Persecution and apostasy: two tough challenges

Persecution and apostasy: two tough challenges

By Phil Lawler | Oct 20, 2016

Archbishop Charles Chaput pulled no punches in an October 19 address to a symposium at Notre Dame. In fact the archbishop actually spoke about punching, reminding his audience that “we can’t overlook the fact that the flesh and blood model for our Church—Mary as mater et magistra—is quite accomplished at punching the devil in the nose.”

If you’re getting the impression that Archbishop Chaput was in a fighting mood, you’re right. Moreover, he insisted that all Catholics have a duty to fight for the faith, and those who fail to do so are, well…:

Apostasy is an interesting word. It comes from the Greek verb apostanai—which means to revolt or desert; literally “to stand away from.” For Benedict, laypeople and priests don’t need to publicly renounce their baptism to be apostates. They simply need to be silent when their Catholic faith demands that they speak out; to be cowards when Jesus asks them to have courage; to “stand away” from the truth when they need to work for it and fight for it.

Strong stuff, and well worth reading [see more in comment below].

Coincidentally, the text of the archbishop’s address is reproduced on the Crisis magazine site today, side-by-side with an article by Anthony Esolen, with the title “What Will You Do When the Persecution Comes?“ If the fight is lost—and let’s face it, the outlook is not promising—and if our Church faces a new spasm of persecution, Esolen expects to see Catholics fall into four categories: the persecutors, the quislings, the avengers, and the soldiers. Those titles are fairly self-explanatory, and I’ll let you read Esolen’s essay for a full description of his taxonomy. Let me call attenton to just one observation that he makes about the final category: “The Soldier complains about his superiors not because they give him bad orders, but because they give him no orders at all.”

Exactly! In American today, we Christians are caught up in a battle for our culture—that is to say, a battle for our children. We didn’t choose this battle; we are not the aggressors. But it would be cowardly to back off the fight: a betrayal of our faith and of our families. Archbishop Chaput makes that argument with admirable clarity.

Unfortunately Archbishop Chaput is an exception. More often, when lay Catholics engage in the battle, we hear nothing from our “superiors,” the American bishops—or worse, we hear discouraging messages, complaints that we are being too strident.

After reading the two pieces on the Crisis page, I find myself wondering: In which of Esolen’s categories would the bishops place themselves? And how would they answer the archbishop’s indictment of those who “stand away” from a battle that must be fought?

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2 comments on “Persecution and apostasy: two tough challenges

  1. Claire Chretien

    Archbishop Chaput urges bishops to embrace Catholic identity in face of ‘secular meltdown’

    October 20, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – American Catholics must rediscover their distinct identity and separate themselves from a culture increasingly at odds with the faith, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a monumental speech at the University of Notre Dame.

    In his lecture, delivered at Notre Dame’s 2016 Bishops’ Symposium, Chaput outlined how many Americans Catholics became willing to disconnect their “private” faith from their “public” lives and what the Church should do about this.

    “We need to recover our identity as a believing community,” he said.

    “During his years as bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI had the talent of being very frank about naming sin and calling people back to fidelity,” said Chaput. “Yet at the same time he modeled that fidelity with a kind of personal warmth that revealed its beauty and disarmed the people who heard him. He spoke several times about the ‘silent apostasy’ of so many Catholic laypeople today and even many priests; and his words have stayed with me over the years because he said them in a spirit of compassion and love, not rebuke.”

    This silent apostasy doesn’t mean Catholics need to “publicly renounce their baptism”–it just means “they simply need to be silent when their Catholic faith demands that they speak out; to be cowards when Jesus asks them to have courage; to ‘stand away’ from the truth when they need to work for it and fight for it,” Chaput explained.

    Politicians like John F. Kennedy who promised to keep his Catholic faith separate from his leadership as President and those who claim to be “personally” but not publicly pro-life have led the way for this silent apostasy, Chaput argued.

    “Quite a few of us American Catholics have worked our way into a leadership class that the rest of the country both envies and resents,” he explained. “And the price of our entry has been the transfer of our real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new ‘Church’ of our ambitions and appetites. People like Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Kennedy, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine are not anomalies. They’re part of a very large crowd that cuts across all professions and both major political parties.”

    Additionally, Chaput said, as society has become more focused on technology, it has found less of a use for religion.

    “In effect, technology and its comforts are now our substitute horizon for the supernatural,” he said. “Technology gets results. Prayer, not so much—or at least not so immediately and obviously. So our imaginations gradually bend toward the horizontal, and away from the vertical.”

    “Religion can still have value in this new dispensation by helping credulous people do socially useful things,” Chaput continued. “But religion isn’t ‘real’ in the same way that science and technology are real…The Church of our baptism is salvific. The Church where many Americans really worship, the Church we call our popular culture, is therapeutic.”

    Chaput blasted “the hollowing out and retooling of all the key words in our country’s public lexicon; words like democracy, representative government, freedom, justice, due process, religious liberty and constitutional protections.” He said that words like equality and freedom mean one thing to practicing Catholics but a very different thing to the leaders of modern society.

    Christian freedom, Chaput said, “is the liberty, the knowledge and the character to do what’s morally right” and the definition of equality is “much more robust than the moral equivalent of a math equation.”

    The future of the Catholic Church in America may not boast booming numbers, Chaput warned. But, he said, “we should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter Church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness…Losing people who are members of the Church in name only is an imaginary loss. It may in fact be more honest for those who leave and healthier for those who stay. We should be focused on commitment, not numbers or institutional throw-weight.”

    Chaput said that he appreciates the witness of Philadelphia Muslim women who wear the hijab to distinguish themselves as not participating in an overly sexualized culture. Catholics need to make themselves more distinct from the rest of secular society, he said.

    “We need to help Catholics recover their own sense of distinction from the surrounding secular meltdown,” he said. “The Church and American democracy are very different kinds of societies with very different structures and goals. They can never be fully integrated without eviscerating the Christian faith. An appropriate ‘separateness’ for Catholics is already there in the New Testament. We’ve too often ignored it because Western civilization has such deep Christian roots. But we need to reclaim it, starting now.”

    Read Chaput’s whole speech here.

  2. Persecution?

    “As a Christian woman I understand persecution, but I will not sit here and be persecuted because your information is totally false. Podesta’s emails were stolen. You’re like the thief that what’s to bring into the night what you found in the gutter.”


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