Archbishop Chaput offers take on election issues, Church affairs

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Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

As the presidential elections draw near, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia offered his view on the issues at stake, including the deficit, the defense of marriage, the right to life and religious freedom.

“I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion,” the archbishop told John L. Allen, Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter in a wide-ranging Sept. 6 interview.

Archbishop Chaput's remark was made in response to a question about whether he believes a Catholic can vote in good faith for President Obama.

The issues which particularly concern him as a voter include preventing the redefinition of marriage, bringing an end to abortion, and maintaining religious freedom. The lengthy interview with Allen also touched on the sexual abuse crisis, finances, politics, being a pastor, and his future.

Asked about vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, the archbishop defended the lawmaker while also saying it’s not the budget he would have crafted.  At the same time, Archbishop Chaput said he admires Ryan for taking a serious stab at the federal budget deficit, which mirrors his own deficit problems in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“It’s immoral for us to continue to spend money we don’t have,” he said.

This view has been backed up by Archbishop Chaput's governance in Philadelphia. He intends to balance the archdiocesan budget by 2014, and has sold his own residence and other properties to help reduce the deficit from 17 to only 6 million dollars this year.

He reiterated that while Christians have a duty to help the poor, how that happens and the government's role in it is a matter of prudential judgement that Catholics in good faith are able to disagree about.

With regard to religious freedom and the contraception mandate, Archbishop Chaput struck a tone of cautious optimism.

He was pleased that the U.S. bishops' conference “Fortnight for Freedom” raised the profile of religious liberty concerns among Catholics in the pews. But he also remains very concerned about the prospect of losing religious liberty in the U.S., noting that he saw it eroded in Europe when he was on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Speaking about the sex abuse scandal, Archbishop Chaput told Allen that he would not oppose a law that extends the statute of limitations for filing civil suits against both public and private entities over sexual abuse. He had opposed such a law in Colorado because it singled out the Church, while sheltering public institutions from lawsuits.

“Most of the sexual abuse done outside the family happens in the public school system, so if you can sue the church, you also surely ought to be able to sue the school system,” he said, in an appeal to justice and equity in the application of law.

Internal Church affairs were also up for discussion during the candid and wide ranging interview.

Archbishop Chaput has often been in the running for president of the U.S. bishops' conference in the past, so Allen asked if he has interest in it when Cardinal Dolan's term finishes next year.

Archbishop Chaput was adamant that he is not interesting in the position, especially since his local Church needs all his attention.

But he did offer his support for Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez as the next conference president. The Philadelphia archbishop cited Archbishop Gomez' competence as a bishop and his role as a spokesperson for the Hispanic Catholic issues as reasons for his endorsement.

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