Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The New Man in Philly and Christian Unity

Abp. Chaput (a native American, by the way) offers a few words on the coming church-state battle. He makes a powerful case for Christian unity along the way.

...To put it another way, Catholic ministries have the duty to faithfully embody Catholic beliefs about marriage, the family, social justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues. And if the state forbids those Catholic ministries to be faithful in their services through legal or financial bullying, then as a matter of integrity they should end their services.

The third point gives context to the other two: A new kind of America is emerging in the early 21st century, and it’s likely to be much less friendly to religious faith than anything in the nation’s past. That has implications for every aspect of Catholic social ministry.

...for nearly two centuries, Christian thought, vocabulary, and practice were the unofficial but implicit soul to every aspect of American life—including the public square. The great Jesuit scholar John Courtney Murray put it this way: “The American Bill of Rights is not a piece of 18th-century rationalist theory; it is far more the product of Christian history. Behind it one can see, not the philosophy of the Enlightenment, but the older philosophy that had been the matrix of the common law.


...The trouble is that America’s religious soul—its Christian subtext—has been weakening for decades. We are watching the end of a very old social compact in American life: the mutual respect of civil and sacred authority, and the mutual autonomy of religion and state.

Here he gets to the critically-relevant point: totalitarianism is nigh:

American life has always had a deep streak of unhealthy individualism, rooted not just in the Enlightenment, but also in Reformation theology. In practice, religion has always moderated that individualism. It has given the country a social conscience and a common moral compass.

Religion has also played another key role. Individuals, on their own, have very little power in dealing with the state. But communities, and especially religious communities, have a great deal of power in shaping attitudes and behavior. Churches are one of the mediating institutions, along with voluntary associations, fraternal organizations, and especially the family, that stand between the power of the state and the weakness of individuals.

If you pay attention to Rush Limbaugh (and lots of other radiomouths) you'll have noted his penchant for almost-radical individualism. That springs almost entirely from his Reformation-based theo-philosophical tradition, and partly from his success.

IOW, Rush is the text-replay of Sinatra's "My Way." He doesn't mention too often that he was helped--a lot--by a 'community' of Conservatives who financed his enterprise.


...And that’s why, if you dislike religion or resent the Catholic Church, or just want to reshape American life into some new kind of experiment, you need to use the state to break the influence of the Church and her ministries.

In the years ahead, we’re going to see more and more attempts by civil authority to interfere in the life of believing communities. We’ll also see less and less unchallenged space for religious institutions to carry out their work in the public square.

The irony is that the "individualistic" Protestant/Enlightenment theo-philosophies' most significant proponents will be attacked just as will the Catholic Church. They just happen to be second in line, but ought to recall the haunting quote of Niemoller.

HT: First Things


Amy said...

then as a matter of integrity they should end their services.

I disagree with the good Archbishop on this. We should continue providing services, in accordance with Catholic teaching, and tell the state to go pound sand.

GOR said...

In an interview with Chiesa of Sandro Magister, Chaput had this to say about the influence of Catholics in the US:

"Catholics have played a very big role in shaping America, from Charles Carroll – the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence – onward. But it hasn’t been easy. America has never really been comfortable with the content of Catholic belief. Catholics have tended to be accepted by the American mainstream in inverse proportion to how seriously they live their faith. Obviously lots of exceptions exist to that rule, but it’s still too often true."

Right on the money! Great appointment. And he will be a force in Philadelphia and in the country in general - even more so than Ab. Dolan, I'd venture to say...