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Catholic leader fields politics, sex and abortion questions after speech


3/5/2005 9:27:00 PM by Rocky Mountain News - Jean Torkelson


Verbal fisticuffs broke out Tuesday between Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput and a luncheon audience that challenged him to defend the church's role in public life.


"Why do (religions) feel they have to impose their views on us?" asked one woman during a spirited question-and-answer session following Chaput's speech to the City Club of Denver.


"If we don't - you'll impose your views on us," Chaput shot back to murmurs from the group of about 120 business and civic leaders.


It was one of many heated exchanges following the archbishop's speech on "Church, State and Politics."


At the start he quipped he was tired of the subject, which echoed his ongoing message last year about the need for Catholic politicians and voters to follow church teaching in their public lives.


"For religious believers not to advance their convictions about public morality in public debate is not an example of tolerance - it's a lack of courage," Chaput said in his prepared remarks.


During the question period, Chaput tackled abortion, capital punishment, sex and contraception.


While the sparring was mostly good-natured - with applause for Chaput at the close - some moments were tense.


At one point, some in the audience gasped when Chaput said, "I didn't ever say Senator Kerry shouldn't receive communion." The charge that he, and other bishops, made that comment was a key point in election-year debates.


"People say that I said that," the archbishop quickly added. He said he never pointed to specific politicians, but had an obligation to explain Catholic teaching so believers could properly evaluate issues.


In another face-off, a man identifying himself as a Catholic graduate of Regis University questioned why "a bunch of celibate men are telling us what to do about sex."


"That's the unfair kind of remark that happens in these discussions," Chaput retorted.


"Let's have an honest debate and not make fun of the values of the other side. We've become quite uncivilized."


One questioner observed that the Catholic Church doesn't appear to care about protecting women hurt by unwanted pregnancies.


His voice rising, Chaput replied, "That dear baby who gets aborted is who I'm protecting. Somebody doesn't just get hurt with abortion - they get killed."


"Who will take care of the unwanted children?" another asked.


"I'll take any child that's unwanted and find them a home and take care of the mother," he said. "You have my personal pledge on that."


When the issue of separation of church and state arose, Chaput derided a bill before the legislature that would require hospitals to give emergency contraception information to sexual assault victims.


"The state doesn't seem to worry too much about separation of church and state when it wants to force its point of view on Catholic hospitals," he said.


To applause, another questioner observed that if the church wants to be part of public life, "When is the church going to agree to pay taxes?"


"I run 50 Catholic schools that keep you from paying more taxes - is that worth it to you?" Chaput shot back.


It was the state, he said, that recognizes that tax exemptions allow faith groups to mount masive social service programs, which benefit all society.


Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.





Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved