Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent for Roman Catholics. This is traditionally a time for fasting, atonement, and making sacrifices (as in, “giving up stuff for” for the uninitiated).
And while I freely admit that I have to do my share of atoning for a variety of things (some of which I may be guilty of in this post, though I’ll try to avoid that), I would submit that that shepherd of our flock, if you will (that would be Archbishop Charles Chaput…pronounced shay-poo…head of the Philadelphia archdiocese), has some work to do on that score also for reasons I’ll try to explain here.
Recently, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article about Chaput timed for the release of his new book (naaah, the beginning of Lent has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with that! What are you to suggest such a thing, a heretic or something?). And if you know anything about Chaput, you know that, when he gets on his proverbial moral high horse, there’s enough apocalyptic doom and gloom for everyone. Fun for the whole family!
(By the way, there’s one snarky comment from writer David O’Reilly that I objected to, though he also provided what I would call some commendable context – if not him, then his editor deserves scorn for the former and credit for the latter.)
Anyway, here is O’Reilly…
Had Charles J. Chaput been raised Baptist or Methodist in his native Kansas, he might today be a circuit-riding, finger-wagging stump preacher, calling folks to repent their evil ways and “come to Jesus.”
But this fierce evangelist was raised Roman Catholic. He would become a priest, then a bishop, and today, at 72, is archbishop of Philadelphia.
America of the 1950s, where families prayed together and stayed together, is rapidly disappearing, Chaput laments in his latest book, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, being published Tuesday.
I realize I could go in a lot of directions to respond to such a lame-brained statement (did Chaput ever get the memo about the energy crisis in the ‘70s, for example, which basically mandated two-parent incomes for most of the families of this country, along with inflation during that decade?), but for now, I’ll add only this from here…
The efforts to bring God into the state reached their peak during the so-called “religious revival” of the 1950s. It was a time when Norman Vincent Peale grafted religion onto the era’s feel-good consumerism in his best-selling The Power of Positive Thinking; when Billy Graham rose to fame as a Red-baiter who warned that Americans would perish in a nuclear holocaust unless they embraced Jesus Christ; when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles believed that the United States should oppose communism not because the Soviet Union was a totalitarian regime but because its leaders were atheists.
Hand in hand with the Red Scare, to which it was inextricably linked, the new religiosity overran Washington. Politicians outbid one another to prove their piety. President Eisenhower inaugurated that Washington staple: the prayer breakfast. Congress created a prayer room in the Capitol. In 1955, with Ike’s support, Congress added the words “In God We Trust” on all paper money. In 1956 it made the same four words the nation’s official motto, replacing “E Pluribus Unum.” Legislators introduced Constitutional amendments to state that Americans obeyed “the authority and law of Jesus Christ.”
Oh, and the Pledge of Allegiance (which used to be this, by the way) was also changed in the 1950s to include “under God,” which I’m sure warmed the cockles of Chaput’s heart, also stated in the Slate article. Depending on how you look at it, I suppose that’s progress of a sort, given that people died in this country over the so-called “Bible riots” of 1844 (noted here), and, to my knowledge, no one was ever injured over reciting the “pledge” (kind of a “glass half empty” perspective I know, but there you are).
Amyway, back to O’Reilly…
Across the land, Chaput, who declined a request for a sit-down interview, sees “an unraveling of bonds, an aging of the spirit, a fatigue with the world,” and “a loss of purpose and hope.”
I suppose there could have been a schedule conflict, but if Chucky declined an interview with O’Reilly, who is pretty sympathetic I must say, then Chaput’s skin is thinner than I thought.
Our nation might wear “In God We Trust” on its currency, but its soul has been hijacked, in Chaput’s view, by a secularist, pleasure-seeking, self-absorbed worldview with little place for Jesus, religious worship, or traditional morality.
Yeah, again, that’s par for the course for Chaput. I look at it this way – people doing a lot of the “heavy lifting” in our faith are the ones involved in Aid for Friends, Catholic Social Services, and other groups doing tremendous work in our communities. Ya’ think they merit anything from Chaput here? Fat chance.
To a degree unimaginable just decades ago, the archbishop laments, the nation has embraced divorce, contraception, abortion, materialism, invasive government, casual sex — and gay marriage, which he views as the inevitable outcome of an unrelenting liberal agenda of personal freedom masquerading as civil rights.
Gee, I wonder what type of “invasive government” Chaput means? The Affordable Care Law that insures over 20 million people and is facing a threat from the Republicans that Chaput isn’t supposed to (wink, wink) be officially endorsing (wink, wink) or else the Church’s non-profit status would be threatened? Medicare? Medicaid? The stimulus under President Obama that rescued this country from economic destruction and saved the auto industry? Prevailing wage laws? Clean air and water? The FEC? NTSB?
And it’s not stopping there, he adds.
The Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision of 2015, that required states to allow same-sex marriage, was “a collapse of sane reasoning,” writes Chaput, yet it seems only to have whetted the “mainstream” media’s appetite for even more destabilizing folly.
How about basic human rights for LGBTQ people? And by the way, prior to Obergefell (which legalized same-sex marriage), 36 states, the District of Columbia and Guam were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But of course, Chaput doesn’t care about the inexorable turn of human events, which I realize is partly his prerogative (but only partly).
What he calls the “sexualized” and “angry” media (that would be us) are now bombarding a laughably pliant public (that would be you) with a view of gender fluidity and transgender rights he calls “lavish and lopsidedly positive.”
In short, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Actually, based on this, I think Kansas is exactly where Chaput wants us to be.
The United States is sliding into a dystopian Oz where the Wicked Witch and her ilk are in charge, Chaput contends, and he is not speaking in metaphor.
Oh, I KNOW Chaput isn’t “speaking in metaphor” (here).
