In a letter dated May 27 written on Archdiocese of Philadelphia letterhead, Archbishop Charles Chaput responded to an email sent to him by Jerry Silverman in which he seemingly questioned the ability of Silverman, who is Jewish, to question Catholic teaching.
Silverman had penned a letter to the editor to the Philadelphia Inquirer May 21, the day after Pennsylvania legalized same-sex marriage, and sent a copy to Chaput and Pope Francis.
Silverman’s letter read: “Let me get this ‘straight.’ In condemning same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, Archbishop Chaput says, ‘Marriage is ordered not just to companionship but to creating and rearing new life.’”
Silverman goes on to quote a paragraph from the Catholic Education Resource Center website that details that the church believes infertility does not preclude a person from marrying — questioning why, if an elderly or infertile couple can marry in the eyes of the church, a same-sex couple cannot.
“In all fairness, perhaps the protestors of gay marriage should demand the dissolution of all straight marriages that do not produce offspring,” he finished.
A few days letter, Silverman received a curt letter from Chaput in the mail that begins with, “I received your letter.”
Chaput then states, “Thanks for giving me instructions on what the Catholic Church should teach. I’m always astonished when people who aren’t believers give me those kind of instructions.”
Silverman said he interpreted Chaput’s non-believer statement to be a commentary on his being Jewish, to which he made no reference in his original letter.
He said he assumes Chaput deemed him to be Jewish based on his last name.
“I’m not a Catholic so I wouldn’t necessarily know the teachings. But, like I said in the letter, I went to a Catholic education website and quoted from their own teachings, word for word,” Silverman said. “So it shouldn’t matter if I’m Buddhist, agnostic or from the moon if I’m quoting what church teachings say. I think I should be able to ask because it affects my society.”
Chaput went on to write, “As I am sure you know from basic logic class, an exception does not make a rule. The nature of marriage itself is about children. That’s how you and I came into this world.”
Silverman said he was surprised by the tone of the letter.
“I didn’t think my letter was offensive in any sense. It was very matter-of-fact; I thought it was confusing why you say A and do B,” Silverman said. “So I thought for sure I’d get a reply, but an educated reply, not a sarcastic, smart-ass, disrespectful, unreligious reply.”
Archdiocesan spokesperson Ken Gavin declined to confirm whether the archbishop personally wrote the letter.
“Archbishop Chaput makes every effort to respond to all those who write to him on various topics and issues,” Gavin said. “He considers this correspondence private and would expect that individuals who write to him would respect that privacy.”
Silverman said he forwarded Chaput’s letter to the pope.
“I sent a copy, just saying, ‘I think you ought to know the response of one of your people. I don’t think it reflects very well on the Catholic Church to write something like this. It was very insulting.”