Poverty and drugs feed on each other, he observed, and yet both also reveal a deeper "crisis of identity and purpose" which can be seen throughout the Americas.
"Real human development takes more – much more – than better science, better management and better consumer goods, though all these things are wonderful in their place. Human happiness can't be separated from the human thirst for meaning."
Therefore, he reflected, efforts that aim solely at satisfying material needs will always fall short of fully serving the human person.
This is also true in responding to other attacks on human dignity, particularly on the family, which is threatened by the "cult of abortion," the disintegration of marriages, the loneliness of the elderly and laws that "cripple a family's right to survive and find work, even across borders when necessary."
In searching for answers, he said, we must remember that "material, programmatic solutions to problems like these, no matter how good they might be, will never work unless they begin with direct human contact and the tenderness of Christian love."
To thoroughly address the problems facing the Church in America today, Catholics leaders must take an honest – and when necessary, self-critical – approach, Archbishop Chaput said.
Because they have been called by God and ordained by the Church to lead, the bishops bear responsibility, and their weaknesses and failures affect their flocks, he said. Although they cannot control the factors that shape the world around them, the bishops are responsible for examining their own hearts and reforming them when necessary.
"Success in the work of evangelization belongs to God, in his own time, in his own way," the archbishop recognized. "But the work belongs to us, now. And it needs to involve more than passing along good doctrine. It needs to lead our people – including the well-catechized – to embrace Jesus Christ and his teaching in a new, more personal way."
As an example, he pointed to some Catholic colleges and charitable ministries that "seem to be 'Catholic' in name only."
"Are we willing to admit this? And are we willing to do something about it?" he asked his fellow bishops.
Ultimately, Archbishop Chaput said, we can see that the "new" evangelization is very much like the "old" evangelization.
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"We need to understand the hopes and fears of today's world, and especially its young adults. And we need to master the new technologies and methods to reach people as they are today," he said. "But programs and techniques don't convert the human heart. Only the witness of other people can do that."