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February 28, 2012


Archbishop Charles J. Chaput on “A Thread for Weaving Joy”

Wow.

Below is an excerpt from the comments of Archbishop Chaput at the Conference on Life.  I don’t know of any other church that is producing this kind of rhetoric in defense of life.  I include Southern Baptists, PCA, orthodox Anglicans, Missouri Synod Lutherans, independent, or you name any other conservative church entity out there.  They all pale into insignficance compared to the Roman Catholics during this century.  Respectful, Reformed Protestant kudos to them.

The American Jesuit scholar Father John Courtney Murray once said that “Anyone who really believes in God must set God, and the truth of God, above all other considerations.” (4)

Here’s what that means.  Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics.  God will demand an accounting.  Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family.  God will demand an accounting.  And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s life.  God will demand an accounting.  As individuals, we can claim to believe whatever we want.  We can posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day long—but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God who made us.  God knows our hearts better than we do.  If we don’t conform our hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we’re only fooling ourselves.

We live in a culture where our marketers and entertainment media compulsively mislead us about the sustainability of youth; the indignity of old age; the avoidance of suffering; the denial of death; the nature of real beauty; the impermanence of every human love; the oppressiveness of children and family; the silliness of virtue; and the cynicism of religious faith.  It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness, sexual confusion and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves.  And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other—and greater—generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.

What have we done with that freedom?  In whose service do we use it now?

John Courtney Murray is most often remembered for his work at Vatican II on the issue of religious liberty, and for his great defense of American democracy in his book, We Hold These Truths.  Murray believed deeply in the ideas and moral principles of the American experiment.  He saw in the roots of the American Revolution the unique conditions for a mature people to exercise their freedom through intelligent public discourse, mutual cooperation and laws inspired by right moral character.  He argued that—at its best—American democracy is not only compatible with the Catholic faith, but congenial to it.

But he had a caveat.  It’s the caveat that George Washington implied in his Farewell Address, and that Charles Carroll – the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence—mentions in his own writings.  In order to work, America depends as a nation on a moral people shaped by their religious faith, and in a particular way, by the Christian faith.  Without that living faith, animating its people and informing its public life, America becomes something alien and hostile to the very ideals it was founded on.

This is why the same Father Murray who revered the best ideals of the American experiment could also write that “Our American culture, as it exists, is actually the quintessence of all that is decadent in the culture of the Western Christian world.  It would seem to be erected on the triple denial that has corrupted Western culture at its roots: the denial of metaphysical reality, of the primacy of the spiritual over the material, [and] of the social over the individual . . . Its most striking characteristic is its profound materialism . . . It has given citizens everything to live for and nothing to die for.  And its achievement may be summed up thus:  It has gained a continent and lost its own soul.”(5)

Catholics need to wake up from the illusion that the America we now live in – not the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals, but the real America we live in here and now – is somehow friendly to our faith.  What we’re watching emerge in this country is a new kind of paganism, an atheism with air-conditioning and digital TV.  And it is neither tolerant nor morally neutral.

As the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb observed more than a decade ago, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized.”  But even more importantly, she added, “As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant.  The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral – the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called – is now seen as pathological” and exclusionary, concealing the worst forms of psychic and physical oppression.(6)

My point is this:  Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak.  When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it.  So it always has been.  So it always will be.  And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God.


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12 comments

Thank God for leaders like Archbishop Chaput. Pray for and support these men as they square off against the Obama regime.

[1] Posted by via orthodoxy on 2-28-2012 at 01:11 PM · [top]

Great, but if he only substitute “Christian” for “Catholic” in a few places more people might get it.

[2] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 2-28-2012 at 01:16 PM · [top]

Thank you for this post!  I heartily agree that they are a light on a hill in our times.  I hope that the Roman Catholic Church’s leadership will inspire greater trust and ecumenical dedication amongst separated Christians.

[3] Posted by Canadian Hobbit on 2-28-2012 at 01:45 PM · [top]

Great, but if he only substitute “Christian” for “Catholic” in a few places more people might get it.

I think he chose the word Catholic over Christian very carefully. When more Catholics get their lives in order, more people *will* get it. Repentance starts at home and then goes abroad:

“Catholics need to wake up from the illusion…”

There are a lot of illusion-based Catholics in my parish and in my state of Rhode Island. There has been a dearth of catechesis in the last 40 years.

The America he refers to, “...the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals”, is that of the 40’s and 50’s when lot’s of great black and white Catholic movies were made, the parishes had lines out the door for Saturday confessions, and the parish schools were packed to the walls.

So his thought is that when Catholics wake up, it will go a long way to help the culture at large wake up, since there are so many, and so many of them play prominent rolls in our country.

That said, many are very encouraged by the pruning going on, the yearning for truth that is awakening, and the clerical ranks being turned over by orthodox priests. Slowly but surely, the dead branches are removed and new growth by God’s grace alone starts to appear.

