They (Americans) equally detest the pageantry of a king and the supercilious hypocrisy of a bishop.
--The Letters of Junius (1769)
It could have been a teaching experience for Chuck, or Archbishop Charles Chaput, as he prefers to be called. It probably wasn't. His teachers would have been Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington D.C. and Pope Benedict XVI of Rome.
During the 2004 presidential election, Chuck, the highest ranking Roman Catholic prelate in Colorado, let it be known that anyone who voted for John Kerry, had committed a sin that had to be confessed, before the voter/supplicant would be permitted to receive communion. It is not altogether clear how that was to be enforced. Hundreds of thousands of people in Colorado voted for John Kerry and among them, it is almost certain, more than a handful were Roman Catholic. Had they all decided to confess, hundreds of priests would have had to be ordained in order to receive their confessions. Absent that, however, the church would have had to put up with thousands of sinners receiving communion, something that would certainly offend Chuck, if not God. According to Chuck, the reason for this ecclesiastical pronouncement, was that John Kerry supported a woman's right to choose. (Voting for someone who supports the death penalty, a procedure that, like abortion, involves human life, is not a sin and does not require a pre-communion confession.)
Creating an hostile environment for those who voted for John Kerry is not the only group for which Chuck has created an hostile environment. Another is the 46 million Americans who lack health insurance and the estimated 22,000 adults among them who, studies estimate, die as a result. Unlike the Senator, Chuck's compassion for the weak is carefully measured if they also lack health insurance. He has recently joined a group of primates in the same line of work as he, who are willing to sacrifice the health and lives of the uninsured unless the legislation protects the lives of those not yet born. They are led by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. They believe if part of the reform of health insurance includes any plans that would permit some insurance companies to pay for abortions, the legislation should be opposed. It was most explicitly stated by one of Chuck's ecclesiastical colleagues, Bishop R. Walker Nickless, of Sioux City, Iowa. Demonstrating a lack of compassion for the already-born uninsured (who will be the main losers if health care reform does not take place) Walker sent out a pastoral letter telling his followers that: "No health reform is better than the wrong sort of health care reform." Chuck enthusiastically supported the Nickless approach. In a diocesan newspaper column he said: "The whole meaning of ‘health care' would be subverted by any plan that involves mandated abortion access or abortion funding. Killing or funding the killing of unborn children has nothing to do with promoting human health and including these things in any ‘health care' proposal, no matter how shrewdly hidden, would simply be a form of lying." The 46 million uninsured will almost certainly take comfort in the fact that by remaining uninsured and occasionally dying as a result, they are helping to protect the unborn. That will comfort all but those with family members who died for want of medical treatment. But I digress.
Senator Kennedy's funeral mass was in the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Not only was the Senator a long time supporter of Roe vs. Wade, but he was divorced and remarried in a civil ceremony to his present wife. Had he died in Chuck's jurisdiction it is unlikely Chuck would have attended. Not so in Boston. Senator Kennedy's funeral mass was attended by the highest Prelate in Massachusetts, Cardinal Sean O'Malley who spoke with feeling and compassion of the Senator's life. At graveside Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington read a letter sent by the Pope which said in part: "His Holiness prays that in the days ahead, you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God, our merciful Father. He invokes upon you the consolation and peace promised by the Risen Savior to all who share in His sufferings, and trust in His promise of eternal life." The Pontiff forgot to mention, as Chuck almost certainly would have, that without acknowledging the error of his ways in supporting Roe v. Wade, there was no way the Senator would enjoy eternal life.
By their presence and their words, the prelates made it plain that they held Senator Kennedy in great esteem. It is unlikely that they would sacrifice on the alter of ideology the health care reform he so ardently supported because of perceived imperfections in the proposed plans. Colorado Catholics should be so fortunate as to have such enlightened leaders.