DENVER (AP) - Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput labeled Barack Obama the "most committed" abortion-rights candidate from a major party in 35 years while accusing a Catholic Obama ally and other Democratic-friendly Catholic groups of doing a "disservice to the church."
Chaput, one of the nation's most politically outspoken Catholic prelates, delivered the remarks Friday night at a dinner of a Catholic women's group.
His comments were among the sharpest in a debate over abortion and Catholic political responsibility in a campaign in which Catholics represent a key swing vote.
While Chaput has won praise from traditionalist Catholics for stressing opposition to abortion as a foundational voting issue, voices on the Catholic left have sought to apply church teachings to war, poverty, the environment and other issues.
Although the Catholic left is not new, several advocacy groups have either formed or ramped up activities since 2004. Partly, their efforts are a response to attention given to the pro-abortion rights stance of Democrat John Kerry, a Catholic who was criticized by a few bishops who suggested he should be denied or refrain from Communion.
"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," Chaput said according to his prepared remarks, titled "Little Murders."
The Obama campaign has been promoting an... endorsement from Douglas Kmiec, a Catholic law professor and former legal counsel in the Reagan administration.
Kmiec wrote a book making a Catholic case for Obama. He argues the Obama campaign is premised on Catholic social teaching like care for working families (by raising their taxes?) and the poor (he won't even help his own half-brother who lives in a hut in Africa on $20 a year?) and foreign policy premised on peace over war. (somehow if Obama is President then the Islamic extremists will just give up trying to kill us?)
While applauding Kmiec's past record, Chaput said: "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 instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn."
Pro-Obama Catholics "seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues," said Chaput, who wrote a book this year, "Render Unto Caesar," about Catholics and politics.
Chaput emphasized he was speaking as a private citizen and not as a representative of the Denver archdiocese. The IRS prohibits clergy, in their role as clergy, from supporting or opposing candidates. Chaput already has said that Obama running mate Joe Biden, a Catholic, should not present himself for Communion because of his abortion rights position.