Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has issued a great letter on the threshold of Lent.
As I read it, the Archbishop’s reference to the history of the Church in German with the Nazi state and the 1933 , could be not only warning about our compromises with the three perennial enemies of the soul, but also on the current compromises with the the state in China. It also could be read as a warning about compromising with the world in the matter of Communion for the divorced and remarried. I suspect that that wasn’t the Archbishop’s intention, but the principle he underscores can be applied to many burning contemporary issues.
Here is Caput’s letter which can be found at Catholic Philly with my emphases and comments.
Toward a deeper experience of Lent
By Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. • Posted February 13, 2018
History is a great teacher, sometimes in unusual and very personal ways. Here’s an example.
Reading the Reichskonkordat (“Reich concordat” with the German state) today, 85 years after its 1933 signing, sparks some interesting thoughts. Structured as a treaty to govern the relations between the Holy See and German government, the text is remarkably positive. It’s also thorough. As deals go, this was a good one. The state got a stable legal relationship with a well-organized, potentially troublesome, and internationally connected religious minority. The Church got protection for her people. [It was negotiated by Eugenio Card. Pacelli and it is still in force today.]
A few problematic passages in the text do exist. Article 14.2 obliges the Church to consult the German Reich on the appointment of archbishops and coadjutors. Article 16 requires new bishops to take an oath of loyalty to the state. But details like these weren’t unknown in Europe’s historical context. The concordat’s guarantees of Church freedom to profess and practice the Catholic faith, and to pursue Catholic education and social ministries without interference, are extensive, explicit, and generous.
They were also empty. The Reich began violating the deal almost as soon as the ink on the treaty was dry. State pressure on Church life was so harsh by 1937 — just four years later — that Pius XI’s encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge (“With burning concern”) had to be smuggled into the country. It was read from all of Germany’s pulpits on Palm Sunday of that year. In it, the Holy Father condemned the Reich’s (Nazi-directed) neo-paganism, race hatred, “Aryanized” Christianity, widespread attack on human rights, and contempt for the Old Testament. In response, the state simply doubled down on its pressure.
What’s the lesson here? It’s this: If you sup with the devil (so the proverb warns), you’d better bring a long spoon. It’s probably a bad idea in the first place. [A great proverb, and one to remember throughout Lent. It was, by the way, already in circulation when Chaucer wrote the “Squire’s Tale”.]
But there’s more. As it is in diplomacy and politics, so it is in every person’s individual life. [NB] The deals we make with the world, and the flesh, and the devil, always go south. The line dividing good and evil is usually — not always, but usually — pretty bright for anyone who wants to see it. Most of us really don’t want to see it, of course, because doing so would cramp our own daily behavior. We negotiate little “concordats” with our favorite personal sins, ugly habits and dictatorial appetites all the time.
If we’re constantly angry, it’s because everybody else is so unfair. If we’re hooked on porn, surely cutting back to just an hour of it every day is “better” than three. If alcohol’s the problem, four drinks is obviously “better” than six — right? For every forbidden, hurtful, dishonest thing we like to do, we’re experts at self-deceit; at training our consciences to perform like pets … well-manicured poodles that offer us alibis on demand, like:
“I didn’t have a choice;” or
“Hey, there were extenuating circumstances;” or
“The Church is out of touch;” or
“There’s a new paradigm for thinking about this particular unpleasantness;” or [Didn’t some prelate recently make a fancy fallacy laden argument about a paradigm shift?]
“I know it’s not ideal, but this is the best I could do;” or [Haven’t some compromised prelates and theologians stated that not everyone can live up to the Church’s “ideals”?]
“There’s been a revolution in Church thinking on all sorts of complex issues — like mine;” or [cf. “paradigm shift”]
“OK this is wrong, but it’s not THAT bad.”
We all have a barrel of excellent excuses. You do. I do. And we add to them all the time.
February 14 this year is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. It’s the day on which a loving God invites all of us to smash our miserable little concordats with sin and its alibis to bits. The teaching of the Church – rooted in the Word of God, confirmed by experience, consistent in its expression, sometimes difficult but always liberating – is the standard of holiness and the guide to our Father’s expectations. We need to cling to it, confident in God’s mercy, in judging our own actions and redirecting our lives, no matter how radically that new path demands.
So may God grant all of us a holy and fruitful Lent, and I ask you to pray for me, as I will pray for you. [That has a familiar ring!]
Good analogy. Great letter.
A daily examination of your conscience will help you to identify where your weak spots are and what konkordats you have made with the world, the flesh and the Devil. Know yourself! After you have identified them, you have to do three things.
First, make a plan. When you notice that you are in the pattern of behavior that usually leads to committing that particular sin, kick in the plan you made beforehand about what you would do instead. You have to know what you are going to do ahead of time. When you see that you are on the path that ends in sins, implement the plan: “Instead of doing X, I’m going to scrub some oil stains off the floor of the garage.”
Second, resolve, even perhaps by writing it down and hanging it on the wall beneath a Crucifix, that you are willing to suffer. When you say “No!”, you will begin to suffer. Know it ahead of time. Be ready for it. Look it in the face. Be willing to suffer. Offer the suffering in unity with the Passion of the Lord in reparation, perhaps in accord with Our Lady’s words at Fatima.
Third, GO TO CONFESSION! Each sacrament has its effects. One of the effects of the Sacrament of Penance is a strengthening against sin. Graces are offered to fight off temptations and to fulfill what you declared in the confession: amendment of life.
Today, some prelates and theologians have, in effect, denied that people are capable, with the help of God, to amend their lives. In effect, they deny grace and God’s mercy.
Yes, our application of mercy is important in this veil of tears, but not at the expense of truth and, therefore, heaven. We must fix our hearts and mind on the long game. When it comes to fulfilling the commandments God has given us and the image He wrote into us, we must be confident that God will not let us down.
What God and the Church proposes is not just a “policy” that can be changed according to the changing circumstances and trends of society.
Those who deny that God offers sufficient graces to sinners or who say that sinners cannot amend their lives, are agents of Hell.
As I read I was reminded of a book about “The Lion of Munster”, Bl. Clemens August von Galen. It also reminded one of you readers, who sent me a note.