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Showing posts with label Archbishop Charles Chaput. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archbishop Charles Chaput. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Archbishop Chaput Responds to Vatican Attack on Faithful American Catholics

'It is an odd kind of surprise when believers are attacked by their co-religionists merely for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true,' the archbishop said


Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has hit back at the controversial article by Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa in La Civiltà Cattolica, calling it an “exercise in dumbing down” and saying it fails to understand the forces that have drawn Catholics and Evangelicals together.

The archbishop said the article inadequately presents the nature of cooperation between Catholics in Evangelicals in the United States, adding that it seems “wilfully ignorant” of the cultural battles they face.

The Civiltà Cattolica article, published last week, launched a scathing attack on American conservative Catholics, accusing them of joining with Evangelical Protestants in an “ecumenism of hate” on issues such as immigration.

Read more at Catholic Herald >>



Friday, June 14, 2013

Religious Freedom and the Need to Wake Up

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

“IRS officials have, of course, confessed that they inappropriately targeted conservative groups — especially those with ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names — for extra scrutiny when they sought non-profit status. Allegations of abuse or harassment have since broadened to include groups conducting grassroots projects to ‘make America a better place to live,’ to promote classes about the U.S. Constitution or to raise support for Israel.

“However, it now appears the IRS also challenged some individuals and religious groups that, while defending key elements of their faith traditions, have criticized projects dear to the current White House, such as health-care reform, abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

Terry Mattingly, director, Washington Journalism Center; weekly column, May 22

Let’s begin this week with a simple statement of fact.  America’s Catholic bishops started pressing for adequate health-care coverage for all of our nation’s people decades before the current administration took office.  In the Christian tradition, basic medical care is a matter of social justice and human dignity.  Even now, even with the financial and structural flaws that critics believe undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the bishops continue to share the goal of real health-care reform and affordable medical care for all Americans.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Archbishop Chaput: Renewing the Church and Her Mission in the Year of Faith


Address at the Catholic Life Congress in Philadelphia on Nov. 17. 

From The National Catholic Register
By Archbishop Charles Chaput 


My comments today will be simple. I want to focus on just three points. The first point is where we are as a Church and as individual Catholics, given the current environment of our country. The second point is what we need to do about it. And the third point is who we need to be, or become, to live the kind of witness God wants from us. Before we get to that, though, I want to offer a few preliminary thoughts.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Archbishop Chaput Reviews 'For Greater Glory'



By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Earlier this week we celebrated Memorial Day. For most of us, the holiday informally marks the start of summer. Over the next three months families will take their vacations, the pace of life will slow a bit and people will have a little more precious time to relax and restore their spirits.

The purpose of recreation is to renew us in body and soul; to give us time to think; to reconnect us with family and the gift of being alive. For me, that usually means a week of fishing with friends, catching up on a pile of good books and enjoying a few good movies.

And since all good things are meant to be shared, I can already recommend — in fact, enthusiastically recommend — a film that no Catholic should miss this summer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Archbishop Chaput to Lead Philadelphia Archdiocese


Listen

Archbishop Charles Chaput
Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Charles Chaput to succeed Cardinal Justin Rigali as Archbishop of Philadelphia on Tuesday. Until the new appointment, Archbishop Chaput had been the head of the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. The 66 year-old Archbishop Chaput is part Native American and the first Native American U.S. archbishop. He entered the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor in 1965 and made his perpetual vows in 1968, receiving ordination to the priesthood in 1970. After a tenure as minister of the Capuchin province of Mid-America, he was elected bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota - a position in which he served for nearly a decade, before being called to Denver in 1997.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Archbishop Chaput Lauds Military Service; Calls for New Christian Knighthood

Archbishop Chaput delivered the following remarks to Catholic cadets at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on Monday, Oct. 25, 2010.

None of you wants to sit through another classroom lecture. So my comments will be brief. Then we can get to some questions and answers. I'm also going to skip telling you how talented you are. You already know that. You wouldn't be here if you weren't. What you'll discover as you get older is that the world has plenty of very talented failures – people who either didn't live up to their abilities; or who did, but did it in a way that diminished their humanity and their character.

