Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says that when it comes to voting, Catholics may not be able to support either the Republicans or the Democrats, now and in the coming years.
“The day may come when Catholics can support neither of the main American political parties or their candidates. Some think it's already arrived,” Philadelphia's archbishop wrote in a Nov. 6 essay for The Witherspoon Institute.
“Serious Catholics” who believe in the Church’s teaching on social and life issues “can’t settle comfortably in either political party,” he remarked.
But this is nothing new, Archbishop Chaput said, adding that Christians find their home and hope in heaven.
Saint Augustine, he recalled, “wrote the 'City of God' to remind us that we're Christians first, worldly citizens second. We need to learn—sometimes painfully—to let our faith chasten our partisan appetites.”
The political tensions that Catholics are experiencing today flow from the cultural problems of individualism and a lack of virtue, he said. “In feeding the sovereignty of the individual, our public leaders fuel consumer self-absorption, moral confusion, and—ultimately, as mediating institutions like the family and churches wither—the power of the state.”
Archbishop Chaput concluded his column by calling on Catholics to live their faith, and so heal the culture. “In this Year of Faith, she (the Church) invites Catholics to a great new evangelization … our ambition must be to repair a culture of unbelief and to heal the inhuman politics that flows from it.”
“And if we can’t achieve that in concert with our fellow Christians, then we can at least live the Gospel more faithfully ourselves. It’s time, and long past time, to close the gap between our words and our actions; our preaching and our practice.”
The archbishop's reflections flowed from his reading of the book “The Unintended Reformation” by historian Brad Gregory. Gregory's thesis is that the malaise of today's culture towards truth, community, and virtue is a result of the Protestant Reformation.
According to Gregory, the Protestant doctrine of “scripture alone” led to competing interpretations of scripture and an intellectual climate in which philosophy proved unable to discover truth.
“The Reformation has led, by gradual, indirect, and never-intended steps, to what Gregory calls the 'Kingdom of Whatever.' It’s a world of hyperpluralism, where meaning is self-invented by millions, and therefore society as a whole starves for meaning.”
However, Archbishop Chaput said that the root of the crisis was to be found in the Catholic Church. The Protestant reformation grew out of dismay at the failure of Church prelates to live out their faith, creating “an intolerable gap between Christian preaching and practice,” he wrote.
The archbishop then brought the argument full circle, saying that Catholics can only rectify the culture and the political situation by a commitment to living out their faith in Christ.
“To cultivate virtue, to pursue a life of self-sacrifice, to live joyfully and infused by the sacraments is not something anyone can do alone. It’s too hard. We need grace. We need companions. We need to be taught and trained.
“This is why God gave us the Church. Too often flawed and all too human, she is nevertheless our Mother, and always, always a gift.”