Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Complacency is the Enemy of Faith: Archbishop Chaput Writes to the Faithful of Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, PA (Catholic Online) - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is one of the preeminent Churchmen of our age. He calls Catholics to live with what Pope Benedict XVI refers to as "moral coherence". This is not easy under what the Pope called "the Dictatorship of Relativism." The Archbishop challenges us to avoid what the Second Vatican Council called the "greatest error of our age...the separation between faith and life". He teaches us how and then he leads us in the way.
His book "Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by living our Catholic beliefs in Political Life" succinctly addresses the vital obligation of integrating our Catholic faith into our obligations of citizenship. It should be read by anyone seeking to inform their political participation as we approach one of the most important elections in US history. His leadership of the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado was proof of his tremendous leadership gifts. 
I participated in a "Living the Catholic Faith" Conference in Denver in 2010. I found in that Diocese, then under Archbishop Chaput's leadership, a shining example of the "New Evangelization". The seminaries are full, the parishes are growing (in fidelity and number) and the ecclesial movements are flocking to a missionary outpost. I am not naive, I am well aware of the challenges we face both within and without. What I experienced in Denver reminded me that Jesus Christ truly lives and His Church is His Plan!
The faithful of Philadelphia have received a true gift - the strong, wise and courageous leadership of this Bishop at a crucial time in their history. They have suffered. They are in need of a Shepherd and they have received one of the best. They face struggles ahead, but they are not alone. They are being cared for by a pastor with a heart like the Lord and the courage needed to lead them forward.

Archbishop Chaput's assignment once again affirms the great leadership of Pope Benedict XVI. His selection of key Bishops in the United States continues. On the Solemnity of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Archbishop Chaput issued this clear and challenging pastoral letter to the faithful of Philadelphia.

December 8, 2011, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Dear friends in Christ,
Exactly three months ago, on September 8, I was installed as Archbishop of Philadelphia. In the weeks since, traveling the archdiocese, I've been struck by two things I encounter again and again: the reservoir of good will in our people, and the fidelity of our priests.
The Church in Southeastern Pennsylvania has deep roots and an extraordinary legacy of saints, service and public witness. These are profound strengths, built by the faith of generations of Catholic families. But all of these good facts depend on our willingness to sustain them by our actions in the present. Advent is a season of self-examination in the light of God's word; a season of conversion and looking forward in hope to the birth of a Savior at Christmas. There is no better time to speak frankly about the conditions we now face as a community of believers.
Complacency is the enemy of faith. To whatever degree complacency and pride once had a home in our local Church; events in the coming year will burn them out. The process will be painful. But going through it is the only way to renew the witness of the Church; to clear away the debris of human failure from the beauty of God's word and to restore the joy and zeal of our Catholic discipleship.
In the year ahead, we have a grave and continuing obligation to help victims of clergy sex abuse to heal; to create Church environments that protect our young people; and to cooperate appropriately with civil authorities in pursuing justice for both the victims of sexual abuse and those accused.
At the same time, we need to remember that many hundreds of our priests -- the overwhelming majority -- have served our people with exceptional lives of sacrifice and character. Since arriving in September, I have pressed for a rapid resolution of the cases of those priests placed on administrative leave earlier this year. The first months of 2012 will finally see those cases concluded.
Whatever the results, the confidence of our people and the morale of our priests have suffered. The hard truth is that many innocent priests have borne the brunt of the Church's public humiliation and our people's anger. The harsh media environment likely to surround the criminal trial which begins next March will further burden our lay people and our clergy. But it cannot be avoided.

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