Philly Archbishop: Wealthy Nations Frozen in ‘Moral Adolescence’

DENVER, CO - JULY 20: Catholic Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput answers questions at a news conference on July 20, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. Chaput was announced Tuesday as the Archbishop-designate for the dioces of Philadelphia, one of the country’s largest dioceses in the United States. The church in Philadelphia …
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THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told his fellow bishops in Rome Thursday that many prosperous nations are in fact “underdeveloped in their humanity” because of a semi-permanent state of moral adolescence.

Not only that, the archbishop said, they also “now seek to impose upon others” the adolescence they have chosen for themselves.

In his second address to the Vatican synod on youth, Chaput suggested that the world needs more convincing models of adulthood and maturity, when so many have opted for a more or less permanent state of childishness.

Speaking of Jesus as “eternally young” reminds us that “Jesus is alive and vigorous, and constantly offering his disciples an abundant new life,” he said.

At the same time, “the Jesus who came into the world as an infant did not end his mission as a youth,” Chaput added. “He matured into an adult man of courage, self-mastery, and mercy guided by justice and truth.”

Jesus “was a teacher both tender and forceful; understanding and patient – but also very clear about the kind of human choices and actions that would lead to God, and the kind that would not,” he said.

An emphasis on Christ’s mercy, tenderness, and compassion must always be viewed in the fullness of his life as teacher and savior, the archbishop suggested, which also has repercussions for today’s world.

“The wealthy societies of today’s world that style themselves as “developed” – including most notably my own – are in fact underdeveloped in their humanity,” he said. “They’re frozen in a kind of moral adolescence; an adolescence which they’ve chosen for themselves and now seek to impose upon others.”

The archbishop’s words followed on two weeks of acrimonious debate over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and accusations of sexual impropriety from his high school years.

Chaput said that the synod’s working document “does a good job of exploring the roots of that underdevelopment and the challenges to young people that flow from it.”

Nonetheless, “it needs to be much stronger and more confident in presenting God’s Word and the person of Jesus Christ as the only path to a full and joyful humanity,” he said.

In his first address to the synod of Wednesday, Archbishop Chaput pointed out other flaws in the working document, or instrumentum laboris, chiefly its use of secular language that is incompatible with the Christian understanding of the human person.

“There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic,’ as if our sexual appetites defined who we are,” Chaput said, “as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community, the body of Jesus Christ.”

“This has never been true in the life of the Church, and is not true now,” the archbishop said. “It follows that ‘LGBTQ’ and similar language should not be used in Church documents, because using it suggests that these are real, autonomous groups, and the Church simply doesn’t categorize people that way.”

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