Wisdom, Christian Witness, and the Year of Faith

A long time ago in Germany, a man kept a diary. And some of his words are worth sharing today, because they’re a good place to begin our discussion.

The man wrote: “Speak both to the powerful and to every man—whoever he may be—appropriately and without affectation. Use plain language. Receive wealth or prosperity without arrogance, and be ready to let it go. Order your life well in every single act. Behave justly to those who are around you. Be vigilant over your thoughts, so that nothing should steal into them without being well examined.”

He wrote: “Every moment, focus steadily on doing the task at hand with perfect and simple dignity, and with feelings of affection and freedom and justice. Put away hypocrisy. Put away self-love and discontent with your portion in life. We were made for cooperation, and to act against one another is contrary to nature. Accept correction gladly. Teach without anger. Keep yourself simple, good, pure, serious, a friend of justice, kind, affectionate, and strenuous in all proper acts.”

Finally, he wrote: “Take care never to feel toward those who are inhuman, the way they feel toward other men.”

The dictionary in my home defines wisdom as “the understanding and pursuit of what is true, right or lasting.” If that’s so, and I believe it is, the words from the diary we just heard are wisdom. They offer us a map to living a worthy life—a life of interior peace flowing out of moral character and purpose. They’re as valuable today as when they were first written.

But what’s interesting is this: They were written more than 1,800 years ago. The author probably didn’t intend to see his work published. He wrote mainly for himself—to strengthen his convictions. And many of his thoughts, which we now call the Meditations, were written at war, at night, in winter, from the inside of a Roman military tent, on the German frontier. In his nineteen years as emperor, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus had no long period of peace. He spent much of his life away from Rome with the army. He fought one brutal war after another against invaders, and he did it to defend a society that had already lost the values he held dear. Moreover, in the long run he failed. The barbarians won. Rome rotted out and unraveled. His own son Commodus became one of the worst tyrants in history.

So why do we remember him? We remember him because nothing is more compelling than a good man in an evil time. Marcus Aurelius held absolute power in a corrupt age. Yet despite that, he chose to seek what is true and right and lasting; and he disciplined his own life accordingly. In the context of his time, he was a just man and a moral ruler. He achieved that dignity of character by giving his heart first to the pursuit of wisdom, and only then to Rome. He had a brilliant mind, but he had no love of intellect purely for the sake of intellect. Rather, he had a special disgust for intelligence without moral purpose.

That’s why he’s important for us today. He pursued wisdom above everything else. And though his beliefs were very different from our own, we can learn from his example. Those three qualities that Marcus Aurelius sought in his own life—the true, the right, and the lasting—are the pillars of the world. They’re the tripod that supports a meaningful life. Whether rich or poor, emperor or peasant, Christian or pagan, all people in every age have a hunger for meaning in their lives.

That hunger is a clue to the nature of our humanity. It’s a sign that points to what Jesus said to Satan: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Power, sex, knowledge, money, possessions—none of these things finally lasts. They’re narcotics. They can dull our inner hunger, but they can’t make it go away. Wisdom consists in turning our hearts to the search for what does satisfy that hunger, and then pursuing it with all our strength.

That brings me to the three simple points I want to put before you today.

Here’s my first point: The more secular we become, the less we care about the true, the right and the lasting. And here’s the reason: We don’t really believe they exist. Or we simply don’t care.

The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek words philia, which means love, and sophia, which means wisdom. In an earlier age, philosophy fed man’s nobility; it involved the love and pursuit of wisdom. Academic philosophy today is a shadow of its historic dignity in the Western tradition. It’s an ailing discipline because it has collapsed into either postmodern skepticism or materialistic scientism, and neither has any place for wisdom or love. The postmodern cynic rejects the search for higher, permanent truths about the human person as a kind of ideological power grab. And the materialist philosopher rejects the search because it demands going beyond what we can confirm in a laboratory.

As a result, our idea of “wisdom” has shriveled down to mean, at best, a kind of common sense based on experience; and at worst, a cheap and clever irony.

Real wisdom grows from the moral memory of a culture. The more we debunk and reinterpret the past according to some political or social scientific agenda, the less coherent our memory becomes, and the more irrelevant wisdom like the Bible seems. This results in a kind of rootlessness, a self-imposed amnesia, and it undermines our whole moral vocabulary. It also leads us to see and judge everything in terms of its utility, right here and right now. What’s useful and productive is judged good. What isn’t is judged bad.

Here’s my second point: Just as we transferred our belief in God to a belief in ourselves beginning with the Enlightenment, now we’re shifting a belief in ourselves to a belief in our tools under the cover of a scientific and technological revolution. To put it another way: Losing faith in God inevitably results in losing faith in man, because only God can guarantee man’s unique dignity. Without God, we turn ourselves into the objects and the victims of our own knowledge. And we’re now doing that at a moment when our tools have more destructive power than at any time in history.

This is why the witness of the Church is so important. The Church, as G.K. Chesterton once said, is the only thing that saves a man from the “degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” What he meant is this: People who conform their hearts to the ideas of the age disappear right along with the age. Nothing is older than yesterday’s “new thing” and the people who worshiped it. We were created to live in the present, worship God in the present, serve the poor in the present, and support each other in the present—but to ready ourselves for eternity.

