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Chaput Vs. Catholic Assimilation

Philadelphia’s Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput delivered a humdinger of a speech today at Notre Dame [1], at the Bishop’s Symposium on Reclaiming The Church for the Catholic Imagination. Excerpts:

The 2016 election is one of those rare moments when the repellent nature of both presidential candidates allows the rest of us to see our nation’s pastoral terrain as it really is.  And the view is unpleasant.  America’s cultural and political elites talk a lot about equality, opportunity and justice.  But they behave like a privileged class with an authority based on their connections and skills.  And supported by sympathetic media, they’re remaking the country into something very different from anything most of us remember or the Founders imagined.

The WikiLeaks email release last week from the Clinton entourage says a lot about how the merit-class elite views people like those in this room.  It’s not friendly.

But what does any of this have to do with our theme?  Actually quite a lot.  G.K. Chesterton once quipped that America is a nation that thinks it’s a Church.  And he was right.  In fact, he was more accurate than he could have guessed.  Catholics came to this country to build a new life.  They did exceptionally well here.  They’ve done so well that by now many of us Catholics are largely assimilated to, and digested by, a culture that bleaches out strong religious convictions in the name of liberal tolerance and dulls our longings for the supernatural with a river of practical atheism in the form of consumer goods.

More:

For all of its greatness, democratic culture proceeds from the idea that we’re born as autonomous, self-creating individuals who need to be protected from, and made equal with, each other.  It’s simply not true.  And it leads to the peculiar progressive impulse to master and realign reality to conform to human desire, whereas the Christian masters and realigns his desires to conform to and improve reality.

More:

In Philadelphia I’m struck by how many women I now see on the street wearing the hijab or even the burqa.  Some of my friends are annoyed by that kind of “in your face” Islam.  But I understand it.  The hijab and the burqa say two important things in a morally confused culture:  “I’m not sexually available;” and “I belong to a community different and separate from you and your obsessions.”

I have a long list of concerns with the content of Islam.  But I admire the integrity of those Muslim women.  And we need to help Catholics recover their own sense of distinction from the surrounding secular meltdown.  The Church and American democracy are very different kinds of societies with very different structures and goals.  They can never be fully integrated without eviscerating the Christian faith.  An appropriate “separateness” for Catholics is already there in the New Testament.  We’ve too often ignored it because Western civilization has such deep Christian roots.  But we need to reclaim it, starting now.

A-men! Finally, this passage:

When I was ordained a bishop, a wise old friend told me that every bishop must be part radical and part museum curator – a radical in preaching and living the Gospel, but a protector of the Christian memory, faith, heritage and story that weave us into one believing people over the centuries.

I try to remember that every day.  Americans have never liked history.  The reason is simple.  The past comes with obligations on the present, and the most cherished illusion of American life is that we can remake ourselves at will.  But we Christians are different.  We’re first and foremost a communion of persons on mission through time – and our meaning as individuals comes from the part we play in that larger communion and story.

If we want to reclaim who we are as a Church, if we want to renew the Catholic imagination, we need to begin, in ourselves and in our local parishes, by unplugging our hearts from the assumptions of a culture that still seems familiar but is no longer really “ours.”   It’s a moment for courage and candor, but it’s hardly the first moment of its kind.

Read the whole thing.  [1]See, this is the kind of leadership that all churches need in this new Dark Age. I had a chance a week or two ago to read an advance copy of Archbishop Chaput’s forthcoming (February 2017) book Strangers In A Strange Land: Living The Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World.  [2] It’s very good and very important — and not just a book for Catholics. It made me feel confident about The Benedict Option [3] book, in that it’s not just me and a relatively small number of Christians who read the signs of the times in the same way. We’re going to need each other more and more as the times grow darker.

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77 Comments To "Chaput Vs. Catholic Assimilation"

#1 Comment By mrscracker On October 20, 2016 @ 5:00 pm

I like his comments on Muslim dress. I wish Christian women had a similar option. It would end a lot of hassling & misunderstanding.

