Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has hit back at the controversial article by Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa in La Civiltà Cattolica, calling it an “exercise in dumbing down” and saying it fails to understand the forces that have drawn Catholics and Evangelicals together.
The archbishop said the article inadequately presents the nature of cooperation between Catholics in Evangelicals in the United States, adding that it seems “wilfully ignorant” of the cultural battles they face.
The Civiltà Cattolica article, published last week, launched a scathing attack on American conservative Catholics, accusing them of joining with Evangelical Protestants in an “ecumenism of hate” on issues such as immigration.
Spadaro and Figueroa said this alliance was concerned with gaining political power over the state, and described senior politicians as holding a “Manichaean” mindset that divides the world into absolute good and absolute evil.
However, writing for Catholic Philly, Archbishop Chaput said Catholics and Evangelicals have traditionally had strong differences, and only a “real and present danger” could draw them together.
“Their current mutual aid, the ecumenism that seems to so worry La Civiltà Cattolica, is a function of shared concerns and principles, not ambition for political power,” the archbishop wrote, adding that it was an “odd kind of surprise when believers are attacked by their co-religionists merely for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true.”
Archbishop Chaput said Christians who see themselves as progressive tend to be wary of the religious liberty debate, with some seeing it as a “smokescreen for conservative politics” and others feeling uneasy about different denominations working together on issues such as abortion and marriage.
Indeed, the Civiltà Cattolica article says “we must avoid [the defence of religious freedom] coming in the fundamentalist terms of a “religion in total freedom,” perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.”
However, the archbishop says “the liberty of religious communities has always been a seedbed of social action and ministry to those in need.”
If Christians are afraid to tackle big moral issues, including biblical calls to sexual integrity, he adds, they become “useful tools” of those who seek to undo Church teaching.
“This is why groups that fight for religious liberty in our courts, legislatures, and in the public square… are heroes, not “haters.”,” Archbishop Chaput writes.
“And if their efforts draw Catholics, evangelicals and other people of good will together in common cause, we should thank God for the unity it brings.”