That brings me to my third point: I believe that it’s exactly this vocation—this eternal perspective—that makes the Church the most reliable bearer of wisdom for the contemporary world. No one knows the human soul and the human experience as well as the Church. No one believes in the human enterprise more deeply than the Church. And that creates an interesting irony: In his lifetime, Marcus Aurelius bitterly persecuted Christians for being superstitious, obstinate, and seditious. But he did so not out of personal cruelty, or corruption, or arrogance, but out of piety for the old gods. If he were alive today, and alive with the same hunger for wisdom, he might see the world very differently. It might even be tempting to imagine him as a Christian—because what he sought from life in his own time, only the Church really offers today.

Now let’s revisit these three points in a little more detail.

Regarding my first point: The more secular we become, the less we care about the true, the right, and the lasting. At the heart of the secular—or maybe the better word is “secularist”—worldview are several key ideas. They go like this: God doesn’t exist; or if he does, he’s irrelevant to our public life. Religion is dangerous, or at least suspect, because it divides people with conflicting fairytales about the purpose of life. What matters is material reality, here and now; and the principles governing our behavior here and now will change as our needs and circumstances change. Finally, a good society is one that provides the most material benefits to the greatest number of people. What we perceive as true and right is conditioned by our circumstances, and nothing lasts because our needs change.

Obviously I’m oversimplifying a complex social reality, but not by so very much. Wisdom in this kind of environment shrinks into sophistry or cynicism. And that’s exactly what has happened. We’ve become skeptical about our ability to really “know” anything, and we’ve simply stopped asking profound questions. We no longer really look for the true, the right, and the lasting because we don’t really believe they exist outside our own brain chemistry. We’re agnostic about human meaning in the same way we’re agnostic about God.

Let’s move on to my second point: We stopped believing in God and began believing in ourselves. Now we’re losing our faith in ourselves and putting our faith in our tools. We’re becoming the objects and the victims of our own knowledge. Forty years ago, if a scientist talked about hybridizing embryos to produce people to do certain jobs or live in certain environments, he was dismissed as a lunatic or a monster. Now we talk about the practical benefits of “perfecting” the human gene code, and the potential profits.

What we risk creating is a culture of unthinking scientific and technological boosterism. In some ways, it’s already here. In the words of Leon Kass, the distinguished physician and University of Chicago scholar of social thought:

The pursuit of [human perfection] scientifically defined and technically advanced, not only threatens to make us more intolerant of imperfection. It also threatens to sell short the true possibilities of human flourishing, which are to be found in love and friendship, work and play, art and science, song and worship…. We triumph over nature’s unpredictabilities only to subject ourselves, tragically, to the still greater unpredictability of our capricious wills and our fickle opinions.

To put it even more bluntly: We’re fooling ourselves if we think our love affair with science is intellectually chaste, a kind of high-minded romance with knowledge. Chaste it’s not. Knowledge is power, and what Americans really love is the power knowledge brings—the power to penetrate, dominate, and exploit the natural world.

Exactly seventy years ago, C.S. Lewis very shrewdly observed that

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. [But] for magic and applied science alike, the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men; the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as [terrible and] impious….

Americans love science for the technology we can extract from it, and technology does not have a conscience. As easily as it gives us iPads and smart phones, it also gives us Nagasaki, Zyklon B gas, genetic screening, and abortion pills. The more we subordinate the sanctity of the human person to the tools we create, the less human we become. Our job as Christians is to remind our culture that true and right and lasting things do exist about human nature—and if we abandon these things, we abandon who we are, and we abandon those who need us to speak on their behalf.

Which brings us to revisit my third and final point: The Church is the most reliable bearer of wisdom in the contemporary world; and the most reliable defender of the human person. That’s a very big claim, especially in light of the many sins people in the Church, including her leaders, have committed down through the centuries. But it’s also the truth. The Church has always existed for sinners. Her wisdom lies in seeing the world as God sees it; seeing the human person with the love and mercy that moved Jesus to weep at the tomb of Lazarus.

The Church knows, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, that “there is nothing new under the sun.” The terrain of the world changes, but the nature of the human journey doesn’t. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke once described man as “by turns, clay and stars.”It has always been so. Man is a creature of animated carbon, but every life also has a higher purpose. We’re meant for more than this time and place. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the human struggle is always the same: We’re in this world, and yet we hunger for the next; we’re imperfect, and yet we’re made for perfection.

The Church knows, as the Psalms and Proverbs teach, that only “the mouths of the righteous speak wisdom;” that “happy is the man that finds wisdom” for wisdom is “the principal thing;” and that wisdom is a treasure “more precious than rubies.” We’re put in the world to seek the truth. We thirst for it. We can’t be happy without it.

The Church also knows, with Sirach, that “to fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Why? Because God is the source and meaning of our lives, and humility in God’s presence, which is just another name for “fear of the Lord,” is the sign of a sane person—a person who understands the real nature of creation, and humanity’s holy place in it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran pastor and theologian, once wrote that the wise man “knows that reality is not built upon [materialist] principles, but that it rests upon the living and creating God.” He prayed often for simplicity, and he warned that “the best informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge, he will lose sight of what is essential.”

To put it another way: Wisdom comes to the humble, not to the proud. And that simple truth may help us understand the moment we’ve arrived at in the life of our nation.

