This one is the last prelate to clearly and, I would say, officially react to the papal waffle of the last eight months.
Archbishop Chaput does not beat around the bush. His intent is clear: to avoid US Catholics feeling abandoned by the Church in a climate in which “youth unemployment” and “the loneliness of old people” are considered the most important problems of our time.
On the contrary, he rallies his troops and makes clear the rambling of an old Peronist Jesuit cannot change anything in the Catholic vision of the world, and will not change the priorities and the focus of those who care for Catholic values.
Smartly, the Archbishop reminds his readers not only of basic Catholic thinking, but of more than 20 years of pro-life activity (however lame, I should add) of the US clergy. Years of clear “V II” orientation, and that can therefore not be accused of being “restorationist”.
I might be wrong, but it seems to me an tragically interesting game is taking place here: the Pope ignores Catholicism, and the most orthodox among the clergy ignore the Pope.
Nor should anyone complain and say we traddies have a double moral, because we criticise the liberal clergy when they ignore Benedict and praise the conservatives when they ignore Francis. The litmus test of every papacy is its adherence to the Catholic truth this papacy must transmit intact to the next generation. The obedience to the Pope is linked – as Archbishop Chaput eloquently shows – to the higher loyalty due to Catholic Truth.
When the two get in conflict something's got to give. And it ain't Truth.
In his most recent interview to the rag called national catholic reporter (all lower case), Archbishop Chaput makes several interesting points. One of those is that he has noticed – with some embarrassment, I am sure – that those who talk to him most often about the Pope are “non practicing Catholics or people who aren't Catholics or not even Christian”.
It is interesting that an Archbishop notices this, because if we trads do we are labelled as destructive, grumpy old men and women who will never be happy with less than Torquemada (may he rest in peace).
In the phenomenon noticed by the good Archbishop is reflected all the drama of the current papacy. It is evident to everyone with a brain that what attracts the above mentioned groups to Francis is not his Catholic talk, but his frequent departures from sound Catholic thinking.
The Bishop of Rome implying salvation for do-gooding, heart-bleeding Atheists attracts them to him because what he says – or implies – just isn't Catholic. The Bishop of Rome sabotaging ancient rules about Maundy Thursday Mass and even contravening to Canon Law precepts is not praised for his staunch Catholicism, but for his attacks to Catholic rules and traditions. The Pope not wearing the Mozzetta, using everyday cars, or wearing black shoes and calling oneself Bishop of Rome is praised not because he is seen as a great Pope, but because he is seen as downplaying the importance of the Papacy.
In short: the Bishop of Rome tends to be liked by the wrong crowds, for the wrong reasons.
How this can be seen as a positive is beyond me. If Bishop Francis were to extol the pleasure of marijuana smoking, of course all the potheads on the planet would consider him an extremely cool man.
This elementary truth does not touch the Bishop's supporters, of course. The always hilarious comment section of the ncr, a pit of dissent or outright perversion, is overflowing with those who praise the Bishop for his work of demolition, and call it very apposite and just the ticket.
What these people – among them the usual amount of perverts, as you would expect – do is actually prove our point: a Pope eschewing sound Catholicism for the sake of popularity will manage to be popular, but not really among the Catholics; nor will he make decent Catholics of his supporters.
The atheist or pervert supporting Bishop Francis isn't moved in the least away from atheism or perversion; he approves of Francis because he thinks that Francis approves him in his atheism or perversion. He wants the Church to become more atheist and more pervert, rather than wanting to become more Catholic himself.
The end result of this is that Bishop Francis ends up – unwittingly, of course – working against Catholicism, in a sort of “reverse evangelisation” that reinforces people in their error, because they see a pontiff bending over backwards to be as much like them as he can, and as least Pope as he can get away with.
A Pope not wanting to be Pope must surely be the wet dream of every enemy of the Church.
In the… bishop of Rome, they now have their man. Is it a surprise they show him their appreciation?
If you ask me, Archbishop Chaput is right and wrong in his observation that if Catholic voters had been more ready to abandon Nazi Democrats in the past, things would not have come at the point they are now. He is certainly right if we observe only the immediate cause of the Catholic behaviour; he is, I daresay, rather wrong if we look a bit further than that.
