TORONTO, Canada, March 2, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - During the visit of Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput to Toronto last week LifeSiteNews interviewed the archbishop at the offices of Salt & Light television following his breakfast presentation to local Catholic businessmen. The interview offers important insights into Archbishop Chaput's views on the obligations of Catholics in the public realm and the failure of the Church to properly instruct its members since the 1960s.
Following is the transcript of the conversation between the archbishop and LifeSiteNews Managing Director Steve Jalsevac:
LSN (Jalsevac): What can be done to bring leading Catholic pro-abortion politicians to comprehend their accountability to their faith and to God, especially regarding their public actions and public statements on the moral issues.
CHAPUT: Apparently, very little can be done because so little seems to have been accomplished. I don't know how clearer the bishops, at least as a body, can be speaking about these matters beginning with the Holy Father, of course, and now through the body of bishops. I don't know if it's because we've let it go on for such a long time and haven't challenged it before now, but this attitude of being comfortable with being pro-choice and Catholic at the same time seems to be deeply set in the lives of these folks. Genuinely, they seem to believe it's true, so somehow either someone taught them that or they've arrived at it themselves and weren't challenged on it or whatever, but they seem so firmly set in the course they've taken. So quite honestly, I don't know what can be done. I'm not aware of a single case of a Catholic politician who is pro-choice who has changed his or her mind. Maybe you are, but I am not aware.
LSN: Off hand, no, I don't. This is a question that follows that. It seems that almost without exception, Catholic politicians are affirmed or even led to their wrong views on moral issues by one or more Catholic clergy, religious, theologians or lay teachers. The recent revelation about how the Kennedy's were negatively influenced in their transformation from pro-life to pro-abortion is one of many such examples that we have become aware of. What can be done about this phenomenon? And it seems to have especially been occurring since the 60s.
CHAPUT: I think so too. It seems like there has been a very bad period of catechesis of people in the Church, not only catechesis of the laity but also catechesis of the clergy and it's bearing bad fruit in our time. I think it's very important for clergy to advise political leaders of the great scandal that they might be part of because this can lead not only to the death of the unborn but it can also lead to the spiritual death of the political leaders who vote that way. So, it seems to me that we need to reinvigorate the Church's understanding of the horror of abortion. We are as horrified by that as we would be by genocide, by slavery, you know, those kinds of issues. It seems that we have become deadened to the horror of abortion. If we can reinvigorate our understanding of that, become more sensitive to great evil that abortion is, the we can make a difference.
LSN: It doesn't seem to be limited to abortion, it's all the moral issues that seem to be tied to the same mentality
CHAPUT: Well, I don't know, I don't know if it's true about all the moral issues, but I think I would agree that some would be much related to it.
LSN: That brings us to a third related issue, I believe, and that is, you are on the bishops committee on the liturgy. How can the way that the liturgy is formulated and presented to the people elevate the sense of the sacredness of every human life and receptiveness to the Church's moral teachings and natural law. There are a lot of small things in the liturgy that may affect how Catholics have a sense of the awesomeness and wonder of God and liturgy is related to what has been happening since the 1960s. Coincident with the decline in the observance in proper liturgy and the abuse of liturgical norms has been this rise in moral relativism and rejection of the Church's teachings by people who still frequently go to Church as many of these pro-life politicians and leaders do. Is there a relationship that you can see?
CHAPUT: Well, a couple of things. First of all, I think the liturgy as we have it gives us many opportunities to think about the moral issues and life issues. One of the things that was very interesting in the United States in October, was in the week right before our national election, our federal election, we had this passage in scripture " render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God's". But I find myself having the opportunity naturally because of the series that the Church presents to us in the three year cycle, to preach on the life issues frequently, so I'm grateful for that. But I think you're right. I think that sometimes priests have felt the freedom to change the liturgy kind of corresponds to their freedom to disagree with the Church's teachings on faith and morals. It's kind of like the individual priest might determine the hierarchy of what's important in the Church and what's true and what is not, and that's not at all what the Catholic Church believes. We need to be faithful to the Church's teachings and I think a sign of being faithful to the Church's teachings is being faithful to the liturgy as it's given to us by the Church.
LSN: I guess it's giving an example of, "we're doing our things here and you do things your way", rather than the loving way the Church has provided for us.
CHAPUT: Yes, that's right.
LSN: Last night a person asked you a question about excommunications. I'm not suggesting that is something that necessarily should be done, but there is the problem that prominent pro-abortion Catholics, whether they be politicians or otherwise, or known to be going to Church and being offered and still partaking of all the benefits of the Church. They may be even reading at mass, they may be involved in parish activities in some kind of prominent way in some cases. It's a scandal to the faith, but more than that it sends a very confusing message to the people.
