Monday, October 20, 2008

DENVER (AP) | Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles J. Chaput labeled Sen. Barack Obama the “most committed” pro-choice candidate on abortion in 35 years, while accusing a Catholic Obama ally and other Democrat-friendly Catholic groups of doing a “disservice to the church.”

Archbishop Chaput, one of the nation’s most politically outspoken Catholic prelates, delivered to a Catholic women’s group some of the sharpest words in a debate over abortion and political responsibility in a campaign in which Catholics represent a key demographic.

The archbishop, without getting into much detail, said, “Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the most committed ‘abortion-rights’ presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973,” adding that “the party platform Senator Obama runs on this year is not only aggressively ‘pro-choice,’ it has also removed any suggestion that killing an unborn child might be a regrettable thing” and is “clearly anti-life.”

“To suggest - as some Catholics do - that Senator Obama is this year’s ‘real’ pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse,” Archbishop Chaput said at a Friday dinner sponsored by ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women).

The Obama campaign has been promoting an unusual-suspect sort of endorsement from Douglas Kmiec, a Catholic law professor and former legal counsel in the Reagan administration.

Mr. Kmiec wrote a book making a Catholic case for Mr. Obama, arguing that the Obama campaign is premised on Catholic social teaching like care for working families and the poor and on a foreign policy premised on peace over war. Democratic efforts to tackle social and economic factors that he says contribute to abortion hold more promise, Mr. Kmiec said, than Republican efforts to criminalize it.

Archbishop Chaput said that while Mr. Kmiec’s “Can a Catholic Support Him?” may have extensively cited the prelate’s own 2008 book, “Render Unto Caesar,” “he either misunderstands or misuses my words, and he couldn’t be more mistaken.”

“I think his activism for Senator Barack Obama, and the work of Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, have done a disservice to the church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue,” the archbishop added in his speech, titled “Little Murders.”

Pro-Obama Catholics “seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important, but less foundational, social issues,” said Archbishop Chaput, who emphasized he was speaking as a private citizen.

Neither the Obama campaign nor Mr. Kmiec immediately responded to requests for comment.

But Chris Korzen, executive director of Washington-based Catholics United, which has argued in direct mail and TV ads that taking the “pro-life” position means more than opposing abortion rights, criticized Archbishop Chaput’s statements.

“We are concerned that Archbishop Chaput’s comments - even those made in his personal capacity - will have a chilling effect on this dialogue,” Mr. Korzen said in a statement. “It is also profoundly unfortunate that Archbishop Chaput has chosen to make personal attacks on lay Catholics acting in good faith to promote Catholic values in the public square.”

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