.- Charles J. Chaput, the Archbishop of Denver, spoke in Sydney on Wednesday night at a Theology on Tap session as part of a World Youth Day Youth Festival Event. In a speech which will be broadcast on the Australian television station Channel Nine, he exhorted young Catholics to avoid living a double life of âpart-time Christianity,â and to know and love Christ âlike our lives depend on it.â
Addressing a crowd of young people in P.J. Gallagherâs Irish Pub in Sydney, Archbishop Chaput said that Christian believers are pressured to live a âdouble life,â that is, âto be one person when weâre in church or at prayer and somebody different when weâre with our friends or family, or at work, or when we talk about politics.â He said Catholics should not internalize the âold adageâ to avoid talking about religion and politics.
âThese are precisely the things we should be talking about,â the archbishop argued. âNothing else really matters. What could be more important than religious faith, which deals with the ultimate meaning of life, and politics, which deals with how we should organize our lives together for the common good?â
The archbishop noted how Australian bishopsâ opposition to a bill that would allow the cloning of embryonic stem cells, opposition which he called courageous, was greeted with talk about charging Catholic leaders with intimidating Ministers of Parliament and tampering with the legislative process.
âAll because they had the audacity to voice a political opinion that was based on their religious convictions,â Archbishop Chaput said. He further noted that a Belgian bishop had even faced criminal charges, which were dismissed, for explaining Church teaching that homosexual activity is a sin.
The archbishop continued, âthese cases have a very calculated âchilling effect.â They reinforce, with the threat of jail and fines, the pressures that we Catholics already feel to keep our mouths shut. To obey the âdouble lifeâ rule. To define our faith as simply private prayer and personal piety.â
But Christians cannot âlive a half-way Christianity.â âEvery double life will inevitably self-destruct,â Archbishop Chaput insisted.
The way to lead a Christian life in a secular age, he said, rests on knowing what to think about Jesus despite popular misconceptions about him.
The archbishop quoted a statement from the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, who said an influential view of Jesus holds that he was someone âwho demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us.â
âWeâve remade him in the image and likeness of secular compassion,â Archbishop Chaput elaborated. âToday heâs not the Lord, the Son of God, but more like an enlightened humanist nice guy.â
âThe problem is this: If Jesus isnât Lord, if he isnât the Son of God, then he canât do anything for us. Then the Gospel is just one more or less interesting philosophy of life.â
The archbishop critiqued another misconception of Jesus, saying:
âJesus didnât come down from heaven to tell us to go to church on Sunday. He didnât die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we would pray more at home and be a little nicer to our next-door neighbors. The fact that you smile when I say these things means we know intuitively how absurd it is to imagine a privatized, part-time Christianity.â
Rather than believe such false conceptions, he said, âwe need to take Christ at his word. We need to love him like our lives depend on it. Right now. And without excuses.â
âJesus wants all of us. And not just on Sundays. He wants us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind. He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is, with a love thatâs total.â
Being a follower of Christ is not just one part of life. âBeing a Christian is who you are. Period. And being a Christian means your life has a mission. It means striving every day to be a better follower, to become more like Jesus in your thoughts and actions.â
Archbishop Chaput invoked as model Christians Blessed Charles de Foucauld and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter. The former, he said, asked himself what God wanted of him and how he should follow Christ. The latter man, an Austrian, refused to cooperate with the Nazi regime and was executed as what the archbishop described as âa martyr for the truth that a Catholic can never lead a double-life.â
He exhorted the audience to prayer, âtalking to God, humbly and honestly,â to daily reading of the Gospels, and to study the teachings of the Church.
âLove the Church; love her as your mother and teacher,â he counseled. âHelp to build her up, to purify her life and work. We all get angry when we see human weakness and sin in the Church. But we have to remember always that the Church is much, much more than the sum of her human parts.â
He asked the audience to explain and to defend Christian teaching at every level of society in the face of âinhuman trends.â
âThe leaders of todayâs secularized societies like to fancy themselves as true humanists and humanitarians,â Archbishop Chaput said. âBut these same societies justify killing millions of babies in the womb and dismembering embryos in the laboratory. We dispatch the handicapped and the elderly and call it âdeath with dignity.â Our very language has become distorted.â
Without the truth of Christ, he said, Christians living a double life will self-destruct or, worse, merely waste away.
âOnly the truth can set people free. That truth is Jesus Christ. So if we truly love our neighbors we will want them to know the truth. The whole truth. Not just the parts of it that make them feel good, the parts that donât challenge them to change.â