Archbishop Charles Chaput and “Strangers In A Strange Land”
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has a new book out: Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith In a Post-Christian World. It is a must-read for all Christians in the United States. He is my guest in the third hour Monday, and you ought to order the book now.
Audio from 2/21 interview
Audio from 2/20 interview
HH: So pleased to welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show His Excellency, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput. Bishop, welcome, I know that people who are following my tweets as I flew to DC on Saturday and then back to California on Sunday may have heard about Strangers In a Strange Land many, many times. I hope I’m not embarrassing you with overkill, but it’s such a wonderful book that we’ve got to talk about a lot more. But I can’t push people enough. Today is publication day, is it not?
CC: Tomorrow, actually.
HH: Oh, tomorrow, okay.
CC: But I think people are starting to get their books in the mail, though. I’ve heard that from people already.
HH: Well, it is, you know, I read it back when it was in galleys, and I hadn’t really done the close read that you need to do, and I told David Brooks in the green room yesterday that he’s quoted on Page 139. He said I am? And I said yeah, there’s no index. The Archbishop makes you actually read the book. And so was that by design?
CC: Well, no, actually, it’s probably an easier way to do it rather than to index the book. But I’m honored that you told that to him. And actually, I did see your tweets yesterday, and I’m very honored by them so very, very much.
HH: Well, let’s get into the depth of why I think every Christian in America, especially Catholics, but every Christian, and people want to understand Christian America as well need to read Strangers In A Strange Land. It’s linked at Hughhewitt.com. Chapter 3 – Why It Can’t Be Like It Was, “Modesty, virginity, celibacy, sexual restraint, these words are dust magnets in today’s vocabulary – antibiotics passed their expiration date.” While you are full of hope, you are not an optimist about the culture turning back. Porn is too deeply embedded. Parenting is shattered. Half of Catholic youth lose their Catholic identity by age 30. The Pill is ubiquitous and unleashed a large dynamic unknown. And this really surprised me. Only 3% of Hispanic children in the United States attend Catholic schools. Hispanics under the age of 30 are declining to participate. I close with another quote. “The formative spirit in today’s American life is cool to religion and no longer broadly Biblical.” Not a lot of sugarcoating there, Archbishop.
CC: No, I think we have a situation that’s pretty serious and difficult, and the only way to ever do anything about a situation is to know it and speak about it honestly. Otherwise, we’re just talking around issues. You know, about the Hispanics not going to Catholic schools, part of that is a function of many people coming from Latin America don’t have an experience with Catholic schools. It’s only affordable for the very wealthy. And of course, the parents don’t speak, many of the parents don’t speak English, so they feel awkward dealing with the administration of the Catholic schools. So we’re trying to do something about it, but it isn’t simply because they don’t have an interest. In fact, many of them would if they thought they could, so we’re trying to make them understand that they can.
HH: You know, Archbishop, there’s an undercurrent in Strangers In A Strange Land, I noted it a few places, where you talk about the daily grind of being an archbishop. There’s a lot of administrivia. And Richard Haass last hour said you can always become enmeshed in the urgent as opposed to the important. I think Strangers In A Strange Land is an effort to break free and make sure that you’re focused on the important How important is the Catholic school system that I grew up with and was formed by for 12 years in, for example, the archdiocese of Philadelphia?
CC: Well, it was hugely important here historically, and still is. We used to have more than 250,000 kids in the Catholic school system here, which was more than the public school system. And we were taught by thousands and thousands of religious women and priests. Now, we have about 60,000 kids in our school system, but it’s still very, very important. You know, the Catholic school system was developed, in some ways primarily, by one of my predecessors here, St. John Neumann to protect kids from an environment that wasn’t friendly to the Catholic faith. We live in a world today where the environment is probably less friendly to the Catholic faith, or the Christian faith in general, really. People don’t know it, though, and because of that, they’re less interested in sending their kids to Catholic school. They think everything’s just fine. If we really were able to afford a Catholic education for everyone, I think it would be one of the best ways to inoculate people against the viruses that are so present in our society. But unfortunately, it’s very, very difficult to do that these days, so our Catholic school systems are diminishing as time goes on. And it takes an heroic effort on the part of many, many people who are very generous to keep them open. You know, they were created at a time when all the money went to the buildings, and very little money went to the sisters who taught. You know, sisters would get $10 dollars a week salary. But now, all the money’s going to salaries, and our buildings are old now, and they’re beginning to fall apart. So what we’re going to do about this is beyond my imagination, but we’re going to keep trying.
