Charles J. Chaput (O.F.M. Cap., is archbishop of Denver), First Things (May 11, 2009)
"The Catholic faith is not simply a collection of doctrines and ideas, or a body of knowledge, or even a system of beliefs, although all those things are important. At its root, Christianity is an experience: a life-changing, personal experience of the risen Jesus Christ...."1'Although personally opposed to abortion, I don't believe I have a right to impose my beliefs on others.' Sounds nice and reasonable, doesn't it?
It should. That excuse for allowing people to kill babies stems out of one of the often-repeated messages of today's Western culture.
Ignoring God: It's the In Thing
"...Most men and women today can live their whole lives as if God didn't exist. Of course in all the developed, Western-style democracies, we're allowed to believe in God, and even to pray and worship together. But we're constantly lectured by the mass media to never impose our religious viewpoints on our neighbors...."1We don't see 'although personally opposed' used that much now. I think that's partly because some 'divisive' (another term with a special meaning in our newspeak) citizens pointed out how terrible it sounded when you replaced terms like "slavery" or "cannibalism" for "abortion." ("Although personally opposed to slavery...."?!)
The archbishop's article is a somewhat long read, but I think it's worthwhile. He highlights four major points:
- "...We need to trust the gospels, and we need to trust the Church that gives us the gospels...."1
- "...Jesus didn't come down from heaven to tell us to go to church on Sunday. He didn't die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we'd pray more at home and be a little kinder to our next-door neighbors. The one thing even non-believers can see is that the Gospels aren't compromise documents. Jesus wants all of us. And not just on Sundays. He wants us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind. He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, with a love that's total...."1
- "...Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not just one among many different aspects of your daily life. Being a Christian is who you are. Period. And being a Christian means your life has a mission...."1
- "...Love the Church; love her as your mother and teacher...."1
Fear, Facts, and the 'Immoral Pope'I can understand why people, particularly those in high-profile positions, want to downplay any specifically Christian standards they have. The archbishop tells of the time when, during his trip through Africa, reporters asked the Pope about condoms.
'Everybody knows' that intelligent, up-to-date, people use condoms, and encourage/force others to do so, too. And that anybody who disagrees with that is a pariah.
Back to the Pope, the reporters, and inconvenient facts. The archbishop recalled that
"...there aren't many nations or organizations in the world today that have poured as much money and human effort into the fight against AIDS in Africa as the Catholic Church. That's just a statistical fact. So when the Pope answers a question like this he's speaking, not just from theological opinion, but with real knowledge about conditions on the ground...."1And, the Pope blasphemed (my term, not the archbishop's) against one of Western culture's cults. He said that condoms don't help. That they make STD problems worse, by giving people a false sense of confidence.
Back to the archbishop, AIDS, Africa, and what happens to people who don't go along with the condom cult:
"...By one count, more than 4,000 articles were filed on the subject. And what's astounding is the uniformity of the criticism—that the Pope and the Church are backward and medieval, and that Catholic beliefs are a threat to the public health...."1And:
"...So public discussion gets shut down. Nobody stops to consider that what the Pope said wasn't just sectarian religious belief, but that it actually makes good practical sense. Giving people condoms offers them a false sense of security and encourages the very behaviors that lead to the transmission of AIDS. What's even more frustrating is to know that leading AIDS-prevention research scientists in Africa actually agree with the Pope...." [emphasis mine]1I think that encouraging "the very behaviors that lead to the transmission of AIDS" is one of the reasons that condoms have been pushed so hard in recent decades. If you've got the hots for one of your students, or a member of your staff, that 'I'll use a condom' line probably makes the job easier.
Martyrs: They're Not Just Ancient HistoryThe archbishop sprinkles a short biography of "Franz" through the article. This Franz grew up as a sort of cultural Catholic: went to church on Sunday; said he was Catholic; and a gang leader who (informally) got a girl pregnant.
Until he was forced to leave town, Franz was quite an up-to-date fellow. Then, somewhere along the line, he changed.
Franz came back to town, started making payments for the support of his illegitimate child, married a Catholic, and settled down to what in some circles is considered a dreary routine.
Then Germany invaded Austria. Since that's where Franz lived, he was rather directly affected. Unlike many of his neighbors, he wasn't reasonable. He didn't cooperate with the National Socialists. Franz was of the opinion that they were enemies of Jesus.
(From what the allies found at Nuremberg and Auschwitz, I'd say Franz was right - but that's another topic.)
Instead of being a nice, reasonable Austrian, Franz kept on refusing to serve the National Socialists. Then, on August 9, 1943, they killed him. The charge was sedition. He was 36.
Franz was beatified in 2007.
By secular standards, that's not much of a payoff.
By 2007, Franz had been dead for well over sixty years. No movie rights, speaking engagements, or tell-all book revenue for him.
If he'd been 'reasonable,' met Hitler and company halfway, and gone with the flow, it's quite possible that he would have survived WWII, and lived a moderately prosperous life.
He'd have had to switch sides again, after the other side won, but as long as he kept his nose clean during the National Socialist regime, he'd be just one more reasonable Austrian.
That's the secular view.
The archbishop says that being Christian means following Christ. Even if it's inconvenient. Or, as in the case of Franz, a literal choice of life or death.
I would just as soon not face the choice that Franz did. Martyrdom is, by any reasonable standard, an unpleasant experience. I don't particularly like unpleasantness.
But, given a choice, I'd rather be in trouble with the likes of Germany's National Socialists, the American judicial system, or The Associated Press, than with the Son of God. Putting it bluntly, He's got more clout, and will be around longer.
- "Mother Teresa of Calcutta: She's No Princess Di"
(May 8, 2009)
- "Miss USA Contestant Gives Wrong Answer: "Dumb B*ch" Booed by Audience"
(April 20, 2009)
- "Obama's Harry Knox: My Tax Dollars at Work"
(April 9, 2009)
- "Feeling Ungood About Doublethink? Here's Help"
(March 23, 2009)
- "The Pope, Angola, and the News: No Wonder 'Everybody Knows' What Those Catholics Are Like"
(March 22, 2009)
- ""Get f****d, Catholic Church" - It Comes With the Territory"
(March 18, 2009)
- "Good News from Africa: But Some People Won't Like It"
(March 17, 2009)
- "Sex, Condoms, AIDS, an 'Immoral' Pope, and What Everybody Knows"
(March 17, 2009)
- "Catholic Beliefs and Practices: Don't Believe Everything You Read"
(September 16, 2008)
A tip of the hat to talentpatrol and danielkenney, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this article.
1 All quotes in this post are from (Archbishop Charles J. Chaput's article.