Democrats have invited more than two dozen religious leaders to pray or speak at their upcoming conventioin with a notable exception: Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, a policy wonk and the leader of Colorado‘s largest religious denomination.
Several Catholics, including former Colorado state Sen. Polly Baca, “Dead Man Walking” author Sister Helen Prejean, social justice lobbyist Sister Catherine Pinkerton and Pepperdine University professor Douglas W. Kmiec, are on the program.
Organizers are also flying in Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios from New York to give the opening prayer Wednesday.
But Archbishop Chaput’s only contact with the convention has been a meeting with Leah Daughtry, chief executive officer of the convention and a Pentecostal pastor, and an invitation to attend the event as an observer.
Raymond Flynn, the Democratic mayor of Boston for 10 years before being named ambassador to the Vatican during the Clinton administration, said not inviting the archbishop to pray or speak was “a serious oversight” that Democratic leaders should correct.
“Chaput is one of the most respected leaders of the Catholic Church in America,” he said. “His record is a strong commitment to social and economic justice and the principles of the Catholic faith. He’s also a strong patriot.
“Pro-life Democrats who are proud Catholics like myself feel this is an insult to our values.”
“The party,” he added, “should be aware there are strong pro-life people who are politically successful.”
Archbishop Chaput, the leader of 385,000 Catholics in the Denver area, said he was not taking the omission personally.
“I’m happy to see they are having prayer at their sessions,” Archbishop Chaput said Monday, “and they have a right to choose whom they want to do that.”
“Hopefully,” he said of the Catholics attending the convention, “they will know being Catholic is more foundational to their identity than anything else.”
Instead of following Monday night’s opening ceremonies on TV, the archbishop will join Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, in a prayer vigil against abortion near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Stapleton, a Denver suburb.
Several spokesmen for the convention said they could not give a reason why the archbishop was not given a prominent role. Natalie Wyeth, press secretary for the convention’s planning committee, said the archbishop had already informed them that he was too busy to attend.
The archbishop, who is not registered with any political party, is keenly interested in politics. His latest book, “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life,” was released last Tuesday.
In the book, the archbishop suggests that American Catholics have gotten too comfortable with the status quo and are morally indistinguishable from non-Catholics.
“I am trying to convince people they should not be embarrassed at being Catholic and not buy the supposedly American notion that people should shelve their faith when they enter the public square,” he said.
The nation’s 47 million Catholic voters “have historically belonged in huge numbers to the Democratic Party,” he said. “They could have stood up in former years and demanded that abortion not be part of the platform, but they did not.”
Considering that one-quarter of the U.S. Senate and a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court justices are Catholic, “you’d think that on issues like abortion,” he said, “the country would be standing in a different place than it does.”
He added that he was asked by several Catholic politicians to write the book.
“I am tired of people telling religious folks to be quiet in the public square because of constitutional questions of separation of church and state,” he said. “I hope this encourages people to become confident and active.”