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Posts Tagged ‘Secularism’

Living within the Truth – Part I

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2011/09/02 at 1:11 AM

With permission, I am reprinting the address given in Slovakia by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado because it is so very relevant to us today. I am dividing the “Living Within the Truth: Religious Liberty and Catholic Mission in the New Order of the World,” into three parts where it can be separated logical because of the length of the article.

Tertullian once famously said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. History has proven that to be true. And Slovakia is the perfect place for us to revisit his words today. Here, and throughout Central and Eastern Europe, Catholics suffered through 50 years of Nazi and Soviet murder regimes. So they know the real cost of Christian witness from bitter experience,…  and also, unfortunately, the cost of cowardice, collaboration and self-delusion in the face of evil.

I want to begin by suggesting that many Catholics in the United States and Western Europe today simply don’t understand those costs. Nor do they seem to care. As a result, many are indifferent to the process in our countries that social scientists like to call “secularization” — but which, in practice, involves repudiating the Christian roots and soul of our civilization.

American Catholics have no experience of the systematic repression so familiar to your Churches. It’s true that anti-Catholic prejudice has always played a role in American life. This bigotry came first from my country’s dominant Protestant culture, and now from its “post-Christian” leadership classes. But this is quite different from deliberate persecution. In general, Catholics have thrived in the United States. The reason is simple. America has always had a broadly Christian and religion-friendly moral foundation, and our public institutions were established as non-sectarian, not anti-religious.

At the heart of the American experience is an instinctive “biblical realism.” From our Protestant inheritance we have always — at least until now — understood two things at a deep level. First, sin is real, and men and women can be corrupted by power and prosperity. Second, the “city of God” is something very distinct from the “city of man.” And we are wary of ever confusing the two.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, wrote: “Despotism can do without faith, but liberty cannot … ” Therefore, “What is to be done with a people that is its own master, if it is not obedient to God?”

America’s founders were a diverse group of practicing Christians and Enlightenment deists. But nearly all were friendly to religious faith. They believed a free people cannot remain free without religious faith and the virtues that it fosters. They sought to keep Church and state separate and autonomous. But their motives were very different from the revolutionary agenda in Europe. The American founders did not confuse the state with civil society. They had no desire for a radically secularized public life. They had no intent to lock religion away from public affairs. On the contrary, they wanted to guarantee citizens the freedom to live their faith publicly and vigorously, and to bring their religious convictions to bear on the building of a just society.

Obviously, we need to remember that other big differences do exist between the American and European experiences. Europe has suffered some of the worst wars and violent regimes in human history. The United States has not seen a war on its soil in 150 years. Americans have no experience of bombed-out cities or social collapse, and little experience of poverty, ideological politics or hunger. As a result, the past has left many Europeans with a worldliness and a pessimism that seem very different from the optimism that marks American society. But these differences don’t change the fact that our paths into the future are now converging. Today, in an era of global interconnection, the challenges that confront Catholics in America are much the same as in Europe: We face an aggressively secular political vision and a consumerist economic model that result — in practice, if not in explicit intent — in a new kind of state-encouraged atheism.

To put it another way: The Enlightenment-derived worldview that gave rise to the great murder ideologies of the last century remains very much alive. Its language is softer, its intentions seem kinder, and its face is friendlier. But its underlying impulse hasn’t changed — i.e., the dream of building a society apart from God; a world where men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves, satisfying their needs and desires through their own ingenuity.

This vision presumes a frankly “post-Christian” world ruled by rationality, technology and good social engineering. Religion has a place in this worldview, but only as an individual lifestyle accessory. People are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and do not presume to intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on the workings of government, the economy, or culture.

Now, at first hearing, this might sound like a reasonable way to organize a modern society that includes a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural traditions, different philosophies of life and approaches to living.

But we’re immediately struck by two unpleasant details.

First, “freedom of worship” is not at all the same thing as “freedom of religion.” Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith. This is the classic understanding of a citizen’s right to the “free exercise” of his or her religion in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It’s also clearly implied in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In contrast, freedom of worship is a much smaller and more restrictive idea.

Second, how does the rhetoric of enlightened, secular tolerance square with the actual experience of faithful Catholics in Europe and North America in recent years?

In the United States, a nation that is still 80 percent Christian with a high degree of religious practice, government agencies now increasingly seek to dictate how Church ministries should operate, and to force them into practices that would destroy their Catholic identity. Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as “hate speech.” Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence.

