The need for America’s Catholics to seek wisdom and witness to their faith is all the more urgent at a time of increasing threats to the dignity of life, to marriage and to religious freedom, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in July 8.

He spoke at a Year of Faith lecture sponsored by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

(See the full text of the talk here.)

The archbishop said the way to gain that wisdom is by knowing and loving Christ and by following the teachings of the Catholic Church.

“Nothing is more compelling than a good man, or a good woman, in an evil time,” he said. “Wisdom is the pursuit of the true, the right and the lasting. In the record of Scripture and the witness of the Church, all these things find their source in God, and nowhere else but God.”

The three elements in the pursuit of wisdom – seeking the true, the right and the lasting – are the “pillars of the world” and “the tripod that supports a meaningful life,” he said, adding those elements come together in Christ.

“We can love and be loved by Jesus Christ. We can meet and be met by God’s Son. The true, the right and the lasting meet in a Man. Our task is to follow him, no matter what the cost, and to lead others to do the same,” Archbishop Chaput said.

Noting that each year more than 100,000 Christians are killed worldwide because of their faith, he said, “That’s the real cost of discipleship. That’s a measure of heroic character.”

Archbishop Chaput, the author of the 2008 book, “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life,” said he has spoken out many times “about the importance of religious freedom and the need for all of us to actively witness our Christian faith not only in our private lives, but also in the public square.” The sacrifice of Christians around the world, he added, should inspire U.S. Catholics “to live our faith with courage and zeal, endurance and hope, and to begin every day by grounding our hearts and our actions in the wisdom of the Church.”

He warned that America’s increasingly secular culture attacks or minimizes the existence of God and the importance of religion, and it “leads us to see and judge everything in terms of its utility, right here and right now.”

Losing faith in God, he said, “inevitably results in losing faith in man, because only God can guarantee man’s unique dignity. Without God, we turn ourselves into objects and the victims of our own knowledge.”

The archbishop said the pursuit of scientific progress for the sake of knowledge and power, without a moral compass, likewise threatens humanity.

“Americans love science for the technology we can extract from it, and technology does not have a conscience,” he said. “As easily as it gives us iPads and smart phones, it also gives us Nagasaki, Zyklon B gas, genetic screening and abortion pills. The more we subordinate the sanctity of the human person to the tools we create, the less human we become.”

Archbishop Chaput criticized the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, and he quoted Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent that noted that supporters of traditional marriage are not condemning or demeaning anyone, but are simply defending a reality of marriage “unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history.”

The archbishop noted, “It took less than 30 years for abortion to go from a crime against humanity at Nuremburg to a constitutional right.” The growing momentum to redefine marriage has taken even less time, he added, warning that the drive for so-called “marriage equality” is dishonest and damaging and has massive implications for our society.

He also strongly criticized the recent final wording for the HHS mandate, which he said was no compromise at all. “It continues to be coercive. It continues to impose on the nation a false need for contraceptive services in medical coverage. And it continues to violate the rights of religious and moral conscience” he said.

In every age, and especially in our time, the witness of the Church and of individual Catholics becomes crucially important, Archbishop Chaput said, adding that in a world that emphasizes the here and now, Catholics must prepare themselves for the hereafter.

“People who conform their hearts to the ideas of the age disappear right along with the age… We were created to live in the present, worship God in the present, serve the poor in the present, and support each other in the present – but to ready ourselves for eternity,” he said.

The wisdom needed to face the challenges of today’s world is found in the Catholic Church, the archbishop said. “The Church is the most reliable bearer of wisdom in the contemporary world; and the most reliable defender of the human person.”

Archbishop Chaput noted that people are placed in the world to seek the truth and to guide their lives by it. “Every life also has a higher purpose. We’re meant for more than this time and place,” he said. “Yesterday, today and tomorrow, the human struggle is always the same: We’re in this world, and yet we hunger for the next; we’re imperfect, and yet we’re made for perfection.”


Mark Zimmermann is editor of The Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese.