Dear Family: The following is a prophetic view of the world's present reality and a call to action for the faithful by Archbishop Chaput. I pray that our community takes it to heart. -Fr. J. Rivero

Living within the Truth:
Religious Liberty and Catholic Mission in the new order of the world"

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. (Denver)
Address to the 15th symposium for the Canon Law Association of Slovakia, August 24, 2010.

The following is an unofficial synthesis and highlighting by Fr. Jordi Rivero.
Go here for
Entire address >>

Reasons for the decline of Western culture

"Tertullian (Father of the Church) 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.

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."

America has always had a broadly Christian and religion-friendly moral foundation, and our public institutions were established as non-sectarian, not anti-religious.

"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. ... In contrast, freedom of worship is a much smaller and more restrictive idea.

America’s founders... 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.

State of the West

"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."

A 'Catholicism of Resistance' (by living the truth) to confront the rise of 'inhuman humanism'.

We face an ideology that presents itself as human but in fact is inhuman. Cardinal Henry de Lubac called it "inhuman humanism". He wrote: “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.”

"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”.

"If the Church is to respond faithfully (to face the new 'inhuman humanism'), we need to draw upon the lessons that your churches (Slovac) learned under totalitarianism. A Catholicism of resistance must be based on trust in Christ's words: "The truth will make you free." This trust gave you insight into the nature of totalitarian regimes. It helped you articulate new ways of discipleship.

Catholics today need to see their discipleship and mission as "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.

"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. 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 lie: That Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West.
Second lie: That Western values and institutions can be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles.

Truth: Christianity is the essential unity of the West.

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. Christ is the only reliable foundation for our values, institutions and way of life

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.

The only “confessional states” (states that impose doctrine) 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.


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.

Relativism: 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.

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.

Relativism leads to repression

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.

Secular 'tolerance' in practice: 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.

Sometimes, under the pretext of promoting peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic society, Christians are marginalized and the Church's public witness is neutralized.

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.

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.

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."

Moral Coherence vs. the Dictatorship of Relativism

Catholics are called to live what Pope Benedict XVI refers to as "moral coherence". This is necessary if we are to live our faith in a culture that is dominated by what the pope calls "the Dictatorship of Relativism." This
relativism separates faith and life".

What does this mean for us as individual disciples?

Let me offer a few suggestions

"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." 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."

We need to keep this beautiful mandate of (Blessed) 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."

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.


Archbishop Chaput's other teachings can be found here

His book
"Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by living our Catholic beliefs in Political Life" addresses the obligation of Catholics to exercise our obligations of citizenship in the light of our faith.

sagrada familia