Archbishop Chaput exhorted his fellow bishops to challenge the faithful to heroic virtue and not to settle for mediocrity – as Pope Francis so challenged Catholics at the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
"To reclaim the Church for the Catholic imagination, we should start by renewing in our people a sense that eternity is real, that together we have a mission the world depends on, and that our lives have consequences that transcend time," he insisted. While engaging the culture, Catholics must keep a healthy distance from it lest they assimilate into it, he added.
Challenging the faithful may drive some away from the Church, he admitted, but leaders must not be afraid to preach the truth in charity, no matter the consequences.
"Obviously we need to do everything we can to bring tepid Catholics back to active life in the Church," he said. "But we should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter Church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness."
And, he added, if preaching the truth is distasteful to Catholics who are not living out their faith, that "may in fact be more honest for those who leave and healthier for those who stay."
It is this honesty that is required to preach the truth with love, he insisted, saying "there can be no real charity without honesty." Examples of a lack of honesty today include when words are misinterpreted or abused – like the term "accompaniment," he said.
Regarding "accompaniment," Pope Francis "rightly teaches us the need to meet people where they are, to walk with them patiently, and to befriend them on the road of life," he said. However, he maintained, others interpret this "accompaniment" wrongly.
"Where the road of life leads does make a difference – especially if it involves accompanying someone over a cliff," he said.
The present times may be difficult for Christians, the archbishop admitted. "It's a moment for courage and candor," he said, "but it's hardly the first moment of its kind."
Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.