Archbishop Chaput's column

Christian faith and God’s hand in history

In this Year of Faith, and especially as we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King (Nov. 25) and the beginning of Advent (Dec. 2), it’s a good time to reflect on the nature of what we believe as Catholics. To be a Christian is to believe in history. I mean that in the way the great Catholic historian, Christopher Dawson, meant it. Dawson wrote: “Christianity, together with the religion of Israel out of which it was born, is a historical religion in a sense to which none of the other world religions can lay claim.”

What a ‘community of believers’ really means

Another election has come and gone, and when the complaining dies down, most of us will go back to our everyday lives without a blink. Politics is important. On some issues, it’s deadly serious. But most of the time, for most people, political passion is viral: It appears and disappears like the flu every campaign season. Hurricane Sandy has come and gone as well. But its human imprint, its extraordinary devastation and suffering, will be with us for a very long time.

‘The only thing that matters is to be a saint’

A friend of mine quipped recently that the real religion of Americans has nothing to do with churches or synagogues.  Our “real” religion is politics and the juggling for power it involves.  He was being humorous.  But as I write these words in late October, and we head into the final days of another, uniquely important, presidential election, his words don’t seem quite so funny.

Public witness and Catholic citizenship

Public witness on issues of public concern is natural for Catholics because we have a commitment to the common good and to the dignity of each human person. Those two pillars — the common good and the dignity of every human person — come right out of Scripture. They underpin all of Catholic social thought. That includes politics. Politics is where the competing moral visions of a society meet and struggle. And since a large majority of American citizens are religious believers, it makes sense for people and communities of faith to bring their faith into the public square.

The Year of Faith and how we’re called to live it

In leading us into the Year of Faith, which began October 11, Pope Benedict calls on each of us as believers to “rediscover [God’s] joy,” to “radiate [God’s] word,” and to make our Christian witness “frank and contagious.” Now those are wonderful words, but how do we actually live them? We need to begin by realizing that we’re not being asked to do the impossible – only the uncomfortable and inconvenient. Benedict is asking us to examine our hearts and our habits of life without excuses or alibis. He’s asking us to tear down the cathedral we build to ourselves, the whole interior architecture of our vanities, our resentments and our endless appetites, and to channel all the restless fears and longings of modern life into a hunger for the Holy Spirit. If you think that sounds easy or pious, try it this week.

How we got where we are, and the value of the past

In early September, the Gallup Organization found that 60 percent of Americans – a record high -- have little or no trust in the mass media’s ability “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.” The sharpest decline in trust occurred among political independents, the least partisan American voters. This isn’t much of a surprise. Media coverage of religion, for example, has been eroding in both quality and fairness for years, as tracked by excellent web sites like getreligion.org. But the shift to social advocacy and the decay of professional standards have hurt the credibility of journalism on a whole range of issues. For Gallup, the trend “poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry.” Why should this matter for Catholics? Two reasons.

Remembering why our time, and our lives, matter

Writing in about the year 116, the pagan historian Tacitus described a fringe group of religious blasphemers who lived in Rome under the emperor Nero. They refused to honor the gods. They engaged in “superstitious abominations” and worshiped a crucified criminal. They were blamed for Rome’s great fire in A.D. 64, and as a result, they were hunted down and put to death. Three hundred years later, they were the official religion of the Roman state.

Some thoughts on Catholic faith and public life

As we enter another election season, it’s important to remember that the way we lead our public lives needs to embody what the Catholic faith teaches -- not what our personalized edition of Christianity feels comfortable with, but the real thing; the full package; what the Church actually holds to be true. In other words, we need to be Catholics first and political creatures second.

Justice, Terrance Williams and the death penalty

Even when a defendant is well defended, properly tried and justly found guilty, experience shows that capital punishment simply doesn't work as a deterrent. Nor does it heal or redress any wounds, because only forgiveness can do that. It does succeed though in answering violence with violence -- a violence wrapped in the piety of state approval, which implicates all of us as citizens in the taking of more lives. Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. They bear a terrible burden of grief, and they rightly demand justice. Real murderers deserve punishment; but even properly tried and justly convicted murderers -- men and women who are found guilty of heinous crimes -- retain their God-given dignity as human beings. When we take a murderer's life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture, and we demean our own dignity in the process.

Taking the difficult steps on the road to renewing the Church

Last month, at my request, the Archdiocese published a financial report that was as comprehensive as possible. In the years ahead, that annual report will improve and become even more thorough. After the past decade of anger and confusion in the Church, Philadelphia Catholics want a life of faith where their children are safe and their spirits are nourished. For as long as God gives me time as your bishop, I promise to work to make that happen.