Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput is one of the more outspoken and effective conservatives in the U.S. hierarchy, but activists on the Catholic Right have become so sedulous in decrying even the remotest connection between a church organization and groups that condone gay rights or abortion rights that one wonders whether Chaput could be in trouble.
The reason: the archdiocese announced that Office Depot, through its foundation, would be donating sackpacks full of supplies to Catholic schoolkids getting ready for the start of the new school year.
Now such donations and collaborations are hardly unusual, and always welcome, especially in the Philadelphia archdiocese, which Chaput is struggling mightily to rescue from decades of debt and mismanagement.
The hitch this time? Office Depot is actually one of the more gay-friendly corporations around, and in January was given the 2013 Corporate Leadership Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
“We thank Office Depot for its exemplary support of the LGBT community and for providing direct financial and in-kind support to our organization, which has allowed us to expand our training capacity and help empower many more young individuals to become leaders of their generation and of the LGBT community across the country,” David Alexander, Director of Institutional Giving for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said at the time.
That may not seem like a big deal to most folks, or Office Depot’s policies would appear to be so remote from the sackpack donation that it would hardly matter.
But some very vocal activists on the right often don’t see it that way. They have been blasting Catholics organizations — especially social justice ministries like the Campaign for Human Development and Catholics Relief Services — for their apparent collaboration with groups that espouse positions that the activists say contradict church teaching.
The drumbeat is too insistent even for some in the hierarchy, and top church officials have rushed to defend CRS, from criticisms, for example.
Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Peterburgh, Florida, also said publicly in a recent blog post what other bishops only say privately — that too many “pro-life” groups are ideologically driven critics who don’t see the big picture:
Many priests grow weary of continual calls to action for legislative support for abortion and contraception related issues but nothing for immigration reform, food aid, and capital punishment. And, this is a big one, priests don’t like unfair attacks on things they highly value and esteem, like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services.
Could the Philadelphia archdiocese be the next target? Will Chaput’s conservative cred protect him? Or have the rightwing critics heeded their own critics?