Archbishop Chaput on the 'Nature of the State, our Christian Faith and the Lay Vocation'
'It's one of the great ironies of the moment that tiny Belmont Abbey would have the courage to challenge Caesar.'
'Today the bigots we face are different. Caesar wears a different suit. He has great media handlers. He bullies religion while he claims to respect it. He talks piously about the law and equality and tolerance and fairness. But he still confuses himself with God -- and he still violates the rights of Catholic believers and institutions by intruding himself where he has no right to be.' (Archbishop Charles Chaput)
BELMONT, N.C. (Catholic Online) - Regular readers of Catholic Online are well aware of our deep admiration for the stellar leadership of Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. He is the author most recently of Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic beliefs in political Life" They also know of our commitment to promoting the vital work of Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, one of the shining stars in the renewal of Catholic Higher Education.
We regularly update our readers on this College's heroic struggle against the oppressive efforts of the Federal Government, through the EEOC, to undermine their right to truly be a Catholic College by attempting to force them to provide insurance coverage which supports the Culture of Death and violates both their unqualified commitment to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The oppressive actions of the Federal Government violate the First Amendment rights of the College. The College is being ably assisted in this matter by "The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty", led by Kevin J. Seamus Hasson. (http://www.becketfund.org/).
Archbishop Chaput traveled to Belmont Abbey College to receive an award for his service to the Church and the world. He was named the "Envoy of the Year." The award was presented by "The Envoy Institute", located at Belmont Abbey College. (http://www.envoyinstitute.net/) "The Envoy Institute" is a wonderful apostolate which assists in the training of the future leaders for the New Evangelization of Culture. It is led by Patrick Madrid, a best-selling Catholic author and publisher of Envoy Magazine. It assists young men and women in their search for how to live the good life and their "search for Truth" in response to the promise of the Lord Jesus: "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." In this age which has suffered so greatly from what Pope Benedict XVI rightly labeled as a "dictatorship of relativism" the Envoy Institute at Belmont Abbey College is engaged in a vital mission.
Given its extraordinary clarity and timeliness, we present the complete address:
The Nature of the State; the Nature of our Christian faith; and the Nature of the Lay Vocation.
Archbishop +Charles J. . Chaput OF.M. Cap.
"Thank you for being here tonight. I'm very grateful for this award - although I need to share with you a quick story. You know, mothers are wonderful tutors in the virtue of humility. Some years ago, when my own mother was still alive, I got a very kind local award in Denver, and I telephoned my mother to tell her. Her response was instructive. She said, "That's marvelous son, but why did they give it to you?" Mothers have the gift of helping their sons see how implausible it is to imagine oneself as a big shot. So the lesson I've learned is this: The greatest value of this award, or any other award in life, is the generosity of the friends who bestow it.
I've been a priest for nearly 40 years. One of the satisfactions God has given me is the number of extraordinary men and women I know as friends. Friendship is the heart of every Christian vocation, from married life to the priesthood. My life has been filled with it. And many of the people I admire most are here tonight: My friend Patrick Madrid and his great witness with the Envoy Institute and Envoy magazine; my friends George Weigel and Jody Bottum; the kind messages from Carl Anderson and Father Corapi; friends from Belmont Abbey and the Becket Fund; and so many more of you that I can't name or we'd be here all night. This is what makes life rich.
People can sometimes earn the respect of others by their actions. But nobody earns the love at the heart of a real Christian friendship. That's a gift. It can't be forced. It's freely withheld or freely given. And when it's given, it means more than any award. So again, I thank you sincerely for this kindness tonight - but I'm much more grateful for the friendship all of us share.My mother taught me the virtue of mercy along with the importance of humility, so my comments tonight will be brief.
I have three simple points I want to talk about: the nature of the state; the nature of our Christian faith; and the nature of the lay vocation. But before I do that, I need to offer two caveats.Here's the first caveat I love this country. Some of you know that I belong to the Potawatomi Indian tribe through my mother. I take great pride in that. Because of it, I'm very well aware of the sins and flaws of American history - both toward the native peoples of the United States, and often toward other countries. But I also know the great generosity and goodness in America, and I believe in the genius of America's political institutions. I take great pride in that, as well. We all should.
Here's my second caveat. No bishop, priest or deacon can do the work that properly belongs to laypeople. My job as a bishop is to be a good pastor - in other words, a good shepherd and guide for the people of my local Church. The word" pastor" means" shepherd" in Latin, and it comes from the Latin verb pascere, which means "to feed." My proper work is to teach the faith, preach the Gospel, encourage and console my people, correct them when needed, and govern the internal life of the Church with love and justice.
There may be many times when a bishop or group of bishops needs to speak out publicly about the moral consequences of a public issue. But the main form of Catholic leadership in wider society - in the nation's political, economic and social life - needs to be done by you, the Catholic lay faithful. The key word of course is faithful. We need to form Catholic lay leaders who know and love the teachings of the Church, and then embody those teachings faithfully in their private lives and in their public service. But once those lay leaders exist, clergy cannot and should not interfere with the leadership that rightly belongs, by baptism, to their vocation as lay apostles. Having said this, I want to turn now to those three simple points I mentioned: the nature of the state; the nature of our Christian faith; and the nature of the lay vocation.
Here's my first point: the nature of the state. I said a moment ago that I love this country. I meant it. America is a great nation; a good nation. This is my home, and, I know all of you feel the same. For Christians, patriotism is a virtue. Love for the best qualities in our homeland is a noble thing. This is why military service and public office are not just socially useful vocations, but - at their best - great and honorable ones. Beginning in the New Testament and continuing right through works of the Second Vatican Council, Christians have always believed that civil authority has a rightful degree of autonomy separate from sacred authority. In Christian thought, believers owe civil rulers their respect and obedience in all things that do not gravely violate the moral law. When Jesus told the Pharisees and Herodians to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's:, and to God the things that are God's" (see Mt 22:15-21), he was acknowledging that Caesar does have rights.
Of course, he was also saying that Caesar is not a god, and Caesar has no rights over those things which belong to God. To put it in modern terms: the state is not god. If's not immortal. It's not infallible. It's not even synonymous with civil society, which is much larger, richer and more diverse in its human relationships than any political party or government bureaucracy can ever be. And ultimately, everything important about human life belongs not to Caesar, but to God: our intellect, our talents, our free will; the people we love; the beauty and goodness in the world; our soul, our moral integrity, our hope for eternal life. These are the things that matter. These are the things worth fighting for. And none of them comes from the state. As a result, the key virtue modern political leaders need to learn -Źand Catholic citizens need to help them learn it by demanding it -- is modesty; modesty of appetite, and modesty in the exercise of power. The sovereignty of states is a good principle. But every state is subject to higher and binding truths.
Here's my second point:
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