God made you to be better than that. And your nation and your Church need you to be better than that. Scripture tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10). Wisdom – not merely the knowledge of facts or a mastery of skills, but wisdom about ourselves, other people and the terrain of human life – this is the mark of a whole person. We already have too many clever leaders. We need wise leaders. And the wisest leaders ground themselves in humility before God and the demands of God’s justice.

I want to offer you just four quick points tonight. Here's the first. Military service is a vocation, not simply a profession.

The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare, which means to call. In Christian belief, God created each of us for a purpose. He calls each of us by name to some form of service. No higher purpose exists than protecting other people, especially the weak and defenseless. This is why the Church, despite her historic resistance to war and armed violence, has held for many centuries that military service is not just “acceptable.” It can also be much more than that. When lived with a spirit of integrity, restraint and justice, military service is virtuous. It's ennobling because – at its best – military service expresses the greatest of all virtues: charity; a sacrificial love for people and things outside and more important than oneself. It flows from something unique in the human heart: a willingness to place one's own life in harm's way for the sake of others.

The great Russian Christian writer Vladimir Solovyov once said that to defend peaceful men, “the guardian angels of humanity mixed the clay [of the earth] with copper and iron and created the soldier.” And until the spirit of malice brought into the world by Cain disappears from human hearts, the soldier “will be a good and not an evil.” (i) He expressed in a poetic way what the Church teaches and believes. And you should strive to embody this vision in your own service.

Here's my second point. Protect the moral character you build here, and remember the leadership you learn here. You’ll need both when the day comes to return to civilian life.

I think it's unwise for people my age to judge the world too critically. The reason is pretty simple. The older we get, the more clearly we see – or think we see -- what's wrong with the world. It also gets harder to admit our own role in making it that way. Over my lifetime I've had the privilege of working with many good religious men and women, and many good lay Christian friends. Many of them have been heroic in their generosity, faith and service. Many have helped to make our country a better place.

And yet I think it's true – I know it's true – that my generation has, in some ways, been among the most foolish in American history. We’ve been absorbed in our appetites, naïve about the consequences of our actions, overconfident in our power, and unwilling to submit ourselves to the obligations that come with the greatest ideals of our own heritage.

Most generations of Americans have inherited a nation different in degree from the generations that preceded them. You will inherit an America that is different in kind – a nation different from anything in our past in its attitudes toward sexuality, family, religion, law and the nature of the human person; in other words, different and more troubling in the basic things that define a society. My generation created this new kind of America. Soon we will leave the consequences to you.

And this brings us back to my second point: Where the leadership and moral character of my generation failed, you need to succeed. The task of Christian moral leadership that will occupy much of your lives in the future will not be easy. It will place heavy demands on people like you who learned discipline and integrity in places like this.

Here's my third point. Guarantees of religious freedom are only as strong as the social consensus that supports them.

Americans have always taken their religious freedom for granted. Religious faith has always played a major role in our public life, including debate about public policy and law. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly guarantees this freedom. But that guarantee and its application are subject to lawmakers and the interpretation of courts. And lawmakers and courts increasingly attack religious liberty, undermine rights of conscience, and force references to God out of our public square. This shift in our culture is made worse by mass media that, in general, have little understanding of religious faith and are often openly hostile. As religious practice softens in the United States over the next few decades, the consensus for religious freedom may easily decline. And that has very big implications for the life of faithful Catholics in this country.

Here's my fourth and final point. Given everything I've just said, how do we live faithfully as Catholics going forward in a culture that’s skeptical, and even hostile, toward what we believe?

Knighthood is an institution with very deep roots in the memory of the Church. Nearly 900 years ago, one of the great monastic reformers of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, described the ideal Christian knights as Godly men who “shun every excess in clothing and food. They live as brothers in joyful and sober company (with) one heart and one soul. … There is no distinction of persons among them, and deference is shown to merit rather than to noble blood. They rival one another in mutual consideration, and they carry one another’s burdens, thus fulfilling the law of Christ.” (ii)

Bernard had few illusions about human nature. And he was anything but naïve. Writing at the dawn of the crusading era, in the early 12th century, he was well aware of the greed, vanity, ambition and violence that too often motivated Europe’s warrior class, even in the name of religious faith.