#2 Comment By mrscracker On October 20, 2016 @ 5:05 pm

PeterK says:

“Our challenge is – How do we turn our vast array of Catholics…”
first of all bring back the traditional latin mass which was a unifying factor around the world. go into any parish around the world pre-Vatican II and you would see the same Mass being celebrated. Today you don’t know what you’ll find on Sunday, could be clowns, could be dancers, could be anything”
******************
My thoughts, too. It’s ridiculous.

#3 Comment By mrscracker On October 20, 2016 @ 5:09 pm

venell says:

No stress if you don’t get around to this one, but how would you reconcile the approving quote regarding the burka and your previous feeling that any Ben-Opish community that would make your daughter feel out of place for wearing a pair of pants was not for you?”
*******************
Just to mention, I see Muslim ladies wearing britches & basically the same clothes as anyone else, but still with a traditional headcovering on. So I guess things vary from culture to culture.

#4 Comment By mrscracker On October 20, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

MH – Secular Misanthropist says:

But I understand it. The hijab and the burqa say two important things in a morally confused culture: “I’m not sexually available;” and “I belong to a community different and separate from you and your obsessions.”

Doh! Your assumption about a woman’s sexual availability should not depend upon what she’s wearing. It should be based upon other communication with her.
**********************
“Should be based”, sure, but it doesn’t always work that way for women. Men can act before communicating. Trust me.

#5 Comment By p s c On October 20, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

Cardinal Krol retired 02/1988 and Anthony Bevilaqua was installed as Archbishop. Bevilaqua received his red hat 06/1991. Krol died 03/1996.

Bevilaqua retired 07/2003. Rigali installed as Archbishop. Rigali made cardinal 10/2003. Bevilaqua died 01/2012.

Both Bevilaqua and Rigali were named cardinals while their predecessors alive.

Philadelphia always has a cardinal as archbishop.

#6 Comment By Oakinhou On October 20, 2016 @ 6:19 pm

“tl/dr: Liberals believe that individuals, including you, are free to believe whatever you want, and won’t trample that individual freedom.

Really. As in, liberals would never attempt to get, oh, BYU prevented from joining an expanded Big 12?”

This is exactly it. The alleged complaint of the BIG 12 is not that those BYU students that want to restrain their own sexual activity only between their own marriage between a man and a woman can do so, but that BYU was requiring that ALL students had to refrain from sexual activity except within a man-woman marriage.

The difference, again, between you conducting Your own life according to your moral principles, and you demanding that everybody must conduct their lives according to your moral principles.

No one is forcing you to betray your own principles. They are only coming after your efforts to impose your principles generally. There’s a difference.

#7 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On October 20, 2016 @ 7:03 pm

Oakinhou

Napoleon’s uncle (his Mother’s brother, Joseph Fesch) was made a Archbishop of Lyon in 1802, and Cardinal in 1803

The fact that his nephew was First Consul of France since November 1801 is just a happy coincidence.

Since you know about Fesch, you must also know that Pius VI, the predecessor of Pius VII, who made Flesch an Archbishop and eventually gave him the purple, died a French prisoner in 1798.
And I’m sure you know that Pius VII was an implacable enemy of Napoleon and played no little role in reviving the coalition which would defeat him for good a few years later. To the point that, in 1809, Pius VII was himself made a prisoner and held in captivity for six years. Only in 1814 the Hungarian hussars freed him after Napoleon’s defeat.
Fesch was a tool in the pope’s anti-Napoleonic politics and a fifth column in Napoleon’s ranks. After Napoleon’s defeat, the pope welcomed him and his sister, Napoleon’s mother, in Rome, as France had then become an unwelcoming place for the members of the imperial family. The gesture was presented as an act of charity and magnanimity for a defeated enemy, but it was also a gesture of gratitude toward those who supported the papal cause in the very bosom of Napoleon.
Letizia Ramolino, Napoleon’s mother, lived three years with his brother Cardinal Fesch before moving to her own house.
(@Rod, you might remember that when we were in Rome I pointed out to you her palace in Piazza Venezia)
She wrote to Cardinal Consalvi, the great Secretary of State of Pius VII, after she had to give up any hope of moving to Saint Helena: “I’m really the mother of all sorrows, and my only solace is to know that the Holy Father forgets the past to remember only his goodness to all the members of the family. We find no other support than in the Pontifical Government and our gratitude will be immense…”

Liberals. Falsifying history is their favorite sport since the XVII century.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 20, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

Americans long valued and understood their history, and certainly grasped that the past came with obligations to the present (e.g., the Civil War to end slavery, which the nation could have avoided had it not taken its history seriously). The problem we have now is that Americans no longer learn their history nor do they internalize the values of the Founders and their successors like Lincoln.

