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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: Render Unto Caesar
Date: 5-6 pm (ET)
on Friday, September 26, 2008
Carl Anderson
Supreme Knight
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
Archbishop of Denver
Carl Anderson:
It is my pleasure to welcome Archbishop Chaput - and all of you - to our discussion this afternoon. Thank you for joining us as we discuss the Archbishop's new book "Render Unto Caesar."

District Deputy Robert B. Camilleri
Las Vegas, Nevada
Do you believe that anything is to be gained by having the Archbishop of San Francisco meet privately with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, an ardent supporter of abortion, about her recent comments on "Meet the Press"? What good can possibly come by having such a meeting?
Carl Anderson:
Yes. There is always something that can be gained from such a discussion because it is well intentioned and prayerful. In fact, it would be better if such discussions were held outside the heat of an election campaign, but the fact that she is willing to do this is a step in the right direction.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Archbishop Niederauer knows his diocese better than anyone on the outside, and it’s appropriate and sensible to trust his judgment. We can be grateful that Speaker Pelosi and the archbishop can at least have an honest, private discussion. Something good always comes from that kind of exchange, even if the results aren’t immediately obvious.

Steve Rudolph
Metamora, IL
John F. Kennedy popularized the notion of separating political life from religious beliefs. Yet, the Church has consistently taught that faith is manifested in all endeavors - including politics. There's been lots of press about bishops refusing communion or declaring excommunication for prominent pro-abortion Catholic politicians who bring scandal upon the Church. What should the layman in the pew do to combat this evil?
Carl Anderson:
Thomas More remarks in Robert Bolt's play, "A Man for All Seasons," that the statesman who abandons his conscience leads his country on a short route to chaos. We all have the responsibility to have a properly formed conscience. At the same time there is a responsibility to evangelize conscience, especially the political conscience. And that is a responsibility that every Catholic in government must take seriously. At the same time excommunication should never be used as a political tool, but must be exercized for the pastoral good of the individual and the community. I think it is a mistake for laymen to substitute their judgment for the pastoral judgement of their bishop. In my opinion, the best thing the layman in the pew can do to avoid such evil, is vote such people out of office.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
We can start by applying the same standards to ourselves that we correctly want to apply to our Catholic political leaders. We need to rebuild at the family level a reverence for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We should never present ourselves for Communion out of habit or routine, or in a slovenly or disrespectful manner. We need to recover the discipline of examining our consciences every week, in fact every day, and seeking the Sacrament of Penance regularly. If we do that at a family level, gradually we’ll create an environment where people naturally recognize that no one has the right to abuse the meaning of the Eucharist or the rights of other faithful Catholics to the truth.

Carmen Benavidez
Laredo, TX
How can our community be aware in the importance to vote pro-life, no one wants to address this issue; the answer I get is that they cannot talk politics in church; obviously they do not know what the Church stands for. It is sad to hear that if we vote pro-life is because one is Republican, and ignore the fact that is not about left or right, but to respect LIFE.GOD BLESS YOU.
Carl Anderson:
True, we don't want to talk politics in Church. But at the same time, we must speak out for social justice and human rights. In a particular election, this may sometimes appear to favor one party over the other. The important point however, is not to give up on any political party and to insist that every political party pay attention to the fundamental tenets of justice and human rights especially on an issue of such urgent importance.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Don’t be intimidated. The Church is genuinely non-partisan, and she didn’t start the culture war over abortion; others did by imposing their “pro-choice” views on the rest of us. Plenty of very good Catholics inhabit both political parties, and it’s not the job of the Church to endorse or condemn candidates. But it’s very much the job of the Church to teach the truth and work for justice, even if this or that political party doesn’t like it. Abortion is a form of homicide. Catholics don’t need to leave their political party over the abortion issue, but they do need to fight within their party to restrict and end abortion. It’s not enough to claim that economic programs will help “reduce” abortions. That argument has been used for 35 years, and it never works. Roe v. Wade must be overturned, not just because it’s a legally flawed Supreme Court decision, but also because it has a “catechetical” effect. In other words, Roe teaches us to feel comfortable with an intolerable evil.

