The National Catholic Review

Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, while not quite explicitly endorsing the Romney/Ryan ticket, suggests that Catholics may have no other choice this November. In an interview with John Allen, Chaput said:

I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.

I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat. I’m registered as an independent, because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another. As an individual and voter I have deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage, supports abortion in all circumstances, wants to restrict the traditional understanding of religious freedom. Those kinds of issues cause me a great deal of uneasiness.

Fair enough. An archbishop voicing his concerns with a party whose platform supports legalized abortion and same-sex marriage is unsurprising.

What did strike me as a bit peculiar was his defense of Paul Ryan’s budget, parts of which were condemned, separately, by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a vocal group of nuns, and some Catholic theologians earlier this year. Chaput said that if Christians, “don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period.” But he said Ryan’s budget should not be viewed through this lens:

Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic. ... You can’t say that somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation.

He goes on to say that the Ryan budget isn’t one he would write himself, but praises Ryan’s attempt at balancing the budget and takes a swipe at the Democrats:

I admire the courage of anyone who’s actually trying to solve the problems rather than paper over them. I think a vigorous debate about the issues, rather than the personalities, is the way through this problem. It’s immoral for us to continue to spend money we don’t have. I think that those persons who don’t want to deal with the issue are, in some ways, doing wrong by putting it off for their own political protection or the protection of their party.

Chaput’s not so subtle preference for Romney and the GOP is the latest in a string of Catholic bishops making their views clear.

In this Sunday’s New York Times, Prof. Molly Worthen writes that liberal Catholics are a valuable resource to the Democratic Party, even if their numbers continue to diminish. She writes, “If the Democratic Party is not listening to liberal Catholics, it is partly because they are not in a position to speak very loudly.” This impotence is due in part to messages like Chaput’s that suggest Catholics cannot be Democrats. This dismissal makes it harder for Catholic Democrats to have a voice in their own party. If church leaders appear to support Republicans exclusively, why would leaders of the Democratic Party try to woo them, and their flocks, by listening to rank and file Catholics in the party?  


T BLACKBURN | 9/18/2012 - 2:40pm
Here is partial agreement with John Barbieri (18). Obama's policies haven't worked as well as they would have worked if he had had faith in them and/or a compliant Congress had cooperated with him and maybe even pushed him a bit. So why go back to that? On the other hand, Mr. Obama's opponents' policies were tried friom 1994 through 2008, and why run into that brick wall again? Because we like pain?
Rick Fueyo | 9/18/2012 - 1:14pm
Sorry Tim. I guess we dislike your module firepower derived from a broad exposure to the highest level of ratiocination.  Another Jonah Goldberg levels scholar who is burdened with trying to reason to his intellectual lessors
John Barbieri | 9/18/2012 - 12:29pm
There is a much simpler reason not to vote for Obama: his policies don't work.
The best guide to his future policies are his past policies.
Look at the sad condition of our country.
Einstein once said that to do the same things over and over again in the expextation that the results will be different is a definition of insanity.
Why would anyone want four more years of what hasn't worked?
Vince Killoran | 9/18/2012 - 12:26pm
"It will be no defense on judgment day to say 'I left all of that to the government' or 'or, I voted for they guy who promised to help the poor with other people's money.'"

Thanks for giving me a heads up about Judgement Day.  From your comment it seems that you would look with favor on those who organize the poor and struggling for public services; for lobbying legislators to pass good legislation on the environment, education, etc.

I understand you to be urging people to be active in their role as citizens. And they are.
Tim O'Leary | 9/18/2012 - 11:50am
Rick #7 says the Archbishop ''embraces an objectively evil worldview.'' Amy thinks the author of ''Render unto Caesar'' and ''Living the Catholic Faith'' is not informed and naive and Vince assumes his restatement of Jesus' warning of the final Judgement in Matt 25 is a ''windbag threat.''

One always has to go beyond Michael O'Loughlin's misleading quotes to get the full story. The three of you (& Michael) don't know Chaput's writing, and don't seem to care to know. You certainly do not know his heart, or his history. A bigoted anticlericalism and actual anticatholicism worse than was evident in the Old South, coupled with way too much confidence in your intellectual competency, has obscured your judgment. There is culpable negligence in this libel. God help you.