Most of the men who took up the cause of aiding eastern Christians and liberating the Holy Land in the early decades of crusading did so out of genuine zeal for the Cross. But Bernard also knew that many others had mixed or even corrupt and evil motives. In his great essay “In Praise of the New Knighthood” (c. 1136), he outlined the virtues that should shape the vocation of every truly “Christian” knight: humility, austerity, justice, obedience, unselfishness and a single-minded zeal for Jesus Christ in defending the poor, the weak, the Church and persecuted Christians. (iii)

Our life today may seem very different from life in the 12th century. The Church today asks us to seek mutual respect with people of other religious traditions, and to build common ground for cooperation wherever possible.

But human nature -- our basic hopes, dreams, anxieties and sufferings -- hasn’t really changed. The basic Christian vocation remains the same: to follow Jesus Christ faithfully, and in following Jesus, to defend Christ’s Church and to serve her people zealously, unselfishly and with all our skill. As St. Ignatius Loyola wrote in his “Spiritual Exercises” -- and remember that Ignatius himself was a former soldier -- each of us must choose between two battle standards: the standard of Jesus Christ, humanity’s true King, or the standard of his impostor, the Prince of This World.

There is no neutral ground. C.S. Lewis once said that Christianity is a “fighting religion.” He meant that Christian discipleship has always been -- and remains -- a struggle against the evil within and outside ourselves. This is why the early Church Fathers described Christian life as “spiritual combat.” It’s why they called faithful Christians the “Church Militant” and “soldiers of Christ” in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The Church needs men and women of courage and Godliness today more than at any time in her history. So does this extraordinary country we call home in this world; a nation that still has an immense reservoir of virtue, decency and people of good will. This is why the Catholic ideal of knighthood, with its demands of radical discipleship, is still alive and still needed. The essence of Christian knighthood remains the same: sacrificial service rooted in a living Catholic faith.

A new “spirit of knighthood” is what we need now -- unselfish, tireless, devoted disciples willing to face derision and persecution for Jesus Christ. We serve our nation best by serving God first, and by proving our faith with the example of our lives.


(i) Vladimir Solovyov, The Justification of the Good: An Essay on Moral Philosophy; translated by Nathalie Duddington; edited and annotated by Boris Jakim (Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 2005) 349; original Russian text published in 1897
(ii) Bernard of Clairvaux, “In Praise of the New Knighthood,” The Works of Bernard of Clairvaux, V. 7 (Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, MI, 1977) 127-167
(iii) Note that Bernard, who preached the Second Crusade, wrote his essay specifically as an apologia for the founding of the first military-religious order, the “knights of the Temple” or the Knights Templar. The Templars took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, lived in common and dedicated themselves to the defense of Christians in the Holy Land. But as R.J. Zwi Werblowsky writes in his introduction to Bernard’s essay in The Works noted above, Bernard was also concerned with “the theology of a reformed and sanctified knighthood” in contrast to the frivolity and vanity of worldly chivalry.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Archbishop Chaput Calls for Catholic "Community of Resistance"

Charles Chaput, Catholic Archbishop of Denver Colorado, addressed the first session of the 15th symposium for the Canon Law Association of Slovakia on Tuesday. He called upon Catholics in America and in Europe, to resist the world's intolerance of Christianity.

Tertullian once famously said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. History has proven that to be true. And Slovakia is the perfect place for us to revisit his words today. Here, and throughout central and eastern Europe, Catholics suffered through 50 years of Nazi and Soviet murder regimes. So they know the real cost of Christian witness from bitter experience -- and also, unfortunately, the cost of cowardice, collaboration and self-delusion in the face of evil.

I want to begin by suggesting that many Catholics in the United States and Western Europe today simply don’t understand those costs. Nor do they seem to care. As a result, many are indifferent to the process in our countries that social scientists like to call “secularization” – but which, in practice, involves repudiating the Christian roots and soul of our civilization.