CatherineNY, perhaps you and I could collaborate on a new American History curriculum. This is exactly what we need to put back — duly recognizing the many areas of our history that had been given short shrift, but deserve more sober and attentive presentation than Howard Zinn seems to have been capable of. Anyone aware that Toussaint Louverture was a conservative Roman Catholic who maintained exemplary discipline in his armies, and earned the undying loyalty of many (white) French soldiers? OK, that’s a little offshore, but there’s more stories like it waiting to be told.

#9 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 20, 2016 @ 9:27 pm

American or Modern Democratic Culture is most certainly a product of Enlightenment ideas and English parliamentary reform after the Civil War and Glorious Revolution, which produced the Bill of Rights.

True, and I thank God for it daily. It has worked and will continue to work. We should not be distracted by the rhetoric of half-baked brats who don’t know what the words mean.

#10 Comment By Carlo On October 20, 2016 @ 10:41 pm

Oakinhou:

“The fact that his nephew was First Consul of France since November 1801 is just a happy coincidence.”

No, it’s just a proof that Napoleon was actively trying to influence the appointment of bishops and turn the Church in to an arm of the French state. I remind you that in those year the pope was so much “at the right hand of Napoleon” that Napoleon IMPRISONED Pius VII first in Savona and then in Fontainbleu. I should know because when he was finally released from the Priamar fortress he slept in my family’s ancestral home.

So you just confirmed Rod’s point: the state actively persecuted the Church and the Church refuse to submit. Just like countless other times in history. Thank you for your contribution.

#11 Comment By Nate On October 20, 2016 @ 10:43 pm

The good Cardinal could start by removing modernism from his own diocese.

#12 Comment By Steve McQueen On October 20, 2016 @ 10:51 pm

“See, this is the kind of leadership that all churches need in this new Dark Age.”

Leadership? Maybe I’ve just gotten jaded in my old age but the good bishop’s words sound to me like the same old platitudes I’ve been listening to in the pew for the past sixty years.

Dark Age? Are you kidding. People walk around with supercomputers in their pockets, cars drive themselves and companies are planning trips to Mars.

This is the Church’s problem. Christians of all denominations, ages, economic levels, backgrounds, etc., are have been seduced by the material benefits of our times. The Church is not dying because of it is being persecuted, it’s dying because it doesn’t reflect the Gospel.

#13 Comment By SeanD On October 21, 2016 @ 12:48 am

It’s a shame, but not a surprise, that Cupich got the red hat and not Chaput…

#14 Comment By Oakinhou On October 21, 2016 @ 1:30 am

@Giuseppe Scalias

Yes, I’m fairly familiar with the whole story of Fesch and of Madame Mere, and of the captivity of Pious VII in Fointainebleau.

Yet, for all your explanations, you haven’t explained why Pious VII made Fesch Archbishop and Cardinal only months after Napoleon took power, the same Napoleon who had been the invader of Italy and thus responsible for the death of Pious VI. The same Napoleon that that same Pious VII crowned Emperor in Norte Dame one year after making his uncle a Cardinal.

History is not made people in white hats, even when popes, and people in black hats (apparently aka liberals). Pious VII was playing as much politics as Napoleon was.

#15 Comment By Oakinhou On October 21, 2016 @ 1:44 am

“No, it’s just a proof that Napoleon was actively trying to influence the appointment of bishops and turn the Church in to an arm of the French state. I remind you that in those year the pope was so much “at the right hand of Napoleon” that Napoleon IMPRISONED Pius VII first in Savona and then in Fontainbleu”

Napoleon invaded the Papal States and tool Pious VII prisoner in 1809, five years after the pope had crowned Napoleon. At the beginning of his reign, in 1800 the Papal States were an ally of France, and Pious VII participated in the Continental blockade, over the objections of his own Secretary of State.

