Archbishop Chaput: “If laypeople don’t love their Catholic faith enough…nothing the bishops do will finally matter.”

Archbishop Chaput: “If laypeople don’t love their Catholic faith enough…nothing the bishops do will finally matter.” June 20, 2013

Absolutely right. To think otherwise is foolish.

It would be the same as thinking that only the Joint Chiefs of Staff  are needed to do the fighting in a war. Who needs all those officers and  enlisted folks carrying all the rifles, flying planes, and manning ships,  doing the actual work?

Sun Tzu knows that is ridiculous.

If the army is confused and suspicious, neighboring rulers will take advantage of this and cause trouble. This is what is meant by: “A confused army leads to another’s victory.”

Thus, there are five points in which victory may be predicted:

1. He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

2. He who understands how to fight in accordance with the strength of antagonistic forces will be victorious.

3. He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious.

4. He who is well prepared and lies in wait for an enemy who is not well prepared will be victorious.

5. He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the sovereign will be victorious.

It is in these five matters that the way to victory is known.

So snap out of it! In the Catholic Register yesterday, Archbishop Chaput was interviewed by Peter Jesserer Smith. Here’s a snippet to get you started,

Archbishop Chaput and the rest of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have called upon Catholic Americans to observe the second annual “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 to July 4. The bishops have asked Catholics to engage in two weeks of prayer, education and action to address the many challenges to religious liberty in the United States, especially as the Aug. 1 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate approaches.

But while the U.S. bishops have highlighted this issue, Archbishop Chaput makes the case that the fate of religious liberty falls squarely upon the shoulders of the lay faithful. The archbishop has warned Catholics that they need to “wake up” and realize that the recent IRS scandals involving the deliberate targeting of political (and even religious) groups not favorable to the White House is only a foretaste of the consequences of losing the national discussion on religious liberty.

In this interview with the Register, Archbishop Chaput explains why the lay faithful must take up their role as the leaders in the fight for religious liberty — and why the U.S. bishops can’t do this for them.

What responsibility do laypeople have to take action on behalf of the Church’s religious liberty? Why can’t this responsibility rest solely on the bishops’ shoulders?

The secular world is the place where laypeople exercise their leadership most naturally. It’s the environment of their everyday lives and their primary mission field. Bishops can counsel and teach, but their role in practical political affairs like the fight for religious liberty can only be indirect and secondary.

If laypeople don’t love their Catholic faith enough to struggle for it in the public square, nothing the bishops do will finally matter.

How should we Catholics understand the different responsibilities of the lay faithful and their pastors and bishops in this fight for religious freedom?

American Catholic culture has a strong dose of “let Father do it.” A hundred years ago, when the Church was still an immigrant faith under pressure and dealing with constant bigotry, a heavy dependence on priests for almost everything in Catholic life was natural. But in the long run it’s not healthy, and it encourages clericalism on the part of the clergy and laziness on the part of laypeople.

What’s our relationship with our bishops, then, and our proper role?

Priests do have a special task of leadership within the believing community through the sacrament of holy orders. But we all share a fundamental Christian equality in baptism, and priests can’t — and shouldn’t — take the lead where laypeople can do a better job.

When it comes to politics, economics and social policy, the main duty of a bishop is to preach basic principles. Sometimes, on some pivotal issues, bishops need to be more engaged in the details of legislation. But, overall, Catholic witness in the secular world should be the work of prudent, faithful laypeople.

Note that the two key words there are “prudent” and “faithful.” Both qualities are vital to the lay vocation.

Read the rest, and mark your calendars. Prayers start tomorrow.



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  • michicatholic

    History shows that a little hardship has not always been a bad thing for the Church, and we are there again. The plain fact is that what Abp. Chaput says has always been true for just about everything that happens outside the doors of the Church building. It is the vocation of laypeople to manage families, politics, economics and a whole host of other things. But you wouldn’t have heard that 5 or 10 years ago.

    The timing of this statement is interesting. It looks almost like the USCCB et al is trying to wash their hands of what they’ve made so much noise about, but what they were ultimately going to let happen anyway. The fact is that laypeople did not approve the use of insurance policies that cover contraception in Catholic institutions in New York more than a decade ago, and we will not be physically signing the papers in any of these other cases either. That needs to be made clear. Many laypeople have been trying to pull the USCCB et al back from their disastrous laisson with politics and the federal government for years to deaf ears. Now we are at the logical conclusion. More food for thought in hardship.

    There is one more aspect to this that the Abp brings up. Laypeople are passive because they are often spiritually immature. The reason that they are spiritually immature is because the Gospel is not preached and spiritual growth is not encouraged and facilitated among Catholics. In fact, when it occurs, it is often punished. This has to end, if for no other reasons than these: 1) Catholics are immature spiritually, and 2) they’re leaving the Church in droves because of it. 10% of the American population is now former Catholics.