The secularisation of the American Catholics is not the exclusive result of a newly developed faith in the infallibility of the Democratic party, but rather the result of their clergy having encouraged them every step of the way toward their systematic neglect of basic Christian truths. Catholicism being a rather pervasive presence in the life of churchgoers and their offspring – and, by reflex, an important cultural element even among those who do not attend; see Italy – I cannot imagine a collapse of Catholic thinking if this thinking is actively and assertively promoted from the pulpit; similarly, in the absence of such assertive Catholicism I cannot see how the systematic neglect of basic Catholic values could not have transmitted itself to the ordinary Pewsitters. In the end, you get out of the pews what you put in them.
Therefore, if the excellent Archbishop had blamed the Catholic clergy first and the Catholic electorate second, I think he would have gone far nearer to the real roots of the problem.
The very fact that until not long ago most priests and bishops would have considered a “political interference ” to say such things of a pro-choice candidate (strangely, they never had such problems with other issues like illegal immigration or other alleged “social”, and therefore less controversial, themes) tells you everything you need to know about who were those giving the Democratic party indirect but still precious support without caring for their Nazi agenda.
A concept I will always go back to is that the fish stinks from the head down. Bad clergy will invariably produce a great number of faithful made to their own image, at least for a generation or two; this is what has happened, in the most brutally evident of ways, with the US clergy in the last decades. Therefore, the main responsibility for the continued “catholic” support of the Democratic Nazi party lies by the US clergy.
In my opinion, a serious discussion about how the Democratic electorate should behave cannot be separated by the honest admission that, if we look at the great picture, two generations of Catholics have never even been told how to behave and have therefore informed their way of thinking – human nature being what it is – to the prevalent mood they saw around them.
Bad as this is, I think their shepherd have behaved worse.
The Catholic News Agency has an interesting letter written from Archbishop Chaput (then of Denver) concerning Humanae Vitae. The letter was written in 1998 on occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the encyclical letter, but has lost nothing of its beauty. It is very long, but it is easy to read, well argued, and extremely clear in its content at all times. Blessedly, it is also devoid of those continuous references to V II documents so dear to modern Vaticanese.
Archbishop Chaput repeats (and explains very clearly) the arguments brought by Paul VI against contraception, but he adds a new observation: the rather cold theological character of the encyclical letter did not help its diffusion or acceptance among the Catholic masses. It is true Chaput is able to write with admirable clarity, but I allow myself to see the reason for the failure of Humanae Vitae to stem the tide of contraception in the following elements:
a) weakness from the top. To write is one thing, to bite an altogether different one. Paul VI probably thought it was brave enough to issue the encyclical in the first place. I cannot imagine the idea of aggressively following up on the letter and demanding that it be upheld by his bishop and priests ever entered his mind.
b) On the contrary, Humanae Vitae gave rise to a widespread dissent within the Church.
Therefore, the letter was not vocally defended from the Vatican, and either ignored or outright opposed by the majority of the clergy. With these premises, it would have failed to be a success even if it had been written in the most beautiful and lyrical language.
When we talk about Humanae Vitae, we should not forget the encyclical was and is largely ignored because the Church as a whole failed – with the culpable inaction of Paul VI, who could see very well what was happening but lacked the courage to oppose the trend – to stand for it in the first place.
If the Church now begins to aggressively – and I mean saying it loud and clear, rather than always hiding behind the dratted pastoral sensitivity – defend the message of Humanae Vitae, in a couple of decades much will be done, as the Sixty-Eighters go to meet their maker (or not, as the case may be) and a new generation can be raised with the right values.
Everyone knows that some things are loved unconditionally. Ask anyone who loves his fatherland why he does it in the face of all the bad decisions, bad wars, scandals, and assorted miseries of his country’s history and he will tell you – as if it were the most natural thing on Earth, and rather wondering how you can be so obtuse as to even ask – that his love for his Fatherland is valid and justified independently of any mistake that some people might have done here and there, even if they committed those mistakes or outright atrocities in the Fatherland’s name.