HH: And I want to encourage my Protestant friends, I’m sure Dr. Albert Mohler or the founders of my radio network, Ed Atsinger and Stu Epperson, would be as encouraged by this book and as challenged by this book as all my Catholic friends who are listening. It is a book about the crisis that is engulfing American Christianity. And I want to jump to the end before I come back. I actually had to listen to a lecture by Leszek Kolakowski once at the National Endowment for the Humanities.
CC: Yeah, right
HH: I don’t think I understood a word…
HH: …because he’s a very, very smart but not easy thinker. I had never heard of his short transcript of a metaphysical press conference given by the demon in Warsaw, never.
CC: By the Devil, right. Yeah, yeah.
HH: It’s so, would you tell people about that? It’s so shocking.
CC: Well, I think he’s an author that isn’t actually acknowledged by many people at all. They don’t even know his name. And you know, it’s one of the convictions that many Christians have that the presence of evil in the world hides itself and it pretends to be good. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis was an example of the Devil actually bragging about, you know, people not, tempting people not to believe in him so he could be more active in the world. And so I think being aware of the reality of evil is also an important part of dealing with our culture, because if we see our culture as neutral or primarily good, we are in danger of ignoring the forces of evil, because they really can overwhelm us if we’re not aware and protecting ourselves from them. The Christians have always understood themselves spiritually as being in a spiritual battle, spiritual warfare. And I think it’s important for us to develop the kind of defense mechanisms in that warfare to protect people in our world today.
HH: I want to read the Kolakowski excerpt, which you have on Page 234. He’s addressing Christians cynically, the Devil is. “Where is there a place in your thinking for the fallen angel? Is Satan only a rhetorical figure? Or else, gentlemen, is he a reality, undeniable, recognized by tradition, revealed in Scriptures, commented upon by the Church for two millennia, tangible and acute? Why do you avoid me, gentlemen? Are you afraid that the skeptics will mock you, that you will be laughed at in satirical late night reviews? Since when is the faith affected by the jeers of heathens and heretics? What road are you taking? If you forsake the foundations of the faith for fear of mockery, where will you end?” It goes on, but I bring it up now, because you write that one of the biggest problems earlier in the book is that people are genuinely afraid of being mocked for believing in Jesus or the Devil or any part of Christianity.
CC: That’s right, and I think we’re taught in schools generally that it’s important for us to be objective and have scientific proofs and evidence of everything before we embrace a point of view. We’re taught that everything is else is simply people’s opinion, and so people are afraid to appear foolish in the face of this kind of scientific technological world in which we live, especially people who have jobs at universities and in politics. There’s a great embarrassment about being a woman or a man of faith.
HH: You know, you ask on…
CC: And believing in the Devil is a matter of faith as well as believing in God.
HH: You ask on Page 72 a very, I made a note of this, and I started to write down names. How many public figures or even personal friends do you know who genuinely place God first in their thinking? And I started writing down, and I mentioned Al Mohler, Edward Atsinger, Stu Epperson. I know a lot of people, actually, who do it. But they are not widely known in the public sphere. This is, I think, a problem. The Vice President has said he is a Christian conservative Republican in that order. He may be the most public person to so say.
CC: I think so, too. I really admired him when he said that, because in some circles that would risk an election, actually.
HH: Yeah, very much so. So you quote, in fact, there’s so many people who quote in here, not just Kolakowski and people I’m familiar with like George Weigel and Richard John Neuhaus, and not just books that I’m familiar with like Darkness At Noon and Brave New World, but someone named Jean-Marie Lustiger. How can we claim to be Christians when we continue to live like pagans? That’s really quite a challenge.
CC: He was a…
HH: Who is he? And that…
CC: He was the Archbishop of Paris. He probably died ten or fifteen years ago. He was a Jew who was sent by his family to France to protect him at the time of World War II. His mother was executed in the prisoner of war camps during the Shoah, and he became a Christian freely, I mean, not, wasn’t forced to do that, and eventually became a priest and then was appointed the Archbishop of Paris by Pope John Paul II. He was a personal friend, so I like to quote him, because I knew him and respected him very much. But he was also a very creative thinker. He wasn’t a typical kind of bishop. He was, he had an artistic sense. He was able to express things that would capture people’s imagination.
HH: The breadth and depth of learning and sources quoted in this book is really quite remarkable. And I told David Brooks yesterday not since The Social Animal have I seen the sort of accumulation of authority. How long did it take you to write this?
CC: Well, I think last week, I told you it took a lifetime. But really, probably, three or four years, but in terms of sitting down to write, about 18 months.