Dale Hemmerly Miller
Nashville, TN
Read your book loved it. If we rightly believe that God would call us to stop the innocent killing of children through abortion and this is one of the non-negotiable beliefs we have as Christians and Catholics how could we justify, in all good conscience, voting with a political party that holds this belief close to their very existence? Does our vote for evil not constitute sin in the political arena?
Carl Anderson:
As I said in my report to our international convention last August. We can never hope to build a culture of life if we vote for politicians - of any party - that support Roe v. Wade. Whether voting constitutes a sin in the political arena is very complex question and one that is really difficult to anwer in the abstract. There is a discussion in Faithful Citizenship on this, but the real question is not so much how to avoid sin, but rather how to do what we know we are called to do and to be the kind of Christian we are called to be, and that is to be a people of life and for life.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
These are good insights, and personally, as I say in the book, I can’t and won’t vote for an actively “pro-choice” candidate. But we need to think with the Church, and the Church does allow the possibility that some Catholics will honestly reason differently and somehow find a proportionate reason to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate. I don’t see how anything can morally outweigh the violence of 1.3 million abortions a year, but I can’t read other people’s hearts. Of course, we’ll all be held accountable for our choices.

Adelle Fandetti
Narragansett, RI
Why do the Bishops expect the citizens of the USA to condone illegal immigration? Aside from the question of moral law ...civil law requires citizens of this country to be lawful and to enter the quota system. We are now facing terrible economic failure due to the thousands of immigrants that have taken advantage of the welfare system of this country. I am 72. Send them to Rome.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Thank you for this question, but you misrepresent the stand of the bishops. We don’t condone illegal immigration. We promote comprehensive immigration reform, so that human dignity and the common good are protected in all circumstances. Please read what the bishops really say before making a judgment.

Edward L. Peffer
Cypress, California
Some Knights are pro-choice politicians. Some bishops reject Humanae Vitae, as do their priests who vow obedience. I was initiated into Knights but never active. Chaput is pro-Humanae Vitae. Will KofC promote Humanae Vitae? Now? Vote?
Carl Anderson:
Actually we have done a lot to support Humanae Vitae. We have strongly supported Humanae Vitae since 1968, most recently by co-sponsoring with the USCCB, a national conference held in Cherry Hill, NJ, marking the fortieth anniversary of this important Vatican document. For twenty years we have supported a John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family that educates the next generation of priests, seminary professors, and diocesan workers to specifically be able to support Humanae Vitae. And in "A Civilization of Love," I specifically discuss and support it, as we well as discussing the advantage of NFP.

Jeffrey Moran
Denver, CO
Why is the Catholic Church such an oppressive organization? It commands and attempts to control people's lives with a philosophy that is medieval. When do you think that the church will lose its membership in the USA the same way it has in Europe?
Carl Anderson:
As Pope Benedict said in his inaugural homily, Christ takes away nothing and gives you everything, and that is the message he brought to the United States. If we heed that message, the Church in the United States will continue to grow.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
I am sure you’re sincere. But your prejudice is obvious. I think you’re making statements more than asking a question. Since you’re from Denver. I'll pray for you in a special way.

Dave Harris
Reston, Virginia
Is it fair to say that much of the discussion of social issues is hijacked because we ask questions using meanings detrimental to making our point. Example: Discussing when life starts keeps us from asking the real questions such as "What criteria do you use to decide when to withhold the protection of law from human beings at any stage of life?"
Carl Anderson:
I think you have hit on the central problem. In our legal tradition, there are no legitimate criteria for the intentional killing of what we know to be an innocent human being, therefore, we have the obfuscation of when life begins. Even the use of deadly force in self-defense is only permitted as a last resort to repel the attack, there is no right to insure a dead attacker.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Good point. Of course, for Catholics since Apostolic times, the question of when a developing unborn child becomes “fully human” is irrelevant. God creates a human life at conception and obviously intends that developing life to be born. The Church has always looked on abortion as a very grave evil because it’s an attack on life itself, quite apart from the “ensoulment” or “personhood” debate. The trouble is, if we start separating personhood from conception, we create a very dangerous kind of logic. If personhood is a purely legal idea and not inherent to human life, then why not grant personhood at six months after birth and withdraw it at 65? Or 58? Or after a severe disability?

