Abp. Chaput Says ‘Be a Catholic First’

1603-42 139 1603-42 Archbishop Chaput Forum Forum Address by Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Elder Oaks, President Worthen March 22, 2016 Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU © BYU PHOTO 2016 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322

Deal W. Hudson
October 16, 2012

Nearly 500 people packed the gymnasium at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania late Saturday afternoon to hear Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap address the issue of Catholics in politics.

Archbishop Chaput spoke for about 45 minutes, followed by eight questions from the audience. The last question was from a Catholic woman who described herself as a “conservative” who asked the Archbishop why so many Catholics were “liberal.” His answer typified the Archbishop’s manner and message:

“I call you as a Catholic, to forget about the labels, be a liberal sometimes, a conservative sometimes, but a Catholic first.”

The Archbishop follows his own advice: Chaput’s presentation included a strong affirmation of the abortion and marriage issues as belonging to political debate, some very direct criticism of Vice President Biden’s comments during the debate this past week, and the admonition, “If you are not for social justice you are not being a Catholic.”

Archbishop Chaput is no stranger to engaging in political debate. His book Render Unto Caesar: Serving Our Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, published in August 2008, infused that year’s presidential campaign with an authoritative Catholic voice. The book also drew some harsh criticism for what was called a “partisan” effort by the Archbishop to influence the outcome of the election.

Chaput remains unapologetic for his book, which now has been republished with an additional chapter on his habit of addressing controversial issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and religious liberty. He rejects the accusation that for a priest or bishop to instruct the faithful on these issues is ‘partisan’. It is for the clergy to preach and teach and for “the laity to act on what they’re taught.”

He asked for a show of hands of those who were “more serious about being a Democrat than being a Catholic.” None appeared. Then, for the hands of those who were “more serious about being a Republican than a Catholic.” Again, no hands were raised. The Archbishop then said, “All of us should be more serious about being Catholic than a Democrat or a Republican.”

“What if you had to choose between our country and Jesus, what would you choose? We have not had to make that choice, yet.” With that last comment, a ripple of recognition could be felt in the audience, as if the Archbishop was tapping into the deep concern that brought them into the gymnasium on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in autumn.

“I don’t want to go to jail,” the Archbishop said with a laugh, as he explained that during the coming year the bishops would have to decide how to respond to the HHS mandate. “Biden was wrong” in what he said about the mandate during the debate, and “he should not get away with saying that in the public square.”

The archbishop added that the HHS mandate “could lead to the closing of schools and other Catholic institutions. This is a serious matter.”

Earlier in his lecture, he described Biden’s debate comments as the “latest outrageous example” of the false division between personal Catholic belief and political action.

He singled out President Obama and Secretary Sebelius only in the context of the absurdity of how the mandate defines a religious institution: “Our institutions,” Chaput said, “would be considered religious if we served only Catholics – now that wouldn’t be very Catholic, would it?”

“We believe in the separation of Church and State, but that is not the same thing as a separation between faith and politics. Faith is what we believe, politics is how we act. We are hypocrites if we fail to act in accord with our beliefs.”

One point Archbishop Chaput made with a particular note of force in his otherwise gentle voice: “It’s a sin if you do not vote in the upcoming election.” He cautioned that Catholics, “should not vote their party line blindly but apply the principles of Catholic social teaching – such as the common good and subsidiarity to their voting decisions.”

If your political party is for abortion, Chaput told the crowd, “You can’t just be quiet; you must try to change your party.” He went on to explain that the reason for abortion on demand in our nation was the historic failure of Catholics to impress pro-life beliefs on both parties.

One of the questioners raised the issue of the three exceptions to abortion mentioned by vice presidential candidate Ryan during the debate and urged the bishop to correct him. In response, Chaput explained:

“Everyone knows the bishops admit no exceptions. Biden knows where the Church stands, and he chooses not to believe it. Ryan was stating the position of his party led by a Mormon who holds the same position of his faith, Mormonism, which allows those exceptions.”

During his presentation and answers to questions, Archbishop Chaput made some very penetrating comments about the history of the Church in our nation. For example, he described the present generation of clergy – those his age or close to his age – as having been formed during the age of the civil rights struggle, the struggle for social justice. “It’s an emotional thing for many priests, and this is why you have nuns attacking Paul Ryan.”

He explained further that the demand for social justice and human dignity includes a “right to health care but not the right to the government providing health care.” He came back to this distinction during the Q & A period when he reminded the audience of the importance of subsidiarity as a political principle, one that is “often forgotten,” he said.

The one statement in a very rich speech that drew the loudest applause, was when Chaput described Jesus as having been killed “because he spoke the truth” and refused to back down from it. I think the applause was a response not only to the admonition but also to the example of a bishop who is willing to speak the truth in the public square, Archbishop Charles C. Chaput of Philadelphia.

 

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s