CHAPUT: Right. I think it's another sign of accommodation with the reality of abortion. We don't understand this horror so we can put up with people who are pro-choice or pro-abortion and not challenge their Catholic identity. It seems to me that anyone who is pro-choice or pro-abortion shouldn't receive communion as they are not in communion with the Church's teaching and certainly if they cannot receive Holy Communion, they shouldn't be lectors at Mass, they shouldn't be given prominent positions in the life of the Church. Of course, we hope they will come back to the faith and to the truth, so we don't want to chase them away from the Church but, you know, Communion means not only union with the Lord but also union with His Church which is His body, His presence in the world today, and if someone doesn't believe what the Church teaches on faith and morals, that person shouldn't receive Holy Communion.
Excommunication is a different thing, and for the Church to excommunicate someone, it's an extraordinarily serious situation and I think the reason it's not done more often is because it's not been perceived as being effective, that is will cause more problems than it solves. When I was a young boy a long time ago, Archbishop Rummel in New Orleans excommunicated several members of his diocese who stood in the way of his efforts to end segregation in the archdiocese of New Orleans. Essentially these people and his efforts were applauded by the New York Times even, When Archbishop Burke warned Catholic legislators in his diocese that they risked excommunication if they persisted in promoting access to abortion, he was condemned by the same kind of press for being intolerant. And is some ways that reveals the issue though. If bishops excommunicate, the issue is not going to be abortion, it's going to be the intrusive power of the Church in the life of the Church and so it's a question of is it a prudent thing to do or does this really confuse the issue more than help the issue.
LSN: Any you may be perfectly right about that. But for example, in a family there is a father, a mother and children and let's say there is one child that is very disobedient and persistently so and the father keeps talking and talking and the mother keeps talking and talking, and this goes on for years, and the other children say, "all they ever do is talk to him, they never take any action". Now, in this case I am not sure what the right action is, but…
CHAPUT: I am not sure the bishops have been talking to these people either.
LSN: That's a good point.
CHAPUT: And let's use your analogy. What about in the family if the father talks to one of the children about doing this and then decides that since you are not going to be obedient, you can't be part of this family until you are obedient. And then the other children say, why are you doing that Dad, it's not fair, or just, and instead of it being a corrective for the wayward child, it's the cause of a major family fight because the disagreement within the family is much broader than the disagreement with that one child.
LSN: But usually, the appropriate thing is to take one step at a time - take away some benefit, apply some accountability. Is there not a possibility of some accountability, as a sign?
CHAPUT: It seem to me that more bishops would be acting this way, in issues that are very clear, if they thought it would be effective, and the reason that they don't do this is that they don't think it would be effective. You know, the purpose of excommunication is ..
LSN: Sorry, I'm not asking about excommunication at all now, but rather lower level things.
CHAPUT: I can't understand why anyone who is pro-choice could be a reader at Mass, that's what you are talking about. And, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion - it would be outrageous. Again, they should not receive Holy Communion.
LSN: In our work, that we have been doing for many years, we find that many people, even some leaders in the Church do not comprehend the gravity of the situation that we are in now, that our civilization is in danger of collapsing. Do you find that people just don't believe what you are saying, don't believe what you are warning them about, don't believe that they should not vote for Obama? Does it sometimes frustrate you that things are so obvious and yet you have a difficulty convincing the public or certain people of the gravity of the situation that we are in today?
CHAPUT: It seems human history has been a series of times of us not taking the warning signs seriously. I think the reading for the first Sunday of Lent this year is the story of Noah and the flood. They were eating and drinking and carrying on and the flood came. They just weren't willing to take the warnings that God sends us and I think it is true about our time that we are not taking the situation concerning the Church and the world seriously now. I agree with you. I don't know what we can do about it except to be persistent in our preaching and in our continuing to give the warning and that God bring fruit from that if He chooses. We shouldn't give up.
LSN: …proclaiming the truth, regardless,
LIFESITENEWS: Would you agree that there seems to be an increase in that happening now?CHAPUT: Increase in what happening?
LSN: Of various leaders starting to be more outspoken about the current state of our culture?
CHAPUT: You might be a better judge of that than I. I certainly don't think there are enough.
LSN: I agree with that.
CHAPUT: There may be more than there were. Last year or the year before, I don't know.
LSN: Well, the last election there were so many bishops who came out so strongly. We were actually excited.
CHAPUT: Not nearly enough.
LSN: Last night a person asked a question comparing the response to the invitation to speakers at two colleges, a Canadian one and one in the United States and the Canadian one invited Cokie Roberts. I guess you didn't know who she was.
CHAPUT: Oh, I know who she is. I just didn't know where she stood.
LSN: She is a Catholic, outspokenly pro-abortion, pro-homosexual. At the college of course she was not talking about that, but that was the usual strategy of "we are not here to talk about abortion" and so on to justify inviting the person. It was a great disappointment to us that we got the kind of response that we did from the college.
CHAPUT: (After reading the LifeSiteNews report on the event) I can't believe that the president of the Catholic Assumption University said abortion is not infallible Church teaching.
LSN: Yes, we couldn't believe it either.