The current Year of Faith is an opportunity to counter the cultural relativism that plagues modern society and that has led many in the Church to deny Catholic teaching on important topics, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
“The appropriate response to relativism is faith, where you no longer are the center of the universe, you are no longer the one who decides what’s true, but you commit yourself in faith to God’s truth,” he told EWTN News on Nov. 12.
Among the biggest current challenges for the Church in the U.S. is addressing those “who say they’re Catholic but don’t believe what the Catholic Church teaches,” the archbishop stated. “The hardest thing is to convince them that they need to change.”
“So many people just think they’re Catholic already and think that they have a right to decide for themselves what’s Catholic and what’s not,” he observed, adding that “we’re just not getting through to them because they don’t think they need to be gotten through to.”
“It’s true about all of us,” he said. “Those who most need conversion are the ones who don’t think they need conversion.”
That means “it’s easier for the Church to convince people who are not Catholics of the truth of Catholicism than to convince Catholics who aren’t true believers that they ought to change,” he said.
Archbishop Chaput thinks that the root of the problem “is the cultural relativism that Pope Benedict speaks about all the time.” And it has “deeply infected” the life of the country and many of the people in the Church.
“I think that’s the result of poor catechesis for a couple of generations,” he said, explaining that people genuinely think that they can “decide for themselves what it means to be Catholic.”
However, the archbishop said that he also sees opportunities amidst the challenges.
“I think the Holy Father has given us an extraordinary framework in which to evangelize – the Year of Faith,” he said. “It’s an act of God’s providence that he declared this period of time for that purpose.”
Announced by Pope Benedict XVI, the Year of Faith began on Oct. 11, 2012 and runs through Nov. 24, 2013. During this year, the Pope is asking Catholics to study and reflect on the catechism and documents of the Second Vatican Council to grow deeper in their faith, so that they can be witnesses to others.
Archbishop Chaput described the Year of Faith as a tremendous blessing for the Church in the U.S. as it faces the challenges of the culture.
He is also hopeful because the American bishops are increasingly becoming more aware of the problem of cultural relativism and the need to address it.
“For a long time, we weren’t even talking about this as an issue,” he said. “And you could see it creeping into the Church everywhere.”
This new awareness on the part of the bishops, coupled with the call to conversion and witness that is part of the Year of Faith, offers an opportunity for the Church in America to be renewed and grow stronger, he said.
Lay Catholics who are sincere about participating in the Year of Faith should encourage their pastors “to develop programs in the parish to promote the New Evangelization,” the archbishop advised.
“Because sometimes, priests might not think that anybody’s interested in that.”
“Lay people generally think that if the bishop pushes priests, it will get done,” he said. “My experience is that it also takes the people in the pews to push from the other direction to get the priests’ attention.”
This involves not only asking the priest to do things, but the laity volunteering to do things themselves, Archbishop Chaput said.
“If they do that, I think there are going to be great changes.”