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Archbishop Chaput and the 2004 Election

In her recent column in Commonweal, Melinda Henneberger recounts an interestingand disconcertinginterview with Archbishop Charles Chaput from Denver. Apparently, hes quite astonished about the reaction his foray into presidential politics created in 2004. I quote from the column:He insists that all the attention paid to his statements about abortion during the 04 presidential campaign was unexpected. On one level, it was uncomfortable to be called a Republican when Im not and astonishing to receive a more heated and prodigious response than even the clerical sex-abuse scandals had provoked.

Do I think there are people in the last election who voted for a prochoice candidate and did so sincerely after reflection and prayer? Yes, I do? Did they do wrong? No, they followed their conscience. But that serious reflection and prayer, thats really important, and not just being swayed by party sympathies or thats the way you always vote. It has to be about the issues.I have to say, Im astonished at the Archbishops astonishment. With all due respect, I dont remember him expressing anything at all like the sentiments in the preceding paragraph in 2004. In fact, I remember him expressing very different sentiments indeed.In a column entitled, How to Tell a Duck from a Fox: Thinking with the Church as We Look Toward November, we find the following statement from the Archbishop:
Candidates who claim to be "Catholic" but who publicly ignore Catholic teaching about the sanctity of human life are offering a dishonest public witness. They may try to look Catholic and sound Catholic, but unless they act Catholic in their public service and political choices, they're really a very different kind of creature.

And real Catholics should vote accordingly. In an interview with the New York Times, Archbishop Chaput indicated that it was sin to vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights. He does not distinguish between voting for a candidate foreseeing, but not intending, the support of abortion rights; nor does he distinguish between formal and material cooperation.In an interview in his residence here, Archbishop Chaput said a vote for a candidate like Mr. Kerry who supports abortion rights or embryonic stem cell research would be a sin that must be confessed before receiving Communion.

"If you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil?" he asked. "And if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes."The Archbishop does mention conscience in a column entitled: Lets Make a Deal: Catholic Conscience and Compromise. He does not entertain the possibility that a Catholic could under any circumstances vote for a pro-choice candidate in good conscience. Indeed, the column suggests quite the opposite: The last two paragraphs.
Next month, October, is Respect Life month. Its a good time to reflect on the meaning of the Kennedy-Cuomo legacy. In brief, its OK to be Catholic in public service as long as youre willing to jettison whats inconveniently Catholic.

Thats not a compromise. Thats a deal with the devil, and it has a balloon payment no nation, no public servant and no voter can afford.
According to their plain meaning, Archbishop Chaput's comments in 2004 convey that a real Catholic wouldnt vote for a pro-choice candidate under any circumstances; especially a pro-choice Catholic. Its a sin; a deal with the devil. His statements from that era leave no room for a good faith difference of opinion about whom to vote for as president --they leave no room for the fact that a Catholic might vote for a pro-choice candidate foreseeing, but not intending his or her stance on abortion.But maybe he didn't say everything he meant. Maybe he meant to leave more room for a difference in practical judgment about who would be the best President of the United States. If so, the question remains: If Archbishop Chaput's remarks were so pervasively misinterpreted in 2004, why didnt he make a straightforward statement like the one in Hennebergers column at the time? Why did he wait until years later, when the political and ecclesiastical winds have shifted?

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Obviously inconsistency is no hobgolin for the Archbishop.

The archbishop and Bishop Sheridan initiated a religious/moral discussion from which he is backtracking. Archbishop Burke responded similarly. That he has been more thoughtful since then, would be good to hear, and why he is now so. What are acceptable positions in this shepherd's opinion, now? Can a Catholic not vote, following the more anarchistic position of "voting only encourages them"? Let's see some sophisticated discussion, rather than prelates speaking with the discipline and sophistication of radio talk show hosts.

