A liberal columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer thought his snarky column attacking Archbishop Charles Chaput’s latest book would be the last word – until this feisty immigration lawyer made his critique look as hollow as it was.
On February 14, the Inquirer’s Mike Newall wrote about an interview that took place between radio host Hugh Hewitt and Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput. The interview was about Chaput’s new book, Strangers in a Strange Land, which details how Catholics can not only live but thrive in a secular age.
“Here’s a recap of what His Excellency had to say [in his new book],” Newall writes. “The press are pagans. And please, everyone, stop treating President Trump so meanly. Thanks, Padre, for doing your part to delegitimize the media and aid a demagogue. Drop in anytime.”
In addition to attacking the Archbishop for his “blind obedience” to Church teaching and his “rigidity,” he rants: “Trump wants to Make America Great Again. Chaput wants to make America Catholic again, free of nagging liberals who would like a more inclusive church — who seek acceptance.”
He adds: “While Chaput’s rigidity may keep Pope Francis from bestowing on him the scarlet-colored hat of a cardinal, he’s perfectly suited for a red Trump hat.”
After deriding the Archbishop for calling for unity rather than the kind of chaos that has ensued since the election of President Donald J. Trump, Newall then resorts to the usual liberal talking points:
“Let’s look at what His Excellency fails to say here. In a city of immigrants, in a church of immigrants, where South Philadelphia churches hold alternating Masses for their Vietnamese and Mexican communities, we hear nothing about the sanctuary city order. No protestations about the refugee ban. Nothing about climate change, for God’s sake.”
This did not go over very well with a lot of people in the city, including Christine M. Flowers, an attorney whose columns often appear in the Daily News.
She countered Newall’s Valentine’s Day screed with a much more poignant article the following day in which she flat-out declared his attack “unfair.”
Why should the Archbishop be attacked for professing his faith, she asks.
“ . . . [W]hat I find particularly unfair in the profiles of Archbishop Chaput is the seeming shock at a man who reiterates obvious and established principles such as abortion is a sin, same sex marriage is not recognized by the church and there is no authority for the ordination of women, let alone a married priesthood.”
Instead, columnists such as Newall delegitimize these beliefs as being nothing more than a roadblock to “a more inclusive church”.
o prove her point about how unfair Newall’s article truly was, she tells the story of a recent client of hers, a devout Catholic woman from El Salvador. The woman was seeking asylum in the U.S. after being beaten by her abusive partner who resented her faith, ridiculed her devotion to Our Lady and tried to prevent her from attending Mass.
As it turned out, the woman’s godfather, Padre Carlos, was a parish priest in a small town near San Salvador and he agreed to fly to the U.S. to serve as a character witness for her and to testify to the horrors he had suffered at the hands of gang members. Even though Carlos was scheduled to fly back to El Salvador the next day, he begged Flowers to arrange a meeting with Archbishop Chaput who he was very anxious to meet.
“I contacted the Archbishop, not sure whether he had any time for us. The answer came back immediately: ‘Come by this afternoon at 4 o’clock’,” she recounts.
And so they trekked into the Archbishop’s office, Flowers along with four Salvadorans.
“Archbishop Chaput and one of the Spanish-speaking priests at the archdiocese greeted us warmly,” she writes. “I watched as Padre Carlos told the Archbishop of his work in El Salvador, of his fears and of his determination to go back home and serve his people. The Archbishop was visibly moved, and showed immense respect and kindness to this brother in Christ. The Archbishop, though busy, wasn’t rushed. He focused on his guests as if they were the only people in the world.”
This experience left her with a permanent impression of the goodness of Archbishop Chaput, which is why she admits that she “hardly recognized” the man Newall was so viciously attacking in his column.
Rather than being the cold-hearted “rigid” beast described in Newall’s article, she found Charles Chaput to be a man whose compassion is grounded in the very faith he preaches, “something I saw up close when I watched him comfort a fearful Salvadoran brother.”
However, “his compassion is not the showy, shallow type that appeals to the media and doesn’t accomplish much more than to make people feel good about themselves,” she continues.
“I’ve spent over a half century in this church and almost a quarter century practicing immigration law. To me, Charles Chaput is the best and highest example of who and what we are.”
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