Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Render Unto Caesar

I have previously mentioned Archbishop Chaput's book, Render Unto Caesar, which is a masterpiece of laying out the Catholic principles of engaging in the public square and participating in politics as a Catholic. He isn't afraid to tell it like it is. Since I share the same spirit of being straightforward, I would like to share a few quotes from the book.
First, in talking about the common good and the Church's role in helping guide the dialogue.
Like many other pastors, I deal with the human problems that drive public policy every day: homelessness, poverty, abortion, immigration, and a dozen other issues. No one addresses these problems more directly or effectively than the Catholic Church and other religious communities. Over the past decade I'be grown increasingly tired of the church and her people being told to be quiet on public issues that urgently concern us. Worse, Catholic themselves too often stay silent out of a misguided sense of good manners. Even those of us who are bishops can sometimes seem more concerned with discretion and diplomacy than speaking plainly and acting clearly. Do not misunderstand me. Discretion and diplomacy are essential skills-but not if they lead to a habit of self-censorship. Self-censorchip is an even bigger mistake than allowing ourselves to be lectured by people with little sympathy for our beliefs.
I love this man's thinking process. He continues a few pages later:
People who take God seriously will not remain silent about their faith. They will often disagree about doctrine or policy, but they won't be quiet. They can't be. They'll act on what they believe, sometimes at the cost of their reputations and careers. Obviously the common good demands a respect for other people with different beliefs and a willingness to compromise whenever possible. But for Catholics, the common good can never mean muting themselves in public debate on foundational issues of faith or human dignity. Christian faith is always personal but never private. This is why any notion of tolerance that tries to reduce faith to a private idiosyncrasy, or a set of opinions that we can indulge at home but need to be quiet about in public, will always fail. As a friend once said, it's like asking a married man to act single in public. He can certainly do that - but he won't stay married for long. [emphasis mine]
I hope you read that again.
Seriously. Go read it again.

He then challenges us all. He really challenged me.
As American Catholics, most of us have food to eat and work that puts cash in our pockets. We have money to build churches, access to lawmakers, and talented, influential people in our communities. Our achievements and hard work give us a unique power to bear witness to the Gospel. But, we often face enormous counter pressures to stay silent; to compromise on matters of justice; to go along with fashionable opinion. And this is just as true for bishops and other clergy as it is for Catholics at every level of public life.

We can take a lesson from the early church. The emporer Velens ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire in the AD 360s. He was a brutal man at a time of bitter political and religious turmoil, and he sought to destroy the orthodox faith in Christ. Saint Basil the Great, then the bishop of Caesarea, confronted him face-to-face about his policies. "Never has anyone dared to speak to me with such freedom," Valens said. Basil replied, "Obviously you have never met a bishop before."

This is how Christ calls bishops to lead: with candor, simplicity , and courage...Something similar is true for every lay Catholic. People should come away from every encounter with every American Catholic knowing that they have met a true Catholic [emphasis in the original].
What needs to be done by Catholics today for their country? The answer is: Don't lie [emphasis in original]. If we say we're Catholic, we need to prove it. [emphasis mine]
Archbishop Chaput has given Catholics in the USA a great gift in this book. Do yourself a favor - buy it and then savor it.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

Fantastic book- I highly agree with your recommendation! Abp Chaput's writing is clear and simple, but doesn't sugarcoat the consequences of what Catholic Social Teaching means for modern Catholic Americans. It's less than $15 on Amazon and totally worth it!