But then the same people may start talking about the Church, and then you’ll discover that the undying and unquestioning loyalty they give to a purely human construct, they are not ready to give to the Church founded by Christ. If it’s about a country defined by Washington, or Cavour, or Bismarck they forgive everything; to the Church founded by Christ, they forgive nothing.
This blatant contradiction and summit of illogical thinking is so well-spread, that many people will subscribe to it not only without realising the absurdity of what they say, but even feeling good in the process; sometimes the same people, mind, who would despise those who are not ready to stand up whenever the national anthem plays.
Still, everyone of us should remember – and, on occasion, remember to his friends and/or Saturday afternoon Church critics – that there is no other organisation in our life that is so important – not only from a collective point of view but, more to the point, for one’s own individual salvation – than the Church.
Not even the Fatherland, not even – take this – the football club…
I was reminded of this simple truth by reading the world of Archbishop Chaput by his first homily as the new Archbishop of Philadelphia:
There’s no quick fix to problems that are so difficult, and none of us here today, except the Lord Himself, is a miracle worker. But the Church is not defined by her failures. And you and I are not defined by critics or by those who dislike us.
The Church is not run by miracle workers, she is run by fallible men; these fallible men make mistake, and are sometimes outright evil, within the Church as in every other organisation, including the Fatherland. But in the same way as you don’t define the Fatherland by the mistakes made by those who were entrusted with positions of power and influence, you must not define the Church by the mistake made by clergy entrusted with a power they have abused. At the same time, you must never allowed yourself to be defined by the same metre of either perfection or hypocrisy so much en vogue nowadays: it is not that is one is a believer he must be either a saint or a hypocrite. You don’t ask a patriot to be a perfect soldier, you ask him to try to be the best soldier he can; if he is afraid or short of perfect heroism, you don;t question his patriotism for that. Common sense, you will say, but it is surprising how often this simple logic doesn’t apply to one only because he believes that Christ founded the only Church and tries to live in accordance with this simple belief.
This is a very simple concept, that I dish to the Church critics every time – and it is more often than you think – someone wants to feel a paladin of justice at the expense of the Church, acting like those armchair generals brown-nosing their boss all day long but perfectly able to say how brave and uncompromising they would have been in front of Hitler threatening a holocaust of Polish and French Catholics.
Every regular reader of this blog knows that on these pages criticism in front of scandal given by Churchmen is not spared. This is, I think, right so, as the damage made by those entrusted with position of particular prestige and influence and care for the souls is particularly dangerous. But by all critics, the loyalty to the Institution that you will find on these pages is total.
Right or wrong, the only Church.
When I was a child, the word “Philadelphia” invariably reminded me of a fresh wannabe cheese that I actually – probably against my better judgement – even liked. Little I knew that the thing didn’t carry the word “cheese”, because not in compliance with the rigid Italian laws about what you can call, well, “cheese”. Too much crap inside, was the general verdict on the matter. Be it as it may, when I grew up they lost me as a client.
Then, and to this day, the word “Philadelphia” started to instantly remind me of a rather beautiful song of Bruce Springsteen, the soundtrack of a successful film of the Nineties. In the video, Philadelphia was depicted as a city in clear decline. Springsteen walks in a kind of dump/ghetto not easily imaginable in Europe.*
That hit home.
Curious, I went to Wikipedia and discovered that whilst the place might do with one or three improvements (sixth most dangerous US city above 500,000 inhabitants; second dirtiest, too) it is certainly no Detroit, with a vibrant pharmaceutical industry, rather high income generation and clear signs of vitality.
This is, then, the place Archbishop Chaput will find when he moves there in September. Not an easy task, I must say: the archdiocese is in the middle of just another cover-up scandal, and Archbishop Chaput will have to keep up the good work already executed in Denver in similar circumstances.
Make no mistake, the liberal wolves will be around him in no time and will certainly try to smear him with every bit of the dirt they can find in his new diocese. A bit like Pope Benedict and the Hitlerjugend, or the homosexual pedophile priest scandal and, really, pretty much everything the liberals don’t like. Just associate the dirt with your enemy; something will stick.
