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Is the Vatican’s Man in Philadelphia a Republican Hack?

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

If the July 19, 2011 appointment of Charles Joseph Chaput as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was designed to deliver Pennsylvania to the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, we can expect a nasty mix of overt clericalism and partisan hackery in the City of Brotherly Love.

While this would not be the first time the Vatican has seemed to directly intervene in American politics, it may well indicate an increasing level of involvement. During Chaput’s recent tenure as the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, he established himself as perhaps the Republican Party’s attack dog within the Church’s American hierarchy as well as one of the leading culture warriors of the Catholic Right. In the 2004 Presidential Election, Chaput openly declared that Catholics had only one choice and that was to vote for President Bush. He also railed about how Senator Kerry, the Democratic nominee (and a Catholic) should be denied Communion because of his support of reproductive rights and embryonic stem cell research. Four years later Chaput attacked then-Democratic presidential candidate Obama as “the virulently pro-abortion Democratic senator” and chastised his Catholic supporters. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated in Congress before becoming law, he attacked the need for a public option for health care coverage, egregiously dissembling on the subject.

Once ensconced in Philadelphia — a larger city and media market in a potential electoral swing state — Chaput’s media visibility will undoubtedly rise along with his standing in the hierarchy.

While Chaput’s politics may gain greater visibility in light of his promotion, his dismal handling of the priest pedophile scandals may gain proportionally greater scrutiny as well. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), is also displeased.. The group accused the archbishop of covering up sexual abuse in Denver and was outraged by his opposition to the reformation of the statute of limitations for civil law suits involving sexual abuse. This wound remains open in Philadelphia as well in the wake of Cardinal Rigali’s dismal record.

In any case, the Keystone State has gone Democratic in every presidential election since 1992. But in the last two elections the margin of victory has reduced to less than 55% of the vote, arguably putting the state in play in 2012. Since much of the electoral base of the Democratic Party in the state is concentrated in counties surrounding the big industrial cities of Erie, Pittsburgh, Scranton, and particularly Philadelphia, which are heavily populated with Irish, German and Italian working and middle class Catholics. If the Republicans can depress the Democratic turnout in those cities, Pennsylvania could go red as a Cardinal’s hat in 2012.

Given Chaput’s record electoral interventions, it is not unreasonable to think that the Church’s intentions behind the Chaput appointment may be more political than pastoral. If so, it will come as no surprise if we hear Chaput deemphasize economic issues, increase his vitriolic attacks on Obama’s policies on choice and embryonic stem cell research, and threaten the faithful with eternal damnation for not voting in accord with the Archbishop.

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6 Responses

  1. Chaput is not only an attack dog. He is quite stupid.The Roman Catholic hierarchy sees him as a shining crusader for their ultra conservative agenda. He is cocky as a bullfinch and he is steeped in canon law. The Vatican pays his way to spy on other bishops including Australian intellectuals. He will quickly return Philadelphia to medieval and renaissance theology using high tech. He reflects nothing of the humility and compassion of Jesus Christ. Begone Chaput.

  2. I said this from the beginning , chaput was sent to Phila by the ‘vatican’ to oppose legislation and use the ‘rcc’ political connections for a specific political goal. The ‘rcc’ should be vigorously monitored for violations of the separation of church and state and sanctioned accordingly. The ‘rcc’ should attend to the countless number of SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIMS it created by enabling and protecting the abusers ! The ‘politicians’ should be more concerned with the VICTIMS than trying to extend courtesy ( which the ‘rcc’ does not deserve) to ‘chaput’ !

  3. For the record, I love the name of your website. It’s about time that ALL of the People of God, every Christian, has an open tabernacle and Communion Table. Coming from the Denver area, I, too, am worried that Archbishop Chaput will attempt to set back much of the progress and legislation made by SNAP and other organizations and attorneys, who support Survivors of Priest Pedophilia. My concern is that people will see his charismatic personality and overlook the substance of his many agenda(s). Regarding politics, I often call myself the only Republican female over 50, living in Boulder county, so his Republican leanings would only concern me, IF they were done from the pulpit, which in my opinion has no place in politics, as members of the Laity should NEVER be captive audiences for someone’s political ideas. Teach Christian values from the pulpit and NOT politics! Thankfully, many have concerns about Archbishop Chaput and for that reason, alone, he may toe the line, because he’s smart enough to know that he’s going to be under a lot of scrutiny.

  4. If the bishop tries to steer the civil elections, the diocese should be taxed as any other business.

  5. I do wish that if you’re going to attack someone you would give us some real quotes. If voting Democratic sends us to hell I guess I’m on my way. And though I’m not a great fan of Chaput, and think he has leaned far too much toward the Republicans, the fact of the matter is that neither party has any monopoly on Catholic values. And the fact that Catholics in this country have split rather evenly between the two major parties I take as a confirmation of that.

    I think that those bishops who lean Republican have every right to do so, so long as they don’t confuse their politics with the obligation as shepherds (as some have obviously done). I’m not particularly happy with my own party’s joyful embrace of the right to abortion, but I think the Republicans have shown that, when they are in power, they are happy to do nothing about it either–it’s much to good a wedge issue to let it die by actually going beyond rhetoric and proposing concrete steps to assist pregnant mothers. I do rather wish that at least some of the bishops would see that they’ve been pretty well played on that issue.

    It’s a nice slogan, to teach only Christian values, and stay out of politics. But the one does implicate the others. Still, good Catholics are going to differ on the correct way to put those values into concrete form. Our screwing it up may bring hell on earth, but I haven’t yet really seen any bishops promising the infernal regions for a vote for the other side.

  6. I lost any respect for Absp.Chaput when he compared Supreme Court Justice Scalia to Frances Kissling, head of Catholic For A Free Choice (the pro-abortion group) in criticizing Scalia’s reservations about Catholic teaching concerning capital punishment (which has essentially become abolitionist). HIs comments were in the magazine, “First Things.” Regardless of what one thinks about that issue, Chaput’s criticism reflects these possibilities:

    1. He is grotesquely ignorant of the Church’s past stance on the issue (as, frankly, JPII was).

    2. He is an ambitious careerist who was bucking for a bigger see and a red hat.

    I don’t care whether Chaput is politically liberal or conservative. I just think he’s the latest in a long line of epicopal careerists who will put loyalty to the ecclesiastical institution before loyatly to God.

    Then again, that’s what Catholicism has been about since at least the fifth century, hasn’t it?

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