Brooklyn, NY
Archbishop Chaput, great book. I finished reading your book and am now reading Doug Kmiec's Can a Catholic Vote for Obama? Kmiec argues that voting for Obama on the grounds that his social programs will reduce abortion a lot more than a McCain presidency would, classifies as a proportionate reason to vote for a pro-choice candidate. My question is his argument one that would be an example of a proportionate reason for voting for a pro-choice candidate?
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
I don’t find Doug Kmiec's arguments convincing. I’m sure he does. But he speaks only for himself. We never give up working to eliminate abortion in itself. That should be our goal as we work to reduce the number of abortions. We should always do both. Reducing numbers doesn’t excuse us from trying to eliminate abortion itself.

Omaha, NE
I'm a conservative republican catholic; however, I am amazed at how many Catholics are out there who are liberal democrats. Aren't the political platforms of the Democratic Party in stark opposition to the doctrine of the church? Shouldn't it be a bit more vocal in its opposition of the Democratic Party? My born-again friends are in this fight, but our own warriors, the KOC, spend their time selling tootsie rolls. Is my thinking wrong here to want to see the KOC & the Church step it up politically?
Carl Anderson:
Old habits die hard. And there has been much confusion on these issues, but I go back to my point about a culture of life. Regarding the question of political party, we need to maintain a certain independance from every political party, and this especially includes making a judgment on a particular party or politician committed to promoting "abortion rights." There are members of both parties that get this issue right, and members of both parties that get this issue wrong. We should take a stand only for those who show a commitment to the right life. Now regarding the tootsie rolls, our largest grass-roots charity is helping individuals with physical and mental disabilities and this is just one of the ways we raise millions of dollars each year to help these people. Right up there alongside is our commitment to pro-life, both are essential and irreplaceable in our efforts to build a culture of life. We have to chose that people who present special challenges should not be marginalized, and this is one of the best ways we can show women confronting crisis pregnancies that there is a positive and loving alternative.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
It is important that the church not be partisan. There are good Catholic Democrats who stand with the Church. There are Catholic Republicans who do not. The important thing is being Catholic before being either Democrat or Republican. By the way, selling Tootsie Rolls is a means to an end, and the end is to help those with special needs. This is not something to be dismissed.

Dianne Klazura
Monument, Colorado

Your article states “…Archbishop Chaput presents compelling arguments why Catholics should become even more engaged in political life than they currently are.”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Dear Dianne, we aren’t being silent. We say we are not actively supporting the amendment because of the way it’s written. We certainly believe that an unborn child is a person from the moment of conception. But the bishops have judged that the language of the amendment is not useful for the cause of protecting the unborn. God bless you for your efforts.

Howard T Clark
Essington, PA USA
Why was the "Proportionate reason" ever introduced as a basis for choosing to support a "abortion" friendly vote?
Carl Anderson:
Proportionate reasoning is an important principle, but it has been used by various people in the recent past to justify dissent from various teachings of the Catholic Church. So it’s not surprising that it is used in this context to excuse support for abortion. What - combined or alone – can outweigh 40 million + abortions in this country since Roe v. Wade?

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
The issue of ‘proportionate reason’ comes directly from Pope Benedict XVI when he addressed the US bishops four years ago as Cardinal Ratzinger. This is basic Catholic theology, so it’s important to express the whole of the truth even if that complicates matters. The Church trusts human reason guided by the Holy Spirit, where individuals can’t escape their responsibility to make moral decisions. Of course it is difficult to imagine anything proportionate to the gravity of the false ‘right’ to abortion in this country.

American Papist
Washington, DC
Hello your Eminence,

Doug Kmiec says in his recently-released book that "Any Voter Guide even hinting at a Catholic duty as a matter of faith and morals to vote against Senator Obama is seriously in error."

Would you agree with his statement? Is he accurately speaking on behalf of the faith? If not, how might his statement be qualified?

Thank you.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Prof. Kmiec is an admirable and intelligent man, but he speaks only for himself. His attachment to Sen. Obama’s cause should not prevent Catholics from taking a very hard look at the senator’s prolife credentials, or lack thereof.

