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Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput

August 12, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput penned a strong article Monday that, whether intentionally or not, is a clear corrective to a much-criticized response to the developing Planned Parenthood scandal by another major U.S. archbishop.

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich had condemned the abortion giant’s atrocities in an August 3 op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, but argued that “we should be no less appalled” by those who suffer unemployment or from bad immigration laws, among other concerns. According to Catholic World News editor Phil Lawler, in Cupich’s piece, “the 'seamless garment' jumps the shark.”

On the other hand, Chaput’s article was focused on making the case that suggesting a moral equivalence between the intentional killing of innocent human life and other issues defies common sense and a basic grasp of morals.

“The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act,” he wrote. “No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.”

The National Catholic Register highlighted the archbishops’ diverging views in a Facebook post Tuesday.

Chaput opened his article with a plain and clear-cut illustration. “Here's a simple exercise in basic reasoning. On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There's a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence.”

Titled “There is no equivalence,” Chaput’s column clearly states that the right to life is the foundation of all other rights. “Humanity's priority right – the one that undergirds all other rights – is the right to life,” he wrote.

In his Chicago Tribune op-ed, Cupich invoked the “consistent ethic of life” or “seamless garment” concept to say Americans should be just as disgusted by healthcare access, the nation’s faulty immigration system, racism, hunger, unemployment, gun violence and capital punishment, as with Planned Parenthood’s killing unborn children and selling fetal tissue for profit.

“This newest evidence about the disregard for the value of human life also offers the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment as a nation to a consistent ethic of life,” he wrote. “While commerce in the remains of defenseless children is particularly repulsive, we should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice.”

Cupich named to Synod on the Family

Archbishop Cupich’s comments have reinforced his reputation as a “progressive” bishop, an angle repeatedly covered in the press since his appointment last year in Chicago.

Cupich has faced strong criticism from pro-life and pro-family activists. He has advocated allowing Holy Communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians, and he reportedly forbade his priests from taking part in the semi-annual 40 Days for Life vigil when he was bishop of Spokane.

He also faced scrutiny over his response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage, focusing primarily on decrying discrimination against homosexuals rather than criticizing the imposition of same-sex “marriage.”

Cupich was named last fall as an alternate to the Vatican’s 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family, but media reports this week, not yet completely confirmed, indicate that Pope Francis has chosen him as a delegate and not simply an alternate, a choice that would likely compound concerns already present over the Synod’s impact on life and family.

Other U.S. bishops slated to attend the Synod include Archbishop Chaput, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. The latter two are the president and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Conference respectively. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone had been chosen last fall as an alternate along with Archbishop Cupich, but there is no word on whether Archbishop Cordileone, a strong life and family proponent, will be moved from alternate status to actual delegate along with Cupich.

Jumping the shark

While Chaput did not direct any overt criticism to Cupich, Phil Lawler clearly highlighted the problem with the Chicago archbishop’s approach.

“If Archbishop Cupich means to compare the Planned Parenthood scandal with all the other horrors taking place around the world, it’s curious that he doesn’t mention the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East,” he wrote August 6. “If he’s restricting his focus to the U.S., then his claim that ‘thousands’ of people die ‘daily’ because they lack access to medical care is shameless hyperbole.”

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Lawler brought up Archbishop Cupich’s mention of the death penalty, saying he opposes it as well. “But I can’t say that I am ‘no less appalled’ by the execution of a convicted serial killer than the destruction of an innocent child,” Lawler countered. “The two are not morally equivalent actions.”

In concluding he drew a contrast between life and one of the many issues Cupich had presented as equivalent. “Joblessness? I’ve been unemployed. I’d like to think that upon reading this, you feel a pang of sympathy,” Lawler stated. “But if you would be ‘no less appalled’ to learn that I had been chopped into pieces, and the parts sold to the highest bidder, I’m afraid I can’t count you as my friend.”

Double standard

In his column, Chaput pointed out the double standard often employed by social justice advocates with regard to approaches in fighting abortion.

“A case is sometimes made that abortion is mainly a cultural and moral issue, and politics is a poor solution to the problem,” he wrote. “The curious thing is that some of the same voices that argue against political action on the abortion issue seem quite comfortable urging vigorous political engagement on issues like health care, homelessness and the environment.”

Calling Planned Parenthood’s actions “repugnant,” the Philadelphia archbishop said the Senate ought to have defunded the abortion giant in its recent vote. “The failure of that measure involves a public failure of character by every Catholic senator who voted against it,” he added.

Chaput also cited the “seamless garment” theory, saying it makes no sense to defend the cause of unborn children if one ignores their basic needs once they're born. But he was unambiguous in stating that protecting human life has to come first before other issues. “But of course,” he wrote, “children need to survive the womb before they can have needs like food, shelter, immigration counseling and good health care.”