22 October 2008

'We do not believe in the separation of faith from our politics'

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput OFM Cap of Denver is media-savvy. The archdiocese has an excellent website.

You can listen to the archbishop’s homilies and also to some other recordings, including TV interviews, or read his columns in the Denver Catholic Register.

Last Sunday, when the gospel was ‘Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what Belongs to God’, Archbishop Chaput came out with a number of striking expressions, sound bites with substance. For example, while making it clear that the Church is in favour of the separation of Church and State, he said even more clearly, ‘We do not believe in the separation of faith from our politics’.

He also asked if wives would be happy if ‘A married man can’t act like he’s a married man in public’.

The Lord was being providentially kind to the archbishop who pointed out that last Sunday’s readings weren’t chosen because the US elections are coming up but are part of the three-year Sunday cycle. Archbishop Chaput, whose parents were French-speaking Canadians and who is one-quarter North American Indian, has a best-seller at the moment, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.

In my most recent post I gave a link to the talk the Archbishop gave last Friday ‘as a citizen’ on the issue of abortion in the elections. (Americans will be voting for the whole House of Representatives and for one-third of the Senate as well as for President and Vice President). In his homily he mentioned that he had received many emails, from all over the world, some critical. One emailer expressed ‘embarrassment’ at what he had said.

It was in this context that Archbishop Chaput said that while he believes, as do the vast majority of Americans, in the separation of Church and State’, ‘We do not believe in the separation of faith from our politics’. He wasn’t giving his personal opinion here but teaching clearly.
He then went on to draw the comparison between a married man and a voter. Would any wife want her husband to act as a married man only at home? When we go into the polling booth we are to act out of faith. He challenged Catholics in any party to bring their faith to bear on their party’s policies. And he pointed out that no matter what is legislated, eg, the requirement to wear crash-helmets on motorcycles, or no smoking areas, some group is ‘imposing’ its views on others.

More and more American bishops are speaking plainly about the gravity of the abortion issue in the context of the elections, even ‘sailing close to the wind’ in terms of the separation of Church and State, that some see a division among the American bishops, which may be no harm. I find it rather ironic that while Pope Pius XII is being condemned for allegedly not saying anything about the slaughter of Jews under Hitler, John Paul II and many bishops are being condemned for speaking out on behalf of the unborn.

Up to the 1950s most men in the Western world wore hats. Many houses had hat-racks in the hallway. Perhaps the US Senate and House had hat-racks outside their chambers where Democrats and Republicans, Protestants, Jews and Catholics left their hats. It seems to me that if there were such a thing as a ‘conscience-rack’ outside those exalted chambers only ‘Catholic’ legislators would feel the need to use it.

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