It must identify the problems with the mainstream culture – an excessive individualism, a flawed notion of freedom, and the "privatization of religion," he said.
The individualism affects America so that the "common good remains unexplored and unarticulated," and thus "we do tend to lose our corporate social identity and a shared sense of moral direction."
There is also a flawed understanding of freedom today "as spontaneous personal choice and self-determination," he said. This differs from the traditional understanding of "freedom for excellence," which is the "disciplining of desire" so that doing good becomes "possible, and then effortless."
Also, today's culture suffers from the "privatization of religion," he added, noting that "authentic Christianity can never be privatized" and that all areas of life belong to God. The Church "certainly doesn't absent itself" from the public square, he insisted.
What can the Church find good in American culture? Pope St. John Paul II set an example of this when he praised the Western human rights tradition, Bishop Barron said.
The Pope did not endorse the modern belief of human rights as grounded in "desire," he explained. Rather, he grounded human rights in "every individual" being "a subject of inviolable dignity and worth, and from this identity flow rights and a claim to justice."
In taking the existing human rights tradition and elevating it, Pope John Paul II was "transforming water into wine" in "assimilating a key feature of secular culture into the organic life of the Church," Bishop Barron said.
Another positive element of American society is its "limited government carefully structured" with "checks and balances," he said, which opposes the anti-biblical "theory of perfectibility" that man can be perfected in society. The biblical belief that law and justice come from God fueled both the emancipation movement and the civil rights movement, he said.
Figures like President Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also spoke out against injustices of their time using biblical language and quoting figures like St. Thomas Aquinas.
In doing so, Bishop Barron said, they were not trying "to impose a sectarian vision on the nation. Rather, "each creatively and non-aggressively introduced his most deeply-felt religious convictions into the public forum."
In the same sense, he said, the Church is entering the public forum in a "missionary" spirit to dialogue with it, "to make the world more like the Church."
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.