In Europe, we see similar trends, although marked by a more open contempt for Christianity. Church leaders have been reviled in the media and even in the courts for simply expressing Catholic teaching. Some years ago, as many of you may recall, one of the leading Catholic politicians of our generation, Rocco Buttiglione, was denied a leadership post in the European Union because of his Catholic beliefs.

Earlier this summer we witnessed the kind of vindictive thuggery not seen on this continent since the days of Nazi and Soviet police methods: the Archbishop’s palace in Brussels raided by agents; bishops detained and interrogated for nine hours without due process; their private computers, cell phones, and files seized. Even the graves of the Church’s dead were violated in the raid. For most Americans, this sort of calculated, public humiliation of religious leaders would be an outrage and an abuse of state power. And this is not because of the virtues or the sins of the specific religious leaders involved, since we all have a duty to obey just laws. Rather, it’s an outrage because the civil authority, by its harshness, shows contempt for the beliefs and the believers whom the leaders represent.

My point is this: These are not the actions of governments that see the Catholic Church as a valued partner in their plans for the 21st century. Quite the opposite. These events suggest an emerging, systematic discrimination against the Church that now seems inevitable.

Today’s secularizers have learned from the past. They are more adroit in their bigotry; more elegant in their public relations; more intelligent in their work to exclude the Church and individual believers from influencing the moral life of society. Over the next several decades, Christianity will become a faith that can speak in the public square less and less freely. A society where faith is prevented from vigorous public expression is a society that has fashioned the state into an idol. And when the state becomes an idol, men and women become the sacrificial offering.

Cardinal Henri de Lubac once wrote that “It is not true … that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true, is that without God, [man] can ultimately only organize it against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.”

The West is now steadily moving in the direction of that new “inhuman humanism.” And if the Church is to respond faithfully, we need to draw upon the lessons that your Churches learned under totalitarianism.

A Catholicism of resistance must be based on trust in Christ’s words: “The truth will make you free.” This trust gave you insight into the nature of totalitarian regimes. It helped you articulate new ways of discipleship. Rereading the words of the Czech leader Václav Havel to prepare for this talk, I was struck by the profound Christian humanism of his idea of “living within the truth.” Catholics today need to see their discipleship and mission as precisely that: “living within the truth.”

Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.

Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

Two of the biggest lies in the world today are these: first, that Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West; and second, that Western values and institutions can be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles.

The 800-Pound Gorilla

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/08/06 at 7:49 PM

The Western World (North America and Europe) is awash with all types of philosophies competing for dominance and control.  Vying for attention are relativism, hedonism, environmentalism, skepticism, nihilism and least that many more.  One of these false philosophies seems to have taken the lead because it really includes many others under it’s umbrella.  Its name is Secularism, the philosophy that tries to exclude God and  religion from any meaningful  role in human life.  Historians offer different dates and causes for the rise of this false set of ideas, but I suggest that secularism began in the Garden of Eden with the conversation between Satan and Eve.  This was the first attempt to show that God was a minor figure in the human drama, that His commands were mere suggestions, that you could get away with ignoring them and that, in fact, by getting rid of God man could become like  God.  Satan was the first secularist, and this tells us the real origin of this set of beliefs.

Secularism has several features.  The first is a basic animosity toward religion in general and Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular.  It is atheistic and/or agnostic (meaning we can’t really know anything about God . . . if there is one).  Religion, therefore, has no place in public life, no place in government, no place in education or law.  If one must have religion, keep it to yourself.  Whenever religion attempts to raise a voice in the public arena, it is to be crushed if at all possible . . . call the ACLU and have some judge declare that the “offended” atheists should prevail over the majority who espouse religious sentiment.

Secondly, this false philosophy endorses total personal freedom in the matter of morals “as long as you don’t hurt anyone.”  Thus, under this umbrella we find liberal and radical feminists who support abortion, and the homosexual rights groups that are succeeding in making the deviant acceptable or at least tolerated.  Moral laws based on religion are to be rejected.  After all, if there is no God, how can there be divine moral laws? As one might expect, those who champion freedom from moral laws generally have sexual laws in mind.  There can be no agency that has any authority to regulate moral law.  (If a civil law happens to be the same as a religious law, the civil law will be accepted because it comes from “true” authority.)  The new standard for personal morality is: “If I like it, it’s moral; if I don’t like it, it’s immoral.”  Or, “You have your morals, I have mine.”  When asked what he thought of the “new morality”, the famed English convert to Catholicism, G.K. Chesterton, replied, “It is neither new nor moral; it’s just our old friend sin.”  How true!

