Archbishop Chaput Demagogues Again

Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia is a darling of the right wing, which has been lobbying to make him a cardinal for several years. CRUX, supported by the right-wing Knights of Columbus, recently ran one of Chaput’s rants: “Increased government due to collapse of civil society in America.”

For nearly eight years, Chaput denounced Barack Obama on a wide variety of issues. More than a year after Trump became president, Chaput is still railing about Obama, who he now blames for the collapse of civil society.

Chaput complains of America being “divided and conflicted,” as evidenced by the furor surrounding President Donald Trump. Chaput blames this furor on Obama: “We now have a Donald Trump, at least in part, because we had a Barack Obama. Mr. Trump is a reaction. He’s a gift from the people who felt, or more accurately knew, that they were treated as stupid and irrelevant by both wings of our political leadership class in the last election cycle…And the responsibility for that surprise is shared by both our national parties.”

Not only is Obama to blame for Trump, but the Democratic Party is equally as guilty as the Republicans. This is an astounding revelation from the inspired archbishop. Chaput also overlooks the fact that he himself helped elect Trump by incessantly railing against both Obama and Hillary Clinton, while both implicitly and explicitly praising Trump.  

What collapse of civil society?

What was Chaput’s evidence that civil society has collapsed? “Chaput said that many Americans seem to be distracted and are unaware of how quickly things have changed and invoked Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic work Democracy in America which highlighted America’s strong belief in God as a binding authority for public and civil life.” De Tocqueville finished Democracy in America in 1840. Chaput is apparently measuring America’s decline from this date, and ignores the 170 years between De Tocqueville and Obama. He might also blame Obama for the Civil War - a collapse of civil society that took place soon after De Tocqueville’s book.

Chaput had more to say: “He went on to cite data showing the rise in Americans who identify as an atheist or agnostic and said ‘the Obama presidency embodied the same, more secular spirit,’ evidenced by what he described as a lack of respect for religious liberty.” First, the increasing popularity of atheism and agnosticism started long before Obama took office. Second, unless your idea of civil society is a theocracy, the rise of agnosticism is completely irrelevant. Third, the Obamas went to church nearly every week, and were anything but secular. Chaput rails against them because they were not part of the religious right and were, in his twisted mind, therefore heretics.

The rise of atheists and agnostics

Again, the rise of atheists and agnostics has nothing to do with the “collapse” of civil society. In fact, you’ll find that atheists and agnostics are among our best citizens. They are far less likely to end up in jail than the right-wing Christians that Chaput represents. And if you are looking for causes of increasing agnosticism, priestly pederasty and its cover-up by the Church are much more important. In addition, people have become better educated over the last several decades, and as they become more knowledgeable, they tend to shun religious doctrines of people like Archbishop Chaput - who still argues for the effectiveness and godly superiority of the rhythm method over artificial methods of contraception.

Loss of religious freedom?

Here’s what really bothers Chaput: “Chaput said that the Church must stand by its teachings on ‘the nature of our sexuality, expressed in the complementarity of male and female, and ordered to new life and mutual support,’ and through that witness direct the world to a deeper understanding of human freedom.” Chaput supports the Bible's claim that homosexuality is an abomination. He may also support the biblical penalty of death by stoning. Chaput complains that Obama violated ‘religious freedom’ because he promoted civil rights for gays and transsexuals. This violates the religious freedom of good Christians like Chaput, who prefer to persecute them, like the Bible says. That’s what Chaput means by “a lack of respect for religious liberty.”

What about Jesus?

Note that Archbishop Chaput made no attempt to cite scripture to support his opinions. Nor did he adopt the teachings of Jesus. In fact, the only time he mentioned Jesus was when he was trying to confuse the reader into identifying the Church (and the Archbishop) with Jesus: “the Church has lots of good reasons why people should believe in God, and in Jesus Christ, and in the beauty and urgency of her own mission.”

In fact, Jesus had a good deal to say about Archbishop Chaput’s concept of civil society. He was against it:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household” (Matthew 10:34-36).

Jesus warned against false prophets speaking in his name. Jesus said you’ll know them by their fruit - a good tree cannot produce bad fruit. Take your pick. Wars of religion; burned heretics and witches, book burnings and persecution of science and reason; hundreds of thousands of sexually abused children. Chaput and his ilk have produced a super-abundance of rotten fruit.


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