The point the Archbishop made in the letter I linked to above is that you can't delegate your obligations to the poor. It will be no defense on judgment day to say ''I left all of that to the government'' or ''or, I voted for they guy who promised to help the poor with other people's money.''
Vince Killoran | 9/18/2012 - 10:38am
"The problem is that the government's attempts to help the poor have greatly increased the underclass, not alleviated it. "

The nations w/the most substantial social welfare programs-paid maternity leave, universal medical care, etc.-are the ones that perform well economically, have a healthier public, longer life expectancy, and low crime. The Democratic Party in the USA is a wimpy middle-of-the road party, more a cheerleader for neo-liberalism. Amy is correct, however: compared the GOP they are preferable.
Gabriel Marcella | 9/18/2012 - 10:29am
Michael O'Loughlin:

Your post is very provocative. Its logic makes it clear that it's dangerous for a Catholic to be a member of the  Democratic party. The party that supports the intrinsic evil of abortion, Sandra Fluke, redefining marriage, and attacking religious freedom no longer represents my values. 

J Cosgrove | 9/18/2012 - 10:06am
The problem is that the government's attempts to help the poor have greatly increased the underclass, not alleviated it.  It is a classic illustration of good intentions gone awry.  What are the best programs and what is the proper amount to be spent is not an easy question to answer.  There is no evidence to say that spending more money will help the situation and in all likelihood may exacerbate it.  That does not mean spending nothing is advocated by anyone and in fact the Ryan Budget allocates large amounts of money for programs for the poor, much more than Bill Clinton thought necessary.

The results of government programs is not necessarily a financial poverty in the underclass but a spiritual one.  It is easy to follow this deterioration of a large part of our population since the Great Society was started.  It is not confined to one ethnic or racial group but is widespread.  You would think the Jesuits if anyone would be interested in that but no they and their authors seem more interested in scoring political points.  There is no evidence that any of the authors here are genuinely interested in helping the poor.  If they were the OP's would be completely different.  They talk a good game but that is it.  It is all about get my political party elected.
Joshua DeCuir | 9/18/2012 - 9:58am
"This impotence is due in part to messages like Chaput’s that suggest Catholics cannot be Democrats. This dismissal makes it harder for Catholic Democrats to have a voice in their own party."

Respectfully, this impotence is more directly related to the decision of Democrats to make Sandra Fluke the face of the party.

I think looked at objectively, Chaput's message is quite different; namely, that the message of Catholic Social Teaching isn't reducile to the Democratic Party Platform.  In other words, he's saying, let's be careful of assuming that our politics is the best embodiment of the Gospel.

Since there was no worry about Sr. Simone Campbell's explicit endorsement of Pres. Obama during her speech at the DNC (compared with the worry over Dolan's appearance at the RNC), I'm not surprised that some here get a different message. I would suggest that if Sr. Simone and her supporters took Chaput's message a bit closer to heart, they might find greater support for their positions among people who aren't liberal Democrats.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 9/18/2012 - 9:50am
"one party that believes that the best way to fulfill Jesus' command to help the poor is for the government to forcibly take money from some people and allocate it ... and the other party that believes that the best way to fulfill Jesus' command to help the poor is for individuals to, er, help the poor."

Right. One party which believes "the poor" are fellow citizens whose contributions to the welfare of the country (e.g., military service, back-breaking manual labor, replacement-level child-bearing) entitle them to a humane standard of living, regardless of market value; and the other party which regards "the poor" as objects of pity, to be bullied into playing the role of pious, groveling lepers in some rich person's hypocritical, self-serving, fantasy gospel pageant.

No wonder "the poor" cast their ballots overwhelmingly for the first party.
Vince Killoran | 9/18/2012 - 9:46am
Now, really: what person-even an Ayn Randian-doesn't think they aren't "helping" the poor?  I guess they don't need to worry about Chaput's windbag threat.
Mike Brooks | 9/18/2012 - 9:34am
Thanks for that link, Tim: it provides a necessary perspective that Mr. O"loughlin would like to pretend doesn't exist. 

