Saturday, 30 August 2008

Chaput N'est Pas Fou

During the jam-packed week that was WYD, I had the good fortune to meet Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, and was, to put it mildly, impressed. He was to speak at P.J. Gallagher's pub in Parramatta, and so on the Wednesday evening I found myself there, sipping a lemon squash, surveying the scene and waiting for the talk to begin. No sign of the speaker yet. Then, lo and behold, I receive a tap on the shoulder, delivered by a short, round-faced Native American fellow in a Roman collar.

"Ya look dressed for winter," he said, indicating my coat.

"Well, it is winter," I replied.

He considered for a moment and said, "That's true."

Then he shook my hand, "How ya doin'? I'm Archbishop Charles."

That was my first meeting with the man, and I watched thereafter as he moved around the pub, striking up conversations with the patrons. Then he got up and gave this speech. And answered questions. I was particularly impressed when one girl asked a question about IVF which, it must be said, was ambiguous (the way she worded the question, it was difficult to tell what she was asking). I have seen many public speakers in similar situations give a brush-off reply to what they hope is the question being asked and then move on. Archbishop Charles, however, engaged the girl and tried to clarify what she wanted to know. This went on for a couple of minutes, with a kind of back-and-forth between them while other questioners waited. I've never seen a speaker do that before.
Altogether, he came across as solidly and proactively orthodox, solidly and proactively pastoral and brimming over in Christian charity. A rare combination, especially in a bishop.

Now, this is all by way of introduction. Given my various interests, I naturally take a casual, though not obsessive, interest in global politics and have consequently been following with some interest the progress of the American elections (or the lead-up to them, anyway- how they can justify spending billions of dollars and more than a year's concerted efforts on a political campaign- which may not even win- baffles me; I much prefer Australian political elections, which tend to be shorter, cheaper and more pointed). With the Democratic Convention taking place in Denver, I was curious to see what Archbishop Charles would be up to.

A fair bit, it turns out. In addition to sending out this pastoral letter about the abortion issue and, especially, two-faced politicians who support it but still try to get Christians to vote for them, he also got together with Martin Luther King's niece and the local Baptist minister to preach outside a Denver abortion clinic, and carry on a prayer vigil there, garnering in the process a crowd of 3000.
This, folks, is what a real bishop looks like.

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