    • StumblingChristian

      So much of what you have posted I agree with. Lots of what I see, of late, on Catholic blogs are folks who criticize the Church about this, that or the other. Many either admire or sneer at the Holy Father and then proceed to dictate what is right and what is wrong as if they know. Some proceed to tell us one Mass is better than the other Mass and act as if those of us who do not attend the one they are promoting are lost.

      Yes, I just had a sad rant but what is sadder is the lack of fervor in so many places. The fire needs to be rekindled. I pray for holy fire to fall from the heavens, to burn away all that keeps me from being a faithful daughter of the Church. I want to pray, hope and never forget the treasure which we have been given; Jesus Crucified and His Church.

      I read on another site that in Turkey, the muslims are planning to turn the Sophia Hagha (once the church of Constantinople) into a mosque. The beauty of that church that once stood for Christianity in the East is currently a museum and will soon become a mosque. I was very sad to read about that and wondered…had it been a Catholic Church, that would not happen…we would die first before it did or I can only hope we will wake from our slumber before we too, are run over.

      Lord Jesus…let us become one as you so desire.
      Help us to defend truth.
      Help us to rise up from our slumber,
      from our pettiness,
      from our spiritual sloth.
      May it begin with me.

      • michicatholic

        The solution isn’t haggling over buildings or wishing things would change. The solution is learning the Gospel and working to understand what that means in concrete terms. We have deep problems, one of which is a culture of silence, blame and passivity. We have got to get past this and get to conversion again. The Church will continue to have problems until we do.

    • 5. He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the sovereign will be victorious.

  • To the large extent, I agree with the Archbishop.

    But there are some areas where the Laity just isn’t competent, and the Archbishops are. And unless the Archbishops are willing to fight with us instead of against us in those areas, we’re going to lose.

    Three incidents *recently* have caused me to doubt that the Archbishops are truly on our side:
    1. Archcare in New York going along with the union in the arenas of abortion and contraception.
    2. The continuing lack of guts to excommunicate lay Catholic politicians who use their bully pulpit to teach heresy. I don’t know if Nancy Pelosi is a formal heretic, but she’s certainly a material one.
    3. The continuing coverup, once again, of priests who shouldn’t be working with children to the extent that they are able to work with children (yes, I’m looking at New Jersey here).

    From a Catholic heavily involved in the politics of a hostile state like Oregon (where near-infanticide and euthanasia are not only legal, but encouraged), these political failures do hurt- even when they’re 3000 miles away.

  • vlm

    Laity the unwrapped gift of the Church. As I read the article I have several questions fr laity and clergy….Why is it that the Church in writing affirms the value and role of laity yet in action often the role of laity who are duly formed in the faith is not as sought after e.g. the documents of the Church speak to Co Workers in the Vineyard role of La leadership but how any of our Bishops or clergy have pushed this document….The language of the Church is for Lay Ecclesial Ministers for those ministerial lay for formed yet most bishops and priest haggle over the use of the title …as well the is drastic shortage of priests articulately in our urban communities yet there is no conversation around Lay Administered led parishes where there exists airy fully equipped to step into these roles…few very few Catholic diocese or organization contribute to the financial prep and formation of laity in pastoral ministry….as one duly formed at doctoral level non existence funding to trin and prepare our laity….Other Faith traditions contribute scholarships grants etc to help the formation of those entering into learning to serve their faith witness…..As well evangelization is our primary mission but how effective are we at it? Entire communities e.g.the African American community have had little effort directed toward them for evangelization by the wider Church….to the ends of the earth was the command that did not exclude the African American community which has had to mostly been ignored. What a vibrant gift and spirituality that the Church had missed both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II noted this…
    Inculturation so very vital for our Church another pastoral that the Bishops have written but have virtually ignored ….Yes we as Baptized Confirmed Catholics have a responsibility to full Orthodoxy and that includes being an authentic Universal Church…Why is it that the Church of Africa growing in leaps and bounds because the Inculturation of the Church with Shepherds Bishops Cardinals Priest who look and are in the vernacular of the people….

  • vlm

    Contd. There is a gift in the laity that is under utilized…For over a year I have contacted my Archdiocesan office of Evangelization to be a voice as to the evangelization needs of the laity of youth of women as lay leaders as to needs of African American communities who are interested in evangelization .no response…..New Evangelization rooted in orthodoxy truly needed but it has to have te voices and face representative to an authentically universal church willing and interested in the sense of the faithful…I love my Church My Catholic Faith yet I love Jesus the most being a doer of the word and His leading by example….Laity also has a responsibility to know their faith to be articulate defenders of their. They must be able to give an accounting to their faith in Christ Jesus…They must support the mission of their Church they must defend and support Holy Priest And Deacons and Bishops and yes they Must make their Shepherds accountable in Spirit and Truth. Yes they must also raise up and support those called who have evidenced a charism as lay leaders …all are not called to religious orders or priesthood or diaconate but many are called to lay leadership but they have no support from their parish church diocesan leadership or acceptance from lay community…..Many are Called But Few are being Supported…….Let us grow Our Church the Body of a Christ let us get on with the business of saving souls and leading folk to Christ….