No prayer for Denver archbishop (updated)

chaputA day or two ago, I ended a post about the announcement that Sen. Joe Biden would be Sen. Barack Obama's running mate with the following question:

... (Does) does anyone know if Denver's Catholic archbishop was invited to offer an invocation during the upcoming Democratic National Convention?

Several readers quickly let me know that Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput would, in fact, not be doing an invocation or benediction during the convention. With generations of ties between Catholics and the Democratic Party, this is strange indeed.

However, at this point I really need to make a comment about the technological day in which we live. When I posted that Chaput note, I was sitting in the Phoenix airport, headed home from a week-long working vacation. Thus, when I started digging through the dead-tree-pulp newspapers stacked in our living room, I discovered that this Chaput news was very old news indeed. Veteran religion writer Julia Duin had the facts early that previous week. So here's the basic facts from the God-gap front lines:

Democrats have invited more than two dozen religious leaders to pray or speak at their upcoming conventioin with a notable exception: Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, a policy wonk and the leader of Colorado's largest religious denomination.

Several Catholics, including former Colorado state Sen. Polly Baca, "Dead Man Walking" author Sister Helen Prejean, social justice lobbyist Sister Catherine Pinkerton and Pepperdine University professor Douglas W. Kmiec, are on the program. Organizers are also flying in Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios from New York to give the opening prayer Wednesday.

But Archbishop Chaput's only contact with the convention has been a meeting with Leah Daughtry, chief executive officer of the convention and a Pentecostal pastor, and an invitation to attend the event as an observer.

Chaput said that he wasn't offended and that, when it comes to prayer, the Democrats get to make their own choices. There also is some question about whether he was or was not too busy to attend. Duin's report added this interesting detail:

Instead of following Monday night's opening ceremonies on TV, the archbishop will join Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, in a prayer vigil against abortion near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Stapleton, a Denver suburb.

This is another example of the fact that reading newspapers online is not the same thing as reading the real newspapers. There is no way to look at the Washington Times website and know that this Chaput story was located somewhere deep inside. I bumped into it as a worked my way through ordinary pages. That's the reality. I also have not been able, using standard search engines, to find out if either of the Denver newspapers have covered the Chaput story.

Meanwhile, GetReligion readers have sent in some good links for those seeking more info on Biden and his Catholic faith. This Boston Globe online source is especially interesting and I had already set it aside to include in an update.

For more info on the Chaput situation, readers can also -- of course -- turn to the justifiably famous Whispers in the Loggia weblog, which ads this insight:

"The Democratic convention begins tomorrow in Denver and as the new (book) release from the city's top prelate racks up the high-watt airtime, Archbishop Charles Chaput said earlier today that given his "seriously wrong" abortion stance, Biden should refrain from the Communion line:

Biden "has admirable qualities to his public service," Chaput said in his statement. "But his record of support for so-called abortion 'rights,' while mixed at times, is seriously wrong. I certainly presume his good will and integrity -- and I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion, if he supports a false 'right' to abortion."

Chaput added that he looks forward to speaking with Biden privately.

RenderUntoCaesarAlso, Associated Press reporter Eric Gorski has, of course, jumped in quickly with a newsy story on the pros and cons of the Biden selection, from the perspective of various types of Catholic voters. Here's the top of the story. Note the kicker at the end of this passage.

When Joe Biden underwent brain surgery for a life-threatening aneurysm in 1988, he asked doctors whether he could tuck his rosary beads under his pillow. The six-term Democratic senator from Delaware also has offered to shove his rosary down the throat of the next Republican who tells him he isn't religious.

Barack Obama's running mate is the son of working-class Irish Catholics, a career politician educated at a Catholic prep school who briefly considered the priesthood. He has turned to his faith to weather personal tragedy — including the deaths of his wife and young daughter in a 1972 traffic accident -- and shape his political worldview. Biden attends Mass weekly and didn't miss it on Sunday, either, attending services and taking Communion at St. Joseph on the Brandywine near his home in Greenville, Del.

And here is the basic statement of the thesis, the Catholic reality of this "wafer watch" age:

"Having Biden on the ticket covers the Catholic base," said David Gibson, a Catholic journalist and author. "But anytime you pick a Catholic, it's also courting controversy." ...

Biden has said that while he is "prepared to accept" Catholic church teaching that life begins at conception, the Roe v. Wade court decision legalizing abortion "is as close to we're going to be able to get as a society" to respecting different religious views on the issue. Biden has said he strongly supports Roe v. Wade but also voted in favor of a bill to ban late-term abortions, prompting abortion rights groups to downgrade him on their report cards.

"My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine," Biden said in a 2007 interview with the Christian Science Monitor. "There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church. I think the church is bigger than that."

There's much more to digest in this meaty report.

However, note this fact. Putting a Catholic on the ticket is no longer all that controversial with non-Catholics. That's progress. The problem is that putting an American Catholic on the ticket is controversial with Roman Catholics (or something like that).

UPDATE: Interesting post from Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher on the Catch-22 facing religious leaders who elect to pray at political gathering. Worth some meditation, this one.

Please respect our Commenting Policy