Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, at this year’s Napa Institute, delivered a spot-on lecture assessing our cultural climate and what Catholics need to do to help get our country back on track. Here’s an excerpt:
Critics often accuse faithful Christians of pursuing a “culture war” on issues such as abortion, sexuality, marriage and the family, and religious liberty. And in a sense, they’re right. We are fighting for what we believe. But of course, so are advocates on the other side of all these issues—and neither they nor we should feel uneasy about it. Democracy thrives on the struggle of competing ideas. We steal from ourselves and from everyone else if we try to avoid that struggle. In fact, two of the worst qualities in any human being are cowardice and acedia—and by acedia I mean the kind of moral sloth that masquerades as “tolerance” and leaves a human soul so empty of courage and character that even the devil Screwtape would spit it out.5
In real life, democracy is built on two practical pillars: cooperation and conflict. It requires both. Cooperation, because people have a natural hunger for solidarity that makes all community possible. And conflict, because people have competing visions of what is right and true. The more deeply they hold their convictions, the more naturally people seek to have those convictions shape society.
What that means for Catholics is this: We have a duty to treat all persons with charity and justice. We have a duty to seek common ground where possible. But that’s never an excuse for compromising with grave evil. It’s never an excuse for being naive. And it’s never an excuse for standing idly by while our liberty to preach and serve God in the public square is whittled away. We need to work vigorously in law and politics to form our culture in a Christian understanding of human dignity and the purpose of human freedom. Otherwise, we should stop trying to fool ourselves that we really believe what we claim to believe.
The full article can be read here at Public Discourse.