American Catholics have no experience of the systematic repression so familiar to your Churches. It’s true that anti-Catholic prejudice has always played a role in American life. This bigotry came first from my country’s dominant Protestant culture, and now from its “post-Christian” leadership classes. But this is quite different from deliberate persecution. In general, Catholics have thrived in the United States. The reason is simple. America has always had a broadly Christian and religion-friendly moral foundation, and our public institutions were established as non-sectarian, not anti-religious.

At the heart of the American experience is an instinctive “biblical realism.” From our Protestant inheritance we have always – at least until now -- understood that sin is real, and men and women can be corrupted by power and prosperity. Americans have often been tempted to see our nation as uniquely destined, or specially anointed by God. But in the habits of daily life, we have always known that the “city of God” is something very distinct from the “city of man.” And we are wary of confusing the two.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, wrote: “Despotism can do without faith, but liberty cannot . . .” Therefore, “What is to be done with a people that is its own master, if it is not obedient to God?”1

America’s founders were a diverse group of practicing Christians and Enlightenment deists. But nearly all were friendly to religious faith. They believed a free people cannot remain free without religious faith and the virtues that it fosters. They sought to keep Church and state separate and autonomous. But their motives were very different from the revolutionary agenda in Europe. The American founders did not confuse the state with civil society. They had no desire for a radically secularized public life. They had no intent to lock religion away from public affairs. On the contrary, they wanted to guarantee citizens the freedom to live their faith publicly and vigorously, and to bring their religious convictions to bear on the building of a just society.

Obviously, we need to remember that other big differences do exist between the American and European experiences. Europe has suffered some of the worst wars and violent regimes in human history. The United States has not seen a war on its soil in 150 years. Americans have no experience of bombed-out cities or social collapse, and little experience of poverty, ideological politics or hunger. As a result, the past has left many Europeans with a worldliness and a pessimism that seem very different from the optimism that marks American society. But these and other differences don’t change the fact that our paths into the future are now converging. Today, in an era of global interconnection, the challenges that confront Catholics in America are much the same as in Europe: We face an aggressively secular political vision and a consumerist economic model that result – in practice, if not in explicit intent -- in a new kind of state-encouraged atheism.

To put it another way: The Enlightenment-derived worldview that gave rise to the great murder ideologies of the last century remains very much alive. Its language is softer, its intentions seem kinder, and its face is friendlier. But its underlying impulse hasn’t changed -- i.e., the dream of building a society apart from God; a world where men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves, satisfying their needs and desires through their own ingenuity.

This vision presumes a frankly “post-Christian” world ruled by rationality, technology and good social engineering. Religion has a place in this worldview, but only as an individual lifestyle accessory. People are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and do not presume to intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on the workings of government, the economy, or culture.

Now, at first hearing, this might sound like a reasonable way to organize a modern society that includes a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural traditions, different philosophies of life and approaches to living.

But we’re immediately struck by two unpleasant details.

First, “freedom of worship” is not at all the same thing as “freedom of religion.” Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith. This is the classic understanding of a citizen’s right to the “free exercise” of his or her religion in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It’s also clearly implied in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In contrast, freedom of worship is a much smaller and more restrictive idea.

Second, how does the rhetoric of enlightened, secular tolerance square with the actual experience of faithful Catholics in Europe and North America in recent years?

In the United States, a nation that is still 80 percent Christian with a high degree of religious practice, government agencies now increasingly seek to dictate how Church ministries should operate, and to force them into practices that would destroy their Catholic identity. Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as “hate speech.” Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence.

In Europe, we see similar trends, although marked by a more open contempt for Christianity. Church leaders have been reviled in the media and even in the courts for simply expressing Catholic teaching. Some years ago, as many of you may recall, one of the leading Catholic politicians of our generation, Rocco Buttiglione, was denied a leadership post in the European Union because of his Catholic beliefs.