In his dissent from the June 26 Supreme Court Windsor decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Justice Antonin Scalia correctly named the arrogance, the power grab, and the eager, oddly moralizing spirit at the heart of the court’s majority opinion. The Windsor ruling accuses DOMA and its supporters of deliberately seeking to injure same-sex couples through an “unjust exclusion” of their relationships from the benefits of marriage.

The court’s reasoning is not just wrong, and not just a case of raw judicial overreach. It’s also baffling in its logic. “To defend traditional marriage,” wrote Scalia, “is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions.” Supporters of traditional marriage, Scalia said, are simply defending a reality of marriage “unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history.”

By attributing ill will to the supporters of DOMA, Scalia noted, the majority opinion demeaned the court itself, demeaned the people’s elected representatives, and set the stage for imposing same-sex “marriage” nationally, whether the public wants it or not.

It took less than thirty years for abortion to go from a crime against humanity at Nuremberg to a constitutional right. It’s taken even less time for disordered sexuality to become sacralized in law and to redirect the course of our culture. People unwise enough to accept a slogan like “marriage equality” without challenging its honesty and examining its massive implications, are people capable of doing things even more foolish. And even more damaging.

And if we think we have some kind of safe haven from these events in America’s tradition of religious freedom, we should probably think again. Despite months of confusing talk about compromise, the administration’s June 28 final wording of the HHS contraceptive mandate conceded almost nothing to the concerns of its opponents. It continues to be unneeded. It continues to be coercive. It continues to impose on the nation a false need for contraceptive services in medical coverage. And it continues to violate the rights of religious and moral conscience. It’s a monument to ideological pride and belligerence.

In a few months we’ll close out the Year of Faith that began under Pope Benedict and was highlighted so beautifully just three days ago in Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei. In the past year—in fact, in every year now, according to the Holy See—more than 100,000 Christians are killed worldwide for reasons related to their faith. That’s the real cost of discipleship. That’s a measure of heroic character.

I’ve spoken many times about the importance of religious freedom and the need for all of us to actively witness our Christian faith not only in our private lives but also in the public square. The sacrifice of Christians in other countries, who write their witness in their own blood, places an obligation on all of us to live our faith with courage and zeal, endurance and hope, and to begin every new day by grounding our hearts and our actions in the wisdom of the Church.

Nothing is more compelling than a good man, or a good woman, in an evil time. Wisdom is the pursuit of the true, the right, and the lasting. In the record of Scripture and the witness of the Church, all these things find their source in God, and nowhere else but God.

Genesis tells the story of the Tower of Babel, and it carries a useful lesson. The pride of men in seeking “to make a name for [themselves]” and to build a tower to heaven leads God to confuse man’s language and scatter humanity. But I think God intervened against Babel not to punish man but to save humanity from itself. In the Bible passage, God says, “If now, while they are one people all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume.”

In an age of genetics, neuroscience, and nanotechnology; an age of political arrogance; an age that refuses to admit the purpose of human sexuality, or even that man himself has an inherent identity, free will, or nature, those words from Scripture should make each of us pause.

In his great work, The City of God, St. Augustine created a portrait of the world divided into two cities—the City of God with its eyes set on heaven, and the City of Man rooted in pride and sin. Life consists in choosing one or the other. It’s a choice we can’t avoid. And each of us faces that choice right here, today, now. The wisdom which the Church offers the world is for the humble, not the proud, and it’s the only wisdom that counts: the path to salvation.

But this salvation is not a philosophy or an ideology, an idea or ideals. No one can “love” an idea, and yet the heart of real wisdom is the ability and willingness to love. Augustine says that all of the wisdom in the Old Testament literally takes on flesh in the New Testament. The reason is simple. Jesus Christ is the Word of God—the Wisdom of God—God as love incarnate. Jesus himself says, “I am the bread of life.” He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

No one can love an idea. But we can love and be loved by Jesus Christ. We can meet and be met by God’s Son. The true, the right, and the lasting meet in a Man. Our task is to follow him, no matter what the cost, and to lead others to do the same.

Editor’s note: This talk was delivered at the National Shrine, Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 8 as part of the National Shrine’s Year of Faith lecture series. The above painting by Gustave Dore is entitled “Jesus Preaching the Sermon on the Mount.” 

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.


Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the archbishop of Philadelphia. Before his appointment to Philadelphia by Pope Benedict in 2011, he served as bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota and archbishop of Denver. He is the author of three books: Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics (2001); Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (2008) and Strangers in a Strange Land (2017)

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Brilliant! This is a homily that has so many universal truths contained in it that I am tempted to lift it verbatim for a homily I myself might use when preaching some Sunday (giving appropriate citation, of course). At the very least, all priests who are pastors reading this should reprint it and insert it in their parish’s weekend bulletins. It is that good. And all others ought to encourage their pastors to do this as well.

    Archbishop Chaput is one of those pastors who, faithful to all Church teachings, is able to interpret our culture for us as Catholics. Absent Catholics like him, we are left in the hands of the secularists to do the interpreting for us.

    For us to now take Archbishop’s Chaput’s words and promulgate them to the culture at large is, to me, what evangelization is all about.

  • AcceptingReality

    Eloquent and clear. The reading of this homily has simultaneously validated and advanced my view on living an authentic Catholic faith in an increasingly secular world.

