Last week, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney accused Philadelphia archbishop Charles Chaput of being “not Christian” after the local Catholic archdiocese released guidelines reiterating longstanding Catholic teaching on divorce and re-marriage.
The diocesan document — “Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia” — was approved by Chaput in order to contextualize parts of Pope Francis’s recent apostolic exhortation. Among the guidelines offered was one stating that divorced, civilly remarried, and cohabiting couples must “refrain from sexual intimacy,” as well as “sacramentally confess all serious sins of which he or she is aware, with a firm purpose to change, before receiving the Eucharist.”
Kenney’s response might make sense for someone with a superficial understanding of Christianity and, in particular, Catholic teaching. But Kenney was raised in a large Irish-Catholic family, and he has touted his education at Philadelphia’s Jesuit St. Joseph’s Prep and the Christian Brothers–founded La Salle University.
Kenney frequently has expressed support for Pope Francis, for example after the pope said he wouldn’t “judge” gay priests. The Philly mayor tweeted shortly after the pope’s election that “Pope Frank” might repair much of the Church’s lost moral authority, as well as calling Francis “freaking awesome” and saying the pope made him want to return to the Church.
Jim Kenney, like many progressive Catholics, frequently has subordinated his Christian faith to his political agenda.
Perhaps Kenney missed the times when Pope Francis espoused teaching — longstanding Catholic teaching — similar to Chaput’s guidelines. Take, for example, the interview in which the pope said welcoming divorced and re-married couples into the life of the Church does not necessitate permitting them to receive communion. Or the section of the pope’s own apostolic exhortation, where he reiterated that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” (Remember, these statements come from a pope whom Kenney calls “freaking awesome.”)
Chaput’s diocesan guidelines simply restated existing Catholic teaching and did not, as Kenney suggests, alter it in order to exclude particular Church members from communion. Unfortunately, Jim Kenney, like many progressive Catholics, frequently has subordinated his Christian faith to his political agenda.
The mayor has been an outspoken supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in recent months, despite the fact that Clinton unequivocally supports both abortion-on-demand and recognizes same-sex marriage, positions irreconcilable with Catholic teaching. Kenney also has served as officiant for at least one same-sex wedding ceremony.In an interview with the progressive Democrat group Philly for Change, Kenney said he supports “access to health care practices that perform abortions and offer emergency contraception,” and late last month, he attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in Philadelphia.
Such discrepancies between faith and political ideology are common among progressive Catholic politicians. Take Nancy Pelosi, for one, who repeatedly has asserted that her support for unlimited abortion rights and her strong Catholic faith are not contradictory. Or Vice President Joe Biden, who — despite believing the Catholic position that abortion is always wrong — supports nearly unrestricted access to it.
Regardless of his internal faith or moral compass, both of which are impossible to assess from the outside, Kenney, like many of his fellow Catholic Democrats, is a progressive first and a Catholic second. And that makes his criticism of Archbishop Chaput a little bit harder to stomach.
— Alexandra DeSanctis is a National Review Institute Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism.
Editor’s Note: This piece has been amended since its initial posting.