Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

5/10/2013 (1 year ago)

The Catholic Sun (www.catholicsun.org/)

What is it in American society today that makes 'misguided ideas' attractive? And what makes solid principles of Catholic faith and morals unattractive?

If you asked Catholics in the United States in the 1950s if it was possible to be fully Catholic and fully American, most would have answered with an enthusiastic YES! In the first decade after World War II where Catholics and non-Catholics had fought side-by-side against common enemies, simultaneously overcoming some deep-seated prejudices among themselves, the great majority of Catholics had few if any worries about the compatibility of the Catholic faith with American culture. Do we still feel that way today? (Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted)

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted is the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003, and is the spiritual leader of the diocese's 820,000 Catholics.

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted is the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003, and is the spiritual leader of the diocese's 820,000 Catholics.

Highlights

By Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

The Catholic Sun (www.catholicsun.org/)

5/10/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Catholic, American, Americanism, fidelity, anti-Catholic, religious freedom, new evangelization, Diocese of Phoenix, Americanism, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted


PHOENIX, AZ (The Catholic Sun) - (Note from the Editor in Chief: Bishop Thomas J Olmsted is one of my heroes. His fidelity to the teaching of the Church, pastoral care for the people under his care, committment to the New Evangelization and courage in the public square has inspired me, and many others, for years. This is the first article in  an important series which the Catholic Sun has granted us permission to reprint. We will present every installment going forward for our readers. We ask you to pray for this good Bishop and take his clear and compelling direction to heart. Deacon Keith Fournier) 

If you asked Catholics in the United States in the 1950s if it was possible to be fully Catholic and fully American, most would have answered with an enthusiastic YES! In the first decade after World War II where Catholics and non-Catholics had fought side-by-side against common enemies, simultaneously overcoming some deep-seated prejudices among themselves, the great majority of Catholics had few if any worries about the compatibility of the Catholic faith with American culture. Do we still feel that way today?

Can we still be Catholic and American?
Sixty years ago when Catholics were pursuing higher education as never before, when vocations to the priesthood and religious life were at an all time high level, when Catholic hospitals and schools were expanding and flourishing at unprecedented rates, most Catholics in the United States were proud to be here; and very few anticipated the tensions that would erupt within American culture in the 1960s and the crises that would fray the fabric of the Catholic community after the Second Vatican Council.

Now, over half a century later, many Catholics have at best ambivalent feelings about the relationship between Catholicism and America. So much has changed since the good old days of the '50s. Consider, for example, the following: 45 years of legalized abortion has killed more than 50 million unborn children, the HHS mandates of the federal government seriously threaten religious liberty, and the powerful political and other societal forces gravely weaken the institution of marriage and with it serious threats to the well-being of children. Should Catholics still be excited about being American citizens?

Do we even have a problem?
Last year, the archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, spoke of the obstacles to the New Evangelization found in Canada and the United States today. He said: "Public opinion polls indicate a disturbing phenomenon. While we are trying to evangelize, the rulers of this age, who shape popular culture, are effectively de-evangelizing many Christians. Often the misguided ideas against which we speak are increasingly attractive, and the principles we affirm are unattractive, to Catholics as much as any others, who are unconsciously absorbing the false wisdom of the age."

What is it in American society today that makes "misguided ideas" attractive? And what makes solid principles of Catholic faith and morals unattractive? It is not hard to see how this cultural phenomenon greatly hinders efforts of the Church in North America to bear witness to the saving message of Jesus Christ. But how many even see and acknowledge that we have a problem?

The depth of the present crisis is evidenced in the fact that large numbers of Catholics, being more embedded in our secularist culture than in the life of the Church, feel quite at home in this world. Not only do they not feel motivated to work for cultural change, writes Russell Shaw in his new book "American Church," they do not even see a problem, not even feel a need to take a good, hard look at what is happening to the basic foundations of American society and at its corrosive effect on the Church and other faith-based institutions, and upon human dignity and the foundational institutions of society, especially marriage.

As Russell writes (p. 13), "On the evidence, many appear neither ready nor willing to provide a Christian critique of things like legalized abortion. the contraceptionist consumerist mentality that dominates the American dream of material success, the idol of American exceptionalism abroad, and much else in the world view of contemporary secular America in serious tension with their religious tradition."

Keep your eye on the Chair
A recent headline caught my eye, NOT because it conjures up memories of a former basketball coach but because it expresses the opposite of apathy. The headline read: "Sometimes, Throw a Chair." The greatest challenge that we Catholics face in America is indifferentism, not Americanism; it is not a problem of being too patriotic but a problem of being morally lazy, intellectually sloppy and spiritually asleep.

Many things can freeze us in our tracks and keep us from responding to crises that threaten us individually or as a community: from doubts and fears on the one hand to failure even to notice that there is a crisis. We can fail even to notice "a progressive secularization of society and a kind of eclipse of the sense of God" (as Pope Benedict XVI described the crisis); or even worse we can fail even to care about this dramatic drift away from faith in God that has poisoned the culture of so-called "first world" countries like America.

In striking contrast to this sickly slide into sloth that has weakened our American culture, we have the startling words of Jesus (Lk 12:49), "I have come to set a fire on the earth, how I wish it were already blazing!" We also have the refreshing spontaneity and compelling witness of Pope Francis who continually challenges mediocrity even as he inspires love. His personal witness to Christ has been formed in the crucible of suffering, in his relentless advocacy for the forgotten and poor, and in his courageous defense of human dignity and religious freedom before hostile governments in his native land.

