.- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver followed his keynote address to the Emmanuel Community of Rome's conference on "Priests and Laity in the Mission" with a short reflection on the "disappointing times" he is experiencing. He also elaborated on a major theme of his talk—the reality of Satan and the importance of "spiritual combat."
Just before launching into a question and answer session, Archbishop Chaput gave a reflection on his years as a bishop to stimulate discussion, saying, "I thought that after 20 years more of my life things would change and things would be a lot better but I don't think they are.
"I think we live in disappointing times, in times of confusion, and in some ways that is the result of our failure to understand that we have an enemy in the Devil, but also we have enemies in the world around us."
He pointed to a "great talk" from an American Protestant pastor he once heard which was titled "We preach as though we don't have enemies," and reflected that this sentiment "is true in the United States... .”
"I think it's important to understand the we are in a battle, we really do live in a time of spiritual combat and I think we've lost that sense of the Church," Archbishop Chaput stated.
He continued with a comparison of the temptation we face to be like "everyone else" like the Israelites from the Old Testament wishing for a king like the other nations. They wanted a king ... they got Saul and he was a good man, and then he became a politician and he lost his faith. We're just like that."
"In America, we don't want to be different than our Protestant brothers and sisters, or the secular forces around us. And, I think that's the great danger of our time, we don't love God enough and we don't enter into combat with the enemy enough and we need to recommit ourselves to doing that," the Archbishop of Denver urged.
During his keynote address, Archbishop Chaput had also referred to the importance of recognizing that evil exists and that "Satan is real."
Responding later to a question from CNA about where he sees the Devil's presence in society, the archbishop said, "Well, one of the most obvious things in the United States is internet pornography which is pervasive, and subtle, and attractive and totally destructive of peoples' lives and there's very little talk about fighting it.
"If you talk about fighting pornography in the media you're somehow seen as anti-American, anti-freedom of speech. ... things that are so obviously destructive to society..." he said.
The archbishop also named divorce and the changing definition of marriage as places where Satan is holding sway.
"All of the statistical studies show us that a stable relationship between a man and a wife for the sake of children is what produces good, healthy human beings and you can't say that today without being branded as somehow on the opposite side of freedom and truth," Archbishop Chaput explained.
"So, those kind of basic human values, the value of chastity and the value of family life are popularly seen as 'old fashioned' because of the lies, because of the deceptions of the Evil One. Even Catholics are afraid of standing up for the truth because we're afraid of being branded 'old-fashioned.'"
When asked whether there are any successes in the fight today, the archbishop responded, "I think we're doing a lot of very good things and doing well in terms of fighting but in terms of winning the battles, we're not winning many of those cultural battles in terms of the formal direction of society.
"But," he added, "every time an individual is converted the battle has been won in a huge kind of way, because we're not saved as a group. We're saved as individuals and what pleases the enemy of God, Satan, is that individuals are not being faithful to their identity as children of God.
"So, I think every time there's a conversion, every time one of us turns from our sins there is a victory in the battle,” he remarked.
Archbishop Chaput concluded, "There are lots of victories, so I don't think we measure our success in terms of swaying whole segments of society, but it's convincing individuals to give themselves faithfully to the call of God in their lives."