This election is not a choice between good and evil nor between the one party that wants to help the poor and the other that does not.  It's between the one party that believes that the best way to fulfill Jesus' command to help the poor is for the government to forcibly take money from some people and allocate it to a series of inefficient and corrupt bureaucracies that decide who amongst the perceived needy are worthy to receive it; and the other party that believes that the best way to fulfill Jesus' command to help the poor is for individuals to, er, help the poor.
Rick Fueyo | 9/18/2012 - 8:11am
Chaput's statements are morally indefensible, as they embrace an objectively evil worldview. 
Vince Killoran | 9/18/2012 - 7:21am
"He goes on to say that the Ryan budget isn’t one he would write himself. . ."

It seems like exactly the budget he would write. The most astonishing claim the bishop makes is that it is sinful NOT to embrace the bogus and immoral austerity politics.

But, really: is anyone surprised by Chaput's comments?
T BLACKBURN | 9/18/2012 - 7:17am
I agree substantially with what Archbishop Chaput says about President Obama, but I don't find it a bit helpful. It is no reason to vote for the president's opponent, whose general  slipperiness about abortion included instant "modification" of the GOP platform on the subject and whose relation with Stericycle remains unsarisfactorily accounted for.

Here is the thing, though:Going back to contraception, because our leaders have acted as if they were so many Karl Roves and James Carvilles. Instead of backing the spavined horses of the GOP and trying to fix the race, we would do better to act like a church and preach truth. A lot of people on the other side, Mt. Obama among them (I believe),  think God is with them. They are doing the moral thing, by their lights, and offering them a Romney won't make that light go out and the light of truth come on.

Offhand, I can't think of any time I have ever quoted a bishop in discussions and arguments with such people. They don't say things that apply. I've quoted theologians and women who are not theologians and who have more credibility on the subject because they talk about abortion. Our loudest bishops talk like the boys at the barbershop dislcussiing politics, which makes them no help in the public square that they recently rediscovered.
Tim O'Leary | 9/18/2012 - 8:41am
This is sad. I used to think that Amy, Vince and Rick above were reasonably smart people who just differed on some fundamental concepts regarding the reality of Society (political, economic, cultural). However, their posts above seem to so miss the point of Chaput's comments and intelligence that I can only conclude either raw stupidity or evil vindictiveness. Read his Column this week.

Here is a quote

What was true then is true now. Hell is not a metaphor. Hell is real. Jesus spoke about it many times and without any ambiguity. If we do not help the poor, we'll go to hell. I'll say it again: If we do not help the poor, we will go to hell. 
Jim McCrea | 9/18/2012 - 8:21pm
"Why would anyone want four more years of what hasn't worked?"

You want to make them work?  Fire all of the teapublicans whose one and only goal in life is to do everything they can to ensure that whatever the President proposes is not considered or adopted?
Amy Ho-Ohn | 9/18/2012 - 7:07am
Chaput should vote for the candidate he thinks would do the best job, just as any other citizen should.

He does not seem to be very well-informed. He has swallowed uncritically the rather preposterous Republican talking point that the ACA funds abortions. He naively thinks outlawing abortion is going to magically make people stop having them. His understanding of basic economic realities is deficient and his clumsy attempts to repeat Randian libertarian maxims fall flat. He clearly is taking a "what's in it for me and my confrères?" approach to his vote instead of "what promotes the common good?"

But the American system is designed to function even when the electorate is dominated by self-interested low-information voters. An electoral system dependent on universal cleverness and altruism would have fallen apart a long time ago.

The important thing to remember is that Chaput has no particular expertise or authority in the subjects of public policy, economics or jurisprudence. He is only qualified to speak authoritatively on matters of faith and morals. His (crude and simplistic) opinions on political issues are his alone and any Catholic is free to ignore them.
Jim McCrea | 9/18/2012 - 8:19pm
Why do the teapublican republicaths always talk about "prudential judgement" when they want to skew their statements politically?
Tom Maher | 9/18/2012 - 2:21am
With the 2012 Democratic Party platform urging governemnt funding of abortions for the first time  it is time to recognize that nationwide abortion on demand is actively being promoted , by the Demacratic party without any effective opposition within the Democratic party.   Now more than ever voting for a Democrat for federal office means you will be assisting in greatly increasing the nationwide spread of and frequency of abortions in every way.   The ideas of a pro-life Democrat having any influence on the Democratic paty organization has not been demostrated for decades, but it is now clear with the 2012 Democratic party platform actively promoting abortion funding that any pro-life influence in the Democratic party is non-existant. So if your against abortion or against the spread of abotions by federal funding you are forced to conclude that on of the consequences of voting for a Democrat is your support for the  promotiion of the the number and frequency of abortions nationwide.  Do you really want tobe a part of promoting the spead of abortions by governemnt fundig of abortions?  

