All Weekly column from Archbishop Chaput Posts
Anything without heart, anything without love — and I mean politics, music, law, art, even religion — anything without love, no matter how brilliant, is finally inadequate and weak. At the end of the day, the human soul yearns to be loved, and to love in return. And it won’t settle for anything less.
God loves us so deeply that he sent his only son to live, suffer, die and rise again for our salvation. That’s the message of Easter. The message of Pentecost – the “birthday of the Church” that we celebrate this Sunday – builds on Easter.
The murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell will soon go to jury. And like every other criminally accused person under the law, Gosnell is innocent until proven guilty. The real story in the Gosnell trial is bigger than the ugly allegations against Gosnell himself; it includes the failure — the allergic disinterest — of some of our most important national media.
In the coming weeks, in the wake of the Boston tragedy, we’d do well to ponder what “our way of life” is beginning to mean. No one deserved to die in Boston. And no one should be eager to see in the carnage of innocent spectators God’s judgment on a morally confused culture here at home.
And yet, something is wrong with our way of life. The character of our way of life depends on the character of my way life, multiplied by the tens of millions. We shouldn’t waste time being shocked by the evil in the world. It has familiar roots. It begins in the little crevices of each human heart – especially our own.
In the days ahead we need to pray for the dead and wounded in Boston, and their families. And then, with the help of God, we need to begin to change ourselves.
In late March the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in two cases – Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor – with big implications for the future of marriage. Perry involves California’s Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment. Prop 8 restored to California law the principle that marriage is the conjugal union of husband and wife. Windsor involves DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA defines marriage in the same way for the purposes of federal law. It also authorizes states to decline to recognize same-sex “marriages” entered into in other states.
In many ways over many years, the Church in Philadelphia has protected the weak and served human dignity with exceptional skill – feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, comforting the sick and elderly, helping the immigrant. No similar organization comes close to matching the service provided to the general public by the Catholic community in our region.
Yet it’s also true that our witness has been bitterly undermined by cases of sexual abuse of children in the past. These sins, these failures to protect innocent young people, have no excuse; they’ve resulted in terribly wounded lives — survivors to whom we owe continuing help for their healing. I can and do apologize for this hurt on my own behalf and on behalf of the Church, with all my heart. But the obligation remains to prevent this kind of damage in the future.
A friend once described the spiritual life in this way: Each of us is a child with an instinct for beauty, and God, who is the Beauty behind all beauty, is the hidden presence we naturally seek to touch. We spend our lives reaching for that beauty.
But creation is so very great, and we’re so very small, that we can accomplish very little — until God stoops down to provide us with a stool to stand on, so that we can stretch out and touch his face.
Francis is the name of several extraordinary saints. But the Francis most people remember when they hear the name, including many non-Christians and non-believers, is the Poverello, “the poor one” – St. Francis of Assisi. This is the saint whose name our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, has chosen. So it’s good to know a little bit about him.
Exactly 18 months ago this week, the Philadelphia Catholic family became my family, and the city became my home. I said at the time that the challenges we face as a Church wouldn’t be easy, and they haven’t been. Many of our pastoral, legal and financial problems still remain. So do our very serious obligations to victims of past abuse. But it’s also true that a great deal of good has been accomplished in a short time. We need to thank God for that, and we need to take pride in the fidelity of our clergy and our people under very trying circumstances.
The Catholic commitment to the dignity of the immigrant comes from exactly the same roots as our commitment to the dignity of the unborn child. Any Catholic who truly understands his or her faith knows that the right to life precedes and creates the foundation for every other human right. There’s no getting around the priority of that fundamental right to life. But being “prolife” also means that we need to make laws and social policies that will care for those people already born that no one else will defend.
More than 70 years ago the great French Catholic writer Georges Bernanos published a little essay called “Sermon of an Agnostic on the Feast of St. Théresè.” Bernanos deeply loved the Church, but he could also be brutally candid when it came to himself and his fellow believers. Above all, he had a piercing sense of irony about the comfortable, the self-satisfied and the lukewarm who postured themselves as Catholic – whether they were laypeople or clergy.