HH: And then we find Mitch Pearlstein. I mean, I’m very surprised by a number of people I’ve known Mitch forever from the Center for American Excellence up in Minnesota, and Charles Murray on his Belmont Fish Town comparison, things that we’ve been talking about for a long time.
CC: Right. Fish Town’s right in my diocese here, so I’m very, very fond of quoting…
HH: So when you sat down…oh, he is? I didn’t know that. Oh, I didn’t know that.
CC: Yeah, Fish Town is part of Philadelphia.
HH: Oh, yes. I’m curious, though, how you find all these very disparate sources. You know, David Brooks’ Yale study, Mitch Pearlstein in Minnesota, Belmont in Fish Town. How did you find them?
CC: Well, I read a lot, personally, and I have friends who read a lot and send me things to read. I have a lot of friends who do that. Sometimes, my enemies do that. They send me things that they think would, should change my mind about things. And I do have a voracious appetite when it comes to reading. I’m reading all the time. Sometimes novels, because you and I have shared that part of our lives.
HH: You know, I….yeah, yeah.
CC: But I read serious things as well.
HH: I was curious by the negative reaction our conversation last week sparked by a columnist who’s got an axe to grind. Do you think he actually read your book, because when we come back from break and we talk about nothing but the truth, I can’t believe he actually read your book. Or if he…
CC: No, no, he didn’t read the book. He read an article in the newspaper here that quoted me talking to you. So it really was our conversation on the radio last week that people are quoting, not the book itself. But I have a group of people in the press here in Philadelphia who just love to jump on everything I say without reading the context of what I say. And that was the result. I got a lot of mail last week because of our conversation, and I’m grateful for our conversation. But it gave me a lot of work, Hugh
HH: (laughing) I’m sorry about that. Well, to all of those, and we will print this as well, they’ve got to read Chapter 6 – Nothing But The Truth. I, by the way, I’ve never read Scott Peck’s People Of The Lie. I’ve never even…
CC: Oh, you ought to. That’s a very important book.
HH: I was convicted of that. But I’d never, I’d never heard of it, actually. And I know people who admire him for the other one that he wrote. He wrote a very big bestseller, I can’t remember the name of it right now, but People Of The Lie, when we come back from break, we’re going to talk about the dynamic of, this is the key thing, the dynamic of forceful self-assertion and simultaneous fear of being out of step with the majority opinion, is one of the central contradictions of American life. Boy, is that elegantly put, Archbishop.
CC: Thank you, Hugh.
HH: I’ll be right back with Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. His brand new book, Strangers In A Strange Land, is available at bookstores everywhere, at Amazon.com. I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com. The number of challenges in this book, too many to list, but you’ve got to read it.
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HH: But Chapter 6 is probably the most challenging chapter in a book of challenging chapters. We’ll talk tomorrow, I hope you’ll come back, about the need to evangelize and to speak your faith clearly and to take it to the world and why. But Archbishop, Nothing But The Truth, would you explain what Scott Peck was talking about, People Of The Lie, who they are and why they’re such a threat to the world?
CC: Well, first of all, I want to say you’re one of the people who is not afraid to speak about his faith. And I’m sometimes surprised about that, because you don’t have the data at all to speak. And since we’re celebrating your birthday week, I’m sure much of that came from having wonderful parents.
HH: Exactly. And terrific parents…
CC: So I’ll be praying for you and your family on Wednesday as the whole country celebrates your birthday, Hugh.
HH: Thank you. And by the way, great Catholic school teachers, but I also work for a company, Salem, run by very committed evangelicals who encourage that. And there just aren’t many companies like that.
CC: That’s extraordinary. It really is. Well anyway, getting back to Scott Peck, you know, one of the characteristics that he observed as a psychologist was the fact that some people were really hard to cure of their problems, or it was difficult for him to help them through their problems, because they lived lives where they constantly lie to each other, and to lie to themselves about all kinds of things. So it wasn’t so much that they had one of the listed ailments in the book that the psychologists used to determine what is psychological illness and what is not, but they just were living lives of lie. It’s interesting, the book points out that they learn to do it in school. You know, they’re taught that it’s important for them to get good grades. It’s better to cheat in school than to live truthfully in order to get ahead. And so you know, we live in a culture where our appearance is more important than the truth, so we just learn to lie and lie and lie. And then once you start to lie, you begin to believe the lie itself, and you live in a world that isn’t even, isn’t real. It’s an unreal world.
