Wednesday, August 20, 2008

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.

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]
(emphasis added)

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

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At 8/20/2008 11:12 AM, Anonymous cg said...

Didn't St Thomas More make a similar warning? -- When statesmen forsake their private consciences for their public duties, they lead their nations into sure chaos.

(yes, just a movie, but we get his point)

At 8/20/2008 5:57 PM, Blogger Gualberto said...

I think Archbishop Chaput has a gifted mind, and I would say that he has more often than not been on the right side of the Faithful Citizenship and even the Canon 915 Communion debate BUT ... why will he not support Amendment 48 in Colorado? If you are not familiar with it, it is the United States' first personhood affirming legislative/constitutional measure. It is the most Catholic measure dealing with protecting life that has ever been proposed. It took more than 1000 volunteers, many of us Catholic, to reach the signature requirement, and the only response we got from the archbishop was the very weak response that it is not the right time for personhood and that the amendment is badly written. I have a blog devoted to the Colorado personhood initiative and would appreciate your correspondence on it. The blog is Thanks.
P.S. The lack of support for the amendment from the church has allowed both Republican and Democratic U.S. Senate candidates to oppose this historic pro-life amendment. See


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