Earlier this summer we witnessed the kind of vindictive thuggery not seen on this continent since the days of Nazi and Soviet police methods: the Archbishop’s palace in Brussels raided by agents; bishops detained and interrogated for nine hours without due process; their private computers, cell phones, and files seized. Even the graves of the Church’s dead were violated in the raid. For most Americans, this sort of calculated, public humiliation of religious leaders would be an outrage and an abuse of state power. And this is not because of the virtues or the sins of any specific religious leaders involved, since we all have a duty to obey just laws. Rather, it’s an outrage because the civil authority, by its harshness, shows contempt for the beliefs and the believers whom the leaders represent.

My point is this: These are not the actions of governments that see the Catholic Church as a valued partner in their plans for the 21st century. Quite the opposite. These events suggest an emerging, systematic discrimination against the Church that now seems inevitable.

Today’s secularizers have learned from the past. They are more adroit in their bigotry; more elegant in their public relations; more intelligent in their work to exclude the Church and individual believers from influencing the moral life of society. Over the next several decades, Christianity will become a faith that can speak in the public square less and less freely. A society where faith is prevented from vigorous public expression is a society that has fashioned the state into an idol. And when the state becomes an idol, men and women become the sacrificial offering.

Cardinal Henri de Lubac once wrote that “It is not true … that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true, is that without God, [man] can ultimately only organize it against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.”2

The West is now steadily moving in the direction of that new “inhuman humanism.” And if the Church is to respond faithfully, we need to draw upon the lessons that your Churches learned under totalitarianism.

A Catholicism of resistance must be based on trust in Christ’s words: “The truth will make you free.”3 This trust gave you insight into the nature of totalitarian regimes. It helped you articulate new ways of discipleship. Rereading the words of the Czech leader Václav Havel to prepare for this talk, I was struck by the profound Christian humanism of his idea of “living within the truth.”4 Catholics today need to see their discipleship and mission as precisely that: “living within the truth.”

Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.

Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

Two of the biggest lies in the world today are these: first, that Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West; and second, that Western values and institutions can be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles.

Before I talk about these two falsehoods, we should pause a moment to think about the meaning of history.

History is not simply about learning facts. History is a form of memory, and memory is a foundation stone of self-identity. Facts are useless without a context of meaning. The unique genius and meaning of Western civilization cannot be understood without the 20 centuries of Christian context in which they developed. A people who do not know their history, do not know themselves. They are a people doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past because they cannot see what the present – which always flowers out of the past -- requires of them.

People who forget who they are can be much more easily manipulated. This was dramatized famously in Orwell’s image of the “memory hole” in his novel 1984. Today, the history of the Church and the legacy of Western Christianity are being pushed down the memory hole. This is the first lie that we need to face.

Downplaying the West’s Christian past is sometimes done with the best intentions, from a desire to promote peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic society. But more frequently it’s done to marginalize Christians and to neutralize the Church’s public witness.

The Church needs to name and fight this lie. To be a European or an American is to be heir to a profound Christian synthesis of Greek philosophy and art, Roman law, and biblical truth. This synthesis gave rise to the Christian humanism that undergirds all of Western civilization.

On this point, we might remember the German Lutheran scholar and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He wrote these words in the months leading up to his arrest by the Gestapo in 1943: “The unity of the West is not an idea but a historical reality, of which the sole foundation is Christ.”5

Our societies in the West are Christian by birth, and their survival depends on the endurance of Christian values. Our core principles and political institutions are based, in large measure, on the morality of the Gospel and the Christian vision of man and government. We are talking here not only about Christian theology or religious ideas. We are talking about the moorings of our societies -- representative government and the separation of powers; freedom of religion and conscience; and most importantly, the dignity of the human person.

This truth about the essential unity of the West has a corollary, as Bonhoeffer also observed: Take away Christ and you remove the only reliable foundation for our values, institutions and way of life.

That means we cannot dispense with our history out of some superficial concern over offending our non-Christian neighbors. Notwithstanding the chatter of the “new atheists,” there is no risk that Christianity will ever be forced upon people anywhere in the West. The only “confessional states” in the world today are those ruled by Islamist or atheist dictatorships -- regimes that have rejected the Christian West’s belief in individual rights and the balance of powers.

