As the year turns, I now look forward every year to Frank Cocozzelli's annual Coughie award. As Frank explains,
The Coughlin Award -- affectionately known as "The Coughie" -- recognizes the person who has best exemplified an exclusionary, strident interpretation of the Catholic faith in the preceding year. The award is named for Father Charles Coughlin, the notorious radio priest of the 1930s who is the role model for today's Religious Right radio and television evangelists, and other conservative media personalities.
Previous winners of the distinguished Coughie (best exemplifie[s] an exclusionary, strident interpretation of the Catholic faith) have included Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Bill Donohue, Bishop Daniel Jenky, and Bishop Robert Finn and friends. As Frank reminds us each year when he awards the Coughie, competition for the award is stiff: there's just so . . . much . . . out there in American Catholicism that fits the criteria of exclusionary and strident interpretation of the Catholic faith.
So many Coughies in the making. So little time to hand awards to everyone.
This year, Frank's Coughie goes to — drumbeat — "the cultural warrior's cultural warrior," Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia! As Frank reminds us,
In order to win a Coughie, a candidate must complete three qualifying tasks: 1) Make the faith decisively less inclusive 2) Engage in incendiary behavior and 3) Ultimately embarrass the Church. This year's winner -- as usual -- has risen to the challenge.
And then he adds,
Chaput did not earn the 2014 "Coughie" because of any one specific action; instead, he earned his award through the sheer cumulative force [of] his divisive career in the Church and in movement conservative politics. He is a role model for contemporary Coughlinesque Church leaders.
Archbishop Chaput has not only met requirements -- he epitomizes them. So much so, that he is often able to meet more than one of the criteria in a single episode, and this year's Coughie is in many ways a lifetime achievement award.
As Frank points out, while we congratulate Archbishop Chaput on his meritorious Coughie achievement, let's not forget some of the highlights of his distinguished exclusionary and strident pastoral career: his denial of enrollment in a Catholic school to the children of a lesbian couple who were practicing Catholics; his ebullient opposition to Pope Francis's attempt to open the door a crack wider to welcoming gay Catholics; his 2004 declaration that it would be sinful for a Catholic to vote for John Kerry; his opposition to legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting child abusers; his suggestion that the synod on the family convened by Pope Francis was "of the devil," and on and on.
As Frank concludes, ultimately, the following is what Archbishop Chaput connotes for many American citizens right now:
He gives the appearance of one who is more interested in preserving the financial assets of the Church as an institution, and the privileges of an old boys' club, than in securing the safety of the children in his care and holding to account people who abused their position to exploit the vulnerable.
And if that doesn't merit a Coughie, I ask you, What would?
The photo of Father Charles Coughlin at the head of the posting appears at a number of websites online, with no indication of its original source.