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Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews
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US bishop: Crisis in Church gives Catholics ‘privileged moment’ to ‘prove ... what we really believe’

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September 20, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Catholic Church may be in a time of crisis, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. said recently, and yet Catholics are “privileged” to have the opportunity to demonstrate the truth of the faith.

Chaput received the St. Joseph the Worker Medal at a September 12 awards dinner at Malvern Retreat House.

The lay-run retreat center’s annual St. Joseph the Worker Award is in its seventh year, Catholic Philly reported, and recognizes individuals whose accomplishments reflect a deep commitment to the Catholic faith and its moral teachings.

Chaput first noted the accomplishments of his fellow award recipients in his address, holding them up as examples in “these odd days,” which are “a hard time for Catholics.”

They were Sean Flanagan, captain emeritus of the international evangelization movement the Knights of the Immaculata and a foremost benefactor of pro-life initiatives in New Jersey, and Barbara Henkels, a Catholic convert and founder of the Philadelphia-area classical Catholic schools, the Regina Academies.

“We need those examples, because these are odd days,” Chaput said. “It seems like a hard time for Catholics.” 

“It’s easy to feel that so much of what we believe is under attack or gripped by uncertainty,” the archbishop continued. “But I think this is actually a privileged moment, a moment when we get to prove who we really are and what we really believe.”

His comments come amid concerns about the Amazon Synod as a threat to Catholic doctrine; talk of schisms regarding the German Church and from Pope Francis and his closest aids; and the apparent dismantling of Pope St. John Paul II’s legacy of pro-life teaching and institutions under the current pontificate. 

Earlier this week, the Philadelphia archbishop released a statement challenging LGBT-activist Jesuit Father James Martin “regarding the ambiguity about same-sex related issues found throughout (his) statements and activities.” 

“A pattern of ambiguity in his teachings tends to undermine his stated aims, alienating people from the very support they need for authentic human flourishing,” Chaput said. “Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, quickly released a statement in support of Chaput.

In a 2017 column, Chaput was critical of many of the ideas put forth in Martin’s controversial Building a Bridge book.

Chaput was also vocal last year about concerns over the Youth Synod and the threat of insertion of LGBT language via the synod documents.

He had issued diocesan guidelines in the first two months after the release of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia stating that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics cannot receive Communion unless they “refrain from sexual intimacy.”

In his remarks for the St. Joseph the Worker Medal award, Chaput discussed fidelity to the Church and holiness, as exhibited by St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph and still necessary today.

“The Church is not an it. The church is a she,” Chaput said, quoting how St. John XXIII described the Church as mater et magistra, Latin for “mother and teacher.”

“We can love our mother; we can’t love an institution,” he said. “And while the Church has institutional forms, she is always much more than the offices that serve her mission. She is always much more than the sins of her children — whether they be popes or bishops or priests or laypeople.”

“The fidelity of Catholics to the Church, generation after generation, even when her leaders have been foolish or weak or sinful — that fidelity is what carries the message of the Gospel through time,” said Chaput. “Without the Church, Jesus Christ cannot be known.” 

“So fidelity to the Church and faithfulness to her teaching are not forms of servitude,” the archbishop added, “they’re a choice to participate in the act of giving life to the world. Without the Church, we have only the world, and as every great saint knew very well, the world is not enough to feed the hunger in our hearts.”

Chaput cited St. Francis of Assisi, who also lived “at a great time of political unrest, and deep confusion and corruption in the church.” 

Though he was “submerged in that world,” of comfort, he said, “Francis wanted to live the Gospel “sine glossa — without gloss, without excuses, without interpretations to make discipleship easier or more comfortable.”

St. Francis was “a revolutionary in the truest sense,” said Chaput, in that “he wanted a radical commitment to holiness from his brothers.”

“Holy doesn’t mean good, and it doesn’t mean nice," Chaput stated, “although holy people are always good, and they’re also frequently nice.” 

“Holy comes from the Hebrew word qados, meaning “other than,” he said. “Francis wanted to be different, just as Jesus was different. Francis wanted to live in the presence of God, just as Jesus did. He wanted to live and act in ways “other than” the ways of this world.”

Francis demonstrated holiness while remaining “always a son of the church,” who “insisted on fidelity and obedience to the Holy Father and reverence for priests and bishops … even the ones whose sins meant they didn’t deserve it.”

“What Francis heard from Jesus on the cross of San Damiano was not ‘replace my church’ or ‘reinvent my church,’ but ‘repair my Church,’” Chaput said, referencing the saint’s visionary experience at San Damiano, where the Lord challenged St. Francis to “go rebuild My house.”

Chaput also cited St. Joseph “the sacrificial provider for his family” who was a “just man” as a model of holiness.

He quoted St. John Paul II in his 1989 apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos, in which JPII quoted numerous popes before him to describe Joseph as “the model of those humble ones that Christianity raises up to great destinies … “

“(St. Joseph) is the proof that in order to be a good and genuine follower of Christ, there is no need of great things,” said Chaput, “It is enough to have the common, simple and human virtues, grounded in authentic love.” 

“Joseph is the greatest single model of unselfish manliness and Christian fatherly love,” he continued. “And thus he’s the greatest single example of masculine virtue not just for husbands and fathers in the families of our local Church, but for every one of our priests in their service as spiritual fathers of their Christian people.”

“Holiness is not a secret formula or the special province of saints like Joseph and Francis, or Clare and Joan of Arc,” Chaput said in conclusion. “God longs for the love of each of us, and all of us. He calls every one of us to holiness, every one of us to the joy of his friendship.” 

To answer this call, he said, we must eschew the noise and distractions of the world and focus on silence, which “is more precious than gold, because only in silence can we hear, and reflect on, and begin to respond to God’s voice.”

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