InsideCatholic Review of Archbishop Chaput's Book
At InsideCatholic, Joan Frawley Desmond reviews Archbishop Chaput's new book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life:
Twenty years ago, Richard John Neuhaus foresaw a new era of Catholic engagement with American society and politics. "This can and should be the moment in which the Roman Catholic Church in the United States can and should assume its rightful role in the culture-forming task of constructing a religiously informed public philosophy for the American experiment in ordered liberty," Neuhaus argued in The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World.(emphasis added)
Did U.S. Catholics come close to fulfilling Neuhaus's vision? Not according to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, whose compelling new book, Render Unto to Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, delivers this somber assessment: "The cultural and political assumptions of the Catholic Church in the United States have largely failed."
More than a quarter of the U.S. population may claim membership in the Catholic Church, but Archbishop Chaput perceives a "weakened spiritual identity" that renders "the American Catholic witness to the Gospel partial and unsure." Despite Pope John Paul II's exhortation that his flock build a "civilization of love," Catholics in this nation haven't provided a "credible alternative to a way of life that every day seems to grow more remote from the Christian ideal."
But in Catholic, pro-life circles, a hard-fought presidential election isn't the only reason the public scandal of pro-abortion politicians receiving the Eucharist has provoked renewed attention. Render Unto Caesar arrives at a time when Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the surviving scion of a Catholic political dynasty and a fervent abortion-rights supporter, confronts his own mortality in his battle against an aggressive brain tumor. Many of Kennedy's long-time opponents in the pro-life movement hope and pray for his change of heart, a shift that could reinvigorate Catholic witness on life issues.
Senator Kennedy's "personal opposition" to abortion -- while advancing abortion-rights legislation and attacking Supreme Court nominees who threaten Roe v. Wade -- brings the archbishop to the decisive turning point in the nation's political culture: his brother John F. Kennedy's pledge to isolate his presidential decisions from Church influence.
Archbishop Chaput acknowledges the political necessity that drove John Kennedy to confront the deep historical strain of anti-Catholicism present at the founding of the first colonies and still surviving in various manifestations to this day. But Kennedy's pledge suggested the possibility, even the advisability, of privatizing faith. According to this equation, Catholic morality is rendered suspect when it migrates from the individual conscience to public discourse.
[Read the whole thing]
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Democrats Snub Denver's Archbishop Chaput
Sandro Magister: "How to Conduct Politics as Catholics"
Archbishop Chaput: Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life
Archbishop Chaput to Release Book on Catholic Faith and Voting
Archbishop Chaput: Thoughts on “Roman Catholics for Obama ’08”
Archbishop Chaput Warns Catholics on Supporting Pro-Abortion Candidates
Archbishop Chaput: "Better Citizens, More Faithful Catholics"
John Allen Interviews Archbishop Chaput Regarding Catholic Voting Guides
Archbishop Chaput Not Satisfied With Proposed New USCCB Document on Voting
Archbishop Chaput: The Time for Behind-The-Scenes Diplomacy with Politicians Is Over