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.

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

Wrangling on Liturgy

Thomas L. McDonald at the Register

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Gail F

    Thanks for linking to the Michael Sean Winters piece. I wrote this in his com box, but it hasn’t appeared:

    “An interesting and well-written piece. While I disagree with Mr. Winters on many points, it is nice to read a reasonable essay with arguments one can follow and agree or disagree with, as opposed to pure emoting. His bit about the wheat and the tares is especially good. But isn’t that the hard part? Knowing when to pull the weeds and when to let them grow. I assume that he, and the VOTF spokeswoman who commented at GREAT length, would have liked some weed-pulling from Cardinal Rigali, who seems to have left the weeds right where they were. I don’t see anyone defending THAT bit of weed-retention.

    I hope that Archbishop Chaput will do what Philadelphia needs, as I pray for all bishops.”

    It seems to me that being wary about not picking weeds goes both ways!

  • Fr. Peter Calabrese

    I always find it interesting when someone wants to “challenge” a bishop, “Yeah, well what about this parable”. Certainly Jesus is exhorting us to an attitude of patience toward those who seem to be “weeds.” But the same Jesus who gave us this parable also told the disciples there comes a time to shake the dust from your sandals and gave power to bind and loose. Parables and wisdom literature give us glimpses of the Kingdom. To appeal to this parable, as the writer cited in this blog, as a reason to have no forms of Church discipline, is a distortion of the parable and the Gospel in general. Church discipline does not uproot and burn. Church discipline wakes someone up to the fact that their current way of life, form an objective point of view, is dangerous to their eternal salvation.
    Every bishop has to make the pastoral discernment as to when a person is so recalcitrant that firmer discipline must be used. Sometimes there is a weed that may turn out to be wheat, other times there is a wolf ravaging the sheep.

  • Joe

    Take a look at the Commonweal thread on the appointment – where the appointment is immediately politicized by the progressive Catholics – who admit to absolutely no knowledge of the shape and accomplishments of Chaput’s tenure in Denver – even the supposed “expert” on the American Church Peter Steinfels.

  • jkm

    Well, here is one progressively orthodox Catholic who is glad she took the time to read Archbishop Chaput’s responses to the NCRegister interview. I’m heartened, not heartsick, as I might have been if I had settled for reading only commentary from either extreme of my bipolar Catholicism. I echo the sense of a commenter at the NCR who says Abp Chaput speaks from “the extreme center.” Hallelujah!

    And hooray for the Capuchins! May God grant Philadelphia’s new Ordinary time and energy and health and courage to carry out the will of the Holy Spirit with the firmness and charity his comments reflect.

  • j

    Streaming live http://www.archphila.org noon

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Anchoress, you write:
    “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.”

    And you say we shouldn’t fret? Don’t you think that’s a call for action? It has always struck me (perhaps I picked this up from James Joyce) that Catholicism seems disposed to paralysis. It couldn’t prevent the schism, it couldn’t prevent the Reformation, it was lacking in its counter, and it nows seems proned to extinction, or near it anyway. Maybe the Church leaders need to take some management classes on proactive foresight. Apparently they didn’t have a clue on how to handle the abuse scandel. I hope the next Pope is not as defeatest as that statement by our current Pope.

    Now there may not be a way to combat it. Perhaps the cultural forces are so overwhelming that the Church and most Christians will be bowled over in the avalanche. I don’t know. But acceptance without resistance is a sure way of defeat. Who knows, maybe I will be the last generation Catholic in my family?

    Sounds like Abs Chaput is what we need, maybe as Pope. I like his fighting spirit.

    [No, we shouldn't fret. Unless you don't believe that God permits things to happen, always for our good. We keep saying "we look for the coming of the Lord" but we fret, fret, fret when the things that must happen before that day start happening. admin]

  • http://victor-undergo.blogspot.com/ Victor

    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.

    Hey Anchoress! Don’t tell any body cells where you heard this from but a little birdy told me that in the spiritual world, they hold an election every day in God’s Temple or should I say that The Body of Christ must pick only “ONE” Good cell and “ONE” bad cell to make “IT” to the next day and then we just keep going round and round.

    Hey Anchoress, maybe we are really made in The Image of God cause this little birdy also told me that as we speak, NOW is at work and we God’s Children keep taking “ONE” step forward and two steps back and The Good News is that before we know “IT” spiritually speaking, our soul and spirit might find that we are over our neck in weeds if you know what I mean?