Joseph is right -maybe the good bishop finally got around to reading Faithful citizenship

I believe the Archbishop did in fact publish the full interview with the New York Times almost immediately because he felt that crucial points were omitted. For an interpretation of the full interview see Melinda Henneberger's excellent contemporary (October 2004) account at the Newsweek site. Her summary of the full interview: "When Chaput says in the interview that he himself plans to take his absentee ballot into the chapel with him and pray over his choice, he is signaling that it is still up to the individual to weigh all the moral issues involved in light of Catholic teaching. He is communicating the seriousness of the responsibility involved, and saying that it is not a straightforward matter." She points out that in the full interview the Archbishop distinguishes between formal and material cooperation. And Henneberger doesn't read the Archbishops responses in the interview as ignoring the importance of intent. "Now, I dont see the boiled-down version as saying exactly the same thing Chaput said, mostly because the archbishop gets into the whole idea of the intent of the voterand there is no sin without wrong intent." http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6291035/site/newsweek/Dave Kopel's contemporary account is also interesting and more sympathetic to the Archbishop than the post above.http://www.davekopel.com/Media/RMN/2004/Archbishop-takes-his%20media-lum...

I read the whole interview too, Patrick--and I'm afraid I didn't read it as positively as Melinda did. I think the whole interview confirms the excerpt in the TImes. For those interested, here it is: http://www.archden.org/images/nyt_transcript.pdf First, he makes it clear that he wants Catholics to take an absolute stand on the abortion issue. "And I think it is important for Catholics, whether they are Republican or democrats, to get over this compromising, yes, but and just give a very clear, colelctive no! A grand refusal to vote for anyone who is pro-choice, so that we have some political influence on this issue. I don't see how you could get any stronger than his "grand refusal." Second, I don't think he presents the cooperation issue correctly. He doesn't distinguish between formal and material cooperation, in fact, he doesn't use the term "formal" cooperation at all. Instead, he takes pains to emphasizes the suspect nature of all types of cooperation in this case as a form of "responsibility" for abortion. In short, he seems to be taking a stand against all cooperation in abortion--which fits with the prior quote. Here's the bit of transcript: "NYT: Archbishop Burke in St. Louis caught my attention again on Friday [October 1]. He issued a statement basically stating that its a sin if you vote for a pro-choice politician, I believe he was saying even if that wasnt the reason you voted for him, that you voted for a pro-abortion politician that is still something that you ought confess. Is that?AB: I dont believe thats where you should start. The place to start would be, does our voting for someone make us responsible for what that person does as a legislator or as a judge?And the answer is yes, because we are in some ways materially -- we use the word materially -- cooperating in that persons activity because weve given [him or her] the platform to be elected. Now, if the person does something wrong, are we responsible for that? Well, if we didnt know they were going to something wrong, our participation is remote, but if we knew they were going to do something wrong and we approved of it, our responsibility would be really be close, even if we knew they were going to do something wrong and we voted for them for another reason, we would still be responsible in some ways.The standing is that if you know someone is going to do evil and you participate in that in some way, you are responsible. So its notif you vote this way, should you go to confession? The question is, if you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil? Now, if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes. Theres a more sophisticated thing hereits not so crude. The reason I want to stress that is because it is not like bishops are issuing edicts about who should vote for whom. Its issuing statements about how a Catholic forms her conscience, or his conscienceand remote material cooperation or proximate material cooperation is cooperation, and its important for Catholics to know that, to be sophisticated in their judgments."Taking all his remarks together, I don't see him leaving much room--or having much respect --for those who did not take a prophetic stand on abortion.

Cathleen,I remain persuaded that Melinda Hansbergers interpretation of the Archbishops interview was thoughtful, clear-headed and quite helpful. Perhaps we can agree that interested readers should read the full interview transcript and make up their own mind. I do notice at least a slight softening of your position. In your original post you state "Archbishop Chaput's comments in 2004 ... leave no room for the fact that a Catholic might vote for a pro-choice candidate foreseeing, but not intending his or her stance on abortion."Now your view is: "I don't see him leaving much room--or having much respect --for those who did not take a prophetic stand on abortion."