But the man is a tough skin besides being a
Reds, erm, “Native American”. Even from the other side of the pond, he is one of the names one finds very regularly on Catholic headlines; an outspoken chap, very orthodox from what I have read up to now, unafraid to say it loud and clear and not really willing of taking the favourite excuse of the american clergy for their inaction, namely that the Church would lose its tax status if they were to be publicly Catholic. Which – let us be clear about that – for a Catholic doesn’t even begin to be an argument.
I hope that he will counter every punch and continue to be on the offensive rather than indulging in the usual “oh how very bad we have been, will you ever ever EVER be able to forgive us”-litany of his weaker and more cowardly colleagues. He will probably also get a red hat, as it is rather expected for his new diocese, and will give to the orthodox (read: conservatives) another extremely valid help and, why not, candidate when the next conclave comes.
Good look to him, and my prayers. A tough job for a tough guy.
God willing, he’ll do so good that in ten years’ time whenever I hear the name “Philadelphia” I will think of him, Archbishop (and very probably: Cardinal) Chaput. The cheese was not even really cheese and the song rather sad anyway.
* Outside of Naples, that is.
Very interesting blog post of Archbishop Chaput (one of the best of the new generation of orthodox, vocal bishops in the United States).
The blog post focuses on the fundamental choice given to anyone of us to choose whether we want to follow Christ, or the world. But what I think makes this article particularly interesting is the frank admission that in some Muslim countries, the time devoted to their sacred texts is vastly superior to the time devoted to the same purpose by us.
This relates, of course, to the usual problem of the missing instruction of the Catholics from the part of those who should care for them in the first place: the priests; but at the same time, it stresses the fact that in the Muslim countries, this instruction effort becomes mind- and world-shaping:
They read and discuss the Koran every day, for hours each day, every day of the week until they know it by heart. Many of them can recite whole sections of the Koran without thinking. Little by little, like water dripping on a stone, it shapes their whole view of the world—what’s right and what’s wrong; what’s important and what’s not.
Now don’t get me wrong: what they do is wrong in the sense that they spend their time on the wrong texts, believing a lie. But what they do is certainly admirable in the zeal they show, in their desire to have their lives shaped by their religious convictions, instead of doing the contrary as many mickey mouse-Christians in the West try to do. In the end, my being a Christian must lead me toward seeing my entire existence and the world around me in the light of Christ’s teaching. It cannot be that Christianity becomes just something we put in a corner of our consciousness, to be used only when it doesn’t conflict with the rest of our lives.
This is why I find the discussions about what do so-called homo-marriages take away from (the only) marriage so useless: the problem with so-called homosexual marriage is not that homos will, after having been “married”, try to kill as many husbands and wives as they can. The problem is that so-called homo marriages are the contrary of what Christianity teaches and must therefore be refused by every Christian not only as a private choice, but in their very existence.
Coming back to our eagerly reading Pakistanis, the observation can be easily made that such a zeal can degenerate into fanaticism, and it rather often does. But my answer to this is that such ardent zeal can become fanaticism because they follow the wrong religion, not because it be wrong to be zealous in the first place. You just can’t be too Christian.
We live in a world which looks with mistrust at sound knowledge; a world more ready to rely on the often misguided “common feelings” – those things that everyone in one’s social group believes – than on sound knowledge recognised as truth. As a consequence, our countries are full of people sincerely claiming to believe in Christ, but who never made the effort to understand the implications of this. Muslims seem to have less of a problem with that.
Bishop Chaput puts the Christian alternative as follows:
American Catholics have the one true Word of God in the Bible. If we took just one hour of the time we waste on television every day and used it to study and pray over the Gospels, we’d be fundamentally different people, and our country and our world would be transformed.
Bishop Chaput is here referring himself to the American Christians as a whole, the majority of whom are (for the time being…) Protestants; but we integrate the encouragement with the reading of sound books of Catholic doctrine it certainly applies to Catholics, too.
To conclude, let me express once again my deep gratitude for the work of those rare determined, orthodox and vocal bishops who, like bishop Chaput, are not afraid of saying it as it is irrespective of the “hurt” it may cause in those, well, permanently hurt. If in Western Countries we would have had more bishops like him in the past twenty or thirty years, I doubt that we would be discussing euthanasia and homo so-called “marriages” now.