The third feature is the absolute toleration of anyone’s immorality and unquestioned acceptance of any stupid or illogical idea that comes down the pike.  “Who are you to say I am wrong?”  The secularist world easily tolerates contradictions.  Abortion is good; abortion is bad.  No problem; the secularists accepts both.  (The fact that accepting contradictions violates a basic principle of correct thinking, does not seem to occur to such people).  Tolerance trumps logic anytime.  Needless to say, there is one group to which this sacrosanct rule of tolerance does not apply . . . Christians.  Their “crazy” ideas cannot be tolerated; only the “crazy” ideas espoused by the secularist are acceptable.

Secularism is thriving in the U.S. and Europe.  The Constitution of the European Union contains not a single reference to anything religious.  There seems to be no force capable of diminishing its ongoing thrust because the secularists control the organs of power.

The media of every type is grossly biased against religion, traditional morality and its ideas.  Christians are usually depicted as dumb, hypocritical and prejudiced.

The élite colleges, universities and law schools are  teaching secularism.  One professor, a Catholic, who was teaching a course of Catholicism, said at the appropriate point in the course that Catholicism believes that homosexual activity is immoral.  The homosexual crowd managed to get him fired (these are, by the way, same people who preach tolerance); however, the backlash was so great that the professor was reinstated.

Government at all levels has become increasingly non-religious.  The current administration endorses many activities that used to be called sins: Abortion, partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay rights and many more.

Our Lord said to measure results and effects to know the value and nature of a cause.  Philosophies come and go.  Yes, they do, but they also leave their mark.  Nazism was a  false philosophy that certainly left its mark and left behind millions of graves.  So also, Communism.  Secularism, when successful, leaves behind ultimately unworkable societies because it is a philosophy that runs counter to human nature. It does not fit human psychology and the aspirations built into man by the Creator.  Whether you believe in a Creator or not, remember this: Simply believing something to be a certain way does not make it so.  Objective reality does not change to fit an error in belief.

And how have we fared after several decades of the celebrated “sexual freedom”?  50,000,000 babies killed because they were inconvenient to someone, never before seen rates of sexual diseases, the psychological and philosophical contradiction of same-sex marriage, easy divorce, child abuse, a significant rise in crime rates, rejection of authority by too many people.  Have there been some positive effects of this “sexual freedom”?  Can’t think of any!

Secularism has also impacted Christians, a very broad term used in the US that includes the Christmas-Easter attendees and the truly devout.  Statistically, Christians have fallen for the secularist’s line in large numbers.  There is little difference between the beliefs of secularists and the behavior of many Christians.  “Just our old friend, sin” making a reappearance.

Eve didn’t realize that her friendly snake was actually an 800-pound gorilla in disguise.  Secularism is  Satan’s latest disguise.  Eve thought she could do business with Satan, and we know what happened.  We can enjoy all kinds of false and silly beliefs about God, but bear in mind that He does not change Himself to fit human beliefs or errors.  God is God, and it is man who must change to conform to Him.

Otherwise, that 800-pound gorilla . . .

“The Pope on Pick-and-Choose Catholics” by Colleen Carroll Campbell

In 10 Colleen Carroll Campbell on 2011/06/02 at 10:05 PM

The Pope on Pick-and-Choose Catholics

By Colleen Carroll Campbell

Commentators seeking a shorthand way to characterize Pope Benedict frequently have resorted to depicting him as an ecclesiastical version of Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde. The “good” Benedict recognizes the longings of our spiritually hungry age and calls for compassion for immigrants and the poor. The “bad” Benedict emphasizes the importance of fidelity to Catholic moral teachings on such controversies as abortion and same-sex marriage while promoting the revival of traditional Catholic devotions.

The real Benedict is more interesting than the media caricature. And he proved it again in his address to U.S. bishops on Wednesday night, as he deftly wove together his concerns for answering the spiritual hunger and material needs of our society with his conviction that the best way Catholics can do that is by allowing their lives to be guided by Catholic moral teachings and grounded in the sacramental life of Catholic worship.

Read more: http://www.colleen-campbell.com/Misc_Columns/080417PapalBlogThree.htm  from her website: www.colleen-campbell.com.

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