Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Archbishop Chaput on Church and State

Back in November of 2009 when Rep. Patrick Kennedy challenged the American bishops regarding their stance on abortion coverage in Obama's health care takeover, Kennedy's bishop, Rev. Thomas Tobin, responded with a few words about the role of faith in the life of a public servant. Bishop Tobin was very clear that a politican's first obligation is to his faith (the 1:20 mark on the video to be exact).

Just recently, on March 1, Archbishop Chaput of Denver, spoke on the subject again at Houston Baptist University. Chaput clarifies a bit of history on this point by unraveling how, in 1960, John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic to run for president of the United States, distorted the matter of separation between church and state and helped set the ground work for the Patrick Kennedys, the Ted Kennedys, the Pelosis, Bidens, Cuomos, Sebeliuses and all the other Catholics in public office today who sacrifice the teachings of their faith for worldly, political gain.

Chaput notes that, contrary to the impression many have and that Kennedy's speech then promoted, our Constitution doesn't call for a separation of church and state.
Early in his remarks, Kennedy said: "I believe in an America where the
separation of Church and state is absolute." Given the distrust historically shown to Catholics in this country, his words were shrewdly chosen. The trouble is, the Constitution doesn't say that. The Founders and Framers didn't believe that. And the history of the United States contradicts that. Unlike revolutionary leaders in Europe, the American Founders looked quite favorably on religion.
It wasn't until a Supreme Court decision arose in 1947 that the now, oft-quoted letter in which Thomas Jefferson used the phrase came to light.
Thus, the modern, drastic sense of the "separation of Church and state" had little force in American consciousness until Justice Hugo Black excavated it from a private letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association.4 Justice Black then used Jefferson's phrase in the Supreme Court's Everson v. Board of Education decision in 1947.
But there's more. Chaput explains that in 1948 Catholic bishops wrote a response, a rebuttal really, to the Court's decision. The bishops explained,
"It would be an utter distortion of American history and law" to force the nation's public institutions into an "indifference to religion and the exclusion of cooperation between religion and government . . ." They rejected Justice Black's harsh new sense of the separation of Church and state as a "shibboleth of doctrinaire secularism."5 And the bishops argued their case from the facts of American history.
But there's still more. To make matters worse, Kennedy quoted the bishops' letter, but not the part about the importance of faith in public life!

I'm inclined to rant on about the irony and injustice of JFK, a Catholic, helping to bring about the secularization of our culture, especially our political culture. It's so satisfying to point the finger at others. However, reading all the way to the end of the Archbishop's speech, he reminds all Christians that, " Our job is to love God, preach Jesus Christ, serve and defend God's people, and sanctify the world as his agents."

How to carry out this job is a little thorny at times, especially when encountering a culture that on the surface seems so satisfied with relativism, spiritualism, multiculturalism and all the other isms that have replaced Christian faith. Here are Archbishop Chaput's words given at the end of his speech as he enjoins us to rebuild the Christian principles our country was founded on.
May God grant us the grace to love each other, support each other and live wholly for each other in Jesus Christ—so that we might work together in renewing the nation that has served human freedom so well.

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