Skip to comments.The Bishop's Ax Falls on Obama. And on the Vatican Curia (bombshell article)
Posted on 10/11/2009 1:30:02 PM PDT by NYer
ROME, October 8, 2009 – "I will always forcefully defend the right of the bishops to criticize me," Barack Obama pledged just before his meeting with Benedict XVI last July 10.
Indeed. About 80 of the Catholic bishops of the United States are in open disagreement with him on crucial questions, in primis the defense of life. Among these is Cardinal Francis George, president of the bishops' conference and archbishop of Chicago, Obama's city.
And there's also the bishop of Denver, Charles J. Chaput, 65, member of a Native American tribe and a Capuchin Franciscan. Last year, he published a book that starts getting its point across right from the title: "Render unto Caesar. Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life." It is right to give Caesar that which belongs to him. But one serves the nation by living one's own Catholic faith in political life.
Chaput does not like the fact that in Rome, at the Vatican, they turn a deaf ear to the criticisms of Obama made by the American Church. He especially didn't like the effusive praise heaped on the American president last July – in conjunction with Obama's meeting with the pope – by a venerated cardinal of the curia, Georges Cottier of Switzerland, theologian emeritus of the pontifical household, in an article published in the magazine "30 Days."
"30 Days" is a magazine of ecclesiastical geopolitics that is widely read in the Roman curia. It is directed by the most "curial" of Italy's veteran Catholic politicians, senator for life Giulio Andreotti. Published in six languages, it reaches all the dioceses of the world, and fully reflects the realist politics of Vatican diplomacy.
After reading Cardinal Cottier's enthusiastic article – enthusiastic above all about Obama's speech at the Catholic university of Notre Dame – and having read before this an editorial in "L'Osservatore Romano" that was also highly congratulatory of the first hundred days of the American president, even for his "support of childbirth," Chaput felt compelled to reply.
He put pen to paper and responded point by point. To Obama, to Cardinal Cottier, and to the Vatican secretariat of state. And not in an American newspaper, but in a newspaper printed in Rome, so that the Vatican would see it.
His reply was published on October 6 in "il Foglio," the opinion journal directed by Giuliano Ferrara. It is not Catholic, but is very attentive to the public role of religion, and has a definite "Ratzingerian" slant.
The article by the bishop of Denver filled the entire third page, beneath the title: "L'ascia del vescovo pellerossa – Charles J. Chaput contro Notre Dame e l'illustre cardinale sedotto dall'abortista Obama [The hatchet of the redskin cardinal – Charles J. Chaput against Notre Dame and the illustrious cardinal seduced by the pro-abortion Obama]."
The text is reproduced below, with its original title.
Also on October 6, on the front page, "il Foglio" published an interview with Cardinal George, who was in Rome at the time to present his new book entitled: "The Difference God Makes – A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture."
In the interview, among other things the cardinal said:
"Today the greatest difficulty we have as a Church is that of communicating to society that there is a hierarchy of values. Let's take the question of abortion and of life in general. The Church's voice is listened to in the United States, but it also faces a lot of hostility. And the criticisms of the Church take place for one reason: because our society maintains that individualism and freedom of choice are the most important value to protect. Free will today is valued more highly than life."
"The Church's morality on certain issues has never changed. L'Osservatore Romano – it is true – may have written a dozen lines in favor of Obama, some cardinal may have spoken in enthusiastic terms of the current American administration, but beyond the journalistic hype one point remains: the Church cannot betray itself."
Politics, Morality and a President: An American View
by Charles J. Chaput
One of the strengths of the Church is her global perspective. In that light, Cardinal Georges Cottier’s recent essay on President Barack Obama ("Politics, morality and original sin," 30 Days No. 5, 2009) made a valuable contribution to Catholic discussion of the new American president. Our faith connects us across borders. What happens in one nation may have an impact on many others. World opinion about America’s leaders is not only appropriate; it should be welcomed.
And yet, the world does not live and vote in the United States. Americans do. The pastoral realities of any country are best known by the local bishops who shepherd their people. Thus, on the subject of America’s leaders, the thoughts of an American bishop may have some value. They may augment the Cardinal’s good views by offering a different perspective.
Note that I speak here only for myself. I do not speak for the bishops of the United States as a body, nor for any other individual bishop. Nor will I address President Obama’s speech to the Islamic world, which Cardinal Cottier mentions in his own essay. That would require a separate discussion.
I will focus instead on the President’s graduation appearance at the University of Notre Dame, and Cardinal Cottier’s comments on the President’s thinking. I have two motives in doing so.
First, men and women from my own diocese belong to the national Notre Dame community as students, graduates and parents. Every bishop has a stake in the faith of the people in his care, and Notre Dame has never merely been a local Catholic university. It is an icon of the American Catholic experience.
