Monday, October 27, 2008

Should Archbishop Chaput Criticize McCain?

Last Friday, I argued that Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s criticisms of Barack Obama have been misunderstood as partisan. In response, reader Joseph J. Cleary II wrote:

When the church leadership takes the jump from enunciating clear moral policy to “implying” political votes for a party or candidate, they inevitably miss the mark.

I take Cleary’s point: church leaders should not imply votes for or against any candidate. To do so would be to violate the spirit of church consensus. As Michael Sean Winters noted accurately, The bishops’ document "Faithful Citizenship" says, "In fulfilling these responsibilities, the Church’s leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote.”

Yet contra Michael, Chaput has not urged Catholics to vote against Obama. Instead, the archbishop has criticized the Democratic candidate’s position on abortion, as well as his supporters. Opposing a candidate and criticizing his policies one are not the same. Criticism means disapproval; it doesn’t mean opposition. Most of us criticize candidates regularly; this doesn’t mean we won’t vote for them.

Naturally, this raises the question: Why hasn’t Archbishop Chaput criticized John McCain for his support of another evil -- federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. Last month, Fran Maier, the chancellor of the Denver archdiocese, explained the archbishop’s decision this way:

In fact, the archbishop has voiced his criticism of embryonic stem cell research directly to Sen. McCain. He’s had no similar invitation or opportunity to meet with Sen. Obama. Moreover, the Republican Party platform rejects embryonic stem cell research. In fact, anyone interested in the contrasts between the two party platforms on this and related life issues simply needs to compare them.

Fran’s words invite questions. Would Chaput not have criticized Obama publicly if he had agreed to meet with the archbishop? Did Obama reject Chaput’s offer to meet with the archbishop?

In my reading of the evidence, Chaput is not a partisan. But surely he could explain his position about public criticism of candidates and their positions on various evils more fully.

Mark Stricherz

1 comment:

Gabriel McAuliffe said...

I just wanted to say that I greatly appreciate the opinions of Mark Stricherz to be a welcome relief to the Obama and Democrat cheerleading squad led by Michael Sean Winters on the America Magazine blog. There are some of us who are Catholic who are Republican, and, in fact, come from a family that was Irish Catholic and Republican for at least a hundred years. We do exist with good consciences intact(Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul).