Sunday, March 22, 2009

Archbishop Chaput on "40 Years of American Catholic Complacency and Poor Formation"

I really wanted to attend this conference, but had a conflict with the date. It was held at nearby Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit where the Archbishop of Denver, Charles Chaput, was the keynote speaker. Here is coverage from Catholic News Agency... (emphases mine in bold; comments in red)

Detroit, Mich., Mar 21, 2009 / 12:32 pm (CNA).- Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput delivered a speech on Saturday reflecting on the significance of the November 2008 election. Warning that media “narratives” should not obscure truth, he blamed the indifference and complacency of many U.S. Catholics for the country’s failures on abortion, poverty and immigration issues.

He also advised Catholics to “master the language of popular culture” and to refuse to be afraid, saying “fear is the disease of our age.” [Sometimes the only thing we need to fear is the reaction or rejection of others, often close friends or family members. Compare that to the early Christians who DIED for the truth's of the faith. Also, there is another kind of "fear" involved. It is a false fear, guided by a false sense of charity. That is, not wanting to offend or hurt someone else's feelings by standing up for objective truth. What is lacking is the concern for God's "feelings".]

The archbishop’s comments were delivered in his keynote address at the Hands-On Conference Celebrating the Year of St. Paul, which was hosted at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.

Having been asked to examine what November 2008 and its aftermath can teach Catholics about American culture, the state of American Catholicism and the kind of Pauline discipleship necessary today, Archbishop Chaput said:

“November showed us that 40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected. Or to put it more discreetly, the November elections confirmed a trend, rather than created a new moment, in American culture.” [This is not just poor formation of Catholics - we know catechesis has been watered down, lousy, and at times, downright heretical. There is the formation of priests and religious which was even worse. Many things were missing or outright perverted in order to support some other agenda. The Divinity of Christ is challenged (i.e., they claim the miracle of the loaves was not a miracle, but simply good people working hard to share what they had). Another example: If Adam and Eve were fictional as some alleged, then Original Sin could not be real. If Original Sin were not real, then there could be no concupiscence (fallen human nature which makes us gravitate toward's sinful choices, rather than virtuous). What comes next is that sin is not considered sin. And, there is no need for sacramental confession. This is often seen among dissidents who advance "strange teachings" contrary to basic, consistent Church teachings on things like abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, homosexuality, women's ordination, etc].

Noting that there was no question about President Barack Obama’s views on abortion “rights,” embryonic stem cell research and other “problematic issues,” he commented:

“Some Catholics in both political parties are deeply troubled by these issues. But too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn child. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by three other good social policies.”

Offering a sober evaluation of the state of American Catholicism, he added:

“We need to stop over-counting our numbers, our influence, our institutions and our resources, because they’re not real. We can’t talk about following St. Paul and converting our culture until we sober up and get honest about what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. We need to stop lying to each other, to ourselves and to God by claiming to ‘personally oppose’ some homicidal evil -- but then allowing it to be legal at the same time.” [Well said!]

Commenting on society’s attitude towards Catholic beliefs, Archbishop Chaput said, “we have to make ourselves stupid to believe some of the things American Catholics are now expected to accept.” [Yeah! Like the argument that "reducing abortions" is somehow helpful when it is actually a fallacy].

“There’s nothing more empty-headed in a pluralist democracy than telling citizens to keep quiet about their beliefs. A healthy democracy requires exactly the opposite.”

Noting the 2008 presidential campaign’s “revealing” focus upon the candidates’ “narratives,” he said the campaign seemed not to involve facts, but rather “story-telling.”

“Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with story-telling -- unless the press and other news media themselves become part of the story-telling syndicate; in other words, peddlers of narratives in which facts are not told because they’re true, but rather become ‘true’ because they’re told by those who have the power to create an absorbing narrative,” the archbishop explained. [great explanation of what is happening with the media]

In such a state, he warned, real power does not rest with the people but with those who “shape the structure of our information.” [Precisely! It is also why things like Catholic blogging, Catholic Radio, TV and Internet TV are so important]. He linked this situation with Pope Benedict’s critique of the “dictatorship of relativism.”

The archbishop also connected this relativistic spirit to St. Paul’s appearance at the Aeropagus, recounted in the Book of Acts. At the Areopagus, a prestigious place of debate for Greek philosophers, “Nearly anything was tolerated, so long as no one claimed to have an exclusive and binding claim on the truth,” the archbishop explained.

He then quoted Acts 17’s description of the Areopagite mindset: “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”

“It’s worth paying attention to that description. There’s no mention of truth,” he commented, noting that when St. Paul preaches the truth “he’s mocked and despised and his preaching is a failure, at least in the short term.” [And, so it will be with bishops, priests, consecrated, and lay people who also speak the truth. Don't expect everyone to like you when you speak the truth, but it should always be done with great love and charity]

“Paul’s failure at the Areopagus is a good lesson for the times we face now in America,” the archbishop said. “When Catholics start leading their daily lives without a hunger for something higher than their own ambitions or appetites, or with the idea that they can create their own truth and then baptize it with an appeal to personal conscience, they become, in practice, agnostics in their personal lives, and Sophists in their public lives. In fact, people who openly reject God or dismiss Christianity as obsolete are sometimes far more honest and far less discouraging than Catholics who claim to be faithful to the Church but directly reject her guidance by their words and actions.” [leading this group are dissident Catholic politicians, educators and journalists]

Noting that Paul mastered the language of the popular urban culture of his time and used “every technical resource, tool and environment at his disposal,” Archbishop Chaput extensively quoted Pope John Paul II’s 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, which also discussed St. Paul at the Areopagus.

“If Paul felt so fiercely compelled to preach the Gospel -- whether ‘timely [or] untimely’ -- to a pagan world, then how should we feel today, preaching the Gospel to an apostate world?” he asked, answering that the love of Christ must “impel” Catholics forward.

[This is important....]“Catholics in America, at least the many good Catholics who yearn to live their faith honestly and deeply, can easily feel tempted to hopelessness,” he concluded. “It becomes very burdensome to watch so many persons who call themselves Catholic compromise their faith and submit their hearts and consciences to the Caesars of our day.”

But Archbishop Chaput closed by encouraging Christians to remember the words of Jesus:

“In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This is one bishop who his using his talents very well. May God grace all of our bishops with talents that can be multiplied in the Mystical Body of Christ.

The Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. We are headed in to hard times and must come out of our own personal complacency. Learn the faith! Live the faith!

As a reminder, we learned yesterday that Archbishop Chaput encouraged people at the seminar to write to Notre Dame President, John Jenkins to express disapproval at the university's decision to invite President Obama to speak at commencements. It is understood that he will be given an honorary degree, as well.

More: Outrageous: Notre Dame University to honor President Obama

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!