HH: It’s a rebuke, by the way. I want my conservative friends to understand this is a rebuke of both conservatives and liberals, and the tribalism of conservatives and liberals that you assail for living in constructed universes where they keep themselves walled off from uncomfortable true facts.
CC: That’s right, and an ability to actually have an honest, intellectual discussion with people we disagree with. You know, there’s a tendency in our culture today to do all that we can to destroy the enemy, and to silence those who are not sufficiently conservative or sufficiently progressive. And unfortunately, that affects all people. And you know, part of, you know, one of the things that Jesus taught us was that the truth sets us free. So if that’s true, then we shouldn’t be afraid to explore the truth, and then to live in it, and be willing to share the truth with other people. Now that has a cost, Hugh.
CC: One of my favorite quotes in the book is one where I quote Flannery O’Connor telling us you know, quoting Jesus, she says the truth not only makes us free, it also makes us odd. And it really does happen.
HH: And by being odd, you say on Page 109-110 the dynamic of forceful self-assertion and the simultaneous fear of being out of step with the majority opinion is one of the central contradictions of American life, and it leads to this. The great fear of the average voter is to be seen as extreme. There is a great political scientist, Sean Trende, who educated me on something called social desirability bias. People say what they expect will allow them to remain comfortable in the setting in which they are, and that leads to People Of The Lie. You just wrap yourself in layers and layers of lies just to be comfortable.
CC: That’s right. And also, I think it explains why so many of the polls were wrong in predicting the outcome of the last election, because people would tell the pollsters what they thought the pollster wanted to hear. And when they got into the privacy of the voting booth, they would vote somewhat differently.
HH: And this brings me to the thing I found really disturbing. I have enormous regard for the American military. You quote studies that show this tendency has begun to infect not just the Church and American politics, but the military, because they set standards you can’t possibly live up to, and yet they all say they’ve done it.
CC: Yes. Yeah, that’s true. And of course, the leadership in the military gets ahead by performing well in the tasks that you’re giving, and exams are given. So the danger, of course, is that people will lie to get ahead, and then we have a whole group of leaders that are not living in the truth.
HH: I recommend again to everyone Strangers In A Strange Land. The Archbishop will be back with me tomorrow to finish this conversation about the obligations of Christians to evangelize in the world. But if you want Leo Strauss, he’s on Page 135. You want Philip Hamburger, the great critic of the administrative state, of the administrative morass that we’re in, he’s there as well. In fact, everything is there, including Darkness At Noon for my friend, Dr. Arnn. Strangers In A Strange Land: Living The Catholic Faith In A Post-Christian World is for everyone – Christian, Catholic, non-believer, atheist, anyone who wants a good society. Go and get it. It’s at Hughhewitt.com.
End of interview.
Audio from 2/13 interview:
HH: That, of course, is the theme song to The Mission, and I played it, because I think Archbishop Chaput’s brand new book, Strangers In A Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith In a Post-Christian World, if it had a soundtrack, it would be The Mission soundtrack. He joins me now from Philadelphia. Archbishop, good morning, how are you?
CC: I’m fine, Hugh. I slept on My Pillow last night.
CC: And I woke up with the same kind of energy you seem to have this morning.
HH: It’s a wonderful thing. I’ve got to tell you, this is an amazing book. And I tweeted out yesterday I want every American Christian to read it, especially Catholics, but every American Christian. And I want every small group to pick it up and read it, because you managed to do, I’m just going to give you a huge attaboy on just Chapter 2. I’ve been teaching Con Law for 21 years. A 1st Amendment seminar on the religion clause is off and on for many years. And you’re succinct Chapter 2 on the weaving of the founding threads, the warp and the, what are those two terms that you use, the warp and the weave?
CC: It’s not the weave. It’s slipped my mind, Hugh.
HH: The warp and the whelp.
CC: Yeah, that’s it.
HH: And into the Enlightenment and Christianity, it’s just beautiful. How long did it take you to get that history down?
CC: Well, you know, the first book that I wrote about the same kind of topic, which I wrote already eight years, or a little more than eight years ago, began a reflection on it. So I think it’s been in process probably for the last 12 years or so, but you know, finalized, of course, over the last year as I was putting this book together.
HH: Well, the…
CC: I’m pretty honored by your description.
HH: I am adopting it for the class. I will be using it for the class in the future, because it is hard to communicate to people just how delicate a balance the framers struck. And it was the Protestant experiment. You’re very, you know, candid about this. It’s the first ever Protestant stand up of a country. Every other country in Western Europe had been stood up by the Catholic Church after the Dark Ages. The Protestants got their shot on our continent, and they did very well.
