Conservative “Backbone Radio” talk show host John Andrews wrote an end-of-the-year Denver Post column Sunday nominating Archbishop Charles Chaput as his Coloradan of the Year. “The good archbishop models self-government and self-giving,” Andrews wrote. But how can it be a good idea to be lauding any member of the Catholic hierarchy for doing anything remotely like “modeling self-government” these days? Really, Andrews doesn’t seem to know very much about the Church and he doesn’t seem to know much about his “Coloradan of the Year,” either.
The biggest thing going on with the Catholic Church right now is that bishops are resigning every passing day in Ireland in the wake of yet another outrageous Catholic child abuse scandal characterized by criminal failure on the part of Church leaders to self govern. To summarize events, a government-ordered investigation has found that thousands of kids across Dublin’s parishes have been molested and abused and that Church leaders– as unaccountable to the public there as they are here– orchestrated a craven decades-long cover-up, where the molesters were allowed to keep on preaching and molesting and, in one instance, holding regular attention-getting naked exercise sessions with children on parish grounds unrestrained and without fear of reprisal.
Do we need anyone, even talk-radio hosts, encouraging any more “self governance” on the part of the Church– even if under the so-far unblemished hand of Archbishop Chaput? On the contrary, “self-giving” Chaput might better earn his nomination as “Coloradan of the Year” by doing something leaderly like throwing open the books and letting Coloradans see for themselves how the Church here is spending its money. We might learn, for example, how much it has paid to defend priests against legal charges. Or whether the archdiocese is presently paying to house any accused or convicted priests. Or how much the Church in Colorado earns by doing business with price-gouging service-denying abortion-financing health insurance companies?
Andrews says he settled upon Chaput in consultation with four “ghostly jurors”: “Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Grant, spiritual fathers under whose wise and brave influence our state was born.”
Is it worth adding, given the absurdity of the premise, that the “spiritual fathers” would not likely have seen Chaput in the same light as does Andrews, and that neither would the “four centuries of Americans who pushed westward from the Old World’s exhaustion to the New World’s promise”? Is it worth adding that they might not at all “recognize in Chaput a friend to their souls,” as Andrews puts it in his over-the-top reverie.
Those who follow Chaput’s career at all know he is the first American Indian archbishop in the United States and is reportedly a descendant of the Potawatomi. In the era of the founding fathers, Chaput’s people backed the British and the tribe was subjected to reprisals and shunted over the course of the next hundred years into ever-shrinking less-fertile territories through one poison government treaty after another.
So the “ghostly jurors” Andrews leaned upon might likely see Chaput through the prism of their age as an odd convert to the white man’s ways or as merely an Indian– that is, as a superstitious pagan worthy of being only either shot or herded into a reservation, as were most of Chaput’s forebears.
Then again, Andrews could be right: Maybe General Grant, veteran of the Mexican-American war– if he were roused early enough in the morning, when he was coming down from one bout with the jug and not yet started on the next– maybe he would see Chaput as some version of “Coloradan of the Year” or at least “Potawatomi of the Year” or maybe even as a “friend to the soul” who could provide relief from the ravages of “Old World exhaustion.”
Yeah, sure, why not?