[4] Posted by dbonneville on 2-28-2012 at 02:15 PM · [top]

Archbishop Chaput has a wonderful book: “Render Unto Caesar: Serving our Nation by Living our Cstholic Beliefs in Political Life” (published by Doubleday in 2008, and available to download on your Nook or Kindle) that is a must-read for ALL Christians, not just Catholics - especially in an election year. Highly recommended for your Lenten reading.

[5] Posted by mike458 on 2-28-2012 at 02:26 PM · [top]

Archbishop Chaput is a Catholic bishop speaking to Catholics here. I don’t think he menat to “diss” other Christians. I think he’s a shepherd addressing his flock - Catholics. And I think that because of the sheer number of Catholics in America, they are a powerful influence on culture and on politics in this country. I’ve heard it said that no one can expect to be elected president without the Catholic vote. In the past half-century, the post-Vatican II Catholic Church has weakened. It has fallen down on the job of teaching the faith to children, emphasizing “love” and “caring” and “sharing” and “peace” and “justice,” which is great, except that even an atheist can adopt those values. The Church has failed to teach enough about what Christians believe and why we believe it. It has often failed to react to the problem of Catholics like Pelosi and the Kennedys and the Cuomos, who claim to be Catholic yet advocate abortion, gay marriage, and such. Archbishop Chaput, and other AMerican bishops including Cardinal Dolan, are now stepping up and saying things that should have been said long ago. Thank God for these men, and fmay he guide and strengthen them!

[6] Posted by Nellie on 2-28-2012 at 03:47 PM · [top]

The word “Catholic” was used because that is the way they [RC] talk. In a best light, it’s they speaking unto those they have authority, in a pejorative one, used as in a pre-VC2 one. Just as I would use “Roman Catholic,” thus instantly identifying myself. When with Roman Catholics, they can identify me pretty quickly as well (unless I want to be covert smile )

—-

RE: I don’t know of any other church that is producing this kind of rhetoric in defense of life.

I have two streams of thoughts on this matter:

First is that there may be emphasis after majorly dropping the ball in Europe mid-last century (with some very notable exceptions Cardinal Clemens von Galen or Maximilian Kolbe, but in my opinion that the Confessing Church movement and the overall Ecumenical Movement stood firmer than did Pope Pius XII) that RCC might be making sure never to let that happen again.

Second is more critical on my own kind. I think as a reaction to liberal scholarly attacks of Scripture of the late nineteenth and twentieth century an almost anti-intellectualism crept into Protestantism {a form of Sola Scriptura that I do not think Luther or Calvin envisioned - especially not the logician in the latter}. It was not always that way and found much more logical formation in general overall Protestantism in a earlier, but today, Roman Catholic brothers & sisters do seem to have a better foundation on rhetoric and formal logic in their education [again, as above, with some notable exceptions]. Such, that they were much better prepared when Roe V. Wade came down (Theology of the Body [lectures from ‘79-‘84] was a logical extension of Love and Responsibility [1960]), where most Protestants were asleep at the wheel until Francis Schaeffer was blowing the trumpet.

FWIW, those are my musing on the quoted topic, overall I concur, a very powerful stance and I too salute them for it. On this topic, stand if full concord with this RC Archbishop.

[7] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 2-28-2012 at 04:21 PM · [top]

Archbishop Chaput is one of my heroes, along with Cardinal Archbishop Dolan, Cardinal George, and my own Archbishop in Seattle, J. Peter Sartain. They are strong and faithful teachers who do not shy from addressing the truth nor pull their rhetorical punches nor mince words, while still responding in charity to others.

I pray regularly that our Lord will mold me in the same way.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[8] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 2-28-2012 at 05:45 PM · [top]

They’re some of my heroes, too! (I don’t know much about your Archbishop Sartain, but if he’s like the other three, he’s in good company.)

[9] Posted by Nellie on 2-28-2012 at 06:58 PM · [top]

[9] Nellie,

The first quote I saw from him on the day on which his appointment was announced was

To be Catholic is to be pro-life.

Within a couple of months of his installation here, Fr. Michael G. Ryan, who had been a persistent vocal opponent (becoming “a resounding bell or a clanging cymbal,” if you will) of the corrected translation of the Roman Missal, and the author of this article in the notoriously liberal Jesuit magazine America, publicly announced that, although he was not happy with the translation, it was time to accept that it was coming. There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that Abp. Sartain ‘splained it (as some of my USMC friends are wont to phrase it) to Fr. Ryan. That told me pretty much all I needed to know about him, and it has proven indicative.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[10] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 3-1-2012 at 12:10 PM · [top]

Thanks, Keith. That quote from him tells the whole story, and I’ll bet you’re right about Fr. Ryan. The Marines do have a way of phrasing things, don’t they? America has indeed become a disgusting rag. My husband graduated form a Jesuit high school a long time ago, and is deeply disturbed by what has happened to the Jesuits, who were supposed to be the “defenders of the faith.”

[11] Posted by Nellie on 3-1-2012 at 01:23 PM · [top]

THe persistent unified witness of the Roman church is indeed encouraging.

[12] Posted by John Boyland on 3-3-2012 at 08:30 AM · [top]

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