Had Pious VII been opposing Napoleon before 1809 he could have found ways to avoid shoving so many honours on him and his family (remember Paulina Princessa Borghese?).

Nothing wrong with playing politics, everybody was doing it then, but his Fontainebleau captivity happened several years after his very friendly attitude towards France’s ruler. Yes, Napoleon backstabbed the Pope, that had been his supporter up to that moment (including approving his divorce of Josephine), and he deemed it one his worst political errors. But 1809 does not wipe out 1802, 1803, and 1804 from the historical records.

#16 Comment By JonF On October 21, 2016 @ 6:03 am

Re: So you just confirmed Rod’s point: the state actively persecuted the Church and the Church refuse to submit.

Napoleon’s difficulties with Pius VII were largely political, not religious. Napoleon conquered Italy, including Rome, and imposed a very different political settlement on it than the old medieval status quo. Pius VII refused to accept his deposition as ruler of the old Papal States, just as later popes did not accept the sovereignty of the kingdom of Italy over Rome after Italian unification. Napoleon had no real theological differences with the Catholic Church. Indeed, he reversed the anti-clerical radicalism of the Revolution and restored the church to its position as the state church of France.

#17 Comment By anonymousdr On October 21, 2016 @ 6:40 am

@CathierinNY

“I don’t get the Chaput worship I find among conservative Catholics.”

While I think Chaput can be overbearing (I’m old enough, just barely, to remember his dire warnings about Kerry in 2004), Chaput seems like one of the only bishops who publicly speaks about politics in anything like the language you see here in TAC–he has clearly read Tocquevile. It is possible to imagine that he has read Alisdair Macintyre and the he would understand and encourage the Benedict Option–instead calling people who seek to communally live out traditional (eg not promoting SSM or abortion) Catholicism pelegians, or asking us to double down on the failed aggiornamento.

As for those who have said they have heard it all before, well, this was not the kind of talk we ever heard where I was growing up (on the West Coast in the 90s) although I heard it more often living in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Never quite as well said though.

I may have mentioned this before, but despite the literally millions of dollars my parents, aunts, and uncles spent on Catholic school tuition for the 30 or so people in my age cohort, it has produced 2 practicing Catholics. As one of the these two, things can seem disorienting. Maybe they wouldn’t if everyone I knew was still Catholic. Chaput, unlike other happy-clappy prelates seems willing to publicly and eloquently admit that something is not working.

#18 Comment By Carlo On October 21, 2016 @ 6:53 am

Oakinhou:

“The difference, again, between you conducting Your own life according to your moral principles, and you demanding that everybody must conduct their lives according to your moral principles. ”

You hypocrisy and bad faith is STUNNING my friend. Since when are the students at a religious institution (BYU) created to educated in a particular faith EVERYBODY??? I am disgusted by your insincerity, frankly.

#19 Comment By kgasmart On October 21, 2016 @ 9:52 am

No one is forcing you to betray your own principles. They are only coming after your efforts to impose your principles generally. There’s a difference.

Why is it you appear to believe that institutions – be it a college, be it a faith – shouldn’t be permitted to have rules?

You don’t like what BYU requires of its students? Don’t go to BYU. I’m going to guess prospective students know full well what the rules are before they even apply. What, are there no other schools where they can go and have their sexual preferences accommodated?

And last I checked, BYU wasn’t engaged in religious imperialism, trying to get other colleges to adopt its stance.

So the suggestion that BYU should be prevented from joining an expanded Big 12 on the basis of its rules regarding student sexual behavior is, simply, an attempt to sanction the university for those rules. It is an attempt to punish them for having such rules.

#20 Comment By DGJ On October 21, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

[4]

I wonder what the Archbishop whom I remember as bishop in Denver will make of this.

