Speaking in Toronto, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput gave a speech that any Christian, not just Catholics, ought to hear:
“I think modern life, including life in the Church, suffers from a phony unwillingness to offend that poses as prudence and good manners, but too often turns out to be cowardice. Human beings owe each other respect and appropriate courtesy. But we also owe each other the truth — which means candor.”
Looking ahead to the coming months and years, Chaput offered four “simple things” to remember.
“First,” he said, “all political leaders draw their authority from God. We owe no leader any submission or cooperation in the pursuit of grave evil.”
“In fact, we have the duty to change bad laws and resist grave evil in our public life, both by our words and our non-violent actions. The truest respect we can show to civil authority is the witness of our Catholic faith and our moral convictions, without excuses or apologies.”
“Americans, including many Catholics, elected a gifted man to fix an economic crisis. That’s the mandate. They gave nobody a mandate to retool American culture on the issues of marriage and the family, sexuality, bioethics, religion in public life and abortion. That retooling could easily happen, and it clearly will happen — but only if Catholics and other religious believers allow it.”
The third point to focus on when the beliefs of Catholics are challenged is that “it doesn’t matter what we claim to believe if we’re unwilling to act on our beliefs,” Chaput counseled.
“The fourth and final thing to remember, and there’s no easy way to say it,” remarked Archbishop Chaput, is that the “Church in the United States has done a poor job of forming the faith and conscience of Catholics for more than 40 years.”
“And now we’re harvesting the results — in the public square, in our families and in the confusion of our personal lives. I could name many good people and programs that seem to disprove what I just said. But I could name many more that do prove it, and some of them work in Washington.”
American Catholics need to realize that many in the current generation haven’t just been “assimilated” into the American culture, but have in fact been “absorbed and bleached and digested by it,” Archbishop Chaput asserted.
Citing the example of “unhappy, self-described Catholics who complain that abortion is too much of a litmus test,” he stated, “We can’t claim to be ‘Catholic’ and ‘pro-choice’ at the same time without owning the responsibility for where the choice leads – to a dead unborn child.”
The archbishop also addressed the “abortion reduction” argument being made by some in politics.
“We can’t talk piously about programs to reduce the abortion body count without also working vigorously to change the laws that make the killing possible. If we’re Catholic, then we believe in the sanctity of developing human life. And if we don’t really believe in the humanity of the unborn child from the moment life begins, then we should stop lying to ourselves and others, and even to God, by claiming we’re something we’re not.”
“Catholic social teaching goes well beyond abortion,” Chaput noted. “In America we have many urgent issues that beg for our attention, from immigration reform to health care to poverty to homelessness.”
Winding his talk down, the Archbishop of Denver remarked on the misunderstanding of the word “hope.”
“For Christians,” he explained, “hope is a virtue, not an emotional crutch or a political slogan. Virtus, the Latin root of virtue, means strength or courage. Real hope is unsentimental. It has nothing to do with the cheesy optimism of election campaigns. Hope assumes and demands a spine in believers. And that’s why – at least for a Christian — hope sustains us when the real answer to the problems or hard choices in life is ‘no, we can’t,’ instead of ‘yes, we can.’”