Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, while not quite explicitly endorsing the Romney/Ryan ticket, suggests that Catholics may have no other choice this November. In an interview with John Allen, Chaput said:
I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.
I’m not a Republican and I’m not a Democrat. I’m registered as an independent, because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another. As an individual and voter I have deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage, supports abortion in all circumstances, wants to restrict the traditional understanding of religious freedom. Those kinds of issues cause me a great deal of uneasiness.
Fair enough. An archbishop voicing his concerns with a party whose platform supports legalized abortion and same-sex marriage is unsurprising.
What did strike me as a bit peculiar was his defense of Paul Ryan’s budget, parts of which were condemned, separately, by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a vocal group of nuns, and some Catholic theologians earlier this year. Chaput said that if Christians, “don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period.” But he said Ryan’s budget should not be viewed through this lens:
Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic. ... You can’t say that somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation.
He goes on to say that the Ryan budget isn’t one he would write himself, but praises Ryan’s attempt at balancing the budget and takes a swipe at the Democrats:
I admire the courage of anyone who’s actually trying to solve the problems rather than paper over them. I think a vigorous debate about the issues, rather than the personalities, is the way through this problem. It’s immoral for us to continue to spend money we don’t have. I think that those persons who don’t want to deal with the issue are, in some ways, doing wrong by putting it off for their own political protection or the protection of their party.
Chaput’s not so subtle preference for Romney and the GOP is the latest in a string of Catholic bishops making their views clear.
In this Sunday’s New York Times, Prof. Molly Worthen writes that liberal Catholics are a valuable resource to the Democratic Party, even if their numbers continue to diminish. She writes, “If the Democratic Party is not listening to liberal Catholics, it is partly because they are not in a position to speak very loudly.” This impotence is due in part to messages like Chaput’s that suggest Catholics cannot be Democrats. This dismissal makes it harder for Catholic Democrats to have a voice in their own party. If church leaders appear to support Republicans exclusively, why would leaders of the Democratic Party try to woo them, and their flocks, by listening to rank and file Catholics in the party?