Denver’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says he is “tired of people telling religious folks to be quiet in the public square because of constitutional questions of separation of church and state.”
The archbishop, author of Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life,has urged Catholics to not “buy into the notion that people should shelve their faith when they enter the public square.”
In an interview with the conservative Washington Times, Chaput even went so far as to suggest that since a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices are Catholics, abortion should be restricted by now.
“You’d think that on issues like abortion, the country would be standing in a different place than it does,” he told The Times.
In the book, Chaput comments on church-state separation, writing, “The duty of the Church and other religious communities is moral witness. The duty of the state and its officials is to serve the common good, which is always rooted in moral truth. A proper understanding of the ‘separation of Church and state’ does not imply a separation of faith from political life.”
The Washington Times interviewed Chaput in August, shortly before the Democratic National Con-vention. The paper noted that the archbishop had not been invited to speak at the event, even though it took place in Denver.
Party officials probably had their reasons for keeping Chaput at arm’s length. In late August, he issued a statement attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her comments about the church’s position on abortion during her interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Asked when human life begins, Pelosi stated, “As an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time, and what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition…. St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know.”
In his response, Chaput called Pelosi a “gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them.”
Chaput went on to say that the “Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil.…Today’s religious alibis for abortion and a so-called ‘right to choose’ are nothing more than that – alibis that break radically with historic Christian and Catholic belief.”
A recent poll shows that most American Catholics don’t see the need to take political advice from bishops. The poll by Catholics for Choice found that “seven in ten (70%) of those polled say that the views of Catholic bishops are unimportant to them in deciding for whom to vote and a similarly large proportion (73%) says they believe Catholic politicians are under no religious obligation to vote on issues the way the bishops recommend.”