#21 Comment By anonymousdr On October 21, 2016 @ 5:46 pm

Full disclosure—I do not regularly attend the TLM—even if I have a deep affection for it, and I don’t think it is the magical cure For All that Ails the Church. And while I agree that as a practical matter, forcing more large changes on the liturgy is a bad idea, given everything that has happened over the last 50 years, I think that the traditional liturgy is preferable and should be even more widely available than it is (I have heard of bishops who really, really don’t like the TLM and drag their feet when people ask for it).
As for the declining knowledge of Latin, that is a problem for the clergy, but I don’t think it should matter too much for the laity. Latin was used when literacy was far less widespread than it is today, and the great missionary age of Catholicism was during the time of exclusive Latin use. Large swaths of the Americas, Africa, and Asia were converted using the Latin liturgy. While there was force, I think that many of those conversions were likely genuine as evidenced by the great struggles people have gone through with the faith. Think of the Japanese Christians who secretly carried on the faith, with Latin prayers until the mid-19th century. If you really insist on knowing what the prayers of the Mass mean, there are plenty of books, YouTube videos, and people who would be more than willing to help you learn. The real problem is that there are lots of college educated middle class Catholics who don’t know Latin and would be indignant if the liturgy changed. I’d say those people have been Protestantized.

#22 Comment By David J. White On October 21, 2016 @ 6:35 pm

Doh! Your assumption about a woman’s sexual availability should not depend upon what she’s wearing. It should be based upon other communication with her.
**********************
“Should be based”, sure, but it doesn’t always work that way for women. Men can act before communicating. Trust me.

Isn’t advertising that one isn’t sexually available the whole point (or at least one of the points) of wearing a wedding ring?

#23 Comment By mrscracker On October 22, 2016 @ 8:44 am

David White,
True, but I was thinking more of women who are single. And sadly, wedding rings don’t give as dramatic a message as Muslim dress does.
I’m widowed and wearing my wedding doesn’t warn off creepy men. In this day and age it would take a lot to do that. People pretty much assume you share the popular culture’s morals. Or lack thereof.
🙁

#24 Comment By mrscracker On October 22, 2016 @ 8:46 am

Sorry, typo. Should be ” wearing my wedding ring. ” Smart phones are hard to type on.

#25 Comment By CatherineNY On October 22, 2016 @ 3:22 pm

@anonymousdr, I grew up in the 50s and early 60s, and plenty of my cousins aren’t Catholics anymore. Some are nothing in particular, a couple have become Evangelicals. Liturgical change had nothing to do with my cousins’ attitudes towards the Church, and I agree with you that a return to the liturgy that my cousins and I grew up with would not be a magical solution. I wish I did have a solution. I think the hierarchy in this country have mishandled so many things — the abuse crisis being the most serious example, but there are others, like the ham-handed way they have involved the Church in political questions, and the way they have let the Catholic educational system at every level deteriorate, thereby destroying the work of generations who came before them — that I’m not inclined to be sympathetic when they point the finger at the broader society. I have to say that Archbishop Chaput doesn’t sound like he has read Tocqueville to me — he sounds like he’s been reading Michael Hanby and others of that school of thought. The idea that the American view of life is what is causing problems for the Church makes no sense, when you consider how much worse the Church is doing in Europe. I wish churchmen in particular would think twice before they disparage this country. It’s damned ungrateful, for one thing, given the status of Catholics in so many other places and times.

#26 Comment By Paul Emmons On October 22, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

>Your assumption about a woman’s sexual availability should not depend upon what she’s wearing. It should be based upon other communication with her.

Oh? Who sez and why? One of the purposes of engagement and wedding rings is to give the same signal of non-availability. Are you against them, too?

I despise and mistrust Islam as much as anyone, and any woman desiring a face-to-face conversation with me will need to uncover her own face before she gets one. But if we’re just two ships passing in the night… I don’t understand why Westerners feel so threatened by the mere sight of modest non-Western garb, unless it’s out of such a deep insecurity about their own values (or lack of) that they can’t endure the very idea of an alternative.

#27 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 24, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

Looking briefly at the Oakinhou-kgasmart-carlo altercation, no, the power of the state should not be used to impose one set of religious doctrines or precepts upon the general population, and, yes, a private institution has every right to set criteria for participation, based on whatever the goals of that institution are, clearly state these criteria to the world, and invite those who appreciate those criteria to join up, enroll, or whatever.