In new interview, Archbishop Chaput opens up about new book, cultural challenges, Biden administration

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia speaks at the Vatican Press Office March 25 2014 Credit Daniel Ibanez  CNA Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia speaks at the Vatican Press Office, March 25, 2014. | Daniel Ibanez / CNA.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, who retired as Archbishop of Philadelphia last year, has released a new book taking a look at how Catholics can ground their life in “right loyalties” in order to remember the things that are really important.

 CNA recently spoke with Archbishop Chaput about Things Worth Dying for: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living, published March 16 by Henry Holt and Co.

During the conversation, the archbishop discussed how Catholics can hold fast to their faith in an often-hostile world, and how remembering one’s death can help focus and orient one’s life.

He also touched on recent changes in American culture, challenges in U.S. politics, and his life since retiring as Archbishop of Philadelphia last year.
Please read below the full text of CNA's interview with Archbishop Chaput:


CNA:How does this new book connect with your previous book,Render unto Caesar?

Archbishop Chaput:Living the Christian faith in an honest way involves applying the Gospel to everything we think and do, or at least trying to.Render Unto Caesar focused pretty heavily on the proper intersection of our Catholic beliefs with politics and culture. But a lot has changed in our country in the 13 years between the two books. Both our politics and our culture have become very conflictive.Things Worth Dying Forhas plenty of thoughts on culture and politics, but that’s not its main focus.Things Worth Dying Foris much more about the work of remembering who we are as Christian believers and grounding our lives in the right loyalties; the things that give us meaning and interior peace.

CNA:Why the titleThings Worth Dying For?

Archbishop Chaput:What we’re willing to die for reveals what we’re willing to live for, the things we really hold as sacred -- not just with our words, but with our hearts. We all eventually die, and we all hope for a “good” death. But a good death can only be had as the fruit of a good life, a life lived with integrity and right purpose. How to get that integrity and live with that right purpose are the substance of the book.

CNA:Why do you think American Catholics need to be reminded of these things worth dying for?

Archbishop Chaput:Americans enjoy a remarkably successful consumer economy. Even the poorest among us live better than much of the world. But that same economy cocoons us in distractions, anesthetics, and noise. We can easily lose sight of what’s really important until it’s too late to do anything about the course and meaning of our lives. We need to remember why we’re here, and that “why” can’t be answered in a satisfying way by anything this world has to offer.

CNA:What do you think are the hardest choices American Catholics have to make today to honor a true Catholic identity?

Archbishop Chaput:All of us -- clergy, lay, and religious alike -- prefer comfort to discomfort, and none of us wants to be the target of contempt or public criticism. In the past, religious faith always had a respected place in our nation’s life. Now it’s often treated with derision. For believers that’s new, very unpleasant, and a big temptation to cowardice. But if we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, we can’t avoid the cross. If we want to keep our Catholic identity, it comes with a price tag in personal witness that can be painful.

CNA:Your critics claim that your approach to Catholic identity is that of a “culture warrior,” out of sync with what would be a more “pastoral” approach. How would you respond to that?

Archbishop Chaput:There’s a wonderful term in psychology called “projection.” It’s the habit -- the very common habit -- of projecting onto others the attitudes and sins we’re guilty of ourselves.  Whenever someone tosses around that accusation of “culture warrior,” it’s useful to take a close look at their own motives. Culture warriors come in all shapes, sizes and locations on the cultural spectrum, including quite a few of those who describe themselves as progressive, and for whom the word “pastoral” often translates as accommodating or indulgent.

Scripture reminds us that we need to speak the truth with love. Human personsalways require our respect as children of God. But we still do need to speak the truth. Condemning people is wrong. Naming and resisting destructive behavior is right, and often necessary; and not to do so is a lack of courage. If conflict results from simply stating the truth, there’s no reason to apologize for or fear it. Conflict is a regrettable but unavoidable part of life in a fallen world. It’s never pastoral to mislead anyone, either by our words or by our silence.

CNA:What kind of challenges do American Catholics face today, when the president is a baptized Catholic who disagrees in practice with core Catholic principles?

Archbishop Chaput:President Biden’s administration is and will be a very damaging problem for the Church and for all American Catholics who take the teaching of their faith seriously. Anyone who suggests otherwise -- whatever his rank or role in the Church -- is simply deluding himself and others. You can’t be Catholic and cherry pick the issues you choose to believe. You can certainly try, and enjoy the applause as you do; but “big tent” Catholicism, sooner or later, ends up as an empty tent. Nobody really needs it.

CNA:What new perspective has retirement offered you? How do you look back at your vocation and your ministry?

Archbishop Chaput:Retirement has been a gift; it’s been a quiet time to think, make sense of things, and cultivate gratitude. I have a lot, a very great deal, to be grateful for. My priesthood and ministry as a bishop, and the friendships and experiences that have come with them, have made my life rich. God is real, and God is good.


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