Pasadena, Texas USA
What is the difference between having one’s bishop publicly state they will deny the Most Blessed Sacrament to an individual and excommunication? It appears to me it is merely a difference in the wording.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Excommunication is the state of being formally separated from the believing community and outside the saving grace of the Church. Denying someone Communion is actually an act of justice and charity because it’s rooted in the truth about a person’s behavior. It’s an admonition; it’s designed to protect the integrity of the sacrament and the faith of the community. It’s also a call to the individual to repent and return to full unity with the Church. So they may seem similar, but they’re very different things.

Leticia Mendoza
San DIego, CAlifornia, USA
How do we respond to clergy, religious and lay alike, that are for social issues and ignore the teachings of the Church on abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, embryonic stem cell& human cloning research (they tend to clump them as one issue). Thank you!
Carl Anderson:
In situations such as these, it is important that we pray for those individuals, and that we witness, through our own lives, to the culture of life and civilization of love that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called us to.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
We respond to them as we respond to all people who are misguided. We love them by telling them the truth, and doing all we can to make sure that others are not misled by their errors.

Ypsilanti, Michigan
In reference to the issue you raise in the book about Church-State relations, how does one answer someone who says that they dont trust the bishop's teaching on political issues given that in the past the Church has made mistakes in their relationship with the State? How does one from a Catholic apologetic perspective explain the difference?
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
First thing to do is admit past mistakes. But making mistakes in the past doesn’t mean in itself that the same mistake will be repeated. Arguing this way is like an adolescent saying that because they made a mistake before they lose all credibility. Of course, we have adult relationships in the Church. So the bishops’ argument should be analyzed for their own credibility. Reacting out of suspicion is neither adult nor intelligent.

John Tadelski
Milwaukee, WI, USA
As a member of a College Council of the Knights of Columbus, how can I encourage my College Brothers to become politically active? This question actually has two meanings: 1) How can one best persuade college students (who are very busy with school and the like) that they should take time out of their schedules to work toward social justice, and 2) in what ways are College Councils best suited to do so?
Carl Anderson:
Certainly college students are very busy, but no more so than those actively pursuing a career, or holding down two jobs or working and raising a family. All of us have a responsibility to take some time to help make the world a better place. College Knights are in a unique position to find ways to help create a culture of life on campus, and this is an especially important time to make a pro-life witness.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
John, some of the most idealistic men and women I’ve met are on college campuses. If these men in your group have already joined the Knights of Columbus that means they are already committed to the Church. Faith and idealism drive us into the public square to work for justice and the common good.

Philadelphia, PA
1. Your Eminence- given the fast, convulsive nature of the presidential campaign, are there any elements of your book that you want to update or modify?

2. When will you get a red hat?

Bravo, Archbishop Chaput! Ad multos annos!
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Writing a book is an agonizing task. I don’t want to be involved in that task again! Regarding question 2, I have a red baseball cap and that’s good enough for me.

Nina R
Portland, OR, USA
Dear Archbishop Chaput, I enjoy running an internet activism network to motivate conservative Catholics in my archdiocese to contact legislators about current "culture war" issues. I raise their awareness of their rights as voters and remind them of the "non-negotiables" as best I can.

When it comes to the USCCB's Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform, it appears as though the U.S. bishops cannot accept Jesus's warning to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Am I on the right track?
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
It seems you’re making a statement in your question about your disagreement with the bishops on immigration reform. One of the things we owe to Caesar and to God is to change laws that undermine human dignity and the common good. That’s what the bishops are trying to do in their call for comprehensive immigration reform. Thank you for your activism. I hope you’ll get behind the bishops on immigration, too.

John Tadelski
Milwaukee, WI, USA
I am confused about "voting pro-life." There is one political party in the US that promotes abortion. There is one political party in the US that promoted the death penalty. It seems that most politicians of these parties conform to their respective party platforms. How can one decide how to vote, when very few politicians are "pro-life" in the complete sense?
Carl Anderson:
We must certainly work to make our society more pro-life in every way. However, it is important to note a distinction made by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) in 2004. He wrote: "Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.... There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
John, there are many fewer people executed by the death penalty than are killed through abortion. The Church teaches that abortion is always wrong, and that capital punishment is generally wrong. Additionally, most politicians I know regardless of party affiliation seem to favor the death penalty today. I don't think either party has come out strongly in the party platforms against the death penalty. Catholics should be sensitive to the dignity of human life in all circumstances.

