SPISSKE PODHRADIE, Slovakia, AUG. 27, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Charles Chaput says events suggest the West is moving toward a systematic discrimination of the Church that “now seems inevitable,” and he called Catholics respond with public and private witness.
The Denver prelate made that affirmation in Slovakia, when he addressed Tuesday the first session of the 15th symposium for the Canon Law Association of Slovakia.
In his reflection on religious liberty and Catholic mission, the 65-year-old prelate cautioned: “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.”
The archbishop’s address compared the American experience with that of Europeans, and suggested that the Church in the West must learn a lesson from its Eastern counterparts.
“The West is now steadily moving in the direction of that new ‘inhuman humanism,'” he said. “And if the Church is to respond faithfully, we need to draw upon the lessons that your Churches learned under totalitarianism.”
Archbishop Chaput said two big lies are being promoted today: “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.”
Regarding the first, he said the Church “needs to name and fight this lie.”
“To be a European or an American is to be heir to a profound Christian synthesis of Greek philosophy and art, Roman law, and biblical truth. This synthesis gave rise to the Christian humanism that undergirds all of Western civilization,” the prelate affirmed.
Secondly, he continued, there is the “lie that there is no unchanging truth.”
“Relativism is now the civil religion and public philosophy of the West,” he observed.
The danger in this, the Denver prelate explained, is that “we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism. In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruelest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of ‘live and let live’ justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.”
A case in point, the archbishop noted, is the crime of abortion, which he said proves that “without a grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against our own human dignity.”
“Our most cherished values cannot be defended by reason alone, or simply for their own sake,” the prelate explained. “They have no self-sustaining or ‘internal’ justification.
“There is no inherently logical or utilitarian reason why society should respect the rights of the human person. There is even less reason for recognizing the rights of those whose lives impose burdens on others, as is the case with the child in the womb, the terminally ill, or the physically or mentally disabled.
“If human rights do not come from God, then they devolve to the arbitrary conventions of men and women. The state exists to defend the rights of man and to promote his flourishing. The state can never be the source of those rights. When the state arrogates to itself that power, even a democracy can become totalitarian.”
In such a context, Archbishop Chaput made several recommendations to Christian faithful.
Among them, he affirmed that the “world urgently needs a re-awakening of the Church in our actions and in our public and private witness.”
“The world needs each of us to come to a deeper experience of our Risen Lord in the company of our fellow believers,” he said. “The renewal of the West depends overwhelmingly on our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his Church.”
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The full text of the archbishop’s address will be published in ZENIT on Saturday.