Archbishop Chaput, I see you

Archbishop Chaput, I see you July 13, 2019
Charles Joseph Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia

I’ll give Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput one thing: he knows how to cover his tracks. He knows how to sound above the fray, impartial, when pushing a right-wing agenda. Advising his flock in August, 2016, on how to vote in that fall’s election in a way consistent with their Catholic faith, he wrote:

For Catholics, no political or social issue stands in isolation. But neither are all pressing issues equal in foundational importance or gravity. The right to life undergirds all other rights and all genuine social progress. It cannot be set aside or contextualized in the name of other “rights” or priorities without prostituting the whole idea of human dignity.

As I like to say, nothing matters before the “but.” This passage sounds benign at first. It is true that “no political or social issue stands in isolation.” But then Archbishop Chaput pulls his bait-and-switch: “The right to life undergirds all other rights and all genuine social progress.”

The subtext was clear: vote Republican; for Donald Trump. Or at the very least, do not vote for Hillary Clinton, who, Archbishop Chaput wrote earlier in that piece, “should be under criminal indictment.”

Pulling the same trick

Archbishop Chaput pulled the same trick last week in a speech delivered to the Alliance Defending Freedom Summit on Religious Liberty. Again, he promoted right-wing politics under the guise of impartiality. But don’t take my word for it. The Catholic News Agency, perhaps inadvertently, thought so too, writing in their lede:

Christians are called to win the battle of ideas and values in secular society, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said Tuesday.

Indeed, using a term first introduced into America’s political vocabulary by Pat Buchanan in his speech to the 1992 Republican National Convention, Archbishop Chaput defended conservative Catholics against the accusation that they engage in culture war. “We are fighting for what we believe,” he said, “But of course, so are advocates on the other side of all these issues. They too are ‘culture warriors.’” (Emphasis in the original.)

That by “fighting for what we believe,” Archbishop Chaput means fighting for our place in an earthly kingdom—an earthly kingdom governed by a Republican agenda—and not how to more thoroughly live and be the Gospel in society, is clear in the context of the entire speech.

Religious freedom

The speech is titled, “Building a Culture of Religious Freedom.” The term “religious freedom” appears about a half-dozen times. Archbishop Chaput never defines “religious freedom,” but speaking to a friendly audience, he probably felt he didn’t need to.

“Religious freedom” became a rallying cry of conservative Catholics during the Obama years who objected to the contraceptive mandate, a regulation enacted in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act that required contraception to be added to the list of preventative services provided by the ACA.

It’s also a rallying cry for religious conservatives, Catholic and Protestant, who support bakers, photographers, etc., who refuse to provide their services for gay marriages.

While, on the surface, “religious freedom” sounds like a perfectly legitimate ideal—preserving the First Amendment rights of believers—as applied by Catholic and Protestant conservatives, what it really means “my rights, but not your rights.”

Archbishop Chaput askes, “How can we build a culture of religious freedom?” But without defining it, he’s speaking in a vacuum—and a partisan vacuum. He gives himself some cover by saying the United States “is not our final home.” But his partisan intent comes clear when he continues:

The eagerness of Catholics to push their way into our country’s mainstream over the past half century, and to climb the ladder of social and economic success, has done very little to Christianize American culture. But it’s done a great deal to bleach out the zeal and faith of everyday Catholics, and to weaken the power of any distinctive Catholic witness. Joe Biden’s recent reversal on the Hyde Amendment may frustrate or anger us. But it shouldn’t surprise us.

So he deplores Mr. Biden’s support for federal funding of abortion, but makes no mention at all of President Trump, no mention at all of Mr. Trump’s concentration camps where children are tortured and sexually abused, no mention at all of Mr. Trump’s pagan worship of power for its own sake, no mention at all of how Trump tramples the rights and dignity of the poor, the immigrant, the most marginalized of our society.

Same old, same old

Remember, Archbishop Chaput is the guy who in 2016 tricked Catholics into voting for Mr. Trump with false equivalency lies. He wrote:

One candidate—in the view of a lot of people—is an eccentric businessman of defective ethics whose bombast and buffoonery make him inconceivable as president. And the other—in the view of a lot of people—should be under criminal indictment. The fact that she’s not—again, in the view of a lot of people—proves Orwell’s Animal Farm principle that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Archbishop Chaput exonerates Mr. Trump by saying what everybody at the time already knew about him. Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, should be under criminal indictment “in the view of a lot of people.”

Catty much, your excellency? But conservative Catholics never fret too much over the 8th Commandment. Never mind that, though Ms. Clinton probably is the most investigated politician in American history, no one, not even Republicans, have found anything to indict her for.

Then, Archbishop Chaput as much as calls Ms. Clinton an animal.

