Sunday, October 18, 2009

Archbishop Chaput in "First Things"

There is a fantastic essay by His Excellency Archbishop Charles Chaput in "First Things" (h/t Ignatius Insight). Some excerpts are below, but read the whole thing here.

"Government was never meant to be a large presence in our American life. But too often today our knowledge classes—leadership groups in politics, law, higher education, and the media—no longer seem to believe that. America was built on the premise that the power of the state should be modest, because real life is much larger than politics."


"When we look closely at Church–state conflicts in America, we see that they now often center on a group of behaviors—homosexual activity, contraception, abortion, and the like—that the state in recent years has redefined as essential and nonnegotiable rights. Critics rarely dispute the Church’s work fighting injustice, helping community development, or serving persons in need. But that’s no longer enough. Now they demand that the Church must submit her identity and mission to the state’s promotion of these newly alleged rights—despite the constant Catholic teaching that these behaviors are personal moral tragedies that can lead to deep social injustices.

As a result, the original links between freedom and truth, and between individual rights and moral duties, are disappearing in the United States. In the name of advancing the rights of the individual, other basic rights—the rights of religious believers, communities, and institutions—and key truths about the human person, are denied.

In squeezing the Church and other mediating institutions out of the public square, government naturally assumes more power over the nation’s economic and social life. Civil society becomes subordinated to the state. And the state then increasingly sees itself as the primary shared identity of its citizens. But this is utterly alien to—and in fact, an exact contradiction of—what America’s founders intended."


"But we should notice two unhappy things about this public philosophy. First, it allows no room for mediating structures or civil society. In this universe, only individuals and the government finally exist. Families, religious institutions, and voluntary associations are either irrelevant or possible threats to individual rights. This explains, in part, why the Church and other mediating groups so often find themselves attacked by the government for allegedly discriminating against the private rights of individuals. "


"The issues here are complex, but the simple point is that the troubles of the Church and her charitable efforts in the United States today are not merely political in a partisan sense. They are symptoms of a larger breakdown of public reasoning and discourse—and of leaders who have forgotten the moral vision of our nation’s founding thinkers

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