I didn't mean the softening, Patrick. I think the whole thing has to be read in context. I encourage people to read the transcript--that's why I posted it.Further, I think the transcript needs to be read in the context of his other writings--including the op ed in the TIMES after the interview --where he held out no olive brach either. In short, he demonstrated no respect for any "hold your nose and vote for Kerry" stance. The context for the column is Chaput's "astonishment" at the reaction his interventions received. But the widespread antipathy to Chaput was prompted by Chaput's evident scorn for those who disagree with him. How else can you interpret the phrase "real Catholics" won't vote for pro-choice candidates. He had contempt for Catholics who voted for Kerry--and people responded accordingly.He could have clarified his stance--he chose not to. Why? He wanted people to think that voting for a pro-choice candidate was wrong under any circusmtances--he says so in the interview. Let's summarize the evidence:1. He calls voting for pro-choice Catholics a "deal with the devil," something a "real Catholic" wouldn't do. 2. He does not distinguish between formal and material cooperation --the key distinction in that concept. Google formal cooperation in the pdf. In fact, thetterm "formal cooperation" doesn't appear at all. Read the text -- Melinda and I quote much the same text. This is not a mere oversight, or a glitch in the notes from moral thelogy class. His idea is coherent: his goal is to emphasizes the wrongness of ANY material cooepration. The Times quotation is accurate in its summary--Sorry Bob Imbelli!What about counter-evidence? Not much. Well, Melinda makes a point that he didn't formally endorse a candidate. Well, he's prohibited from doing so if he didn't want to jeopardize his tax exempt status--and there were complaints made about what he did say to the IRS.For what it's worth, I don't think this column is going to help him very much. People have grudging respect for prophets. But this makes him look like a politician.

Cathleen,I'm not sure if you're now saying Archbishop Chaput left no room or a little room for Catholics to disagree about voting for pro-choice candidates. It sounds like the former. I continue to find MH's 2004 observation perfectly reasonable:"What seems to have surprised Chaput, though, is that the Times concluded that he was saying that a vote for a candidate like Kerry would thus always be wrong. (The church teaches us that its not wrong only if the individual voter concludes there are sufficiently "proportionate" moral grounds for voting for that candidate in spite of his stand on abortion.) "When Chaput says in the interview that he himself plans to take his absentee ballot into the chapel with him and pray over his choice, he is signaling that it is still up to the individual to weigh all the moral issues involved in light of Catholic teaching. He is communicating the seriousness of the responsibility involved, and saying that it is not a straightforward matter."He may not have mentioned each and every concept you consider crucial but, in all respect, you seem to judge anything less than an elaborate treatise as unacceptable in an interview.I think I've been through a similar episode on this site regarding Robert George's views (see the Jan 6, 2007 entries). I'm perfectly happy to agree to disagree. In my initial response I just wanted to point out that your views are not undisputed by contemporary observers of some sophistication.

It may seem I'm trying to start a Melinda Henneberger fan club here. Not so. However (and this is off the topic) she deserves more than a little credit for resurrecting (in the same Newsweek piece I've been citing) a concept from the Catholic olden days - "morose delectation.""On the day Times editor Howell Raines, who presided over coverage of the clerical sex-abuse scandals, resigned as a result of the Jayson Blair plagiarism fiasco, one of my coreligionists dryly remarked, 'One is reminded that morose delectation (thats Catholic for schadenfreude) is a serious sin.'"I hope that all the venerable varieties of morose delectation are still being discussed in Catholic schools. It would be shameful if knowledge of such an enticing sin passed into oblivion.

I'm not asking for a treatise. I'm asking for a basic distinction. The basic distinction between formal and material cooperation is one that turns on intent to further the wrongful act of the principal agent. If you introduce the doctrine of cooperation, you ought to know how to use it. The plain meaning--not the jargon-- is don't vote for Kerry no matter what.Calling something a "bargain with the devil" isn't exactly technical in my book. Let me ask you a couple of questions: Why do YOU think Arcbhishop Chaput didn't issue a two or three sentence statement like the one at the end of Melinda's 2007 column in 2004? And why do you think he's putting it out there now?'What's the best explanation of all the facts?

