One of the findings of my new book, If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear, is unlikely to rock readers of Commonweal: In interviews all over the country, I met not a few Catholic women who are longing to vote Democratic, but feel “literally ripped in two,’’ as one of them put it. “How can I choose between the poor and the unborn?’’
In Denver, women in this situation often cited campaign-season comments by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput as a major reason why they could not bring themselves to vote for John Kerry in 2004-even when they also found fault with the bishop’s remarks. But when I talked to Chaput last year, he spoke in a way that I think might surprise readers of this magazine. (What follows is an excerpt from the book.)
When I meet the archbishop in his quiet office in the chancery, the late-afternoon sun coming in through the window is hitting him square in the eyes, but-is this a corny cosmic joke or what?-he doesn’t look away.
And when he looks back on the ’04 election, it is with equanimity, maybe, more than anything else. “One thing I do hope flows from this,’’ he ventures, “is that we all come to understand that labeling ourselves as Catholic doesn’t mean we are. It isn’t a heritage we receive from our families; it’s a choice we make personally.... I’ve never been convinced that the fact that someone says, ‘I’m a Catholic,’ or ‘Gosh, I was...