  • Kevin McCormick

    Archbishop Chaput never fails to lift us up with the truth of his words. What a gift to us all.

  • Alecto

    Interminable, like most didactic homilies a never-ending attribution of all of those angelic qualities to the Church! Ugh! Of course neglected is the Church’s own agenda to always and ever aggrandize and empower itself, at the expense of the individual’s right to determine the course of his or her own life, the expression of liberty or pursue happiness. Or its abject failure to counter abortion, wisdom, or prudence for decades. I wonder what the corollary for “Physician, heal thyself,” is? Priest, redeem thyself?

    Particularly out of place, even absurd, is a reference to Babel while the hierarchy admonishes all of America about the Sacred Mexican and his plight to transplant his culture here. Or your complicity in diminishing the intellect, and the integrity of once good people. Judgment is eternal. Salvation is not guaranteed. Repent, and you shall be saved.

    • lifeknight

      Wow. You sound angry, Alecto! That “attribute” is not always rooted in judiciousness. Cut the guy a break. He is a GOOD bishop.

      • Alecto

        Who need fear Satan when the American bishops are here? They have destroyed faith and confidence in the Church, failed to nurture anything or anyone, while insulating themselves from any of the negative consequences. If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying any attention. Most Catholics live in a delusional bubble outside of reality, which is fine. The world is a difficult and evil place. But failing to make distinctions between institutions like the Church being “good” and this all too human man being “good” is plain mistaken. Jesus said that a man who scandalizes children, would be better off having a millstone tied around his neck and thrown into deep water. And yet, none of these men has drown himself yet.

        But, you write he’s a “good bishop” and I should cut him a break? I suggest one of problems in the RCC is it’s willingness to cut itself far too many breaks. He undermines patriotic Americans perpetually: he and his partners in crime. What, then, is “good”? I’ll be the first to confess, if goodness is measured by anything these impious louts do or by their clandestine attempts to subvert any number of my rights and freedoms as a human being – reducing everyone to a state of serfdom – reducing our culture and traditions to a morass of multicultural idiocy, I can no longer discern good from evil.

        But I suggest he is not good, and is an accessory to the prevailing state of evil in this country. We should not be lectured by such a person as though we don’t possess any rights, any discernment or any goodness of our own, on our own. Respect is a two-way street, lifeknight.

        • Bemkapeace

          “He is a good Bishop” … I’d join Lifeknight in saying! One would expect that if you disagreed with that, you would give just ONE instance to disqualify the obviously universal statement. What did you do instead? “Bishops” bla, bla bla! As things stand, you have not been able to disqualify that statement, and therefore the person’s goodness. Try again…

          Verbal diarrhea is not the best way to express yourself. With reason, a few words suffice. You should learn to give reasonable responses that will not be an insult to your readers – both who support you and those against you.

          • Alecto

            I gave numerous examples.

            1. He is a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.

            2. He supports a foreign invasion of my country.

            3. That is a violation of our laws.

            4. The Catholic Church teaches we should respect and uphold the laws of the country.

            5. A person who encourages lawlessness must be deemed “immoral”.

            • slainte

              Alecto, in response to your statement,

              1. He is a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church.
              2. He supports a foreign invasion of my country.
              3. That is a violation of our laws.
              4. The Catholic Church teaches we should respect and uphold the laws of the country.
              5. A person who encourages lawlessness must be deemed “immoral”.

              I respond as follows:

              1. He has answered the call of Almighty God to be a Bishop in His Holy Church and to care for His flock wherever they may be, notwithstanding temporal boundaries.

              2. As a Bishop, he will care for the least among us and make manifest God’s wish that children be united with their parents so that they may live together as a Family in safety. As a shepherd, he shall ensure that no man is denied a share of God’s bountiful harvest. God imposed no sovereign boundaries when he created the earth, thus, such boundaries must not divide God’s people from His Church.

              3. The Church and the laity are governed by God’s laws, and to the extent there is no conflict, then all shall comply with temporal laws.

              4, The Catholic Church teaches that we shall respect and uphold God’s laws FIRST, and barring conflict, then temporal laws.
              5. A person who honors God’s laws is deemed moral even when his compliance with the highest law causes him to violate temporal laws.
              Alecto, he is a good bishop. Your frustration is with a political system that has betrayed and disappointed many of us. The Church will always be counter-cultural as Christ was.
              I wish you Christ’s peace.

              • Alecto

                God imposed no sovereign boundaries when he created the earth, thus,
                such boundaries must not divide God’s people from His Church.

                No, those boundaries are the right of the people of the United States to impose, not the Church, not these bishops. Your assessment of this situation is wrong. Good luck recruiting Americans to a religion that seeks to destroy them.

                • slainte

                  Sovereign boundaries and immigration policies are the creation of political entities and they must be administered and defended by the federal government which has exclusive jurisdiction to enforce the laws governing both.

                  I abhor and will never defend “the violence, robbery, rape, murder of so many innocent Americans”, and I will pray for the soul of the elderly woman who lost her life due to the depraved acts of another.
                  You are mistakenly attributing to the Church the duties and obligations of the Government.
                  The Bishop and the Church are not to blame for the effects of government policy decisions.

                  • Alecto

                    Slainte, I am not as you write “mistakenly attributing to the Church the duties and obligations of the Government.”

