Swords, Chaput, Wheat and Weeds – UPDATED

My Tuesday Column over at First Things this week addresses what seems to me to be the unseemly amount of fretting being done by people of faith:

Perhaps it is because so many Catholics currently seem to be wandering that some are panicking and reaching for their cutlasses. Certainly the Church does seem to be in a prolonged season of penance, wrought by both her tragic inattention to clerical abuses and the sinfully inadequate catechesis of the last forty years. That a couple of generations of “You are special; Mass is special; God is special” CCD classes (which offered nothing to counter a deadly cultural obsession with esteem-building) has produced millions of Catholics who have no idea what makes the Church more “special” than anything else, really should not surprise.

It is a near certainty that the Church will get smaller, down the road—our good pope has said as much [. . .] Call it Adult Catechesis.

Perhaps sometime in the not-too-distant future, as governments move against her, the Church will be forced into poverty and become subject to the oppression of her earlier days. We may even see martyrs in the Western Church, once more.

My copy was already filed when the Chaput-to-Philly story broke, but Via Deacon Greg, we find Michael Sean Winters pondering Archbishop Chaput and acknowledging these “culture wars” in an interesting and well-written piece:

Last week, as I sat at Mass listening to the Gospel, I wondered how Archbishop Chaput would preach on that text. The Master is quite explicit – do not pull up the weeds because, in doing so you might destroy the wheat. At the end time, the Lord will send his angels and they will separate the wheat from the weeds. One of the problems with culture warriors is that they always think it is the end time, and they also mistake themselves for God’s angels. They are always trying to uproot the weeds with little concern about any damage their actions might cause to the wheat. So focused on the weeds, and so focused on their own role in the divine economy, so absent of trust in God to deal with the weeds in His own way and in His own time, they are unable to recognize that the little faith of the mustard seed can grow into a great tree, that the leaven will affect many loaves.

Winters is less optimistic than I am about Chaput in Philly, but he wants to be optimistic.

Don’t we all. As I said yesterday, I think everyone who rushed to predict doom-and-gloom at the elevation of Benedict to the papacy, and later admirably admitted that they were wrong, should now give the pope the benefit of a doubt about his selection, here, and also give Chaput a chance. And I think that’s what Winters is doing. It might be noted that Dick Meyer, in his book Why We Hate Us found that Chaput had some worthwhile things to say to the age, and Meyer is no one’s idea of a conservative.

Meanwhile read John Allen’s excellent interview with Chaput, here. No horns, that I can tell!

You mentioned a speech you gave to the priests of Philadelphia in 2005. In that address, you said that a priest is ‘unavoidably a leader, not a facilitator or coordinator of dialogue.’ Presumably you didn’t mean dialogue is unimportant?

You can’t lead unless you first enter into dialogue with people. My point was that a priest can’t just be a man of dialogue and consensus, because at some point he also has to lead.

A fortiori, the same point applies to a bishop. So, where do you want to lead the church?

I’d like to lead the church in the same direction St. Francis indicated by his life and preaching in the 13th century, which is back to a clear embrace of the Gospel, without compromise, in all circumstances and at all times.

Where I go to discover that is the teachings and traditions of the church, including the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which is the most clear and important expression of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church in my lifetime. I want to embrace the council in all its details, enthusiastically and faithfully. Because I’m a Catholic, I also want to follow the lead and direction of the Holy Father, who is the successor of St. Peter and the head of the College of Bishops. At the same time, I do believe that the bishops are part of a college, and we have the duty and responsibility of sharing our insights and our experiences with the Holy Father as he makes important judgments for the church.

UPDATE:
Do go to New Advent, where Kevin Knight has tons of links re Chaput

More reactions linked here

USA TodayA round-up of Chaput reactions

Related:
Wrangling on Liturgy

Thomas L. McDonald at the Register

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