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DIVIDED HEARTS: AMERICANS, RELIGION AND NATIONAL POLICY

Remarks by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap Religious Institutions Law Day October 7, 2004

I’m grateful to Martin Nussbaum for inviting me to join you this morning. Rothgerber, Johnson and Lyons has represented the Archdiocese of Denver in a distinguished way on many issues, over many years. Chuck Goldberg, Glenn Burbridge, Susan Sperber and other members of the firm do an outstanding job of serving the Catholic people of Colorado. I want to thank them personally and publicly for their dedication.

I also believe that a gathering like Religious Institutions Law Day serves the common good of the whole community, and I’m glad to be part of it. Obviously I’m a Catholic bishop, speaking from a Catholic perspective, in a year when national politics and Catholic faith have overlapped in some challenging ways. But I hope at least some of my remarks today will ring true with other religious communities, and what I don’t cover in my comments, I’ll be glad to address through your questions.

One of the books that shaped my thinking as a teenager was George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Most of you know that it’s a political fable.

Orwell imagined an English farm where the animals revolt and throw out their human master. But instead of creating a utopia, they get a regime run by pigs. The pigs behave even worse than the humans. And whenever anyone tries to question the rules, the pigs bring in a chorus of sheep, who bleat “Four legs good, two legs bad; four legs good, two legs bad,” again and again, until everyone gets confused and goes home.

I’ve been thinking about those sheep all year long. I remember them every time someone tells me that Catholics shouldn’t try to impose our beliefs on society. I remember them every time somebody warns me that religious believers need to respect the separation of Church and state.

I think these two concerns – “don’t impose your beliefs on society” and “the separation of Church and state” -- aren’t the real concerns at all. They’re slogans. They’re sound bites designed to shut down serious thought. No one in mainstream American politics wants a theocracy. No one in mainstream American politics wants to turn meatless Fridays into federal law. So we need to understand these concerns for what they are: usually foolish, frequently dishonest and ultimately dangerous arguments that confuse our national memory and our national identity.

 

 

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