We are called to be leaven

Archbishop Chaput is, well, an archbishop. And I’m just me. But I’d like to say something. No, your excellency, Christians are not called to fight secular culture wars, no matter how much we tell ourselves we are fighting for what we believe. We are not called to win the battle of ideas.

We are called to be leaven in society, transforming it from within by obeying Christ’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and living the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. By reducing a full life in Christ to a political slogan—“We are fighting for what we believe”—you reduce the Faith to an ideology, one ideology among many, fighting for dominance.

Many outside the conservative Christian bubble view that brand of Christianity as a perverse, twisted version of the religion of the Gospels. I say it does not even rise to that. It’s pagan idolatry with a nod every now and then to someone named Jesus who may have said something once about foot hygiene.

And this is what Charles Chaput—a Catholic archbishop—is peddling.

(Image licensed by Flickr. -spd)


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Naters

    I for one don’t think that bakers should be forced to bake for weddings they don’t agree with, but then again, said bakers should make it clear what they don’t bake for in the first place.

  • Why is it wrong for the right to say “my rights, but not your rights,” but then it’s ok for the left to do the same? You accuse Chaput of playing bait-and-switch, but I have difficulty reading through your article and not believing that you’ll do the same.

    Rewrite your article as if Chaput were endorsing a liberal Democrat article in 2020 despite Democrats being pro-abortion and anti-religion and tell me that the same problems don’t exist. I don’t want to read any more Patheos Catholic articles which pretend to be non-partisan Catholic but are covertly partisan themselves, using Trump as a proxy cover for that fact.

  • “We are called to be leaven in society, transforming it from within by obeying Christ’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and living the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. ”

    Ok, now do your fellow liberal Patheos Catholic writers and their war on other specific writers. The amount of hatred that some of them direct towards other, more conservative writers here is the opposite of leaven.

    Let me focus on one specific issue: Dave Armstrong has complained that one specific writer has allowed him to be slandered in her comments section. She has not, to my knowledge, opposed or corrected the slander, and instead she’s actively conversed with it as if it were true. She’s aware of his slander complaint since she actively monitors and comments on his social media.

    I have no trust in Patheos Catholic writers like this if they’re going to engage in slander and gossip in the name of social justice. Nor is it good to see this kind of internal fighting when Christ mandates outreach in a grievance between two Christians (Matthew 18:15-20).

    Talk about what’s happening on this website and the factionalism and pridefulness here before you lecture us on voting.

  • “Then, Archbishop Chaput as much as calls Ms. Clinton an animal.”

    He’s referencing the book Animal Farm, a classic allegory for the Soviet Union and the manipulation of politics. You should know better, and this is downright slander on your part.

    There is a lot to take issue with this in this article, but I’m just going to focus on that one. You. Accused. A. Bishop. Of. Calling. Hillary. Clinton. An. Animal.

    He did not.

    You’re a liar at worst and incredibly reckless at best.

    If I vote for Trump in ’20, it’s going to be in part because the partisan hacks at Patheos Catholic continue to commit sin in the name of political partisanship disguised as Catholicism.

    Seriously, you lied (or were exceedingly reckless) with that animal comment.

  • Follow up comment: this is why I don’t trust many of the Patheos Catholic writers. You hold yourselves out as presenting the good and true against *bad* Catholics, and then I constantly catch you guys lying, slandering, gossiping, or just acting like the people you’re complaining about. (Mark Shea complains about Frank Pavone using a dead baby as a political statement during a mass, but then he puts pictures of dead migrants on his social media to do the same thing on a different issue.)

    I don’t expect you people to be Christ, but I expect you to *try* to be like Christ. This uncorrected lie in your post is just inexcusable. As are the other shenanigans around here. I can’t bloody we’ll find Christ around here when you folks act like anything but *in his name.*

  • allen

    So I guess Sean, you’re for the murder of innocent children? And to try and compare it to what’s happening on the border is ludicrous and based on misinformation. You must be an immoral, ungodly Catholic trying to justify your sinful views and politics.

  • Daniel F. Crawford

    Chaput has been peddling his “Catholic” crap since his days in Denver. I marvel at his very selective and extraordinarily myopic moral outrage. He reminds me of a discussion I had with a Catholic layman about bringing two year old children of illegal immigrants into court so they could be separated from their parents and put in detention centers. It was ok with him, he said. “They broke the law”. The Archbishop of Philadelphia should offer himself, along with Graham, Falwell, and White, as the personal chaplain to Trump. He is willing to sacrifice the Gospel for the Fearless Leader.