                    It is the Church which is appropriating those duties and obligations to itself. The Church has influence on politicians and the Government when it comes to social policies, including immigration. The Bishops and the Church are to blame for the ongoing violence and crime against Americans. They encourage a behavior which results in violence against Americans, and worse.

                    From Chaput’s own writings: http://catholicphilly.com/2013/06/think-tank/weekly-message-from-archbishop-chaput/immigration-reform-renewing-the-soul-of-a-nation/

                    It’s despicable for a Catholic bishop to openly, blatantly articulate a position which destroys Americans. Even his mention of German immigrants and rightful concerns voiced by Americans was discussed in Crisis in Manion’s article. The pope told them what’s what. But those were legal immigrants, these aren’t. I’ll never forgive him for advocating for violence and murder. And that’s exactly what is happening to our people and our culture.

                    • slainte

                      Alecto, You wrote above,

                      “…..I’ll never forgive him for advocating for such disrespect for Americans, and in favor of violence and murder. And that’s exactly what is happening to our people and our culture. Shame on him…”

                      But elsewhere today you wrote with great compassion,

                      …”The one quality that never ceases to amaze me in this world is forgiveness, which is really a miracle given our memories, nature and natural inclinations. Shakespeare summed it up well in his Portia from Merchant of Venice:

                      The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
                      It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
                      Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
                      It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
                      Please consider forgiving those who trespass against us, including, some bishops and some migrants who may enter our country without permission. Pray for them just as I suspect you will pray for the young person that you counseled and referred to Covenant House. Let God take care of the rest.

                      Pax Christi.

                    • Alecto

                      That’s very easily accomplished. When they pack up and go back to whatever country is home, stop their looting of America and take these meddling bishops with them, begging forgiveness from Americans for their plunder, then forgiveness is theirs.

            • Bemkapeace

              Unfortunately, that is wrong. In your proposition, you say:
              1. Alecto is an American.
              2. He supports the invasion of Iraq
              3. … the rest follow.

              This is what is wrong with your proposition.
              1. He is a Bishop of the Catholic Church. There is no crime in being a Bishop of the Catholic Church. If there is a constitutional provision against that, I’ve never seen it … to be simple enough for me, I’d love to see that.

              2. You may need a lesson in history to remind you that your ancestors most likely came to America just as the Mexicans – who are more original members of that continent than so many so-called Americans – are coming.

              But apart from that, why don’t you begin with the State Department. Last I knew, there was a “Diversity Visa” program. Before you accuse another of supporting the invasion of America, try that.

              3. You still have not shown that the man is not a good man.

              • Alecto

                My ancestors aren’t at issue, neither is my immigration status. And as far as being a bishop is a crime, that is ignorant. The issue is that he encourages illegal behavior in his capacity as a bishop while denying that is what he is doing! It’s the arrogance inherent in his belief that he is above the law. I do not consider that “good” behavior for a bishop, or anyone.

                He supports policies which lead to murder, and violence against Americans. Even when he is shown the proof, he continues to advocate the destruction of our country, our language, our culture. He should not be surprised that Americans increasingly view Catholics negatively. Oh, and here’s another story about those dignified, sacred Mexicans:


                I only wish I had the space to link all of them!

    • Nash Horne

      1. Per the editor’s note, it’s a lecture, not a homily. Lectures as a genre are inherently longer and more in-depth than homilies.

      2. “Individual’s right to determine the course of his or her own life.” In what sense do you mean? The freedom of a Christian is to be a slave of Christ as St. Paul taught us. Only in perfect obedience to God’s can we truly be free. It’s how God made us.

      3. Yes, the Church fails. Repeatedly. Every day. But it’s still the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic bride of Christ Himself. Sin sticks only when unrepented.

      4. Hierarchs in the Church often seek to increase their own power over and above seeking the good of their flocks. Pope Francis absolutely rails against this sort of hypocritical ambition.

      5. “Sacred Mexican.” This just made me laugh, Alecto. Yes, Mexicans are sacred, as are all human persons. The message of Christ and His Church proclaims all to have inherent dignity. You may not agree with how it’s expressed legally, and it certainly is a mess right now, but the fundamental thrust towards dignity for all is righteous and commendable. Debate on the details is necessary and good.

      6. Whose integrity and intellect did American bishops as a whole diminish?

      • Alecto

        1. And your point is? Lectures from bishops are tales full of sound and fury told by idiots!

        2. Ah, let them lead by example. Let them be perfectly obedient. I don’t agree that God made anyone, any human being to be a slave. Slaves never accomplish much because they have to seek permission from a higher authority for anything they do. I am a free person with a soul that belongs to me, not this Church. I can do whatever I want with it, on the understanding I, and I alone, am accountable to God, for what I do in this life.

        3. No disagreement on that score.

        4. Unless the hierarch is a homosexual?

        5. Then let them be sacred in Mexico or wherever else they belong, not here. Balderdash, I owe them nothing. Nothing whatsoever when they persist in violence, lawlessness and anarchy. Sorry, I do owe them a swift kick in the arse. No bishop has any right to participate in that discussion of details and no bishop has any authority to speak on my behalf in these matters!

        6. Every American citizen in this country is diminished by the presence of these pretenders. I never truly understood Martin Luther’s motivations until recently. Now I do. They’re an embarrassment, from the moment they covered up child rape to the moment they schemed and plotted to force me into serfdom to this vile Administration and its fundamental transformation of my life and property. There is no forgiveness for them without repentance. They need to bow down to me and beg forgiveness for their treachery, lies, scandalous ambitions.

