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By Deal W Hudson and Keith A Fournier

10/25/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Was Archbishop Chaput predicting the future in the interview?

We're Catholics before we're Democrats. We're Catholics before we're Republicans. We're even Catholics before we're Americans because we know that God has a demand on us prior to any government demand on us.... and this has been the story of the martyrs through the centuries

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia


By Deal W Hudson and Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (

10/25/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Declaration, Inalienable Rights, HHS Mandate, health Care, Obamacare, campaign 2012, Catholic, Mormon, Protestant, pro-Life, Religious liberty, Archbishop Chaput, Deal W Hudson, Keith A Fournier

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - "We're Catholics before we're Democrats. We're Catholics before we're Republicans. We're even Catholics before we're Americans because we know that God has a demand on us prior to any government demand on us.... and this has been the story of the martyrs through the centuries."

This line from Archbishop Chaput's video interview with the Catholic News Service prompted one reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer to call a publicist to ask, "Has he EVER said this before?" The implication of the reporter's query, and his tone of voice, suggested that he was surprised and shocked that the Archbishop of Philadelphia would say such a thing.

Well, he if was shocked, we are even more shocked - at his shock!  Has our nation  become so secularized that a news reporter, from a major daily, would find the claim, "We're Catholics before we're Americans," something troubling, perhaps scandalous?

When the reporter found out that Archbishop Chaput was not saying this publicly for the first time, that, in fact, he had said it as recently as his Oct. 14 speech in Chester Springs, PA, he evidently decided not to pursue it.  What he was unaware of is this: The story inside the story is not what Chaput said, but the fact that he, the reporter, was shocked enough to check it out. 

Off the top of our heads, we wonder if the reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer -- yes, Philadelphia! -- remembered reading the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) as a schoolboy:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

We quote the Declaration's first full paragraph not to be pedantic, but to remind the reporter, and anyone else who needs it, that the entire justification for the creation of the United States was based upon our prior relationship to God. In other words, before any identity we may have belonging to a nation or a political party, we are a creature of God, subject to His laws and the beneficiary of the inherent dignity and rights He bestowed upon us.

Note that by quoting the Declaration of Independence, we haven't yet gotten to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, much less to Holy Scripture! This is to say, you shouldn't have to be a person of faith to understand that every human person answers to God first; it's a first principle of the American Founding and, as such, ought to be taught to school children from 1st grade to 12th. (But is it, we may ask?)

Archbishop Chaput may not have had it in mind, but when he said "we" are Catholics first, not Americans, that "we" could be applied to every citizen in respect of their own faith or lack of it.  A Methodist is a Methodist first, a Baptist, a Baptist first, a Mormon, a Mormon first -- because these are the denominal expressions of their belief in transcendence.

The non-believer, too, is a creature of God first, and by virtue of American citizenship implicitly affirms, claims it, and is protected by it.  Martin Luther King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" (April 16, 1963) is one of our nation's elegant testimonies to the political implications of our Declaration of Independence:

"One may want to ask: 'How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?' The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all.'"

Indeed, there may be more theological letters written from the confines of jail cells in the near future, as the Catholic bishops quickly approach the end of a one-year deadline given to them by the Obama administration to obey the HHS mandate or face the consequences.  Not a single bishop has signaled any other intention than to embrace the consequences with the joy of serving Christ. 

Was Archbishop Chaput predicting the future in the interview when he concluded, "This has been the story of the martyrs through the centuries"? We know it has crossed his mind: At Chester Springs, he said, but only half-jokingly, "I don't want to go to jail."

If the election affirms the Obama administration's HHS mandate, there is a 100 percent chance that there will be civil disobedience in the Catholic Church, led by its bishops. Whether jail will follow is anyone's guess.


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