CC: They did very well. And those of us who are Catholics kind of struggle with that in some ways in our past history, because we didn’t always feel welcome here, but then you know, after some adjustment, we became very much a part of the American story. And I think there’s a lot there that Catholic contributed to as well.
HH: I’m talking, and we will get to that. In fact, I’ve asked your key guys to make it available for you to be back with me next week and the week thereafter…
HH: …because you yourself describe the book, as you read first Chapters 1 and 2, then you read 3 through 8, then you read 9 through 12.
HH: And it’s because there are three segments here, and I want to do it in that order. But I want to begin with an irony. The irony is that, I’m talking with Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia. You are the first ever Native American Roman Catholic bishop. You are writing about the glories of the framing, and the wisdom of the Protestant framing by and large, not uncritically. You’ve got an objective eye on their collective genius. But there’s an irony there of a Native American bishop of the Catholic Church writing about the Protestant founding in such warm and glowing terms. And I’m sure that had to have occurred to you.
CC: Well, it does, you know, not, the fact that my Native American ancestry is part of my self-awareness also has played a part in this, because our country, as you know, wasn’t generous in its way of dealing with the first residents of this continent. And that has been brought to my, for me, very clearly recently in a new book that I’ve been reading by Peter Cozzens called The Earth Is Weeping, which is the story of the way our country dealt with the Native American people, especially after the Civil War. And it just made me much more aware than I have been before about how difficult our country’s dealing with the native people has been.
HH: The Earth Is Weeping. You know, generally, Archbishop, when you’re on to promote a book, you only talk about your own book.
HH: (laughing) It’s one of those rules. You say, Frank Luntz says if I don’t say Strangers In A Strange Land seven times, then Strangers In A Strange Land won’t be remembered, and people won’t buy Strangers In a Strange Land, so that you can I should conspire to say Strangers In A Strange Land seven times, and we will in the course of the longer segment ahead. I want to tell people that in New York City on Monday night, February 27th, Archbishop Chaput will be at the Sheen Center on Bleecker Street at 7pm. Admission is free, all are invited. That’s Monday, February 27th, two weeks from today in Manhattan at 7pm. And then on March 14th, you’ve got to go for a whole month, that’s for the Steelers fans, sorry, Archbishop. You go forward a whole month at the Catholic Information Center on K Street at 6:30 pm. The Bishop is also doing a signing and a chat about his brand new book, Strangers in a Strange Land. We’ll talk about that book. It’s linked over at Hughhewitt.com at length after the break. Go and get it. Pre-order it. It drops on Monday, and we’ll try and keep the Bishop focused on Strangers In A Strange Land. Promote your own book, Archbishop..
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HH: I am playing Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin from 1988, not because I’m making light of the crisis up in Northern California where 188,000 people have had to flee a weakening dam that would make the Johnstown flood look like child’s play were that dam to give. But Archbishop Charles Chaput joins me. His brand new book, Strangers In A Strange Land, references that song right before writing that was in 1988, before the first Iraq War, before 9/11, before al Qaeda, Afghanistan, the second Iraq War, the 2008 economic meltdown, the Benghazi fiasco, the Syria fiasco, the IRS scandal, the HHS mandate, Obergefell, refugee crises, that’s plural, Boko Haram, ISIS and the 2015 and 2016 attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, Orlando and elsewhere. Archbishop, so it’s actually not too bad of an analogy. The Oroville Dam is under threat of breaking, and kind of dams broke over the last three decades, and that’s what you’re writing about in Strangers In A Strange Land.
CC: Yeah, that’s right. You know, I grew up in the 1950s in Kansas, and really believed everything that I was taught in school, and by my community. And I believe that patriotism is a virtue, close to the virtue of loving our families. And I really believed in the narrative about where the United States came from and where we were supposed to go. And that still is, in some ways, deep in my personality and my person. I still want to believe that with all my heart. But you know, we face the reality of a world around us that has changed hugely. And the reason I wrote the book is to try to explain this to myself, actually. You know, I think many of us who do writing and speaking a lot actually write for ourselves and speak to ourselves trying to figure out the world in which we live. And that’s what this book is about. It’s written for ordinary people who are surprised where we are in terms of the culture around us. And it’s a description of what it used to be and how we got where we are today.
