February 14, 2017
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput hasn't shied away from tense political topics over the past year, periodically weighing in on questionable facts of the 2016 campaign and urging "decency" in the wake of Donald Trump's electoral victory.
Nearly a month into Trump's presidency, the White House is mired in controversy and navigating the pain points of institutional transition. On Monday night, Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser.
Flynn reportedly held undisclosed diplomatic talks with Russia's U.S. ambassador prior to taking office in the latest in a series of incidents and decisions that have drawn public backlash and media scrutiny.
In a Monday appearance on the radio show of conservative Catholic host Hugh Hewitt, Chaput questioned why members of the press have taken such an aggressive stance toward Trump.
"They seem to be embittered," Chaput said. "It's just amazing to me how hostile the press is to everything that the president does. I don't want to be partisan in my comments here, but it seems to me that if we really are serious about our common responsibilities as citizens, we support the president whether we accept everything he stands for or not and wish him success rather than trying to undermine him."
In a column following Trump's victory in November, Chaput commended Trump's desire to prioritize national security but also expressed reservations over the apparent scapegoating of immigrants on the campaign trail:
The vast majority of undocumented persons in the United States are decent people. They pose no threat to anyone. They want a fruitful life, they work for a living, they raise families, and their children born here are American citizens.
In other words, they’re a vital resource for the future of our country, not a tumor to be cut out of the body. Sweeping talk of building a border wall and deporting millions of people is not just impractical and wrong-headed. It’s also dangerous. It fuels anti-immigrant resentment. And it feeds the anxiety now creating turmoil in immigrant and minority communities.
While the president's controversial immigration executive order remains suspended by the courts, media reports have called into question not just the substance of White House policy, but the processes the Trump administration follows in executing them. Flynn's resignation only further complicates the administration's early days.
Chaput takes issue with the media's "spirit of despair and anxiety," seemingly implying that a lack of religious faith might be at least a factor in creating this climate.
"The elite, of course, kind of poo-poo religious faith," Chaput told Hewitt. "They don't just kind of, they actually do it very deliberately. It's important for us not to desire to be a part of that elite to the point where we give up our faith."
Hewitt, who said he was startled by the "depth and breadth" of media hostility toward Trump, compared the backlash to what former Pope Benedict XVI encountered from many on the left. Chaput likened it to distrust during the later years of the Bush administration but also acknowledged that former President Barack Obama was likewise subjected to heavy scrutiny from the right.
While acknowledging that it's "important to disagree" with Trump over clearly moral issues, Chaput urged citizens not to lose sight of common goals.
"Our country really has to change in terms of working together," Chaput said. "Going back to my youth in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a real sense of that. People who disagreed with one another seriously still wished for common success, and that seems to have disappeared altogether now."