I would argue that the defense of Western ideals is the only protection that we and our neighbors have against a descent into new forms of repression -- whether it might be at the hands of extremist Islam or secularist technocrats.

But indifference to our Christian past contributes to indifference about defending our values and institutions in the present. And this brings me to the second big lie by which we live today -- the lie that there is no unchanging truth.

Relativism is now the civil religion and public philosophy of the West. Again, the arguments made for this viewpoint can seem persuasive. Given the pluralism of the modern world, it might seem to make sense that society should want to affirm that no one individual or group has a monopoly on truth; that what one person considers to be good and desirable another may not; and that all cultures and religions should be respected as equally valid.

In practice, however, we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism. In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruelest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of “live and let live” justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.

This diagnosis helps us understand one of the foundational injustices in the West today -- the crime of abortion.

I realize that the abortion license is a matter of current law in almost every nation in the West. In some cases, this license reflects the will of the majority and is enforced through legal and democratic means. And I’m aware that many people, even in the Church, find it strange that we Catholics in America still make the sanctity of unborn life so central to our public witness.

Let me tell you why I believe abortion is the crucial issue of our age.

First, because abortion, too, is about living within the truth. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. If that right is not inviolate, then no right can be guaranteed.

Or to put it more bluntly: Homicide is homicide, no matter how small the victim.

Here’s another truth that many persons in the Church have not yet fully reckoned: The defense of newborn and preborn life has been a central element of Catholic identity since the Apostolic Age.

I’ll say that again: From the earliest days of the Church, to be Catholic has meant refusing in any way to participate in the crime of abortion -- either by seeking an abortion, performing one, or making this crime possible through actions or inactions in the political or judicial realm. More than that, being Catholic has meant crying out against all that offends the sanctity and dignity of life as it has been revealed by Jesus Christ.

The evidence can be found in the earliest documents of Church history. In our day -- when the sanctity of life is threatened not only by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, but also by embryonic research and eugenic temptations to eliminate the weak, the disabled and the infirm elderly -- this aspect of Catholic identity becomes even more vital to our discipleship.

My point in mentioning abortion is this: Its widespread acceptance in the West shows us that without a grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against our own human dignity.

Our most cherished values cannot be defended by reason alone, or simply for their own sake. They have no self-sustaining or “internal” justification.

There is no inherently logical or utilitarian reason why society should respect the rights of the human person. There is even less reason for recognizing the rights of those whose lives impose burdens on others, as is the case with the child in the womb, the terminally ill, or the physically or mentally disabled.

If human rights do not come from God, then they devolve to the arbitrary conventions of men and women. The state exists to defend the rights of man and to promote his flourishing. The state can never be the source of those rights. When the state arrogates to itself that power, even a democracy can become totalitarian.

What is legalized abortion but a form of intimate violence that clothes itself in democracy? The will to power of the strong is given the force of law to kill the weak.

That is where we are heading in the West today. And we’ve been there before. Slovaks and many other central and eastern Europeans have lived through it.

I suggested earlier that the Church’s religious liberty is under assault today in ways not seen since the Nazi and Communist eras. I believe we are now in the position to better understand why.

Writing in the 1960s, Richard Weaver, an American scholar and social philosopher, said: “I am absolutely convinced that relativism must eventually lead to a regime of force.”

He was right. There is a kind of “inner logic” that leads relativism to repression.

This explains the paradox of how Western societies can preach tolerance and diversity while aggressively undermining and penalizing Catholic life. The dogma of tolerance cannot tolerate the Church’s belief that some ideas and behaviors should not be tolerated because they dehumanize us. The dogma that all truths are relative cannot allow the thought that some truths might not be.

The Catholic beliefs that most deeply irritate the orthodoxies of the West are those concerning abortion, sexuality and the marriage of man and woman. This is no accident. These Christian beliefs express the truth about human fertility, meaning and destiny.

These truths are subversive in a world that would have us believe that God is not necessary and that human life has no inherent nature or purpose. Thus the Church must be punished because, despite all the sins and weaknesses of her people, she is still the bride of Jesus Christ; still a source of beauty, meaning and hope that refuses to die -- and still the most compelling and dangerous heretic of the world’s new order.

