On Sunday, Crux published an article from the Religion News Service by veteran Catholic writer David Gibson about a column written by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia concerning President Donald Trump. Two things need to be said, one a factual error that needs to be corrected and another a question of interpretation.
First, the factual error.
The RNS story included this line: “[Chaput] suggested that the University of Notre Dame honor Trump with an honorary degree at graduation this spring.”
In fact, the Jan. 27 column by Chaput suggested no such thing. Instead, here is what he wrote:
Maybe the best way to amplify and elevate President Trump’s understanding of that word “prolife” would be for a premier Catholic university – say, for example, the University of Notre Dame – to invite him to campus to offer its commencement address, to explain his personal evolution on the abortion issue, and to share, listen and learn with a cross-section of students and faculty in a respectful dialogue on the meaning of human dignity. Notre Dame takes pride in its tradition of welcoming to campus U.S. presidents from both parties and with very different views. In that light, the invitation would certainly make sense and might be fruitful in unforeseen ways. God writes straight with crooked lines.
Nowhere is there a suggestion of an honor, including an honorary doctorate, and of course universities can invite someone to deliver a commencement address without bestowing a degree on them. On that point, Crux regrets the error. (The lines above were quoted in the RNS piece, but with the suggestion that it amounted to a call for an honorary doctorate, which was never mentioned by Chaput.)
The RNS piece also asserted that Chaput had “denounced” Trump critics. On that point, there’s more latitude for interpretation, and readers will form their own judgments based on the column.
However, it is important to note the full version of what Chaput wrote about Trump.
As I said repeatedly last fall, Mr. Trump’s words and behavior during the presidential campaign, on immigration and other issues, were deeply troubling. But in one of our history’s darker ironies, Mr. Trump benefited from an opposing candidate who had her own equally, though different, ugly and disqualifying baggage.
If Crux contributed to distorting the point that Chaput wished to make with his column, we regret that as well. We encourage readers to see what Chaput himself wrote on the web site of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.