Monday September 20, 2010

Archbishop Chaput Urges Christian Renewal in Response to Growing Persecution in US

By Patrick Craine

DENVER, Colorado, September 20, 2010 ( – Faced with growing persecution from an increasingly secular culture, Catholics must work for a true Christian renewal of America by embracing and living the teachings of the Catholic Church, said Archbishop Charles Chaput in a Friday column for First Things.

In the piece, entitled ‘Catholics and the Next America’, Archbishop Chaput reemphasizes his belief that Catholics, indeed all Christians, are poised to face growing persecution in the coming years.

America’s public discourse, while traditionally shaped by the country’s deep Protestant roots, has been supplanted by a secular ideology that began to take root in the late 19th and early 20th century, he says. According to the Archbishop, the growth of secularism was able to be ignored for a long time “because America’s social consensus supported the country’s unofficial Christian assumptions, traditions and religion-friendly habits of thought and behavior.”

“But law-even a constitutional guarantee-is only as strong as the popular belief that sustains it,” he says. “Seventy years of soft atheism trickling down in a steady catechesis from our universities, social-science ‘helping professions,’ and entertainment and news media, have eroded it.”

He observes that Catholics saw the election of President John F. Kennedy as a major symbol of their long-won acceptance in America after the “harsh Protestant discrimination” against them in the 18th and 19th centuries. But he notes that by the time of this supposed acceptance, “secularizers had already crushed [mainline American Protestantism] in the war for the cultural high ground.”

“In effect, after so many decades of struggle, Catholics arrived on America’s center stage just as management of the theater had changed hands,” he says.

“In the coming decades Catholics will likely find it harder, not easier, to influence the course of American culture, or even to live their faith authentically,” he says. “And the big difference between the ‘next America’ and the old one will be that plenty of other committed religious believers may find themselves in the same unpleasant jam as their Catholic cousins.”

At the same time, the Archbishop emphasizes that Catholics are not lacking in responsibility for the current attacks against faith, life, and family in America. Catholics “can only blame outside factors for our present realities up to a point,” he says. “We have too often made our country what it is through our appetite for success, our self-delusion, our eagerness to fit in, our vanity, our compromises, our self-absorption and our tepid faith.”

“In the name of tolerance and pluralism, we have forgotten why and how we began as nation; and we have undermined our ability to ground our arguments in anything higher than our own sectarian opinions,” he added.

But Archbishop Chaput also notes that “the future is not predestined,” insisting that “we create it with our choices.”

“The most important choice we can make is both terribly simple and terribly hard: to actually live what the Church teaches, to win the hearts of others by our witness, and to renew the soul of our country with the courage of our own Christian faith and integrity,” he concluded. “There is no more revolutionary act.”

See related coverage:

Archbishop Chaput: “Systematic Discrimination Against Church Now Seems Inevitable”

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