6/21/12 | 405 views
Religious Freedom Begins Within Each of Us, Archbishop Chaput Tells Catholic Journalists
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, in a keynote address at the annual Catholic Media Conference in Indianapolis, said longstanding problems in our Catholic culture in the United States “run very deep,” and they point to the need for conversion the whole Church in America must undergo.
Coming on the eve of the Fortnight for Freedom, Archbishop Chaput’s talk, “Repair My House: Renewing the Roots of Religious Liberty,” examined many of the problems and concerns that have befallen the Church in America in recent decades, and emphasized all Catholics have a stake in the battle for religious freedom in this country.
The U.S. bishops are doing “the right thing…at the right time” in providing the leadership and inspiration for the Fortnight for Freedom, Archbishop Chaput said in his June 20 address delivered at the conference’s opening dinner.
“If we don’t press now and vigorously for our religious liberty in the public arena, we will lose it. Not overnight and not with a thunderclap, but step by step, inexorably,” he explained.
The archbishop, speaking personally to Catholic journalists and communications professionals who formed his audience, said they too played “a key role, a really vital role, in that effort, because our prestige news media, with very few exceptions, simply will not cover this issue in a fair and comprehensive way.”
In assessing the difficulties now besetting the Church in the United States, Archbishop Chaput said he thinks “it’s fair” to blame Church leaders, at least in part, “for a spirit of complacency and inertia, clericalism, even arrogance, and for operating off a model of the Church—often for well-intentioned reasons—rooted in the past and out of touch with reality.”
He said ordinary Catholics have also fallen short in their own responsibilities, whether through losing themselves in America’s “culture of consumerism and success,” or by being “complicit in the dullness…that has seeped into Church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it.”
“These problems kill a Christian love of poverty and zeal,” the archbishop said. “They choke off a real life of faith. They create the shadows that hide institutional and personal sins. And they encourage a paralysis that can burrow itself into every heart and every layer of the Church, right down to individual Catholics in the pews.”
The result leaves the Church in many dioceses in the United States, including his own Philadelphia, as missionary territory—for the second time, the archbishop said.
Earlier in his talk, Archbishop Chaput noted that religious freedom “ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith—in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it.”
“Religious liberty is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak,” he said.
That’s also the reason that Pope Benedict XVI has called for a Year of Faith beginning in October, the archbishop said.
Archbishop Chaput said the worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t the legion of critics “out there,” who hate Christ, the Gospel or the Church, or all three. Rather, they are “in here, with us—all of us, clergy, religious and lay—when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy.”
Religious liberty is “our birthright as children of God,” and even “the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of believing people,” he said. If we truly value religious freedom, then as individual Catholics and as part of the Church “we need to become people worthy of it.”
“We work best for religious freedom by first opening our hearts to God’s will instead of our own; and loving our country and our Church; and renewing the witness of the Church with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives,” Archbishop Chaput said in summing up his remarks.
“That freedom, that joy, no one can ever take from us.”
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