HH: In fact, when you write that it’s been 50 years since Vatican II, and the world is a bloody and fractured place, some of these fractures reach deeply into the Church itself. We’ve lived the same 50 years, and it’s been, you know, I’m 60. You’re a couple of years on me, but it’s the same arc where the perfect Catholic culture of the 50s and 60s that Ross Douthat described in Bad Religion has fractured, but so has the country’s culture fractured. And obviously, the sins of segregation, etc., had to be dealt with, and we had to create a just society, and we’ve done so in many ways. But it’s been, wow, many dams have broken, and the results are horrific.
CC: They are. Just last week, I was in Dallas at a meeting sponsored by the National Catholic Bioethics Center for Bishops of the Catholic Church, and the topic was transgenderism. And you know, that’s certainly an interesting topic which reflects the changes in our society. Who would have thought even five or ten years ago that we would be remaking ourselves in terms of our sexuality?
HH: And gender would be a construct. And that’s, you know, that may be a bridge too far for the left. I believe that most people, while sympathetic to folks who are experiencing identity issues are not willing to wholesale jettison the idea of gender. Our friend, Matt Tynan, tells me as well, though, there was another gathering in Texas recently, the FOCUS, Fellowship Of Catholic University Students in San Antonio last month.
CC: I was there, yeah.
HH: …had 13…oh, you were there, 13,000 people?
CC: 13,000 young Catholics from college campuses, not just Catholics, but mostly Catholics came together to celebrate their faith and to learn from one another and be encouraged in the alternative view of the world that Christians have.
HH: That alternative view of the world is that there’s an old story. God loves man. You say man betrays God, then God calls him back to His friendship.
HH: So there is a warp and a weave in this book as well, which is you go back and forth between not pessimism. You have hope throughout the book. But realism and the idea that perhaps renewal is possible out there.
CC: That’s right. You know, the song that you played at the beginning of this section is an optimistic song. And you know, everything’s going to be fine. That’s, optimism’s quite different than hope. Hope is confidence that the future is in God’s hands, and things will work out somehow, somewhere. But it’s important for us to be realistic and to be excited about what’s really going on around us. Otherwise, we won’t deal with reality. I think we all have a responsibility to care for the world in which we live, to love the country that we’re a part of. And to be a member of the United States brings with it requirements of care and concern for our fellow citizens. And my book is really trying to encourage people who feel very, very frustrated and afraid not to give up the process of trying to change society in a way that supports the dignity of every individual and supports the common good.
HH: In fact, it’s a calling to dig in deeper. I’m thinking about the ordinary Catholics that, you know, I attended Mass with yesterday, and great sermon, by the way, by a deacon, and talking about trials in life, etc., Deacon Steve. And it was a remarkable call to people to dig deeper into Knights of Columbus or St. Vincent de Paul or into the life of their church and the life of their community. And that’s, I think, one of the takeaways from Strangers In a Strange Land. But at the same time, lots that I learned here. I knew that Pope Francis, and you’re an admirer of the new pope, and you write about that. But I did not know that he was so focused on the Devil, or this book, the Lord of the World. Do you recommend people read The Lord of the World? I’ve never heard of it, much less read it.
CC: Well, I read it when I was in high school and thought it was fascinating. I read it recently again when Pope Francis spoke about how he had read it three times. It’s a little dated, and because of that, I think people will have a hard time getting into it. But once they do, if they’re patient, I think they’ll find it very helpful. It’s frightening, too, because it talks about, you know, a future where evil disguised as good takes over the world, and eventually, of course, that leads to great destruction.
HH: You write on Page 11, it’s hard to imagine anyone not believing in the existence of the Devil after the Holocaust, the Gulag, Pol Pot. Now, we can add Aleppo, right? Aleppo is truly another graveyard of hundreds of thousands of people, and evil stalks the world. And we seem not capable, and North Korea shooting off a missile this week, yesterday?
HH: We’ve seem not to underestimate just how bad it could get.
CC: That’s true, and it’s important for us in the midst of all that not to be afraid and have hope.
HH: You quote John Paul II, be not afraid again and again and again. So let’s talk about where the good folks are. You, this is also a very good introduction to Augustine’s City of God. Tell people about that book, and why you chose to begin with Augustine from the 4th Century, the Bishop of Hippo. Why begin there?
