The archbishop explained that the “heart of the problems” Catholics “face in living our Christian vocation in the modern world” is as follows.
We are being told two things:
The Scriptures remind us to “make disciples of all nations,” and the mass media and political leaders tell us to “be ‘tolerant,’ to fit in, to ‘grow up’ and to stop making a lot of religious noise.”
“Obviously we can’t follow both voices at the same time.”
The archbishop then recalled the words “Render unto Caesar” from Matthew 22, when the Sadducees and Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus by asking if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. “Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Through his actions and words in the passage, the archbishop noted, Jesus “acknowledges that Caesar does have rights,” but his rights are not over things that belong to God. It is our job, to determine what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar, he summarized.
Acknowledging that this can be difficult, the archbishop pointed Christians toward the Scriptures, where we learn that “we owe secular leaders our respect and prayers; respect for the law; obedience to proper authority; and service to the common good,” not to be confused with “subservience, or silence, or inaction, or excuse-making or acquiescence to grave evil in the public life we all share.”
He went on to say that the “more we reflect on this biblical text,” the more obvious it is that everything about our life “belongs not to Caesar but to God: our intellect, our talents, our free will, the people we love, the beauty and goodness in the world, our soul, our moral integrity, our hope for eternal life. These are the things worth struggling to ennoble and defend, and none of them came from Tiberius or anyone who succeeded him.”
Archbishop Chaput, always seeking to make the faith applicable, then asked, “So what does that imply for our actions right now, today, in public life?”
He explained that Catholics must speak and act in truth, they must live out the true description of a “Catholic,” they must be faithful to the Church, form their conscience properly, remember that the Church is non-partisan, defend life, treat others with charity and remember that being a more faithful Catholic leads to becoming a better citizen of one’s country.
He also emphasized that we cannot “call ourselves Catholic, and then simply stand by while immigrants get mistreated, or the poor get robbed, or unborn children get killed.
The Catholic faith is always personal, but it’s never private. If our faith is real, then it will bear fruit in our public decisions and behaviors, including our political choices,” he stressed.
After listing the ways to be a more faithful Catholic in the public life, the archbishop reminded his audience that even if they haven’t adhered to the Church’s teachings in the past, “every breath we take is an opportunity for conversion and a new beginning.”