A Bishop’s License to Ill

Christians are called to win the battle of ideas and values in secular society, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said Tuesday.

via Never accept’ separation of faith from political engagement, Archbishop Charles Chaput says

Chaput is my bishop. I can say he is a man of integrity: pretty hardcore about certain things and I’d be willing to wager that he’s not the turn a blind eye “for the sake of Peter” type from sexual abuse if he were investigate (and to date there’s been no evidentiary reason to do so). He’s been pretty frank about bishop moral credibility, etc. I’ve seen him ay to a bunch of white folks in a suburban parish how they have racism in them and need to combat it to their faces in front of black people no less (of course including me). He’s said repeatedly, that refusing to aid the poor whether government program or charity just because buys you a first class non-stop ticket to Hell. He’s lamented that too many of us have the faith of a 10-year-old, etc. So I respect him and his intentions in general.

He drive me nuts though in his buying conservative Catholic and political myths. They make him hardheaded and sadly unable to listen. And worse, they make him look like a damn fool or intentional hypocrite to people who are not sympathetic to his views and sometimes to sympathetic ones. The first is a personal example:

Our diocese had a prayer service about racism in our Church; our Catholic institutions and organizations; and in society in general. Students, immigrants, etc. came up and shared harrowing stories. He got up and said some pretty well-intentioned but wholly tone-deaf stuff at the end. He started talking when the entire event was about listening.

But this piece also shows his buying of myths. The following is case in point:

To work as our country’s political life was intended, America needs a special kind of citizenry; we need a mature, well-informed electorate of persons able to reason clearly and rule themselves prudently.

And reasoning clearly necessarily involves questioning teaching and being able to make a clear logical answer. A priori claims of truth and defining your way out of arguments isn’t mature. It’s infantilizing. Critical thinking demands that any truth, any teaching is not given. It is to be demonstrated. He patently refuses to do this. When he writes about anything he disagrees with, say LGBT issues, it is cringe inducing. And he delivers on the cringe here:

Sooner or later a nation based on a degraded notion of liberty, on license rather than real freedom—a nation of abortion, sexual confusion, consumer greed, and indifference to immigrants and the poor—will not be worthy of its founding ideals. And on that day, it will have no claim on virtuous hearts.

What exactly is “real freedom?” License is merely a pejorative word for liberty which we define in this country as freedom. We Catholics constantly speak about “real freedom” in Christ (or the Church if we lean idolatrous) yet all we demonstrate and speak on is restriction in the political sphere. You can’t do this. You can’t do that. Real freedom is controlling women’s bodies? Real freedom is preventing LGBT people from marrying? Real freedom is preventing access to contraception? Real freedom is taxation for a welfare program? How exactly?

Truth tends to be self-evident so explaining ourselves shouldn’t be difficult and in a contentious political atmosphere necessary. But we can’t can we? Or more accurately we don’t. “Real freedom” is easy to say and gives an appearance to upholding “founding ideals” but to the people you are oppressing, it’s just the freedom to oppress.

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