CC: Well, part of it is because since becoming a bishop, I have found him to be a great partner in helping me to understand my responsibilities as a bishop. You know, it seems like the time that he, where he wrote this book, towards the end of his life, was a time quite similar to our own. The Roman Empire, which had been so much a part of people’s self-understanding at that time, was beginning to collapse from all kinds of pressures, including immigration, you know, which is a big issue today, and Augustine was trying to face the reality. How do you be a good Christian in the midst of a world that is at minimum a huge challenge for you? And he talked about the importance of being aware that the city of man is not the city of God, and that we should do our best to live in this world, but not expect too much. You know, he talked about this importance for Christians to have modest expectations about changing the world through changing the government, but that we have a duty to one another and to God to take our responsibilities here very seriously. You know, he talked about the contrast between love of God and love of self. Love of self would be, of course, be the City of Man, and love of God is symbolized by the city of God, and that we who are serious Christians have a responsibility to be involved in God’s rescue mission, which is a redemptive mission in the world that we can’t just throw up our hands in despair, but we should be part of God’s plan to bring things back to Himself. But at the same time, you know, be modest in our expectations, because we are to sow amid the weeds, and we have Jesus’ words to us that you know, grow up together, and it’s important for us to understand that the harvest is really at the end, and not in the middle of things.
HH: Now you just used that word, Jesus, Archbishop. As you pointed out in the book, our educated classes seem willing to believe in almost anything to avoid dealing with the possibility of God. Anything but Jesus could be the motto of the secular age. I thought that was very, very well put. You never hear the word. People, I don’t know what percentage of mainstream media actually have religious faith of any sort, but I’m going to put it at least below 25%. Do you agree with me?
CC: Well, it looks that way. You know, it certainly is a contrast to the vast majority of people in our country who really are believers, yet, maybe confused believers, but nonetheless believers. And you know, the elite, of course, kind of pooh pooh religious faith. In other words, they don’t just kind of, they actually do it very deliberately. And it’s important for us not to desire to be a part of that with the elite to the point that we give up our faith.
HH: But I want to point out, as you do, that sinners hide among the saints, and saints hide among the sinners.
HH: So there are a lot of bad people in the business of religion, and there are a lot of very good saints in the business of media. I think that’s a good caution. But you do also write in Strangers In A Strange Land that the sin of the 19th and early 20th Century was overweening pride. That became the progressive movement. But right now, it’s cynicism and despair. I see embittered vanity, the inversion of pride. Boy, does that sound like the media. Cynicism and just deep despair over being able to do anything about anything.
CC: Well, especially now that President-Elect has been elected, President Trump has been elected. You know, they seem to be in greater spirit of despair and anxiety. It’s just amazing to me how hostile the press is to everything that the President does. You know, I don’t want to be partisan in my comments here, but it seems to me that if we really are serious about our common responsibilities as citizens, we support the President whether we accept everything he stands for or not, and wish him success rather than trying to undermine him. We can clearly disagree with him, and I think it’s important to do that, especially on issues that count, you know, moral issues. Nonetheless, it’s important for us to at least hope for success so that our country can come to a better place.
HH: Well, that goes to the broader, and I agree with you, I’m kind of startled. And I’m not startled easily by the depth, breadth and ferocity of the hostility towards the new President. And I understand legislative opposition, and I understand the march and the concern. But just the, and that’s actual grassroots concern. The elites’ desire to destroy him is just palpable to me. It’s actually not unlike what I think Benedict faced from the left when he became Pope.
CC: I think that’s right. You know, I think the same kind of hostility was shown towards President Bush, especially in the last years he was in office, and of course, the right has shown the same kind of hostility, to a lesser degree, but nonetheless, the same kind of hostility towards President Obama. Our country really has to change in terms of working together. You know, again, going back to my youth in the 1950s and 60s, there was a real sense of that. People who disagree with others seriously still wished for a common success, and that seems to have disappeared altogether now.
HH: When we come back with Archbishop Chaput, I’m going, Chaput, Duane’s yelling at me. He said it’s like slap you, which is what I want to do when you mispronounce the Archbishop’s name. Archbishop Chaput, who’s been my friend for, you know, 15 years and I still mispronounce his name, his new book is Strangers In a Strange land. It’s linked over at Hughhewitt.com.
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HH: I urge you to go and get Strangers In A Strange Land for a lot of reasons. The sub-title is Living The Catholic Faith In A Post-Christian World, but I want all Christians to read it. For one thing, I want to go to Chapter 2 now, Archbishop. You’ll be back with me next week, and we’ll talk about 3-7, and then the following, 8-12. But the brief history of religion in America, and the weaving in of the founding, I told people, already is amazing. But then in 10 pages, you summarize the history of Catholicism in America. That is just so well done. And you’ve given me a new phrase – adroit disregard. And I believe that this is going to become my new motto, adroit disregard. We have to translate that into Latin. America’s bishops handled hostility to America from the Vatican in the 19th Century with a mixture of compliance, you write, and adroit disregard. That’s a great phrase. You should patent that, Archbishop.