        • slainte

          Alecto, You sound like Ayn Rand after a first read of the Catholic Catechism. 🙂
          As you no doubt are aware, the Church must stand above political machinations. Its focus will always be Christo-centric seeking to protect and preserve the human dignity of all people globally, especially those who hold particular animus against Our Lord’s teachings, and those who are most in need of Our Lord’s mercy.
          The Church, like Christ, and unlike political powers, cannot recognize sovereign boundaries or assign greater value or respect to one group of persons over another, not even when one group may violate the laws of another. The Church, like Christ, can only see the person…..all of whom are sinners, all of whom are in need of forgiveness, all of whom require mercy.
          Just as you properly demand respect for your personhood and attendant rights Alecto, so you should also respect Archbishop Chaput’s personhood, as he is guilty of no crime other than having delivered a very powerful message that directs his flock how to live truly Catholic moral lives. He is doing what a Catholic bishop must do; what Christ has called him to do, and what we, as laity, want him to continue to do; and he stands as an exemplar for other bishops and priests.
          Archbishop Chaput is not guilty of the bad acts of others who caused scandal in the Church, and should not be tarnished by a legacy not his own. He cannot defend himself against your attack without detracting from his pastoral message. He does not deserve to be trampled upon.
          Your frustration is rightly directed aganst temporal political authorities who willfully decline to enforce laws of the land, and who routinely launch frontal assaults against the Church and its own citizenry by violating fundamental Constitutional rights, including, the right of religious freedom and that of conscience.
          Archbishop Chaput, thank you for a riveting message. We all benefit from more catechesis on all things Catholic. Pax et bonum.

          • Alecto

            Slainte, dear slainte, I respectfully disagree. I put Ayn in her place, and I am a Christian, unlike Ayn. I owe him nothing as he has shown no respect for Americans who are fighting his and his fellow bishops’ agenda supporting a foreign invasion which has resulted in the violent deaths of thousands and thousands of American citizens, the loss of billions, perhaps trillions in payments to immoral, lying, cheating foreign nationals of American taxpayer funds.

            When we complain about their injustice, we’re called bigots, hateful and worse. He has supported policies which resulted in the loss of my liberty to decide my healthcare and my doctor. He, in unison with the bishops have done more to undermine Christian unity, and respect for the gospel of Jesus Christ than any external enemy. I believe our Lady of Fatima saw the treachery in the clergy and she spoke about it. I don’t expect you to understand, but there can never, ever be any reconciliation and no American can ever view these men as a force for good in this world. They cannot be until they accept responsibility for their actions and political maneuvering. They are NOT above machinations.

            I direct my anger where it is deserved. Stop coddling these men. Stop being so naive and stop denying the truth. They aren’t good. Whatever “good” they do, is done with the resources and support of the American taxpayer as part of a legal obligation pursuant to a social services contract, yet they continue to lie about the sources and uses of these funds and ultimately their agenda. That makes them untrustworthy.

            May he not rest one second until he has repented and asked the American People for forgiveness for the evil he and his brethren have done in the name of Jesus. He is a sinner, he is arrogant and unrepentant.

            • slainte

              I do not question your Catholicism….however, the blunt force with which you delivered the message was reminiscent of Rand’s style, and her outrage when she perceived her individualism to be attacked. I understand that she was a devotee of Nietsche which caused me to wonder how she would have responded if she read the Catechism….quite explosive. No offense meant to you.
              Archbishop Chaput is not THEY and its not right to taint an innocent person with the bad acts of others,
              The border issue is political, and the ensuing consequences of large migrations of people across an unsecure border are predictable. The politicians are responsible for national border security and the attendant costs to the citizens of the U.S; the church is not.
              Christ compels the Church to care for the least among us….those who are already here. It is fulfilling its mission.
              You are wrongly condemning the Church, and in particular Absp Chaput, for the bad acts of politicians and the lobbies they serve.
              Time for you, Alecto, to get yourself elected; go to Washington, and fix the mess.

              • Alecto

                If it’s only political, why are Catholic bishops spending $8 million lobbying for S. 744? If it’s only political, why did they sue the good people of Alabama over passage of the Beason-Hammon Act? If it’s only political, why bid for federal contracts? If it’s only political, then there can be no question I am condemning them for their involvement in something over which they have no authority!

            • musicacre

              You don’t need to direct anger; you need to direct your prayer, unless of course you don’t believe a word of what Christ preached. Feeling angry is one thing, acting on it, becomes sinful. I have to remind my children of that constantly. When you publish angry, accusatory words they becomes sinful, esp if you are disrespecting a priest.

              • Alecto

                I am equal to him before the Lord God. And so are you. I only wish you could value yourself. Anything I think or write about him is long overdue. And probably much less severe than anything God would say to him about the way he shepherds his flock.

                “There truly are none so blind as those who refuse to see” is an admonishment as much to those who see evil and say nothing than those who refuse to accept Christ.

                • Bob

                  You sound like Judas, Alecto, when he confronted Christ for allowing the Magdelene to anoint His body with expensive oils. Mary was the humble one, Judas was the arrogant one.

