"The America he sees now – an America of abortion, confused sex, language police, entitlements, consumer and corporate greed, clownish politics, and government bullying of religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor – is different in kind, not merely in degree, from the nation he thought he knew," he said.
Archbishop Chaput characterized such feelings as "harsh" but understandable. The archbishop reflected on the so-called "Benedict option." This approach to cultural change takes inspiration from monastic founder St. Benedict. According to the archbishop, this involves "finding a way to preserve people from the most dysfunctional elements of the secular world – either by building new communities or withdrawing mentally, or even physically, from the public culture around us."
He said this approach can be compelling and should not be dismissed as escapism.
However, St. Augustine was someone who loved the world "because he was in love with the Author of the beauty and goodness he found there." Following his example means fulfilling duties "first to the City of God but also to the City of Man," he said, alluding to the saint's political categories.
"It means working with all our energy to make our nation whole and good, even as we keep our expectations modest, and even when we experience criticism and failure. And finally, it means realizing that none of us can do this work alone."
"Augustine would tell us that the real problem with the world is bigger than climate change or abortion or poverty – or even two leading presidential candidates who seem equally distasteful – and it's much more stubborn," the archbishop continued. "The real problem with the world is us."
"As Augustine said in his sermons, it's no use complaining about the times, because we are the times. How we live shapes them."
Archbishop Chaput noted changes in the United States across the centuries. The scale of the country has increased to 300 million people, its demography has changed, its legal theory has changed and its technology has changed. Americans' approach to marriage, relationships and sex has also changed.
"Sexual confusion isn't unique to our age, but the scope of it is. No society can sustain itself for long if marriage and the family fall apart on a mass scale. And that's exactly what's happening as we gather here today," he said.
Members of the LDS Church were leading opponents of the redefinition of marriage. Archbishop Chaput said the U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex unions as marriages was "a legal disaster," but part of cultural trends dating back decades.
"Americans have a deep streak of individualism, a distrust of authority and a big appetite for self-invention. As religion loses its hold on people's behavior, all of these instincts accelerate. The trouble is that once the genie is out of the bottle, sexual freedom goes in directions and takes on shapes that nobody imagined."
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However, even setbacks and failures can create future successes "if we learn the right lessons."
The archbishop closed his remarks by exhorting the audience to follow the unofficial motto of BYU: "Enter to learn, go forth to serve."
"If you do that, you'll inspire others to do the same. And you'll discover in your own life what it means to be fully human," he said.
"Never neglect to nourish your roots and your identity as a university grounded in faith. Faith in God is the road to life. Faith in a loving God is the light that illuminates and gives meaning to human reason and to all of life."