the Catholic Church, politicians and abortion

From an Associated Press story yesterday:

[Archbishop] Chaput, one of the nation’s most outspoken bishops on Catholic political responsibility, said Catholics who disagree with the church on “serious, sanctity of life issues” separate themselves from communion with the church and should not present themselves for the Eucharist.

Biden “has admirable qualities to his public service,” Chaput said in his statement. “But his record of support for so-called abortion ‘rights,’ while mixed at times, is seriously wrong. I certainly presume his good will and integrity — and I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion, if he supports a false ‘right’ to abortion.”

Chaput added that he looks forward to speaking with Biden privately.

I’m currently reading Chaput’s new book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life. It’s engaging, direct, timely, and gets to the heart of matters. Here’s a sample passage, from chapter 3 (“Why We’re Here”):

As Catholics, how can we uncouple what we do, from what we claim to believe, without killing what we believe and lying in what we do? The answer is simple. We can’t. How we act works backward on our convictions, making them stronger or smothering them under a snowfall of alibis.

In keeping with this passage, Chaput will be attending a prayer vigil outside of an abortion clinic tonight:

On Monday, August 25, the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, the archbishop will join Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., in a prayer vigil against abortion near a Planned Parenthood Clinic. The vigil will take place in Martin Luther King Park in Denver.

Natalie Wyeth, a press secretary for the DNC contacted by the Washington Times, said the archbishop informed them he was too busy to attend. (source: CNA)

I sent Joe Biden an e-mail on Saturday. As a fellow Catholic American, I recommended he read Chaput’s new book. In response, I received an e-mail reply yesterday that began:

Clayton —

I’d like to thank you for the warm welcome I’ve received as the newest member of this campaign.

What you and Barack have accomplished over the past 19 months is incredible, and it’s an honor to be part of it. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting involved….

Something tells me his campaign team should have more than one e-mail reply template at the ready.

More background and commentary:

UPDATE (8/25/08) – Three statements were issued today by bishops in response to Pelosi’s misstatement of Catholic teaching on abortion: Archbishop Charles Chaput and Bishop James Conley (“On the Separation of Sense and State”), Archbishop Donald Wuerl, and a USCCB statement by Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop William Lori

UPDATE 2 (8/26/08) – Archbishop Chaput’s remarks at last night’s prayer vigil have been made available:

Address at Pro-Life Prayer Vigil outside Planned Parenthood of Stapleton, CO

The future of a community, a people, a Church and a nation depends on the children who will inherit it. If we prevent our children from being born, we remove ourselves from the future. It’s really that simple. No children, no future.

Here in America, and especially here tonight, we need to remember two basic truths.

Here’s the first truth. Society has an obligation – and Christians have a Gospel duty — to provide adequate and compassionate support for unwed and abandoned mothers; women facing unintended pregnancies; and women struggling with the aftermath of an abortion. It’s not enough to talk about “prolife politics.” The label “prolife” demands that we work to ensure social policies that will protect young woman and families, and help them generously in their need. In the Archdiocese of Denver we try very hard to do that through the Gabriel Project and other forms of outreach and support. But much more needs to be done. And we will cooperate with anyone of good will who wants to pursue that vital work.

Here’s the second truth. Killing an unborn child is never the right answer to a woman’s or society’s problems. Acts of violence create a culture of violence — and abortion is the most intimate form of violence there is. It wounds the woman, it kills the unborn child and it poisons the roots of justice and charity that bind us all into one human family.

Or to put it in the words of the great Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”

Planned Parenthood is the largest single provider of abortion and family suppression services in the United States. This facility in this minority neighborhood should offend every African-American and Latino family, and all of us, because every child lost to abortion here subtracts one more life, one more universe of possibilities and talent, from the future of this community. Every time Planned Parenthood provides propaganda, pills or medical procedures to teens without parental permission, it undermines the Black and Latino family. The business of Planned Parenthood is the prevention of the future – and business is good, and very profitable, at the expense of this community.

I’ve been a great admirer of Dr. Alveda King for many years. She does the memory and legacy of her extraordinary uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, proud — and it’s a great blessing to be with her tonight. We’re very grateful that she’s willing to bring her message here to Denver at this critical moment in the life of our country. I’m also very grateful for the many African-American pastors who do such powerful work inspiring their congregations about the sacredness of human life, and anchoring their people in respect for the dignity of all life, from the unborn child to the elderly and poor. And I’m also delighted to greet my brother in the ministry, Bishop James Conley, who also joins us tonight despite his own demanding schedule.

Finally, I want to thank you all for being here tonight despite your many other obligations. The hope of our Denver community resides in all of you, and especially your unselfish love for children and commitment to the sanctity of human life. May God bless all of you and your families.

UPDATE 3 (8/26/08): For updates on the Pelosi story, visit the American Papist blog.

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