    I hear ya! Victor, from all of your past comments that I’ve read and the short span that I spent on your blog, I can only wonder at this moment who I’m really listening to. Is “IT” sinner vic, sinner victor, me, myself, soul and or simply your spirit and then again I’m wondering if “IT” is not just your god trying to steal your Itentity again? Go Figure! :)

    Hey Anchoress maybe “IT” really is The Bird of Paradise!


  • Gregg the Obscure

    Here are a Denverite’s observations about Abp. Chaput.

    First, he is clearer in his communications than most clergy. People who aren’t used to clarity sometimes find that jarring.

    He’s serious about his faith. He doesn’t shy away from controversy. He’s outspoken in his opposition to capital punishment and the responsibility of Catholics to treat immigrants humanely – even when those folks came here in violation of the law. Those probably aren’t the controversies most would associate with him, but they’re there. Of course he’s also excoriated in some circles for teaching the ordinary magisterium of the Church such as opposition to genocide and support for marriage and family. He doesn’t dissent from the Church’s perpetual teachings and he’s not in favor of the Church hypocritically ignoring any of the teachings that our cultural elites so passionately hate.

    He’s serious about formation for everyone. During his time in Denver, we went from having one vestigial seminary to two vibrant seminaries. He’s invited a broad range of orders and “movements” to Denver including Neocatechumenal Way, Communion & Liberation, Community of the Beatitudes, Christian Living Movement, Capuchin Poor Clares and Oblates of the Virgin Mary.

    He’s serious about everyone doing their part. Not only do laity have a big role in the Archdiocese, but clergy are held accountable too. He declined a Jesuit’s application for incardination as a diocesan priest a few years back because that applicant didn’t toe the line in a situation where it seems that most other bishops would have been more indulgent.

    He’s generous to his priests. I personally know two priests who had year-plus leaves of absence to assist ailing family members.

    He’s got a difficult situation ahead of him, but he’s well suited for it.

  • Chris-2-4

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

    I didn’t pick up on much optimism there. Name calling, yes, but optimisim? Not so much.

  • Jen

    C’mon Elizabeth… Winters? Really? He’s not trying to be optimistic. He’s being insulting as he always is. I read his piece and I found it mostly a politely-worded attack from his intellectually-superior perch. As though he has the wits to compete with AB Chaput — hardly!

    If only we had a hundred more “culture warriors” like the fearless Chaput… how blessed we’d be. Philadelphia just got an early Christmas present.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    “No, we shouldn’t fret. Unless you don’t believe that God permits things to happen, always for our good. We keep saying “we look for the coming of the Lord” but we fret, fret, fret when the things that must happen before that day start happening. admin”

    I cannot tell what God permits. If God sees the end of Christianity as a good thing, so be it. I can tell you that if human effort is not made toward an endeavor, it will not get done. I know that if a farmer doesn’t cultivate his crops, he will starve. If human effort is not made to preserving the Catholic Church, it will fall apart. I guess that could be God’s will. Frankly I can’t believe the Pope made that statement about the Church getting smaller and Catholics becoming martyrs. Not only is it defeatest, it’s rather shocking. I cannot imagine Pope JPII saying that.

    [Read God and the World, a conversation between Ratzinger and Peter Seewald -- it's a remarkable book, and that is where the quote is from. Why do you find it so difficult to believe? Where are the churches Paul wrote to in the scriptures? They're gone, as are the nations. The church grew somewhere else; nations grew somewhere else. This is not NEW. This is actually pretty old. But the Pope is visionary here: he sees the times and understands them. Yes, we will get smaller. And stronger. And then comes triumph. Not as the world understands it, though. The world says "defeatist" -- the church and scripture both say "triumph." -admin]

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    LOL, alright, I yield to you, but it seems an aweful lot like defeatest to me. ;) I think we can do better. And I suspect (I hope) the Pope does too.

    [But who knows what is "better" in the mind of God? :-) -admin]

  • http://www.stateofplayblog.com Thomas L. McDonald

    John Allen’s excellent interview had to have been conducted some time last week, which means he was one of the few to know in advance. That’s because, well… he’s John Allen. It’s a great interview.

    I’m just an observer of Philadelphia Catholicism from the other side of the river. No one writing on the subject knows it from the inside better than Rocco Palmo, and he certainly seems optimistic. Michael Sean Winters’ hatred of Archbishop Chaput drips from every line he writes. I don’t see charity in his words. It doesn’t seem like he wishes the Archbishop well; it seems like he wishes the Archbishop would be more like Michael Sean Winters. His description of the Chaput is little more than a caricature. Allen’s work reveals the real man: Winters merely offers a bogeyman of his own imagining.