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Rendering to God and to Caesar


If we believe in an afterlife where we are held accountable for our actions, then that belief has very practical implications for our choices in this world...  

render For Christians, the trinity of virtues we call faith, hope, and charity should shape everything we do, both privately and in our public lives.  Faith in God gives us hope in eternal life. Hope casts out fear and enables us to love.  And the love of God and other human persons — the virtue of charity — is the animating spirit of all authentically Christian political action.  By love I don't mean love" in a sentimental or indulgent sense, the kind of empty love that offers "tolerance" as an alibi for inaction in the face of evil.  I mean love in the Christian sense; love with a heart of courage, love determined to build justice in society and focused on the true good of the whole human person, body and soul.

Human progress means more than getting more stuff, more entitlements, and more personal license.  Real progress always includes man's spiritual nature.  Real progress satisfies the human hunger for solidarity and communion.  So when our leaders and their slogans tell us to move "forward," we need to take a very hard look at the road we are on, where "forward" leads, and whether it ennobles the human soul, or just aggravates our selfishness and appetite for things.

What all this means for our public life is this: Catholics can live quite peacefully with the separation of Church and state, so long as the arrangement translates into real religious freedom.  But we can never accept a separation of our religious faith and moral convictions from our public ministries or our political engagement.  It's impossible.  And even trying is evil because it forces us to live two different lives, worshiping God at home and in our churches; and worshiping the latest version of Caesar everywhere else.  That turns our private convictions into lies we tell ourselves and each other.  



chaputArchbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. "Rendering to God and to Caesar." from We have no king but Caesar: Some thoughts on Catholic faith and public life (Septmber 15, 2012).

Reprinted with permission of the author.  This excerpt appeared in Magnificat in June, 2015.

The Author

chaput65chaput2smThe Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. is the ninth and current Archbishop of Philadelphia. As member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, Archbishop Chaput is the second Native American to be ordained bishop in the United States, and the first Native American archbishop. He is the author of:  Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Christian Faith in a Post-Christian WorldA Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America, as well as Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, and Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics.

Copyright © 2012 Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
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