling the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which took place in Colorado when he was Denver’s archbishop. “Not to say a lot, because what can you say in the face of such a tragedy, but you know, show love and support by just being present.”

The prelate, who had been scheduled to appear on the show before the Connecticut shooting took place, addressed a variety of other issues. Upon hearing from a California listener that a priest told his congregation “go out and vote for the poor, not to go out and vote for the unborn,” Archbishop Chaput responded:

Well, who’s poorer than the unborn and have no one to speak for them, and have no way at all of defending themselves in the face of a possible abortion? So I mean, that’s bringing up a needless conflict. We’re always responsible for the unborn, and we’re always responsible for the poor. And it’s never either/or. It’s both/and. You know, you have to support both. The right to life is foundational. You can’t be poor unless you’re alive.

Archbishop Chaput continued:

I think that there’s a certain logic to the foundational issue of life. How can you trust somebody who’s willing to let people kill unborn children? How can you trust them with foreign policy? Or how can you trust them with the economic policy of your country? I mean, these are real issues. I think so much of the problem today is people don’t know how to think, and they don’t think when it comes to religious liberty.

After chiding the “nuns on the bus,” Archbishop Chaput also discussed the bishops’ options for responding to the HHS mandate, which is scheduled to go into effect for many religious institutions on August 1.

“We can either refuse to comply, and that could take different forms,” he said. “We could divest ourselves of those Catholic institutions that we have that serve others besides Catholics, and would have the freedom then not to embrace those kinds of insurance. We could pay the fines by not purchasing the insurance. Or we could decline to pay the fines, and act out of civil disobedience. And the other option, of course, is to compromise.”

He added:

There is a temptation on the part of the Church leadership, the bishops, to go along to get along, really. But I think it would be tragic, because it would be a lesson by our example to the faithful of the Church that we don’t have to be all that serious about the carrying of our moral principles into the public sphere. I think it’s so important for the Church not to comply. You know, St. Thomas More is always a great example to me of how to deal with threats to conscience. You know, he refused to acknowledged the right of Henry VIII to be the head of the church in England. He tried to find every way possible not to go to jail and not to be executed. And I think we ought to, as bishops, find, look for every way possible to get around these requirements.

But in the end, if we’re going to be forced to comply, we just say no, and we take the consequences of that, which is either the penalty of paying fines, or refusing to do that, acts of civil disobedience. If we do that together as a group, I think there will be a change of heart on the part of the administration and the courts, because they see that we take it seriously. We take religious freedom seriously.


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