“Satan is a real personal being, a supremely intelligent spirit, a rebel against God and an enemy of everything human,” he writes. To smirking liberals who would dismiss his words as the ranting of an embittered arch-conservative, Chaput notes that the smiling and inclusive Pope Francis likewise regards the devil as ontologically real, and dangerous.
“Smirking liberals”? Just a bit of editorial license here, I would say (oh, right, I’m sorry – I forgot we’re talking about Philadelphia’s conservative newspaper of record here).
I’ll tell you what – here is the picture of Chaput that accompanied this article:
Now you tell me, dear reader: who’s “smirking” who?
And, according to Chaput/O’Reilly, the fact that Pope Francis is “smiling and inclusive” means that “the left” automatically loves him. Yes, there is much to admire about the Pontiff, but he’s also a doctrinaire guy (a lot of that is noted here along with other stuff).
To be fair, though, I give O’Reilly credit for the following…
Readers whose own circle of acquaintances do not seem populated by children being raised as accessories, or by married couples who view one another as commodities, might wonder in what social orbit Chaput travels to know the America he writes of.
They will find no clue in the pages of Strangers in a Strange Land. In its pages there is never the voice of the widow raising children alone in the suburbs, no voice of a Center City gay man accepting his sexuality, no immigrant family in Port Richmond frantic with fear of deportation, no pastor or nun who has created a popular youth outreach program, no pregnant teenager anguishing over abortion.
Only the disembodied voices of fellow writers make their way into Chaput’s jeremiad. The ordinary people of America seem an anonymous crowd viewed through a telescope, and are found wanting.
Maybe that’s why Chaput “declined a request for a sit-down interview.” Too bad.
Oh, and with Chaput trying to plug his book in mind, I thought I’d comment on another column featuring our non-cardinal from about two weeks ago (here)…
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told a radio talk show host Monday that he believes fewer than 25 percent of those working in the “mainstream … elite” media have religious faith, and expressed surprise at what he termed was media hostility to President Trump.
“It’s just amazing to me how hostile the press is to everything the president does,” Chaput told the California-based Hugh Hewitt, a Catholic conservative.
Spoken like a leader of an institution that has been frequently intolerant of other religious ethnicities and gender preferences (and by the way, Trump is pretty bad too).
I’ll tell you what, Chuck – take a look here at the protests after Number 45 was sworn in and try to find a clue (oh, but all of those protesters are baaaad because they “embraced divorce, contraception, abortion, materialism, invasive government,” etc.).
I should note, though, that Chaput and Hewitt are pals from way back, as noted here when Chucky was head of the Denver archdiocese and appeared on Hewitt’s program and was allowed to claim that “most Americans” agree that homosexual acts are immoral (uh, no…those pesky facts got in the way again – I think the culprit here, though, is the Rocky Mountain News).
“I don’t want to be partisan in my comments here, but it seems to me if we are really serious about our common responsibilities, we support the president,” Chaput said, “whether we accept everything he stands for or not, and wish him success rather than trying to undermine him.
Now why on earth would we think you’re “partisan,” Chuck? Because of this?…
Chaput has said that Trump’s opposition to abortion — the real-estate mogul supported abortion rights until he entered politics — was a key factor for Catholic voters.
“Mr. Trump is now President Trump, and curiously, some of the harshest, on-going fury directed at him has nothing to do with his personal character,” Chaput wrote. “Rather, it’s a very special brand of ‘progressive’ intolerance for the approach his administration may take toward a range of difficult social issues, including abortion.”
Yep, once more it’s ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION and ABORTION…that’s the ONLY issue you’re supposed to vote on to be considered a “good” Catholic.
Oh, and let’s not forget the potential threats posed to our daily lives by euthanasia (also serious, I know – just saying we should address it in context, that’s all), and what I would call the laughable specter of human cloning (yes, I’ve actually heard this from the pulpit, though not recently I’ll admit).
Besides, people, why on earth should we be mad at Number 45 and not consider him a godly man of faith? Merely because he said this (from here)?…
Moderator Frank Luntz asked Trump whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions.
“I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
Given the conduct of his presidential campaign and his administration to date, I definitely believe that (also given this – not exactly a godly reaction I must say).
Trump said that while he hasn’t asked God for forgiveness, he does participate in Holy Communion.
“When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed,” he said. “I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.’”
To Catholics, Holy Communion represents the sacramental body of Our Lord offered in the Eucharist. To the “Gropenfuhrer,” however, it’s “my little cracker.”
But “I don’t want to be partisan in my comments here,” of course.
Given all of this (and considering where Chucky’s allegiances truly lie – again, wink, wink) I think we should also recall the following about Chaput (from here – last bullet)…
Before he was named…to lead the prominent but troubled Archdiocese of Philadelphia (taking over for Justin Cardinal Rigali), Archbishop Charles J. Chaput spent the last 14 years in Denver establishing himself as one of the nation’s most prominent advocates of a politically engaged and conservative Catholicism.
He is among a minority of Roman Catholic bishops who have spoken in favor of denying communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. He helped defeat legislation that would have legalized civil unions for gay couples in Colorado. And he condemned the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution, for granting President Obama an honorary degree in 2009 because of his stance on abortion.
Advocates for sexual abuse victims, however, bristle at the characterization of Archbishop Chaput as a reformer. They point out that he fought hard against legislation in Colorado that would have extended the statute of limitations for people who say they were sexually abused to sue the church.
I don’t know if there’s a way to bring this post (a “jeremiad” of my own, I guess) to a positive conclusion of sorts, but I’ll try by noting the following (from the earlier O’Reilly column about Chaput’s book)…
“Each of our lives lifts up or drags down the soul of the world,” Chaput writes at the very end. “What we do here makes all the difference.”
I actually agree with that.