It's obvious from the transcript of Archbishop Chaput's interview with TheTimes that he was urging Catholics not to vote for Senator Kerry. TheTimes story reported that: It was news. - 30 -

Cathleen,Once more into the breach.Perhaps our disagreement can be phrased, as I suggested in one of the comments above, this way: A) Did the AB leave any room for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate, or B) did he leave no room and instead, as the Times states, declare that a vote for a candidate like Mr. Kerry who supports abortion rights or embryonic stem cell research would be a sin that must be confessed before receiving Communion.? I think the distinction between A and B is critical. It seems to me that you are claiming the Times is correct in asserting B (The Times quotation is accurate in its summary in your words). If A is true, however, the Times flat statement is incorrect.The following excerpts from the full interview, among other, seem to me to more naturally support interpretation A rather than B. "AB: The reason I want to stress that is because it is not like bishops are issuing edicts about who should vote for whom. Its issuing statements about how a Catholic forms her conscience, or his conscience""AB: So you have to weigh foundational issues against non-foundational issues perhaps. The calculus on who you are going to vote for is important and you have to take it very seriously. I have to pray about who I am going to vote for, I cant presume anything until I get into the voting booth and Im going to vote early by the way so Im not going into a voting booth, but it wont be a casual thing and Ill probably go to chapel with my ballot."Those excerpts, by the way, sound not so different from the excerpt you quoted (from the current MH column) in your original post and which you thought to be a suspiciously new sentiment on the part of the AB: "But that serious reflection and prayer, thats really important, and not just being swayed by party sympathies or thats the way you always vote. It has to be about the issues. In my view the AB is telling Catholics, then and now, that it's wrong to casually vote for someone nominally identified as a Catholic who nevertheless heartily endorses abortion. I stress the word casually in that sentence. That is, one should not thoughtlessly vote for a Catholic because he claims to be a Catholic. Instead one should seriously examine his views on abortion and other foundational issues and make a reflective, considered judgment. The AB did not, repeat not, make statement B, that all Catholics voting for Kerry are sinning and must go to confession. Again these are not eccentric views invented by me. To cite the MH report once more about another distortion in the Times article:The Times report also says, Liberal Catholics contend that the church has traditionally left weighing the issues to the individual conscience. But no one disputes that thats still the case. Chaput himself states this plainly in the interview.My own generalization about NYT coverage is that any prominent Catholic who is not an identified political liberal is in for a hard time when the grey lady calls. Even with the best of intentions secular reporters find it hard to take seriously religious claims unless they can be linked to the current pieties of liberal orthodoxy. If the subject can make that connection, the subject is granted a strange new respect. If not, his position is likely to be treated unsympathetically. A similar process even occurs on some blogs.As to your questions, I have no idea why Archbishop Chaput did or did not issue the kind of statement you would like. For all I know he did, but I havent examined all his columns or other statements. I do believe that it's often foolish and frequently presumptuous to discuss another's motivation. Moreover, I would certainly want to see specific evidence before I would endorse the suggestion that the AB is issuing new statements because, as you put it, "political and ecclesiastical winds have shifted." As far as possible I want to avoid that kind of armchair psychologizing. I would be appalled if you or anyone else took seriously any musings about the ABs motivations that I might offer. Heres a not so novel idea. Why not directly ask the Bishop your questions about his motivation? Hes obviously the best source to satisfy your curiosity. If asked, he might even offer comments on the distinctions you wish he had explicitly addressed. It might be a productive exchange.Since its such a glorious weekend here Im resolving to avoid any more polemics for now. I dont put a lot of credence in the Times reporters when they attempt to articulate subtle points of Catholic moral theology but I pay close attention to their weather report. When they say the weather will be splendid I accept that as divine revelation and as a clear sign that I've spoken enough and its time to leave the keyboard.

Okay Patrick. My final comment. I have to finish an article today, so no beautiful weather for me.1. I disagree with the read of the full interview in the Times. I think the reading Melinda and you propose is strained beyond plausibility. She herself acknowledge that the vast majority of people wouldn't see any difference. 2. I am not interested in exegesis of the NYT--or in Times bashing or defending, for that matter. I'm interested in the change in Chaput's stance from 2004 as reflected in ALL of his comments. Your focus has been the Times, not mine.3. Why does this matter now? There are two possible ways to explain the change.a. He was tragically misunderstood at the time, due to hostile secular forces incorrectly presenting his views. b. He is reinterpreting his past stance in light of changed political and ecclesiastical circumstances.Whether one believes a. or b. significantly affects how one assess the Archbishop's atttempts to intervene in the public square now, and one's predictions of how he will respond when the circumstances change again. It affects one's assessment of his role as a potential leader of the American church.Since he has repeatedly intervened on the national scene, not wishing to confine himself to Denver, this is a question of interest to all American Catholics, not merely to those who live in Denver