Second, when Notre DamÈs local bishop vigorously disagrees with the appearance of any speaker, and some 80 other bishops and 300,000 laypeople around the country publicly support the local bishop, then reasonable people must infer that a real problem exists with the speaker – or at least with his appearance at the disputed event. Reasonable people might further choose to defer to the judgment of those Catholic pastors closest to the controversy.
Regrettably and unintentionally, Cardinal Cottier’s articulate essay undervalues the gravity of what happened at Notre Dame. It also overvalues the consonance of President Obama’s thinking with Catholic teaching.
There are several key points to remember here.
First, resistance to President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame had nothing to do with whether he is a good or bad man. He is obviously a gifted man. He has many good moral and political instincts, and an admirable devotion to his family. These things matter. But unfortunately, so does this: The President’s views on vital bioethical issues, including but not limited to abortion, differ sharply from Catholic teaching. This is why he has enjoyed the strong support of major "abortion rights" groups for many years. Much is made, in some religious circles, of the President’s sympathy for Catholic social teaching. But defense of the unborn child is a demand of social justice. There is no "social justice" if the youngest and weakest among us can be legally killed. Good programs for the poor are vital, but they can never excuse this fundamental violation of human rights.
Second, at a different moment and under different circumstances, the conflict at Notre Dame might have faded away if the university had simply asked the President to give a lecture or public address. But at a time when the American bishops as a body had already voiced strong concern about the new administration’s abortion policies, Notre Dame not only made the President the centerpiece of its graduation events, but also granted him an honorary doctorate of laws – this, despite his deeply troubling views on abortion law and related social issues.
The real source of Catholic frustration with President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame was his overt, negative public voting and speaking record on abortion and other problematic issues. By its actions, Notre Dame ignored and violated the guidance of America’s bishops in their 2004 document, "Catholics in Political Life." In that text, the bishops urged Catholic institutions to refrain from honoring public officials who disagreed with Church teaching on grave matters.
Thus, the fierce debate in American Catholic circles this spring over the Notre Dame honor for Mr. Obama was not finally about partisan politics. It was about serious issues of Catholic belief, identity and witness – triggered by Mr. Obama’s views – which Cardinal Cottier, writing from outside the American context, may have misunderstood.
Third, the Cardinal wisely notes points of contact between President Obama’s frequently stated search for political "common ground" and the Catholic emphasis on pursuing the "common good." These goals – seeking common ground and pursuing the common good – can often coincide. But they are not the same thing. They can sharply diverge in practice. So-called “common ground” abortion policies may actually attack the common good because they imply a false unity; they create a ledge of shared public agreement too narrow and too weak to sustain the weight of a real moral consensus. The common good is never served by tolerance for killing the weak – beginning with the unborn.
Fourth, Cardinal Cottier rightly reminds his readers of the mutual respect and cooperative spirit required by citizenship in a pluralist democracy. But pluralism is never an end in itself. It is never an excuse for inaction. As President Obama himself acknowledged at Notre Dame, democracy depends for its health on people of conviction fighting hard in the public square for what they believe – peacefully, legally but vigorously and without apologies.
Unfortunately, the President also added the curious remark that "... the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt... This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us." In a sense, of course, this is true: On this side of eternity, doubt is part of the human predicament. But doubt is the absence of something; it is not a positive value. Insofar as it inoculates believers from acting on the demands of faith, doubt is a fatal weakness.
The habit of doubt fits much too comfortably with a kind of "baptized unbelief;" a Christianity that is little more than a vague tribal loyalty and a convenient spiritual vocabulary. Too often in recent American experience, pluralism and doubt have become alibis for Catholic moral and political lethargy. Perhaps Europe is different. But I would suggest that our current historical moment – which both European and American Catholics share – is very far from the social circumstances facing the early Christian legislators mentioned by the Cardinal. They had faith, and they also had the zeal – tempered by patience and intelligence – to incarnate the moral content of their faith explicitly in culture. In other words, they were building a civilization shaped by Christian belief. Something very different is happening now.
Cardinal Cottier’s essay gives witness to his own generous spirit. I was struck in particular by his praise for President Obama’s "humble realism." I hope he's right. American Catholics want him to be right. Humility and realism are the soil where a commonsense, modest, human-scaled and moral politics can grow. Whether President Obama can provide this kind of leadership remains to be seen. We have a duty to pray for him – so that he can, and does.
