Archbishop Chaput weighs in on Obama-Notre Dame flap, whips up flock, again

Predictably, Denver’s outspoken Archbishop Charles Chaput has managed to insert himself front and center in the sturm und drang over “pro-abortion” President Obama’s scheduled graduation commencement speech at a Catholic institution of higher education, the University of Notre Dame.

Over the weekend, Chaput gave a speech at a quiet seminary in Detroit, not far north of Notre Dame, and managed to lead U.S. Catholics into pro-life / anti-Obama frenzy and confusion.

From a podium at the “Lessons from St. Paul for the New Evangelization” conference being held at the crumbling Motor City’s Sacred Heart Seminary, Chaput spoke on — what else? — the rights of the unborn and how those rights are being under-served by Catholic ignorance of the faith, because if Catholics were serious about their faith, they would rise up against the “meaning of November” — or the election of Obama.

That wasn’t the only thing Chaput talked about, but his speech was “unique in its focus” on the unborn, as one of the archbishop’s fellow speakers put it. And, as Chaput surely anticipated, his fulminations on abortion and Obama were the big conference takeaway, especially given the controversy raging a couple hours’ drive south at Notre Dame.

As the brimstone cleared — speech and Q&A wrapped up, Twitter dispatches sent — Catholics weren’t sure if Chaput had or had not asked them to engage in a full-bore campaign to protest and prevent the Obama commencement speech.

The Catholic blogosphere, already ablaze with the Notre Dame news, burned even higher on the fuel tossed by Chaput. Had the Denver prelate “urged a letter-writing campaign” or merely suggested “charitable” letter-writing “as a response to the situation”? And was there really a difference, especially given that the contact information for Notre Dame’s president was listed at many of the sites, as was that of John D’Arcy, bishop of the Indiana diocese that includes the university? And how charitable could anyone really expect the letters to be given the example set by Chaput?

Here’s a bit of the Archbishop’s barn-burner of a speech:

November showed us that 40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected. Or to put it more discreetly, the November elections confirmed a trend, rather than created a new moment, in American culture.


Some Catholics in both political parties are deeply troubled by these issues [ e.g., abortion and stem-cell research]. But too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics … really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by other good social policies.

Rejoicing in the anti-Obama speech campaign, “American Papist” blogger Thomas Peters referenced Chaput’s letter-writing call-out in real time at the blog. Peters later blogged his hope that Bishop D’Arcy employ the “nuclear option” and “remove Notre Dame’s Catholic identification.”

Chaput is no stranger to American Papist Thomas Peters. He sat down with Peters the week before the presidential election for an American Papist News interview. In the YouTube series that resulted, Peters, still clumsy in the art of the leading question, made sure Chaput informed the faithful for something like the thousandth time that Obama was the most pro-abortion presidential candidate in U.S. history, one who “has no regrets about abortion.” Chaput told viewers he was baffled as to how anyone would “let someone lead our country or represent your state if that person favors allowing people to kill their children.”

“But I do not endorse any party or any politician,” he said.

He also noted that Catholic Charities in Colorado is the largest social service agency in the state and so its exemption from taxation is not a privilege but payment for the work the church is doing for Colorado.

The archbishop is likely back in Denver now. Look for him to appear at a major local news outlet soon, if he hasn’t already.