By Kathleen Gilbert

NEW YORK, May 7, 2009 ( – The University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor pro-abortion President Obama resulted from “vanity and compromise” with modern culture, said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver yesterday.  Chaput also remarked on the controversy stirred by President Obama’s statement that America is “not a Christian nation,” asserting that America is under attack from groups working “very vigorously” to de-Christianize popular culture.

The Catholic News Agency published portions of the archbishop’s remarks to the American Bible Society in New York City yesterday, where he received the Becket Fund’s Canterbury Medal, which honors those who “most resolutely refused to render to Caesar that which is God’s.”

Reflecting on the spirituality of St. Paul as the theme of his talk, Chaput urged American Catholics to be uncompromising in witnessing to their faith.  “As even St. Peter discovered, Paul never let shallow courtesies interfere with his witness for Jesus Christ,” he said.

Chaput addressed the tendency of American Catholics to blend in to modern culture with the result that “too many of us are happy with our complacency, vanity, compromises, comfort and bad formation.”

This habit of “vanity and compromise,” he said, is behind the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Obama with the commencement address and an honorary law degree May 17.  The decision has been heavily criticized by dozens of U.S. bishops and over 350,000 petitioners.

Chaput said that while Obama is “a sincere and able man,” his deeply pro-abortion principles “run directly against Catholic belief.”

“And a Catholic institution should not honor that kind of behavior,” he said.

While sinfulness is always present in society, said Chaput, “What’s new about our current moment is that too many Christians have made peace with that sinfulness, baptized it with the language of personal conscience, and stopped trying to convert anybody – including themselves.”

Archbishop Chaput also warned that American Christians’ witness to their faith is “softening,” while some groups are simultaneously working “very vigorously” to secularize modern culture.

The archbishop noted President Barack Obama’s comment that Americans do not consider themselves “a Christian nation.”  While the President’s words should not be taken out of context, said Chaput, the remarks come at a time when the country’s leaders are “much less friendly” to the Christian faith than in the past. 

The archbishop said it would be “foolish and delusional” to deny the United States’ Christian origins, quoting Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

Discussing society’s apparent descent into a “post-Christian” state, Chaput said that while such a society may seem similar to the pagan world St. Paul challenged, it is actually far worse.  While ancient paganism was ignorant of Christ, he said, the paganism of today requires “a specific choice against Jesus Christ.”

Ultimately, however, Archbishop Chaput said there was no such thing as a “post-Christian” society: “The redemptive mission of Jesus Christ is unique, unrepeatable and forever. Christ is the center and meaning of history.

“There is nothing after Jesus Christ except a void.”

See related article:

Archbishop Chaput Criticizes “Creative Reasoning” Behind ND Defense of Obama Invitation: 53 Opposing Bishops