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Many Catholics see the Church, not as a community to which they belong but as an institution, external to them, to which they turn for social and religious services but which involves the depth of their being only occasionally, if at all. Secularism has its roots in a culture which finds it increasingly difficult to believe in a personal God who is love. A crisis of faith towards the Church follows inevitably from the crisis of faith in God.

If we fail to recognise the scale of the challenge of secularism, we will find ourselves mistaking symptoms and less important details for the real problem. We may then be tempted to think in terms of the approaches that are characteristic of this secularised culture, such as marketing strategies and restructuring programmes and techniques of communication.

These have their place, but the challenge lies deeper. This encounter with Jesus will not be the result of a plan or a structure or a lofty idea Cf. DCE, 1.

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In the face of Christ, we recognise our own true selves Cf. In the search for plans and reforms and renewed structures, we may miss the essential. We have to find space for contemplation and prayer. Without the contemplative outlook which sees life in its deeper meaning and accepts it as a gift John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae , 83 , how can we have a vibrant faith in God, or in his Church? If Christian communities are not genuine schools of prayer, should we be surprised by the advance of secularism?

The surrounding culture where God has disappeared below the horizon makes it essential for believers to find a space in which they can learn and experience prayer. This can be done, and is being done, in many ways, through well prepared liturgical celebrations, through adoration of the Eucharistic Presence, through various forms of lectio divina , through movements, through prayer groups and so on. These are not just extras. Learning to pray is the only effective response to the challenge of secularism.

While providing these opportunities is vital, it is not enough. The Church is not simply an institution which does things for people.

We must seriously challenge individual Christians to put time and effort into opening themselves to the truth of God. Not merely prohibitions. John Waters referred a generation which sees the Church as a source of prohibitions and condemnations. This is a symptom of the same lack of appreciation of the depth of the mystery.

If one does not understand something of the love of God which has given life a new horizon, then moral living will no longer be love freely chosen and freely lived out Cf. St Thomas Aquinas pointed out that "even the letter of the Gospel could kill unless the saving grace of faith is present within" Summa Theologiae , 1-II q, a2c.

The moral crisis of our day has many dimensions — philosophical and cultural. But the essential element is that morality is losing its foundation in an adequate anthropology.

To All People of the Sun, The Star We Share is One

When we recognise ourselves in the face of Christ and see our lives in the light of his promise, morality is no longer just a matter of rules. It is about relationships, choices and attitudes that recognise the dignity and worth of every human being in the light of the love God shows us. Jn In relation to the Church and to moral teaching, the basic need is that identified by St Augustine and referred to in Spe Salvi : our hearts need to be enlarged and cleansed Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi , 33, cf.

Augustine , Homily 4 on 1John , par 6. We must learn to be a people with a contemplative outlook. That is the challenge for every Christian. Francis Cardinal George, O. Thank you for the invitation to speak to you this evening. The topic is of great personal interest and also of great importance for our life together in this democratic republic. I am grateful, as well, for the invitation to address the topic here, in the Library of Congress.

The last time I was invited to speak at an event sponsored by Dr.

Much more than documents.

Billington was shortly before the celebration of the millennium. As you know, the Library of Congress sponsors every hundred years a review of the advance of knowledge in the many fields of human learning; and I was invited to speak to the topic of religion in the world. My presentation was heavily influenced by St. It was perhaps too heavily apologetic in looking at the influence of religion in the development of human affairs throughout the twentieth century.

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In looking ahead to the next century, this century, I welcomed the phenomenon of cultural globalization because it would make clear that the great faiths remain the dominant shapers of cultures, as nation states are relativized in a new global order. I said, if I recall, that it is more provincial to be French or Chinese or American than to be Christian or Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist and that personal identity would again become more religious and less nationalistic.

Perhaps the most prescient remark, however, appeared toward the end of my talk when I said that the dialogue between Christianity and Islam will be the most important conversation of the coming century.

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It had been for a thousand years a relationship that often led to violence. We had to do better in the twenty first century. Immediately after the attacks on our country in the name of the God of Abraham on Sept, 11, , the op-ed pieces in some of the major newspapers made it clear that all doctrinal or dogmatic religion is a threat to peace. Every religion must therefore give up every claim to truth and base its right to existence only on its offering private consolation and public charity.

Religion in the new millennium must never be an excuse for violence but must, instead, play the role of peacemaker. At his election, he recalled St. Benedict and the role of the monasteries in pacifying Europe and preserving classical culture and education after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

Our question this evening touches indirectly the relation between religion and peace but asks, more specifically, about the relation between religion and forms of government, for every form of government justifies its own existence through its protection of the people governed and the creation of a public order in which they can be secure and live in peace. More specifically yet, we are raising the question of the relation between religion and a particular form of government, democracy.

