Chaput: Bishops Must Present Unity on Politicians, Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 15, 2011   |   3:43PM   |   Washington, DC

When Catholic politicians push for abortion without impunity, Catholic faithful are often left wondering why Church leaders don’t do more to bring up their actions as out of step with Catholic teachings. One leading bishop is explaining why.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who leads the Denver, Colorado archdiocese, responded to a question on the topic following a presentation he made at April 8 at an event sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Right to Life Club.

“There is unity among the bishops about abortion always being wrong, and that you can’t be a Catholic and be in favor of abortion — the bishops all agree to that — but there’s just an inability among the bishops together to speak clearly on this matter and even to say that if you’re Catholic and you’re pro-choice, you can’t receive holy Communion,” Archbishop Chaput said, according to the St. Louis Review.

Chaput said the general public probably has no idea how often the more steadfastly pro-life bishops challenge pro-abortion politicians in private — whether that means rejecting communion or contacting elected officials privately to let them know of the disconnect between their faith and pro-abortion policy views. However, he said Catholic politicians should be told more often that they will not receive communion or should not present themselves for the sacrament if they advocate for abortion.

The Review said Chaput told the pro-life students at Notre Dame that he and other bishops have been trying to move the national bishops conference in a more pro-life direction for a number of years but he said other bishops worry about how the Catholic Church might upset some churchgoers by taking a more hardline stance on abortion.

But Chaput said that idea has failed, and said, “So let’s try something different and see if it works. Let’s be very, very clear on these matters,” and he asked the audience to “help me to convince the bishops on that subject.”

Chaput also told the students, according to the Review, that there is no such thing as a morally neutral stance on abortion in public policy.

“There is no such thing as morally neutral legislation or morally neutral public policy,” he said. “Every law is the public expression of what somebody thinks we ought to do. The question that matters is this: Which moral convictions of which somebody’s are going to shape our country’s political and cultural future?”

“If you and I as citizens don’t do the shaping, then somebody else will. That is the nature of a democracy. A healthy democracy depends upon people of conviction working hard to advance their ideas in the public square respectfully and peacefully, but vigorously and without apologies,” he explained.

“We act on what we really believe,” Archbishop Chaput said. “If we don’t act on our beliefs, then we don’t really believe them.”

Ultimately, for Chaput, abortion is the most important political issue for Catholics but it doesn’t make it so elected officials can neglect the needs of the poor or others.

“Abortion is the foundational human rights issue of our lifetime,” he said, adding that “you can’t build a just society and at the same time legally sanctify the destruction of generations of unborn human life. But none of these other duties can obscure the fact that no human rights are secure if the right to life is not.”