- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2008

DENVER | In retrospect, maybe the Democrats should have included Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in their convention activities after all.

The party was accused of deliberately snubbing the outspoken archbishop by failing to invite him to lead prayers or participate on its religion panels. Archbishop Chaput is the leader of Denver´s estimated 385,000 Catholics, the area´s largest religious denomination.

But Archbishop Chaput may have gotten the last laugh. Democrats are doing a slow burn over the archbishop´s headline-grabbing criticism of party bigwigs and his decision to schedule major events this week during the convention´s prime-time speeches.

“There are lots of bishops who stay out of politics,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “Chaput is exactly the opposite.”

Wednesday night, for example, Archbishop Chaput drew hundreds to a signing of his newest book, “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life,” at a bookstore about 15 miles from the Pepsi Center.

The signing began at the same time the Democratic National Convention launched a line-up of speakers that included former President Bill Clinton and vice-presidential pick Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Coincidence? Maybe. Three nights ago, however, on the debut of the convention, Archbishop Chaput led a pro-life rally and prayer march outside a Planned Parenthood office in north Denver that started at 7:30 MST, about the same time as Michelle Obama, wife of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, was speaking to the convention.

Dan Caplis, a Denver radio talk-show host and attorney who hosted the march, made reference to the convention overlap in his introductory remarks. About 1,000 people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Park to hear Archbishop Chaput and pro-life activist Alveda King, the late Mr. King´s niece.

“I just came from the Pepsi Center. … It´s a glamorous scene,” Mr. Caplis said. “But I think I speak for all of us when I say there´s nowhere I´d rather be than here right here, right now.”

Archbishop Chaput began his week of rabble-rousing Sunday by weighing in on Mr. Biden´s selection as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. The archbishop said that Mr. Biden, a pro-choice Catholic, should refrain from taking Communion because his beliefs on abortion conflict with those of the church.

“I certainly presume his goodwill and integrity,” said the archbishop, “and I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion if he supports a false ‘right´ to abortion.”

His remarks raised questions about whether placing Mr. Biden on the ticket would help the party win the critical Catholic vote. The archbishop took the same stand four years ago with Sen. John Kerry, then the Democratic nominee for president.

Two days later, Archbishop. Chaput took exception to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi´s statements on “Meet the Press” about the beginning of life. Mrs. Pelosi said that Catholics could not agree on when life begins, and therefore the issue shouldn´t have an impact on the abortion issue.

On Tuesday, Archbishop Chaput and his auxiliary bishop, James D. Conley, issued a statement criticizing Mrs. Pelosi, saying that the California Democrat was a “gifted public servant” with “many professional skills” but that “knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them.”

The Democratic Party has made an unprecedented effort this year to win faith-based voters with panels dominated by members of the “religious left.”

Inviting Archbishop Chaput to participate in such events may have kept him busy, said pollster Ciruli, but it´s doubtful he would have held his tongue.

“He´s one of the nation´s most outspoken prelates on the issue of how Catholics should be involved in the public square,” Mr. Ciruli said. “Maybe this confrontation was inevitable, given the confluence of events on which he´s an activist.”