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 CNS Story:

CHAPUT-KENNEDY Sep-23-2004 (660 words) xxxn

Splitting faith, politics doesn't apply to abortion, says archbishop

By Catholic News Service

DENVER (CNS) -- The argument that Catholic elected officials can divorce their faith from their political actions does not apply in the fight against abortion, said Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

The 1973 Supreme Court legalization of abortion "changed everything," he said in his column in the Sept. 22 issue of the Denver Catholic Register, his archdiocesan newspaper.

"Abortion is different. Abortion kills," he said.

The archbishop said that after 1973 Catholic officeholders had the choice of trying to reverse the situation "or they could abandon the unborn and look for a way to morally sanitize their decision."

The archbishop did not say in his column that Catholic officeholders favoring legal abortion or Catholics who vote for candidates favoring legal abortion should refrain from receiving Communion.

In an Aug. 13 talk to young adults in Denver, he said, "if you believe that it's all right to kill the unborn or think that it is OK for others to do so, then you're out of communion with the church."

In that talk, he also said, "if we're going to reject, either intellectually and practically, the teachings of the church, then we shouldn't go to communion."

In his Sept. 22 column, Archbishop Chaput criticized former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo for reinforcing the position that there can be a split between faith and politics as formulated in 1960 by John F. Kennedy, a Catholic.

At the time, Kennedy was the Democratic nominee for president and abortion was illegal and not a campaign issue.

Kennedy said he favored strict separation of church and state "where no public official either requests or accepts instructions from the pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesial source."

"Whatever issue may come before me as president -- on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject -- I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest," Kennedy said.

"No power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise," Kennedy said to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a predominantly Protestant group.

Archbishop Chaput said that Kennedy set the tone for many future Catholic politicians regarding the relationship of faith and public office.

Cuomo gave the Kennedy position "intellectual muscle" in a 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame and applied it to the abortion issue, said the archbishop.

Cuomo "wrote the alibi for every 'pro-choice' Catholic who has held public office since," said the archbishop.

Cuomo's speech "equates unequal types of issues," said Archbishop Chaput.

The bottom line of the "Kennedy-Cuomo legacy" is that "it's OK to be Catholic in public service as long as you're willing to jettison what's inconveniently 'Catholic,'" he said. "That's not a compromise. That's a deal with the devil."

Cuomo defended his 1984 speech in an article for the Sept. 24 issue of Commonweal, a national Catholic weekly magazine published in New York. He and Ken Woodward, author and former Newsweek religion editor, in separate articles updated the debate over Cuomo's speech.

The U.S. church then and now has not convinced the majority of the U.S. general public or the Catholic population that human life begins at conception, Cuomo wrote. This makes the outlawing of abortion an impractical political goal, he said.

Although the church believes that civil law should lead people to virtue, "it does so prudently -- gradually and not suddenly," he wrote.

Cuomo added that there is "an American-Catholic tradition of political realism" which requires prudent and practical judgments about how to incorporate Catholic principles into civil law.

"That was true of slavery in the 19th century and it is true of a variety of grave Catholic beliefs today," he wrote.

Woodward wrote that outlawing abortion as "a defense of the human rights of the unborn" is a public policy issue and not an effort to impose a sectarian view on society.

END


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