No Brotherly Love for the new Archbishop of Philadelphia
Today, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are celebrating the installation of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput O.F.M. The question thus arises why Nicholas P. Cafardi, Dean Emeritus of the Duquesne Law School, would publish an op-ed in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer both maligning and accusing Archbishop Chaput of propagating a “one-issue” Catholic Church. That issue, of course, is abortion, a practice that Archbishop Chaput has consistently reminded all Catholics, including Catholic politicians, should be opposed rather than supported.
To imply that Archbishop Chaput does not care about the “broad spectrum of values,” such as caring for the poor and immigrants, is simply silly. This accusation will gain no traction among those who know the archbishop and his 23 years of revitalizing the dioceses of Rapid City, South Dakota and Denver, Colorado. It’s the predictable accusation of Catholics, like Carfardi, who have publicly supported political candidates, such as Barack Obama, with indisputable records of support for abortion.
Carfardi wants the bishops to back off the abortion issue because he knows the kind of candidates he supports will lose their luster when bishops and priests remind faithful Catholics of their political responsibility. Carfardi even repeats the falsity reported in the New York Times during the 2004 presidential campaign that Archbishop Chaput said Catholics voting for John Kerry were “cooperating with evil.” Carfardi surely knows that the archbishop produced the transcript of the interview it was based upon, showing the New York Times simply got it wrong. It was disingenuous, if not outright rude, for Carfardi to put that bit of misinformation back into circulation.
Although he claims that polling data shows the “culture-war approach” is rejected by most religious voters, Cafardi describes the appointment of Archbishop Chaput to Philadelphia as having “national implications in the 2012 elections.” Though he downplays the effectiveness of pro-life convictions in attracting voters, Cafardi tries to paint Archbishop Chaput with a partisan brush, arguing his “disproportionate focus” on the abortion issue in politics “gives the false impression that the Catholic Church is a religious wing of the Republican Party.” Surely that concern was put to rest in 2008 when 54 percent of self-identified Catholics supported Obama over pro-life John McCain. Such remarks about the bishops and the GOP only serve to underscore the need for Catholic Democrats to put their own house in order.
At the end of his op-ed, Cafardi congratulates Archbishop Chaput for his “demonstrated integrity and strong leadership” in handling “sensitive assignments” given to him by the Vatican. But, it’s impossible to put balance into an appraisal of an archbishop that is intended to poison the well from the first day of his service to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Let’s hope such an initial volley from Cafardi will remind Catholics of Chaput’s archdiocese of the prayer and support he will need for that community to recover from its recent travails.
By Deal Hudson, Catholic Advocate President & Matt Smith, Catholic Advocate Vice President