                  • Alecto

                    Judas and Mary Magdalene were both Jews, and Mary wasn’t an Egyptian sneaking into Jerusalem to wreak havoc, sell drugs, work under the table, and get free stuff! Get the distinction between that and this? Jesus told his followers to render to Caesar that which is his. Laws protecting the citizenry and providing for their general welfare (including immigration laws) are the jurisdiction of Caesar, not the Church. Who is the Church to violate them to enrich itself? I condemn the bishops for this. There is going to be a reckoning for the Church over this evil and I guarantee they will regret what they have done to America.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          No wonder you follow the atheists when it comes to economics, you’re an atheist yourself.

          MY SOUL BELONGS TO MY LORD JESUS CHRIST! And he gave me his Vicar the Pope, who appointed my Bishop to see to my morality and help me get to heaven.

          Why should I go against the Bishops to follow the church of Alecto?

          • Alecto

            YOU are responsible for your salvation, NOT bishops. And, even Chaput will tell you this.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              That’s not what the Catechism says, sounds much more like Ayn Rand to me.

            • Nash Horne

              Each man is mainly responsible for his own salvation, but the whole community of Christ shares some responsibility as well. If each man was exclusively responsible for his own salvation, there would be no need for a Church or any organized religion of any kind. My bishop, Archbishop William Lori, has been called by God and His Church to help shepherd me towards heaven. Same as my pastor, and the other priests at my parish. And my wife is even more responsible than them.

        • Bemkapeace

          If only you had admitted that you were wrong on the first score of mistakenly calling a lecture a homily, I would have taken you seriously. As it stands, you are even worse than those you attempt to criticize.

          The intellect can fail anyone, but it is wisdom that guides one to the truth. You have failed to display this wisdom.

          • Alecto

            Kissing the feet of clerics as you do does not equate with kissing the feet of Jesus. Idol worship is a sin, is it not? Why persist in worshipping them? You extoll clerics as though they are sinless, infallible or incapable of wrongdoing or bad acts or bad decisions? That is devoid of any wisdom. Wisdom consists of looking at a thing, seeing it for what it is, and calling it that.

            • Bemkapeace

              Again, you have failed to admit that you were wrong. Why would you refuse to admit you made a mistake: you want to make yourself all knowing. That is an attribute of God. The man gave a lecture, not a homily. Get that into your proud head.

              In the sense you are use “kissing feet”, you miss the point. An intellectually sound person, standing up to counter his opponent in a debate thanks, and often praises the opponent before “demolishing” him. When someone is right, say he is right on this or that score. There is no unilateral condemnation. Whether clerics or not, if someone is right, and you go hitting the person as wrong, you carrying out this latter action would be the one deemed mad or deranged.

              You said “Wisdom consists of looking at a thing, seeing it for what it is, and calling it that.” PERFECT! That is what should be … but it appears you looked at a lecture and called it a homily. You missed the mark – goofed! I just saw what it was, and called it that!

              • Alecto

                You’ve got some issues with women, don’t you? Gawd. Can’t see the forest for the trees. No substance, just silliness.

  • NewEngland Christian

    Archbishop Chaput’s words are indeed eloquent and inspirational – but then again so are the words that fall from the mouth of his dinner-buddy, Barack Obama – one hopes that the words will motivate the meaningful action that continues to the hallmark of prominent Catholic ‘leaders and followers’ in the face of public distortions of our faith (‘abortion as hallowed grounds’,’same sex marriage as a right’, etc.) that continue unchallenged. ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’ is fundamental – but it’s hard to recognize the sin when there appears to be one set of sins defined for the day-to-day faithful and another for the ‘prominent and public’ faithful.

    • New England Christian

      Sorry, that should be ‘actions whose absence continues to be the hallmark of’

    • Bemkapeace

      I know that Jesus ate and drank with sinners (Mt 9,11). That you disagree with what someone is about does not mean you should not eat and drink with them. There is a difference between hatred for sin, and love of the sinner. You would rather Jesus stayed away from the sinners? Or because he ate with them, he should not have preached the Gospel to them?

  • Carol Leeda Crawford

    Archbishop Chaput, true Shepherd of the flock. My concern is for those who are being taught a lie. While reading God’s word, one discovers our plight as so called reasoning beings. We have the ability to seek the truth, yet we often choose to follow our desires and hold freedom to choose above being subject to God’s Will. Those in power are making this choice, the courts, government, and educational institutions. They are teaching our children to hold these erroneous opinions as dogma. Over and over again the people of God chose to go against His Law, they suffered the consequences, humbly returned to God, only to choose the way of the flesh one more time. There is a remnant who are holding fast to the Will of God.

    We need more shepherds like Chaput to speak boldly. It was always a man of God who helped guide the lost children of Israel back to the truth. We Christians need to hear the truth spoken boldly and directly.

  • hombre111

    Archbishop Chaput knows how to be the weary philosopher trudging through the dark city carrying light in a flickering lamp. This long, long piece is in his usual style. When I finally got to the end, my chin was on the ground, which is the way I usually feel after struggling through a grimly pessimistic Chaput monologue. Now, can he give us an example of the joy that Christians are supposed to find in following Christ? Can he raise his tone above the funerary lamentations of Dies Irae?