The Rome newspaper that published the article by Bishop Charles J. Chaput:
> Il Foglio
And the article from www.chiesa with the pro-Obama piece by Cardinal Georges Cottier, published in the international magazine "30 Days," to which Chaput responded:
> Welcome, Obama. The Vatican Plays Him a Fanfare (5.7.2009)
On the latest book by Bishop Chaput, "Render unto Caesar":
> How to Conduct Politics as Catholics. The Denver Memorandum (13.8.2008)
Other articles from www.chiesa on the highs and lows between Obama and the Catholic Church:
> Obama Graduates from Notre Dame. But the Bishops Are Making Him Retake the Exam (26.5.2009)
> Angel or Demon? In the Vatican, Obama Is Both (8.5.2009)
On the friction between the Vatican secretariat of state and the bishops' conferences of the United States, Italy, and other countries:
> The Church, Obama, and Berlusconi. Confusion in Power (31.8.2009)
More on the divergences between the secretariat of state and the national episcopates, in an analysis by Sandro Magister in the newspaper "il Foglio" on September 29, 2009:
> Il j'accuse di Magister. Perché la Realpolitik di Bertone non è in sintonia col papa
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
So much for any thought that he might replace the egregious dissident Mahony in Los Angeles in a few years.
Mahony replacement would be one of the defining moments of BXVI’s papacy.
LOL! There is NO American publication that could get away with THAT title!
**About 80 of the Catholic bishops of the United States are in open disagreement with him on crucial questions, in primis the defense of life. Among these is Cardinal Francis George, president of the bishops’ conference and archbishop of Chicago, Obama’s city.**
Way to go, Cardinal George!
It’s good to know that the American Bishops are ‘schooling’ the Curia about Obama.
Important: US Bishops taking the gloves off on health care reform
BREAKING: Catholic Bishops On Health Care - Change Bills Or Else
U.S. bishops warn of vigorous opposition if Congress fails to fix health care bills
List: *41* Bishops against Obamacare (and counting!)
Bishop Murphy Issues Video Statement on Health Care Reform [Diocese of Rockville Centre]
Health Care Principles [Bishop Samuel Aquila, Fargo, ND]
Florida Bishop [Thomas Wenski] Weighs in on Health Care Reform
ObamaCare and Catholic social teaching [Bishop Neckless]
Some Catholic bishops question gov't health care
Bostons Roman Catholic Cardinal Says He Confronted Obama about Abortion in Health Care Plan....
Iowa Bishop: Dont Be Railroaded into the Current...Health Care Proposals
in a message issued by the Diocese of Sioux City (The Church on Universal Healthcare)
Nazi Health Care A Catholic Bishop Speaks Out Against "End of Life Care" (Germany, 1941)
Bishop Nickless: "No Health Care Reform is Better than the Wrong Health Care Reform"
Cardinal Rigali, Abp. Chaput Intensify Warnings Against Obamacare's Abortion Expansion
LOL! I’m laughing at your word, “schooling” — laughing with you, not at you!
Mahony is one of the progressive bishops that will soon retire; mine is another. For many years I wondered why the pope did not take action. I heard through the grapevine that the Vatican maintained a very thick dossier on my bishop ... and continued to ponder why nothing was done. Then I read the following article.
Oh, you didn’t mean it literally. Oh well.
I also read the article, but I don’t buy the good padre’s argument.
In no way am I obligated to follow and support my bishop when he blatantly violates Church Law, Tradition, and Teaching.
Conversely the Pope under Church Law has the power to fire bad bishops, and has done so in the past. Jacques Gaillot was fired as diocesan bishop in 1995. This firing was accomplished by transferring him to the non-existing see of Parthenia.
No good reason why Mahony and others, who IMO aid and abet their real boss as he prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls, could not be dealt with in like manner.
Archbisbop Chaput is awesome. I wish we had more like him.
I listened to Archbishop Chaput talking about this in the sacristy at the Cathedral today following the Red Mass. He said he does indeed have an axe and is going to start carrying it. I asked him if he was sure it wasn’t a tomahawk and he laughed heartily.
Words certainly à propos for President Obama, but the harsher cut is back at Cardinal Cottier.
You are most blessed to have Chaput as your bishop. The next time you see him, tell him this is what he has earned in the blogosphere.
As a Denverite, this is fine by me. I do not want Archbishop Chaput to leave Denver.
I'm wondering if Bishop of Sacramento Jamie Soto is a possible +Mahoney replacement.
I can’t blame you a bit.
The sad thing is that the LA Archdiocese’s influence extends over the entire west and beyond.
We need an authentic Catholic as archbishop in that see.
However, Soto didn't speak out on the Notre Dame scandal.
Surely anyone will be an improvement in LA.
LA is a liturgical disaster whose poisons have spread far and wide through, among other things, their yearly liturgy conference.
The archdiocese badly needs a authentic bishop, whose liturgy, unlike that of the dissident Mahony, is truly Catholic.