Democracy justifies its existence not only because it can keep the peace but also because it can do so while respecting and preserving freedoms of all sorts. Basic to my distinctions will be the loosely Augustinian distinction between the sacred, the profane and the secular.

After clarifying terms, I will argue three propositions that expose some difficulties and help us to address some of the reasons for the movement now to secularize our democratic society. First, a word about religion: almost all historical religions are founded on the belief that God has taken an initiative in the affairs of humanity.

They make truth claims about the nature of God, the nature of the human family and the destiny of the world and the human race. They and their truth claims are universal, although the major religions are each dominant in particular parts of the world. In these places, they have shaped cultures and public life, along with informing the lives of individual believers.

Because religion begins with a divine initiative, it is not entirely malleable; our experience is not definitive in establishing religious truth. Nor can faith be reduced to personal spirituality. Historical religions have afforded a window to a transcendent order not of our making. They become institutionally visible in a church or religious association, in monasteries and mosques and synagogues, in organizations of all sorts, especially in the fields of education, of health care, of charitable works.

In the explicitly religious realm. God or something like a divine presence permeates every dimension of experience, although always through mediators, whether popes or creeds, sacred texts or personal conscience. Historical religions, because they make truth claims, have been able to create or at least contribute to public discourse.

It is of great importance to distinguish between religion and a personal philosophy of life, a view of things created by human thinkers and actors with no claim to a source transcendent to experience. It is also important, if religion is to be a public voice, that it be able to critically examine its own claims and teachings. Of singular importance in this examination is the question of who God is, for if God is a competitor to human initiative, a type of cosmic dictator, then religion will sit uneasily in a public conversation about freedom.

click here To make these and other distinctions, religions that are not a simply arbitrary enterprise have used and continue to use reason to clarify, to better understand divine self-revelation in human history. Religion, as opposed to a personal philosophy, is ineluctably communitarian. It depends on texts only if those texts have been recognized as sacred by the community which wrote them.

God, and therefore religion, demands a total response, a complete personal commitment; but neither God nor religion provides all the answers to worldly life. If everything is sacred, then the faith community swallows up the world, and society becomes a convent. Secondly, a clarification about modernity: modernity, as it has come to characterize the largely Western and now global project of the past three centuries, means the pursuit of this - worldly fulfillment, an enterprise that often puts man at the center of at least human affairs if not of the universe.


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It proclaims the autonomy of the human race in pursuing science, the autonomy of the nations in pursuing sovereignty and the autonomy of individuals in pursuing rights. In order to reduce the impediments or strictures interfering with autonomy, modernity conquers nature itself through scientific understanding and technological change, which is the manipulation of nature for human purposes.

Progress in this field has enabled us to control disease on the one hand and to create weapons of mass destruction on the other. For many people, however, it is not only nature they still fail to understand; it is also the modern machines that create our environment. Likewise, in order to reduce the impediments to autonomy that come from other persons or from the state, modernity has developed forms of liberal democracy, protecting rights to worship, think, speak, associate, own and exchange goods of all sorts.

But the protection of rights has not purged from human memory the idea of the state as protector of the common good, a staple term in Western political theory throughout the Middle Ages. Modern times have therefore been marked by numerous attempts to create a perfect society by social engineering, always justified by one political ideology or another, many careless of or destructive of human freedoms. There is at the heart of the liberal democratic project, a tension recognized by Locke and Madison in our own political tradition and by Aristotle and others in classic thought.

How can society purposefully and safely use the state to effect the fulfillment of its citizens, when power tends to corrupt its holders? Containment of and limitations to harmful forms of possible state coercion have created constitutions with bills of rights, systems of mixed regimes, separation of powers and checks and balances.

Democracy, considered as the participation of all in politics at least through the device of election of rulers, is the form of government most consistent with liberalism. These form people in ways of thought inimical to even constitutionally protected rights. If a democratic society comes to believe, for example, that agnosticism and moral relativism are necessary to preserve social peace, truth becomes the enemy of freedom and freedom itself is reduced to individual autonomy. The common life, which participatory liberalism was designed to protect, can then be lost to dominant interests divorced from the common good but capable of influencing politics and public life.

Democracy is based on more than legal procedures; it needs a shared vision. Pope John Paul built his defense of liberalism on its positive ability to protect freedoms, including the freedom of the Church to pursue her mission in the world and freedom for all to foster the good of the poor and the working classes through freedom of association and speech and the right to private property with a social mortgage. Thirdly, a clarification about secularity and secularism: secularism as a total philosophy of public life captures the world for the profane.

It is not neutral toward any claims to truth or rights to act, if it is religion that sets the terms for the claims or the actions. Public life must be constructed on the assumption that God does not exist or, if he does, that it makes no difference.