Let me sum up what I’ve been saying.

My first point is this: Ideas have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. Today we are living in a world that is under the sway of some very destructive ideas, the worst being that men and women can live as if God does not matter and as if the Son of God never walked this earth. As a result of these bad ideas, the Church’s freedom to exercise her mission is under attack. We need to understand why that is, and we need to do something about it.

My second point is simply this: We can no longer afford to treat the debate over secularization -- which really means cauterizing Christianity out of our cultural memory -- as if it’s a problem for Church professionals. The emergence of a “new Europe” and a “next America” rooted in something other than the real facts of our Christian-shaped history will have damaging consequences for every serious believer.

We need not and should not abandon the hard work of honest dialogue. Far from it. The Church always needs to seek friendships, areas of agreement, and ways to make positive, reasoned arguments in the public square. But it’s foolish to expect gratitude or even respect from our governing and cultural leadership classes today. Naïve imprudence is not an evangelical virtue.

The temptation in every age of the Church is to try to get along with Caesar. And it’s very true: Scripture tells us to respect and pray for our leaders. We need to have a healthy love for the countries we call home. But we can never render unto Caesar what belongs to God. We need to obey God first; the obligations of political authority always come second. We cannot collaborate with evil without gradually becoming evil ourselves. This is one of the most vividly harsh lessons of the 20th century. And it’s a lesson that I hope we have learned.

That brings me to my third and final point today: We live in a time when the Church is called to be a believing community of resistance. We need to call things by their true names. We need to fight the evils we see. And most importantly, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that by going along with the voices of secularism and de-Christianization we can somehow mitigate or change things. Only the Truth can set men free. We need to be apostles of Jesus Christ and the Truth he incarnates.

So what does this mean for us as individual disciples? Let me offer a few suggestions by way of a conclusion.

My first suggestion comes again from the great witness against the paganism of the Third Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The renewal of the Western world lies solely in the divine renewal of the Church, which leads her to the fellowship of the risen and living Jesus Christ.”7

The world urgently needs a re-awakening of the Church in our actions and in our public and private witness. The world needs each of us to come to a deeper experience of our Risen Lord in the company of our fellow believers. The renewal of the West depends overwhelmingly on our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his Church.

We need to really believe what we say we believe. Then we need to prove it by the witness of our lives. We need to be so convinced of the truths of the Creed that we are on fire to live by these truths, to love by these truths, and to defend these truths, even to the point of our own discomfort and suffering.

We are ambassadors of the living God to a world that is on the verge of forgetting him. Our work is to make God real; to be the face of his love; to propose once more to the men and women of our day, the dialogue of salvation.

The lesson of the 20th century is that there is no cheap grace. This God whom we believe in, this God who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to suffer and die for it, demands that we live the same bold, sacrificial pattern of life shown to us by Jesus Christ.

The form of the Church, and the form of every Christian life, is the form of the cross. Our lives must become a liturgy, a self-offering that embodies the love of God and the renewal of the world.

The great Slovak martyrs of the past knew this. And they kept this truth alive when the bitter weight of hatred and totalitarianism pressed upon your people. I’m thinking especially right now of your heroic bishops, Blessed Vasil Hopko and Pavel Gojdic, and the heroic sister, Blessed Zdenka Schelingová.

We need to keep this beautiful mandate of Sister Zdenka close to our hearts:

“My sacrifice, my holy Mass, begins in daily life. From the altar of the Lord I go to the altar of my work. I must be able to continue the sacrifice of the altar in every situation. … It is Christ whom we must proclaim through our lives, to him we offer the sacrifice of our own will.”8

Let us preach Jesus Christ with all the energy of our lives. And let us support each other -- whatever the cost -- so that when we make our accounting to the Lord, we will be numbered among the faithful and courageous, and not the cowardly or the evasive, or those who compromised until there was nothing left of their convictions; or those who were silent when they should have spoken the right word at the right time. Thank you. And God bless all of you.