Denver archbishop takes swipe at Obama, Biden over abortion rights

In a speech titled “Little Murders,” Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver delivered a scathing critique of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, his Catholic running mate Joe Biden and liberal Catholic groups at a dinner Friday.

Raising the false specter of an Obama administration promoting abortion on demand, Chaput said, “To suggest — as some Catholics do — that Senator Obama is this year’s ‘real’ pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse.”

AP’s religion reporter Eric Gorski described Chaput as “one of the most politically outspoken Catholic prelates in the nation.” The Denver religious leader did not disappoint on that score during Friday’s remarks at the Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women dinner.

Chaput, without getting into much detail, called Obama the “most committed” abortion-rights major-party presidential candidate since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion in 1973.

“To suggest — as some Catholics do — that Senator Obama is this year’s ‘real’ pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse,” Chaput said, according to his prepared remarks, titled “Little Murders.”

The archbishop continued with a controversial call to deny communion to Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, because of his support for reproductive freedom, abortion and contraception. That hard-line perspective has created a schism among lay Catholics who tend to view the church’s “pro-life” teachings much more broadly to include opposition to war and the death penalty and support for the “Catholic worker movement” tenets of eradicating poverty, promoting social justice and personal worship.

Chaput also took the opportunity to criticize liberal Catholic groups as well as Catholic legal scholar Douglas Kmiec, legal counsel to the Reagan administration, who recently endorsed Obama.

According to AP’s report on the dinner speech:

Kmiec wrote a book making a Catholic case for Obama. He argues the Obama campaign is premised on Catholic social teaching like care for working families and the poor and foreign policy premised on peace over war. Democratic efforts to tackle social and economic factors that contribute to abortion hold more promise, Kmiec said, than Republican efforts to criminalize it.

While applauding Kmiec’s past record, Chaput said: “I think his activism for Senator Barack Obama, and the work of Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, have done a disservice to the church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.”

Pro-Obama Catholics “seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues,” said Chaput, who wrote a book this year, “Render Unto Caesar,” about Catholics and politics.

Catholics United fired back with a strongly worded statement arguing that Chaput’s comments, even made as a private citizen, would have a chilling effect on the much-needed dialogue among Catholics on how to address the abortion controversy aside from an outright repeal of Roe v. Wade, which is both politically unlikely and unsupported by the American public:

“During the past eight years we have watched a president rise to power on a ‘pro-life’ platform only to pursue other priorities: perpetrating an unjust war, opposing expanded health care coverage for pregnant women and children, promoting the intrinsic evil of torture, deregulating the financial markets, and mortgaging the future of America’s hard-working families on tax cuts for the rich and powerful. Scant, if any, progress was made toward ending or reducing abortions — quite the contrary, we fear that the looming economic crisis will impel more women to have abortions as people lose their jobs and their homes. This experience serves as poignant reminder of the need for Catholics and other pro-life Americans to look beyond campaign rhetoric and elect candidates who will deliver real results on the issues that matter most.”

Unlike some of his evangelical counterparts promoting Pulpit Freedom Day, Chaput was sure to point out that his remarks were offered as a private citizen and not as a representative of the diocese at the dinner for Catholic women. The Internal Revenue Service has been cracking down on clergy for breaching the law that prohibits tax-exempt religious groups from making statements supporting or opposing political candidates.

Excerpts of Archbishop Chaput’s remarks are posted at Catholic Online.

h/t Rev. John Petty at Progressive