Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is one of the great minds of the Catholic Church in America. Everything I’ve read of him has always been beneficial, including this recent talk he gave at the Catholic Center of New York University.
Chaput understands how important the question of sexual identity is, as I’ve pointed out before here on my blog.
In speaking about the connections between Pope Francis and his namesake, Saint Francis, Chaput emphasizes that both were “outsiders,” chosen by God for a specific time in history. Pope Francis is the first Pope in centuries who wasn’t European, as this section of Chaput’s speech points out. What is important for the readers of this blog is the last sentence of the paragraph:
Until now, every pope of the last 200 years – no matter how gifted or how saintly – has been, in a sense, a prisoner of war. The Church has centered herself in Europe. Every pope in recent history has been a European. And the civil war for Europe’s soul that began before the Enlightenment and ran through the bloodiest century in history – the 20th century – continues today in Europe’s denial of its Christian roots and its self-destroying battles over marriage, family, sexual identity and euthanasia.
Sadly, those “self-destroying battles over marriage, family, sexual identity and euthanasia” are being fought here as well. Chaput gets it–these novel notions of family and sexual identity are wreaking havoc on men and women, boys and girls. The Church must stand up against the tide of confusion, and point the way to freedom.
The arbiter now of what is morally acceptable is based on sentimentality and emotion. Chaput points this out, writing that we’ve become a society that has forgotten how to think:
But we live at a time when science, in the name of reason, seems to undermine the credibility of reason itself. We live in a time that’s not just anti-ideological, but in many ways anti-intellectual. It’s not that people have forgotten how to think. Rather, too many of us think badly, or just don’t like thinking at all. We have no common body of beliefs to inform our public logic and discourse. As Alasdair MacIntyre might say, we’re all emotivists now. And religion, when it’s not portrayed as a dangerous source of hatred, is cast instead as a kind of organized sentimentality; an outlet for pious good will.
St. Francis was an effective instrument in the hands of God. Chaput tells us it was in large part because Francis “knew how to fight zealously for what he believed was right. Like Mother Teresa and so many other saints all through Church history, Francis was holy and good and kind–but when it came to matters of faith and principle, he was never soft.”
More than abortion, homosexuality has become the issue of the age. It’s on this issue that the Church will always be perceived as “sign of contradiction,” to use the words Simeon said of Jesus to his mother Mary in the temple. The Church is scandalous in every age, and in this age, the scandal of the Church is her teachings on homosexuality, contraception and sexuality in general.
We need to fight zealously for the truth of the Church–not because we are in a culture war with the rest of mankind. No, we are in a culture war with the Enemy of man’s souls, and the entire world is suffering from a collective Stockholm Syndrome. We must fight zealously in order to free the world from these self-destroying beliefs concerning the family and sexual identity.
The Church, as Pope Francis said, is a field hospital for souls. But we’re also freedom fighters, dropped surreptitiously behind enemy lines in order to liberate a captive world.
It’s time to get to work.