Just up the road in Phoenix, Archbishop Chaput of Denver spoke to the Phoenix Catholic Physician’s Guild last month. In his address (courtesy of CERC), Chaput equates our modern moral situation with a culture caught up in the latest fashion, passing fads that fail to sustain our real longings or answer our deepest questions. He says,
We live in a culture where our marketers and entertainment media compulsively mislead us about the sustainability of youth; the indignity of old age; the avoidance of suffering; the denial of death; the meaning of real beauty; the impermanence of every human love; the dysfunctions of children and family; the silliness of virtue; and the cynicism of religious faith. It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves. And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other — and greater — generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.
What have we done with that freedom? In whose service do we use it now?
Freedom is the bedrock of American culture. Used and understood properly, freedom is the motivating force behind our significant place in the world. Our love for freedom made people desire to be free from an oppressive king. Our desire for freedom created a constitutional structure that empowered the individual and limited the government to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Our love of freedom has led us to bring democracy to other parts of the world and help establish the rule of law that protects individual rights and freedoms. But we may have lost a sense of the proper end of freedom in our modern age.
All too often now, freedom is misunderstood as “license,” the ability to do what you want without a care of how it affects others. We too often think that freedom protects us from others instead of being freedom for something greater than ourselves. We need, as Archbishop Chaput notes, to recover this sense of freedom to recover what it is to be American:
In order to work, America depends as a nation on a moral people shaped by their religious faith, and in a particular way, by the Christian faith. Without that living faith, animating its people and informing its public life, America becomes something alien and hostile to the very ideals it was founded on.
We need to recapture the great ideals on which this nation was founded. We need to recover a sense of true freedom. We need to live our faith as Catholic Americans in the world and bring the light of Christ to a culture so often caught in darkness.