Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 27 February |
Saint of the Day: St. Gregory of Narek
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Evangelization challenge: Field hospital patients can’t themselves care for the wounded

Harcourt and Shutterstock | COMP

Russell Shaw - published on 03/20/17

Archbishop Chaput's new book looks at the stark reality and the way ahead.

It’s a commonplace to say that America, along with other Western countries, is currently experiencing a cultural—which is to say, moral—crisis. And, in some quarters at least, it’s hardly less common to say this presents the Church with both a challenge and an opportunity.

The opportunity is to save America by presenting the faith as a credible option, thereby helping to make America—as our president would say—truly  “great again.” The challenge is that unless the Church really can do that or something like it, it is likely to  suffer continuing assimilation into a secular culture deeply hostile to Catholicism, together with rapidly falling numbers and growing cultural (moral) irrelevance.

What isn’t so often said, however, is that in facing up to these alternative scenarios American Catholicism suffers from a serious, internal handicap. Huge numbers of its adherents—one hesitates to say the Church itself, although in practice it amounts to that—share the values and behaviors of the crisis-ridden culture which they should be striving to bring to its senses.

To look upon these assimilated Catholics as potential “missionary disciples”—a term borrowed from Pope Francis—is like asking patients in a field hospital (the pope’s preferred metaphor for the Church) to rise from their sick beds and busy themselves healing other wounded victims of the culture war outside.

One of the great strengths of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s new book Strangers in a Strange Land(Henry Holt and Company) is its grounding in clear-eyed recognition of such unpleasant facts bearing upon the current situation of Catholicism in America.

That positions him to offer prescriptions without falling into the happy talk that renders many discussions of these matters unproductive or worse.

As most Catholics are aware, Archbishop Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia, is an important intellectual and moral leader in the Church in America today. His new book, rich in references to the work of other contemporary thinkers of note, is a product of intelligence, integrity and courage that speaks the truth in charity.

Fundamental to it is an incisive critique of the “tyrannous logic” of liberal democracy which, starting from a exaggerated and one-dimensional emphasis on individual rights, ends by adopting and enforcing secularism’s new morality.

An example: the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage followed by punitive measures aimed at florists and bakers whose consciences balk at serving gay weddings. Next up on the list of LGBT causes supported by media mouthpieces for the new morality like the New York Times and Washington Post: the transgender agenda.

As Archbishop Chaput says, religion traditionally has acted as a “brake” on the tyrannous impulses of liberal democracy. But the capitulation of liberal churches and the public policy defeats of conservative ones have lately loosed the machine of tyranny to steamroller upholders of the tradition.

In face of the resulting moral chaos, cultural assimilation weakens the ability of Catholics to be a force for stability. But the need is more urgent now than ever.  

Archbishop Chaput writes: “We have a duty as Catholics to study and understand the world around us. We have a duty not just to penetrate and engage it, but to convert it to Jesus Christ. That work belongs to all of us equally: clergy, laity, and religious … all share the same mission of bringing the Gospel to the world, and bringing the world to the Gospel.”

Eschewing pat formulas, Strangers in a Strange Landspeaks eloquently of that goal and of the obstacles to reaching it. That is much indeed.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
2
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
3
MADONNA
V. M. Traverso
The 9 oldest images of Mary
4
SEARCHNG PURSE
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things every Catholic woman should have in her purse
5
RECONSTRUCTED CHRIST
Lucandrea Massaro
This 3D “carbon copy” of Jesus was created using the ...
6
Jacques Fesch
Brother Silas Henderson, SDS
Meet the Death Row prisoner who discovered a ...
7
CELEBRITY MARRIAGES
Cerith Gardiner
10 Celebrities whose marriages have stood the test of time
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.