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CHAPUT Oct-20-2008 (740 words) With photo posted Aug. 14. xxxn

Archbishop Chaput criticizes Obama for his stand on 'abortion rights'

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver has called Democratic Sen. Barack Obama the "most committed abortion rights" candidate to lead a major party's presidential ticket since the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

At the same time, Archbishop Chaput accused Democratic-friendly allies of Obama of doing a "disservice to the church."

One of the nation's most politically outspoken Catholic prelates, the archbishop did not go much further in discussing the Illinois senator's candidacy during an Oct. 17 speech to Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women, a Catholic women's group in Denver.

He told the group he was stating his "personal views as an author and private citizen" and was not speaking for the church or telling people how to vote.

"To suggest -- as some Catholics do -- that Sen. Obama is this year's 'real' pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse," Archbishop Chaput said in a presentation titled "The Homicides Involved in Abortion Are 'Little Murders.'"

"To portray the 2008 Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred 'pro-life' option is to subvert what the word 'pro-life' means," he said.

The archbishop refuted the arguments advanced by lifelong Catholic Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., and former legal counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Kmiec has been a vocal supporter of Obama since last spring. His book, "Can a Catholic Support Him?: Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama," has sold well in the five weeks since its release.

Saying he was speaking for himself and not as a representative of the church or the archdiocese, Archbishop Chaput also questioned the work of several organizations that have emerged in recent years and have urged voters to consider the gamut of Catholic teaching on abortion, war, the economy, poverty, the environment and other issues when they cast their vote.

"And here's the irony," he said. "None of the Catholic arguments advanced in favor of Sen. Obama are new. They've been around, in one form or another, for more than 25 years. All of them seek to 'get beyond' abortion, or economically reduce the number of abortions, or create a better society where abortion won't be necessary.

"All of them involve a misuse of the seamless garment imagery in Catholic social teaching. And all of them, in practice, seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues," he said.

Archbishop Chaput credited Catholic supporters of the Democratic ticket for repackaging their arguments in an attempt to "neutralize the witness of the bishops and the pro-life movement by offering a 'Catholic' alternative to the church's priority on sanctity of life issues."

"I think it's an intelligent strategy," he said. "I also think it's wrong and often dishonest."

In introducing his speech, Archbishop Chaput said he was not telling Catholics how to vote. "I don't want to do that. I won't do that and I don't use code language. So you don't need to spend time looking for secret political endorsements," he said.

The archbishop also addressed widespread questions about his book, "Render Unto Caesar," which was published in August 2008 and was frequently cited by Kmiec in his defense of Obama.

"Unfortunately, he either misunderstands or misuses my words, and he couldn't be more mistaken," the archbishop said of Kmiec.

Archbishop Chaput said the book had its origins after the 2004 election when he was approached by a young attorney who ran for office as a pro-life Democrat and nearly won in a heavily Republican district. The lawyer asked the archbishop to put his thoughts about faith and politics into a form that other young Catholics thinking about a political career could use.

"The goal of 'Render Unto Caesar' was simply to describe what an authentic Catholic approach to political life looks like and then to encourage American Catholics to live it," he explained.

There was another reason for the book as well, Archbishop Chaput said.

"Frankly, I just got tired of hearing outsiders and insiders tell Catholics to keep quiet about our religious and moral views in the big public debates that involve all of us as a society," he said. "That's a kind of bullying and I don't think Catholics should accept it."


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