Believers, he said, must use all of the Catholic tradition's resources to shape the future. Otherwise they will find themselves lost in “the 'next America' we now see emerging – an America ignorant or cynical toward religion in general and Christianity in particular.”
He noted that believers themselves had fostered this cultural crisis, both by their actions and by things left undone.
“We can blame the mass media, or the academy, or science, or special interest groups for the environment we now face,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“But we Christians–including we Catholics–helped create it with our eagerness to fit in, our distractions and overconfidence, and our own lukewarm faith.”
In the next several decades, the archbishop see an America emerging that is “likely to be much less friendly to Christian faith than anything in our country’s past … It’s not a question of when or if it might happen.”
And in that type of cultural environment, colleges and other Catholic institutions could use their freedom meaningfully, or continue losing it, he warned.
“It's happening today,” he said, citing state pressure on Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies, as well as lawsuits attacking religious liberty, restrictions on the conscience rights of doctors and other professionals, and attacks on religious institutions' tax-exempt status and hiring rights.
“Freedom of belief and religious practice used to be a concern that Americans had about other countries,” Archbishop Chaput said. “Now it’s a concern in ours.”
He told his Assumption College audience that their calling, in this context, was not to conform themselves to the world, but to oversee a revival in culture and the life of the mind.
“The vocation of a Catholic college is to feed the soul as well as the mind … to offer a vision of men and women made whole by the love of God, the knowledge of creation, and the reality of things unseen,” Archbishop Chaput reflected.
This, he said, “is the work that sets fire to a young person’s heart … Our task is to start that blaze and let it grow.”
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