Michael Rene
Midland, TX US
On the subject of being morally conscious in this current presidential election, I am a moderate conservative, voted for pro-life causes, but I'm in turmoil because I want to advocate for the poor and underprivileged, increase teachers salaries, and improve our economic society. How can I as a Catholic discern between what is morally fundamental and fundamentally right in my heart?
Carl Anderson:
These are certainly complicated and tough decisions. And while there are many issues, I don't see any of them - alone or together - being more important than 40 million + abortions since Roe v. Wade. If Catholics could have some clout on this issue, it could increase our chances to help solve some of these other issues in the future.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
The Catholic Church certainly does stand with you on the issues you raise here. As you know there are many ways of approaching these problems, so that good Catholics can disagree on specifics, as long as they are truly seeking the common good and justice. When we come to abortion we are dealing with a different kind of issue. There is a hierarchy of values, and not all issues require the same action from us. Abortion is intrinsically evil; there is no way to justify it morally under any circumstance. It's important to analyze each of these issues in a truly Catholic way before voting. We have to bring our minds and our hearts together before making that decision.

Carbondale, IL USA
Based on the Election & Title of your book; if Obama is elected & the Abortion Act is enacted; will I ethically be bound to render my taxpayer monies to Ceasar even though a portion goes to fund abortions thus making me an indirect accomplice that would compromise my conscience? 27 years ago I had an abortion not as Catholic, but now I am a reconciled convert, though not totally emotionally healed; a de-fetus act reaping sorrow & wounding my soul. Praise Mercy!
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
Lynn, I am grateful for your honest and courageous witness. Even now our tax money is used for purposes that we may consider immoral. But our money is used for the most part to do good. Unless a country does more evil than good, we are not obliged to withhold taxes. But some people do withhold taxes to give witness to the truth. This is sometimes a courageous act, but is not technically necessary from a moral perspective. God bless you!

Deirdre McQuade
Washington, DC
Abortion harms all those who have been involved in it -- obviously the doctors who perform abortions and the women who have sought them, but also fathers, confused friends, those who lent money, etc. I believe this may be at the heart of entrenched commitment to so-called "reproductive rights". How might we best engage the culture on the need for -- and possibility of -- healing after the tragic choice of abortion?
Carl Anderson:
You are certainly correct that abortion hurts everyone. One thing that the Knights of Columbus has been doing is supporting Project Rachel - in its outreach to post-abortive women - and working with Project Rachel to begin the outreach to the men who have been involved as well. Just this month, we held a conference in Chicago called "Reclaiming Fatherhood," which was sponsored by the Knights and the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Evangelization. It was the second "Reclaiming Fatherhood" conference we have held, and I believe you may have been at the first one in San Francisco. We also held a conference in Rome in April on the effect of abortion on parents, and the effect of divorce on children. Allowing these parents to grieve the loss of their children is very important, and it is important that our society open up and affirm the pain that these parents feel. Society expects parents to grieve after a miscarriage, or the loss of a child in an accident, but not after an abortion. We need to help reach those who are suffering in silence.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:
The best witnesses on this issue are persons who have been involved in a specific abortion and then experience a conversion to the truth. They have an incredible level of credibility when they speak about the pain, the suffering and the healing. The Church should seek every opportunity to give these persons a platform to share their experiences, and I know that this is being done through various ministries of the Church as well as the Knights of Columbus.

Tom Webb
Santa Rosa, CA
There is clearly a division among Catholics when it comes to political matters. On either side Catholics have become quite adept at proclaiming their Catholicism as the basis for the voting. In reality neither major political party in the U.S. represents the full Catholic vision. How do we move beyond the acrimony and division?
Carl Anderson:
It’s a matter of looking at our politics biblically, not our bible politically. And we should be urging both parties to move their platforms more in line with the dictates of social justice. That having been said, some issues are certainly more important than others.

Carl Anderson:
Thank you, Archbishop Chaput for being with us and thanks to all of you who participated this evening.

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