CC: Well, thank you. Sometimes, we have to be clever about the way we do things, and I think the American bishops did handle the suspicion about American democracy in a way that was very clever, respectful of the fact that Rome has authority in our lives, but nonetheless, when we we’re right and they’re wrong, it’s important to stand where we stand without being disrespectful.
HH: Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, I’ve told people many, many times, and I hate to tell you this, I love your cathedral as well, but my favorite cathedral in America is St. Paul’s overlooking the river.
CC: It’s it great?
HH: It’s just gorgeous. I don’t know if Ireland built that. Did he? Did Archbishop Ireland build that one?
CC: He certainly was part of it. I don’t know if he finished it, but he certainly was part of building it, yeah.
HH: I had not known he was a Civil War hero, and I didn’t know much about him, and I know about John Carroll and Charles Carroll and the framers who were Catholic, but I didn’t know much about Ireland. There’s a whole undiscovered history here that you know, maybe they don’t teach as much anymore.
CC: No, you know, he was a little rebellious compared to some of the others in terms of his relationship with Rome, independent, I should say, more than rebellious. And I think that has often been downplayed in terms of Catholic history, self-understanding. But he was a really good bishop, and he cared for his people, and he loved our country.
HH: I also liked your defense of the idea of American exceptionalism, and that you quote a French philosopher saying…
HH: …you cannot be other than that. Go ahead and explain why it’s not something to be embarrassed about. It’s true.
CC: No, and you know, I think the clear proof of this is the immigration situation where everybody comes here if they can. You know, whether the people are critical of the United States all over the world, they play close attention to what goes on here, and almost everybody, if they have a chance, would like to come here. And we should be proud of ourselves. We certainly have a lot of sad moments in our history. You know, the racism that you talked about earlier today is an example of that, the way we have treated the Native Americans in our country is an example of that. But at the same time, we’re a people who have generous hearts, and at our very best, we are very, very good and care for the world around us as well as for ourselves. And that’s something for us to be proud of. And the experiment, you know, the American experiment in government was creative, never happened before, and has been hugely successful.
HH: Republicanism, Constitutionalism, natural law and cultural tradition. These are the four ingredients of the American founding that you cover in Chapter 2, and you write as well, the four civic virtues, as well as the three Christian virtues, all combined. Now I have been reading a lot of Professor McConnell, former Judge McConnell, and his argument is at the founding, there was enough space for religion and law to co-exist, for freedom of religion. But as the government has grown, that space has collapsed. I think I’m anticipating the rest of the book here. But that’s in fact what’s happening, is that the government is forcing people, even as they ignored dams, and ignored the stuff they’re supposed to do, they are forcing people to bend the knee. And Strangers In a Strange Land is a preparatory work for that period of time ahead of us.
CC: Yeah, and a call not to give into it. You know, the government as it grows doesn’t want any kind of competition. And competition, of course, are mediating groups like the Church, or more importantly, the family, even. And you know, the government likes to make sure that it makes the final decision and nothing stands in the way. So it has some vested interest as it grows in eliminating the influence of the Church and the family, and I think that’s what we need to do very much.
HH: Believing and hoping and enduring for the sake of saving what can be saved. Now that can be read two ways. Saving what can be saved is what you do when you run away from the flood, but rebuilding is possible as well. I think there is that strain in Strangers In A Strange Land. People have got to get to work on this.
CC: They do, and you know, we can be very much surprised by what happens. Even though, you know, I think the book is realistic, and is not optimistic, and it may even be read as worrisome, you know, I’m very worried about the future, and I am. But God surprised us. I think you know, the falling apart of communism, the Soviet Union was an example of that, people would never have guessed that Donald Trump would be elected, and he was. Not that that’s the act of God, but strange things happen.
HH: And Neil Gorsuch, Judge Gorsuch, is a great friend to religious liberty. That’s got to be an encouragement to you.
CC: It certainly is. I think he had a positive experience of Catholic education when he was growing up in Denver, too, which I’m very happy about and proud of.
HH: Oh, I didn’t know that. We’ll talk about that next week. Archbishop Chaput, congratulations. Strangers In A Strange Land, you can pre-order it right now. I’ve put a link up at Hughhewitt.com. Everyone should catch up by next week when the Archbishop comes back to Chapters 3-8. Strangers In A Strange Land, so necessary for our time. Thank you, Archbishop.
End of interview.