Most Americans even if they accept abortion are overwhelmingly against the federal funding of abortions.  
Stanley Kopacz | 9/18/2012 - 7:09pm
No one can say the repubs hate the poor.  They love the poor.  Who works those $9/hour jobs as in Staples and makes all that loot for them?  They love the poor so much, they won't be happy until more middle class become poor so they can love them, too.
Vincent Gaitley | 9/18/2012 - 2:20am
I think the Archbishop has it about right.  Too much flak has been hurled at Paul Ryan and his budget proposal-even if he wins this fall that budget won't be passed in its current form, so there's no reason to vote against him on that.  As a former Democrat and elected party official, I am much happier as a Republican and Catholic now.  I'm voting for Gov. Romney without apology.
Tom Maher | 9/18/2012 - 5:24pm
Archbishop Chaput acceptance of Ryan's budget is not an endorsement of Ryan or his budget but the recogniztion of the extreme moral and financial consequences of continuing to ignore the fact that the United States government finances are dangerously out-of-control and in crisis and urgently needs to be addressed and reformed.  Ryan's budget attempts to address this moral and financial crisis that is generally being ignored to everyone's peril.

Bishop Chaput does a public service by recognizing the moral and financial hazard of failing to stop the accumulate of over a trillion dollars more federal debt each year.  The federal debt last week rose to 16 trillion dollars which is more than the value of our annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all goods and services produced in the United States in a year. This ratio of national debt to GDP is unsustainable.  All nations in western Europe with high debt, near or greater than their GDP, are no longer able to finance themselves and everyone in these nations are severly economically impacted.  This week U.S. debt has been downgraded again as less creditworthy.  This unsustainable process of accumualtion of debt is heading to the point where the United States can no longer finance its huge and rapidly growing debt and will go bankrupt where the U.S. will no longer be able to barrow or adequately finance itself. This moral and financial crisis urgently needs to be effectively addressed but has so far has not been by the Church or by the federal government.  This is a disaster in the making that needs to be recognized and delalt with as Bishop Chaput has urged. 
J Cosgrove | 9/17/2012 - 10:49pm
Mr. O'Loughlin,

Two things,

You and all the other authors at America have got to come to grips with the fact that the Ryan Budget is quite generous to the poor.  We cannot go on each year as a country and demand increases and when we do not get these increases label those who are trying to restrain spending as somehow immoral as has been done on this blog with Ryan's budget.  Before anyone goes after the Ryan Budget, they should put actual numbers to paper and compare those numbers with past spending.  Until that is done, then maybe they should eliminate all negative rhetoric about the Ryan Budget.  My guess is that you already know that the Ryan Budget is quite generous but continue to bring up the Ryan Budget knowing it may be red meat to the uninformed.

Second, I suggest you read David Carlin's book ''Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?''  It is a devastating critique of the Democratic Party from a life long Democrat.  Maybe that is something we should discuss prior to the election.  From one of the reviews of Carlin's book:

''This book, written by a 68-year-old Rhode Island politician who has been a lifelong Democrat, should be a wake-up call to the leadership of the national Democratic Party. Unfortunately for the party, those leaders who most need to read the book are the people least likely to do so. Their minds are closed.

The book explains, in a brief and easy-to-read manner, what should be obvious - but apparently isn't - to leaders of the party. The Democratic Party is losing the support of church-going traditional Catholics, just as it earlier lost the support of church-going traditional Protestants. Why? Because it has taken money, lots of it (it's needed for TV advertising), from what the author calls ''affluent secularists,'' i.e., well-to-do cultural liberals who are strongly hostile to traditional Christianity and its moral code, especially its code of sexual morality. As everyone knows, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

This political alliance with America's anti-Christian forces might be a smart idea if the US were an anti-Christian nation. But since it isn't that kind of nation, it is an alliance that has produced a string of electoral defeats for the Democrats. Oh, we Dems may get lucky and win control, or at least partial control, of Congress in November of 2006, but this will do little to alter the party's long-term downhill slide.''