Pope Francis, perhaps more by his own person and deeds than his words, is awakening Catholics to our mission from Christ at this pivotal point in history. We don't have to worry about Pope Francis throwing a chair but we can be sure that his witness to Christ from the Chair of Peter will continue to make the indifferent uncomfortable and ignite the fire of love among followers of Christ today. May we welcome that fire with grateful hearts.

In the next issue of The Catholic Sun, I will look more closely at the relationship between the Church and American culture, at the challenges we Catholics have faced and continue face today, and what we must do in order to be faithful to our mission. The vast field of evangelization in America has both disturbing trends and grace-filled marvels. It is precisely in face of both that we have the duty and privilege of knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ.

-----

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003. Since 1974, Bishop Thomas James Olmsted has been a member of the Jesus Caritas fraternity of priests, and thus has been deeply influenced by the witness and wisdom of Charles de Foucauld and by the prayers and encouragement of many brother priests. For 16 years, Bishop Olmsted lived in Rome, Italy, where he obtained a master's dgree in theology, a doctorate in Canon Law, and worked more than nine years in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.

During the nine years of serving in the Holy See, he resided at the Pontifical North American College and assisted seminarians with spiritual direction. Having been reared on a family farm on the Kansas-Nebraska border, he attended a single-room grade school near Oketo, Kan., and a small rural high school in Summerfield, Kan. His first contact with Catholic schools came when he entered St. Thomas Seminary College in Denver, Colo., from which he graduated in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy. This article is reprinted with permission and originally appeared in the May 9, 2013 edition of the Catholic Sun.

---

The Catholic Sun, as the official newspaper for the Diocese of Phoenix, shares in the mission of evangelizing the Catholic faithful, under the direction of the bishop, by providing news, information, education, a forum for discussion and guidance in matters of faith, morals and spiritual life. This article is reprinted with permission.



Comments


More U.S.

A political warning against high taxes: Northest losses 40% of its House seats Watch

Image of High taxes have dropped the population of 11 Northeastern states dramatically, cutting their number of seats in the House of Representatives by 40% since 1950.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Census Bureau has reported that the Northeast is losing power in the U.S. as many citizens leave the high-tax region, heading south or west to states with lesser tax burdens. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Population growth has shifted, primarily to the ... continue reading


Is Ebola here to stay? Second patient being monitored for Ebola in Dallas Watch

Image of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed earlier this week that a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas was the first person to be diagnosed in the U.S. with the Ebola virus.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A second person who had been in close contact with a person infected with Ebola is now being closely monitored in Dallas. Health officials here are treating the situation here with great seriousness, as this is the first example of an Ebola-infected person ... continue reading


How Can We Overcome Fear? Watch

Image of Perhaps we are no longer as crippled by our fears as we were when we were younger, but they still lurk in the background, robbing our freedom and preventing our human flourishing. They harm our relationships and can impede our growth.We can be set free!

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Unable to overcome fear by our own effort, we are often overcome by it. Though we may develop coping mechanisms over time, or learn to hide the interior reactions caused by fear, inside, it can paralyze us and impede us from living our lives to the full. The ... continue reading


'Political correctness' could have cost lives in White House Security breach Watch

Image of It was later revealed that the fence-jumper made it all the way to the East Room of the White House, on the second floor.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Political correctness" is a hot-button term that has come to mean irrelevance as applied to any given situation. According to Representative Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), who sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, "political correctness" ... continue reading


Watch out Saudi Arabia! U.S. oil production expected to rapidly increase Watch

Image of A Saudi Arabian oil refinery.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The International Energy Agency says that U.S. production of petroleum is set to exceed that of Saudi Arabia's for the first time since 1991. A growing sign of the future of the American energy sector. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The production of oil and ... continue reading


Latinos run from Obama en mass after president punts immigration reform Watch

Image of Latino activists have turned their back on President Obama after he dropped immigration reform until the midterm election.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama has bowed to worried Senate Democrats, delaying executive actions on immigration until after the midterm elections, fearing that using executive actions would make immigration reform a partisan issue which would hurt Democrats. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


As thousands of illegals enter U.S., who's stuck with the education bill? Watch

Image of Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors have flooded into the U.S. during 2014 alone, mostly from South America. While they await immigration trials, schools are responsible for teaching them.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The large numbers of unaccompanied minors who have been illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in ever greater numbers have caused American schools to scramble in an attempt to provide services. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The children and teens who ... continue reading


St. Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle: Pope Francis Takes on the Devil Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Now the new People of God is the Church. That is the reason she considers him her protector and support in all her struggles for the defense and expansion of the kingdom of God on earth. It is true that "the powers of death shall not prevail", as the Lord assured ... continue reading


Need milk? Eggs or flower? The Post Office may have you covered Watch

Image of Amazon partnered with the USPS to provide daily grocery deliveries to people in the San Francisco Bay area, a program the USPS wants to extend to the rest of the country.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Postal Service has revealed a new plan to reverse its six-year streak of billion-dollar losses, which is as ingenious as it is simple. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The USPS wants to deliver your groceries to you, and the agency sent this proposal to ... continue reading


Where the buffalo roam... Native Americans plan return of free range Bison on the American Great Plains Watch

Image of Bison calves are playful and eager to roam free.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Buffalo are part of the American west. Across the vast prairies of the Great Plains, herds grazed and migrated, crisscrossing the open grasslands in great, thundering tides. Each year, some of these buffalo were hunted by Native Americans who used everything, from ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Job 9:1-12, 14-16
1 Job spoke next. He said:2 Indeed, I know ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 88:10-11, 12-13, 14-15
10 Do you work wonders for the dead, can shadows rise ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:57-62
57 As they travelled along they met a man on the road ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 1st, 2014 Image

St. Therese of Lisieux
October 1: Generations of Catholics have admired this young saint, called ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter