08 October, 2009

Chaput's irony

The pronouncements of certain members of the Vatican hierarchy are starting to rub Archbishop Charles Chaput the wrong way, primarily due to what he perceives as their ignorance of American Catholic culture. By way of reply, he addressed them through an op-ed in a Roman newspaper, writes:

Habitual doubt adapts itself too easily into a sort of "baptismal skepticism": a Christianity limited to a vague tribal loyalty and a spiritual vocabulary of convenience. In recent American experience, pluralism and doubt have all too often become an excuse for inertia as well as moral and political lethargy among Catholics.

[La consuetudine del dubbio si adatta fin troppo facilmente a una sorta di “scetticismo battezzato”: un cristianesimo limitato a una vaga lealtà tribale e a un conveniente vocabolario spirituale. Troppo spesso, nelle più recenti vicende americane, il pluralismo e il dubbio sono diventati un alibi per l’inerzia e il letargo politico e morale dei cattolici.]
His next sentence says a great deal more than its length implies:
Perhaps Europe is different.

[Forse l’Europa è diversa.]
Calling this "irony" strikes me as understatement. There is no question that Europe is not different; indeed one might argue that Europe has led America to the state it's in.

Never mind European intellectuals, theologians, etc. and their influence here; examine the ground level. My direct experience of European Catholicism has generally given me the impression that the European Catholic attitude to morality is, "We'll pay for the show, but we won't participate until it's time to attack someone we don't like. We'll especially deride those who take the moral implications of Catholic faith seriously." This deep impression of my youth, which my adult experience has done little to dispel, delayed my conversion to Catholicism for years: I thought, effectively, that it was merely a religion for apathetic hypocrites. Similar things occur here in the States, but (in my experience) not on so wide a scale. Again, I could be wrong, but that was my distinct experience.

Chaput goes on,
But it seems to me that the current historical moment (that both American and European Catholics have in common) bears no resemblance to the social circumstances that the ancient Christian legislators had to face… These men had both faith and the necessary zeal, tempered by patience and intelligence, to incarnate the moral content of their faith in the culture. In other words, they built a civilization that was shaped by Christian belief. What we are witnessing today is quite different.

[Ma mi sembra che l’attuale momento storico (che accomuna cattolici americani e europei) non abbia alcuna rassomiglianza con le circostanze sociali che dovettero affrontare gli antichi legislatori cristiani citati dal cardinale. Questi uomini avevano fede e avevano anche lo zelo necessario (temperato dalla pazienza e dall’intelligenza) per incarnare nella cultura il contenuto morale della loro fede. In altre parole, hanno costruito una civiltà plasmata dalla credenza cristiana. Quello che sta accadendo oggi è una cosa completamente diversa.]

No comments: