Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On the Reading List?

A new book by Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, seems to be making an impression, both out west and in Rome. Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (possibly not coincidentally) was released at the beginning of August . . . just in time for the media circus of the Democratic National Convention in the bishop's own city.

Perhaps more devastating than the book itself (although the extracts I've read are pretty powerful stuff) is the fact that the author, despite his being a Catholic clergyman, has impeccable "liberal" credentials. He is a Potawatomi Indian (you can't get any more American than that), and is a full-blooded member of the Franciscan Order — the "right" minority, and the acceptable liberal order. His position on pro choice Catholics, especially politicians, thus undermines cherished misconceptions of non-Catholics and Catholics alike.

As the author states in his introduction,
People who take God seriously will not remain silent about their faith. They will often disagree about doctrine or policy, but they won't be quiet. They can't be. They'll act on what they believe, sometimes at the cost of their reputations and careers. Obviously the common good demands a respect for other people with different beliefs and a willingness to compromise whenever possible. But for Catholics, the common good can never mean muting themselves in public debate on foundational issues of human dignity. Christian faith is always personal but never private. This is why any notion of tolerance that tries to reduce faith to private idiosyncrasy, or a set of opinions that we can indulge at home but need to be quiet about in public, will always fail.
If I were to say that Render Unto Caesar needed anything, it would be an appendix outlining Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen as a practical means to empower Catholics — and everyone else — with the ability to stand up for what they believe. Check out Bishop Chaput's book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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