Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 30, 2009
Chaput shares views, commiserates with reporters
Denver Archbishop explains the dialogue with a pro-abortion politician
CNS PHOTO |JAMES BACA
Archbishop Chaput says, 'You don't embarrass people when they come to Communion.'
BY PATRICIA ZAPOR
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON — Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput commiserated with journalists who cover religion about the vitriolic hate mail they and he receive when they address topics such as who should receive the Eucharist.
In a March 17 round table with religion reporters, Chaput spoke candidly about both his appreciation for writers who understand their topic and his frustration with others who don’t do their homework before they attempt to explain Church teachings and practices.
OBLIGATIONS OF CATHOLICS
His prepared remarks touched briefly on the advertised topic of the session — the political obligations of Catholics — which was the subject of Chaput’s recent book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.
A question-and-answer session that followed further elaborated on Catholics in public life, a subject on which Chaput has written and spoken frequently.
But the conversation with the two dozen reporters also touched on the rancour that follows the archbishop and the journalists, especially when they write about Catholic politicians who disagree with some Church teachings.
Sally Quinn, moderator of The Washington Post’s religion blog, On Faith, described being surprised at the quantity and level of anger in criticism that followed a column she wrote last June about receiving Communion during the funeral Mass of her good friend, journalist Tim Russert.
Quinn, who is not Catholic, said she didn’t realize until later that she should not have gone to Communion and that her action might be offensive to Catholics. She said her column triggered a stunning outpouring of often highly offensive comments on the Post’s website as well as attacks in press releases, such as one from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
Quinn explained that she then made a point of learning more about Catholic teaching on the Eucharist and the circumstances under which Catholics should receive Communion and that non-Catholics shouldn’t.
She also apologized to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington who was the celebrant at Russert’s funeral.
She asked Chaput for his thoughts on her experience in light of his frequent writing and public comments about Catholic politicians who disagree with elements of Church teaching but who continue to receive Communion.
Chaput apologized to Quinn for the treatment she received. He explained that his policy is “you don’t embarrass people when they come to Communion.” He does not question whether someone who presents herself for the sacrament should be there.
However, if a politician who prominently supports keeping abortion legal, for instance Vice President Joe Biden, were to contact him before coming to a liturgy, Chaput said he would encourage him to “come talk to me” about it first.
How he would react if that politician came before him for Communion would depend upon that conversation, Chaput said in his book.
There he explained the situation in more detail: If faced with a public official not of his own diocese who publicly acts against Church teaching on “a grave moral issue like abortion, euthanasia, human cloning or embryonic stem-cell research,” lacking any guidance from the official’s own bishop, “I would not refuse him Communion. I would assume his honesty and good will.”
Someone of his own diocese would be asked to meet with him for a private discussion, he wrote.
“As a bishop, I have a duty in charity to help Catholic officials understand and support Church teaching on vital issues,” he wrote. “That’s never a matter for public theatre; it’s always a matter of direct, private discussion.
PRIVATE THEN PUBLIC
“If that failed, I would ask the official to refrain from receiving Communion” first privately and then publicly, explaining the reasoning to priests and others.
“If he still persisted, then and only then would I withhold Communion from him — because of his deliberate disregard of the rights of other Catholics and the unity of the Church,” he wrote.
At the Pew event, Chaput said it is up to individuals to know the Church’s teachings, to honestly evaluate their own actions and to refrain from receiving sacraments if their lives do not reflect how a Catholic should be living.
That unwillingness to step in and prevent people from receiving sacraments has brought him his own share of hate mail, as has his stand that people who don’t live according to the Church’s teachings need to remove themselves from receiving its sacraments, said Chaput.
His efforts to explain the Church’s teachings on the rights of migrants and how that applies to immigration law and policy also stirs people’s emotions.
Chaput said the way the Internet allows people to immediately respond out of raw emotion to anything “has led to a coarsening of the dialogue” on many issues.
One difference between criticism from conservatives and liberals, he joked, is that “the conservatives are meaner, but the liberals’ language is more foul.”
(Archbishop Charles Chaput will be the next featured speaker at Nothing More Beautiful in Edmonton. His talk on Our New Life in Jesus Christ will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 30 at St. Joseph’s Basilica.)