  • bitterandhappy

    It depends where the bakers do business. A business agrees to follow a set of community rules when they receive a business license in a community. If that community has decided that gay people are also human beings and should be treated as such, then that community may have a law against discriminating against gay people when serving the public. Therefore, if a right wing baker agrees to those terms to do business, and then reneges on that commitment, society has every right to penalize that baker. We would have total chaos in the marketplace if every business could decide who they serve and do not serve. One business won’t serve Catholics. Another would not serve Jews or Muslims. Another would not serve left handed dwarfs. As a society, we have decided that all people should be treated equally in the market place. You do NOT have a right to put up a sign in front of a business and say “I only serve White Christians”. That is not the way our society functions and I am shocked that somehow you seem to have missed that.

  • bitterandhappy

    So as a Catholic, you support Trump lying every time he speaks, trashing minorities of all kinds, invoking a climate of intolerance and violence against gays and other minorities, trashing the environment, giving the largest tax cut in history to billionaires and then claiming that the huge deficit this creates must be paid for by the elderly and the sick and poor via cuts to social programs that serve the common people. The man has had more administration convictions than any in recent history (Obama had none). The man is vile. Yet you support him. I am fascinated how your mind manages to tie itself in knots doing so.

  • bitterandhappy

    I think this may be called a straw dog argument. You totally ignore the horror that is Trump and scream bloody murder about a literary mistake.

  • bitterandhappy

    This is a snarky comment, but considering the outrageous history of Catholic Bishops in the USA covering up gay sex scandals by priests, I am shocked that Bishops don’t overwhelmingly support gay rights!

  • Naters

    People should hang up a sign saying “I only serve white Christians” since that would reveal the true intents of the baker, and that baker would never last.

  • Naters

    He’s not a fan of abortion. The Catholic Channel doesn’t have pro-abortion Catholic bloggers.

  • FrankWalshingham

    You really need to call your web site Pathetic, instead of Patheos. Archbishop Chaput is one of the few voices of reason in hierarchy of bishops in America! Archbishop Chaput is not peddling anything, he preaches orthodoxy.

  • I’m just a touch confused. In the first link the author provided, Archbishop Chaput clearly stated this in regard to the 2016 election: “And meanwhile, both candidates for the nation’s top residence, the White House, have astonishing flaws.” That seems pretty clear. The author goes on to quote +Chaput when he said “But neither are all pressing issues equal in foundational importance or gravity. The right to life undergirds all other rights and all genuine social progress. It cannot be set aside or contextualized in the name of other “rights” or priorities without prostituting the whole idea of human dignity.” The author quotes Chaput correctly and then outlines how he takes issue with the Archbishop’s statement. That’s troubling because that’s basic Catholic moral teaching. Saint John Paul II articulated this in “Christifideles Laici:” “The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fínds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” This is a continuation of what the CDF stated during the reign of Saint Paul VI in the “Declaration On Procured Abortion.” Our own USCCB has consistently referred to abortion using language like “overriding concern.” Archbishop Chaput merely observes what the Church teaches: not everything on the moral spectrum has the same moral immediacy. If the unspoken subtext was, as the author alleges, “vote Republican,” I missed it. I just heard a Catholic bishop reiterate Catholic truth.

  • Deacon Tom

    So you reply with another snarky comment. How mature of you. Can we please reserve this space for religious discussion and not politics. All of your replies refer to politics and President Trump. The article was about the comments of an Archbishop, who, as state by JKirkLVNV, was sharing positions taken by the USCCB and frankly, the Holy Father. While it is true that some bishops and other clergy have done some terrible things, do not brand the whole bunch because of the misdeeds of a few. Have you stopped watching movies and television because some producers and actors have raped women? Do you not let your children or grandchildren attend school because multiple teachers have had sex with minors? Your replies here clearly indicate that your purpose in writing this article was to say something about Trump as much as it was to say something about an Archbishop. POLITICS.

  • MurphsLaw

    Yeah, great….give the child sex traffickers running the border cover…..how despicable can you get……forget the drugs the gangs and criminals the South American jails are sending our way.. have the decency to allow a system to fight thee child sex trafficking going on across or border… And keep in mind Obama deported more illegals, Obama instituted family separation modeled after criminal statutes of this country and remember Obama increased the numbers of holding cells and ALL the good liberals and democrats SAID NOTHING!!! !!!!
    But now it’s all trumps fault…..is this thing on?

  • 281commenter

    You say that Chaput “knows how to sound above the fray, impartial, when pushing a right-wing agenda.” Then you produce a quote by Chaput that is both well-reasoned and phrased without the use of leading emotional words (so, yup, impartial). By contrast, you yourself used leading and emotionally charged words (pushing, right-wing, and agenda), all of which appear to be intended to lead the reader to think Chaput’s argument is, not merely invalid, but somehow malicious. Is it the fact that he stated his argument so cogently that upsets you? Just because someone holds a position that happens to be conservative does not necessarily make that position invalid, but you seem to assume otherwise.