Sunday, October 3, 2010

Christians’ Lack of Faith Prevents Cultural Renewal

Archbishop Chaput delivered an address to the annual convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars on 9/26/2010. If starts:


+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver

Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, 9.26.10

Exactly 70 years ago, in 1940, Father John Courtney Murray gave a series of three
college talks. For his theme, he chose the “concept of a Christian culture.” After his
death, his Jesuit brothers fused the talks into a single essay called “The Construction of a
Christian Culture.”1 It’s a modest word change. But that title – the construction of a
Christian culture – is a good place to begin our thoughts this morning.

Most people know Murray for his work on Vatican II’s Decree on Religious Liberty. In
his 1960 book We Hold These Truths – which has never gone out of print – Murray
argued the classic Catholic case for America. Like any important thinker, his work has
friends and critics. The critics respect Murray’s character and intellect. But they also
tend to see him as a victim of his own optimism and a voice of American boosterism. I
understand why. Over the years, too many people have used Murray to justify too many
strange versions of personal conscience and the roles of Church and state.

But for me, Murray’s real genius is tucked inside his words from 1940. They’re worth
hearing again. Murray said that “a profound religious truth is at the basis of democratic
theory and practice, namely the intrinsic dignity of human nature; the spiritual freedom of
the human soul; its equality as a soul with others of its kind; and its superiority to all that
does not share its spirituality.”

He said that “the task of constructing a culture is essentially spiritual, for culture has its
home in the soul.” As a result, “all man’s cultural effort is at bottom an effort at
submission to the truth and the beauty and the good that is outside him, existing in an
ordered harmony, whose pattern he must produce within his soul by conformity with it.”
These are beautiful thoughts. They’re also true. The trouble is, they bear little likeness
to our real culture in 2010. Murray spoke at a moment when the word “gay” had more
connection to joy than to sexual identity; and when the word “truth” could be used
without ambivalence or irony. Times have changed.

Read the rest here.

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