    • BM

      ST, II-II Q. 28, a. 2: “I answer that, As stated above, a twofold joy in God arises from charity. One, the more excellent, is proper to charity; and with this joy we rejoice in the Divine good considered in itself. This joy of charity is incompatible with an admixture of sorrow, even as the good which is its object is incompatible with any admixture of evil: hence the Apostle says (Philippians 4:4): “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

      The other is the joy of charity whereby we rejoice in the Divine good as participated by us. This participation can be hindered by anything contrary to it, wherefore, in this respect, the joy of charity is compatible with an admixture of sorrow, in so far as a man grieves for that which hinders the participation of the Divine good, either in us or in our neighbor, whom we love as ourselves.

      Perhaps you don’t love your neighbors enough to grieve over what hinders their participation in the Divine good?

      • hombre111

        If I was a parent who just lost a child, what you wrote above would help me decide to jump off a bridge. Is this what the joyful Christian message boils down to? this cold treatise found in the unemotional language of St. Thomas’ Summa? Remember, St. Thomas finally had some kind of religious experience, looked at his rationalist discussions, and said, “it is all straw.” I visit hospitals all the time. I have tried to console grieving parents. And I would never quote the dispassionate words you just threw at me. Give me some reason to be joyful. Something with flowers in the meadow and human skin attached.

        • BM

          I am baffled by your response. You implied above that joy and sorrow are incompatible, and I simply showed you how it is otherwise. The unrelated melodrama you put here has no bearing on the truth of this.

          • hombre111

            See Musicacre, above. You gave a left brain response to a situation that needs right brain thinking.

        • musicacre

          I would like to comment on this also, if you don’t mind. My late mother-in-law had a lifelong habit of visiting the sick and dying in the hospital and also the grieving. She followed her siblings’ example I’m inclined to think, who were both priests, one a bishop. They lived in a country very familiar with death- India – and a low like expectancy. ( I knew her in Canada) I know she brought her presence to these people, and that was her main gift. NOT what she said. The fact that she showed up and cheered them was encouragement enough. She also had a strong lifelong prayer habit; she prayed the rosary 3x/ daily and the little office. I think it was her prayer habit that made her so confident as an encourager to the sick and dying, and my husband and I were quite surprised at the huge numbers at her funeral. She kept her faith through all her losses because she put Jesus Christ first. To put someone or something above that is idolatry.

          • hombre111

            Wonderful. And this is what I am talking about. It was like St. Francis said: “We have to preach the Gospel. Sometimes we need to use words.”

        • Bob

          The definition of the word “JOY”:

          Jesus first.
          Others second.
          You (or myself) third.

          • hombre111

            Excellent, sir.

        • Bemkapeace

          “St Thomas finally had some kind of religious experience, looked at his rationalist discussions, and said, “it is all straw.”

          It was not his first religious experience. Secondly, you obviously missed the whole episode: Like straw compared to … ? If you know it, supply it and then you will see that there is a difference to your use of what he said and what he meant and referred to!

    • musicacre

      What do you want? ” Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows..”.to quote the early rock and roll from the 60’s. The movement of everyone getting their happy on at the expense of refusing to see the suffering around them and to deepen their faith against the onslaught of material culture wrapped up in tinsel and smiles. How is it funerary for the Archbishop to remind us to stay strong and fight the good fight? Not keep our faith as a private matter, but to share in public. Joy by the way is usually found as a result of doing the right thing, a peaceful feeling more permanent than mere pleasure.

      • hombre111

        Archbishop Chaput is a follower of St. Francis, who sang a canticle to the sun. “Tinsel and smiles?” You mean we can’t find smiles in our Catholic faith? Chesterton has a poem about Catholics and laughter and red, red wine.

        • musicacre

          I think you know what I meant;( I find people play with words alot on this site…) people chasing after what gives them immediate pleasure is what led to abortion as the new absolute right in society. I was talking about happiness as being a result of living right and sometimes delaying satisfaction for the greater good. I’ve been a fan of Chesterton from the time I started having children 30 years ago, so don’t quote him to back up a materialist attitude; that’s not what he was pushing. The materialist cheerleaders are legion. To put forth the proposition that we must still insist on morality in bad times as well as the good is very unpopular in general, and few have the courage of Chaput to strengthen those of us out there that are willing to fight the good fight but need leadership.

          • hombre111

            I am not pushing a materialist attitude. But I keep remembering the words of a legendary old atheist: “Christians keep talking about redemption; I just wish they looked more redeemed.” Beginning with the sour puss he shows to the world, Chaput seems to be the king of grim. Kind of like John Paul II, whose pictures almost never showed a smile. I know he could enjoy himself because I was one of a huge crowd at a World Youth Day, and he enchanted the young people. But try to find a picture of the man with a smile on his face. Now we have those pictures of Pope Francis, living in the spirit of the original Francis, greeting the world with a happy smile.

    • Bemkapeace

      I was personally and immediately edified by the words of the Archbishop. If you are not, could t be a problem with you? It is good to look inwards too!

  • musicacre

    Wonderfully inspiring talk by Archbishop Chaput; so many good reminders, especially of the humanity of Christ, which even the Modernists can’t deny. We had a wonderful elderly Jesuit priest subbing in our parish a few years ago, and his favorite saying was that we were not coming to church to get “something” out of the Mass, but “Someone.” Simple and lovely. Right to the point.

  • MaryRoseM

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

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