Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

5/10/2013 (2 years 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 (2 years 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.

Lower Your Nets For a Catch! We Are All Called to Evangelize Watch

Image of Lower your nets for a catch

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The New Evangelization is meant to bring about an authentic renewal of the Church so that she can then undertake a new missionary outreach to the whole world. Only a Church fully alive in the Lord and filled with His Spirit can carry out such an evangelical ... continue reading


'Church ladies' finally force phony priest in Los Angeles to authorities Watch

Image of Erwin Mena  was arrested by Los Angeles police for allegedly impersonating a Roman Catholic priest and on suspicion of grand theft (Los Angeles Times).

By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News

For months, Erwin Mena donned vestments, called himself "Padre," and convinced Southern California Catholics that he was a priest, police say. Los Angeles, Calif. (CNA/EWTN News) - He was good at it, too, reportedly. He attended seminary in El Salvador for a time ... continue reading


Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis to Meet in Cuba in Historic Move of the Holy Spirit Watch

Image of Orthodox Christian Patriarch Kirill and Catholic Christian Pope Francis

By Deacon Keith Fournier

This meeting of the Primates of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, after a long preparation, will be the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches. The Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate hope that ... continue reading


'Deeply disturbing': ANOTHER Planned Parenthood video has been released by the Center for Medical Progress (Warning: Graphic Content) Watch

Image of Yet another undercover video featuring the horrors of Planned Parenthood's illegal acts has been released (Leda Oreskovich).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released another video featuring Planned Parenthood officials casually - and even happily - discussing the revolting practice of murdering infants in the womb then mercilessly cutting them to pieces for profit. Meanwhile, after ... continue reading


Phony priest celebrated masses, funerals and performed marriages - for more than 20 years! Watch

Image of Operating out of St. Ignatius of Loyola in northeastern Los Angeles, Erwin Mena allegedly sold tickets to a pilgrimage to visit New York to see the Pope during his visit to the United States last year (Facebook).

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

He might have talked a good talk and walked a good walk, but authorities finally caught up with fifty-nine-year-old Erwin Mena, who posed as a priest for more than 20 years in Los Angeles. Mena was arrested and will enjoy a lot of time in small rooms - with bars on the ... continue reading


'Christian Refugees 2 Christian Nations, Muslim Refugees 2 Muslim Nations, That's Only Fair': Protesters rally in Missoula County Courthouse Watch

Image of Protesters stand in snow (not pictured) to stand against new influx of refugees into America (AP).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In an effort to ease the strain on other countries who have accempted several thousand refugees, the Obama administration plans to send refugees to smaller Montana cities. Over 120 Montana citizens faced snow and ice on Monday to protest outside the Missoula County ... continue reading


Why did secret Muslim Obama visit a controversial mosque? Watch

Image of Why is Obama visiting a mosque with questionable ties?

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

President Obama is visiting a controversial mosque in Baltimore today, one that has ties to Islamic extremism. Even fellow Muslims are upset that he chose the Islamic Society of Baltimore for his visit, when he could have chosen more "moderate" mosques. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


In the minds of murderers: 9/11 began with a small question and grew to a national tragedy Watch

Image of 9/11 was based on a flight that crashed into the sea (Reuters).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The horrific tragedy of 9/11 was reportedly started when Osama bin Laden heard of the murder-suicide on EgyptAir Flight 990. The plane's pilot crashed into the ocean, prompting bin Laden to wonder why he didn't choose to crash into a building. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


What does the Super Bowl have to do with the Catholic Church? Watch

Image of

By CNA/EWTN News

Who else is facing off during the Super Bowl? Catholic Charities. Whether fans are rooting for the Denver Broncos or the Carolina Panthers in the upcoming NFL Super Bowl 50, Catholic Charities of Denver, Colorado, and Charlotte, South Carolina are uniting to host ... continue reading


Did the Groundhog see his shadow? 6 fun facts about Groundhog Day you never knew before Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The fate between winter and spring anxiously awaited the arrival of the weather-predicting groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. The furry groundhog emerged from his hole on February 2 in search of a shadow ... that he never found. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Daily Reading for Monday, February 8th, 2016 HD Video
  • St. Moses: Saint of the Day for Sunday, February 07, 2016
  • Lower Your Nets For a Catch! We Are All Called to Evangelize
  • MAKE YOURSELF COUNT! Complete this quick Ash Wednesday survey
  • Daily Readings for Sunday, February 07, 2016
  • Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice white dies at 74
  • Daily Reading for Sunday, February 7th, 2016 HD Video

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8
1 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord seated on a high and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8
1 [Of David] I thank you, Yahweh, with all my heart, for you have ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:1-11
1 Now it happened that he was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 15:1-11
1 I want to make quite clear to you, brothers, what the message of the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 7th, 2016 Image

St. Moses
February 7: Arab hermit and bishop who is called "the Apostle ... Read More