Friday, January 11, 2013

Archbishop Chaput's Keynote to Campus Ministers

Archbishop Chaput, from Philly, gave a compelling and challenging keynote to the Catholic Campus Ministry Association's conference. I was in attendance and he was very well-received. Here is the text of his address.

A snip from the keynote:
Your situations are obviously very diverse. Each campus is unique: secular or Catholic, urban or rural, commuter or non-commuter. Some of you serve at huge state schools, others at small private colleges. But all of you share one common pastoral problem: popular culture. The shape of today’s mass culture is different from anything the Church has faced in past decades. And for better or worse, it influences all of our campus outreach.

You know today’s environment as well as I do. Sunday Mass attendance has declined along with other sacramental indicators. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life have dropped. Marriage and family life suffer from crippling divorce rates; fewer people are actually getting married; and even marriage itself is being redefined.

Over the past five decades, we’ve moved from a culture permeated by religious faith to a culture that seems increasingly indifferent or cynical toward religion in general and Christianity in particular. Many Americans no longer claim any formal religious affiliation. And as Notre Dame’s distinguished social research scholar Christian Smith has shown, vast numbers of American young adults are, in effect, morally illiterate. They’re not “bad” people — far from it. But they often lack the moral vocabulary and roots in a living religious tradition that would enable them to reason independently through complex ethical problems. They believe in God, but in a generic, feel-good deism sense, with God’s main job reduced to giving them what they want when they want it.

At a minimum, this implies a massive failure of catechesis and young adult ministry, not to mention personal witness, on the part of my own generation. And I don’t think many of the men and women my age in the Church are really willing to admit that yet. But the results aren’t good. The results don’t lie, and now we need to deal with the consequences.

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