Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

5/10/2013 (1 year ago)

The Catholic Sun (www.catholicsun.org/)

What is it in American society today that makes 'misguided ideas' attractive? And what makes solid principles of Catholic faith and morals unattractive?

If you asked Catholics in the United States in the 1950s if it was possible to be fully Catholic and fully American, most would have answered with an enthusiastic YES! In the first decade after World War II where Catholics and non-Catholics had fought side-by-side against common enemies, simultaneously overcoming some deep-seated prejudices among themselves, the great majority of Catholics had few if any worries about the compatibility of the Catholic faith with American culture. Do we still feel that way today? (Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted)

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted is the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003, and is the spiritual leader of the diocese's 820,000 Catholics.

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted is the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. He was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003, and is the spiritual leader of the diocese's 820,000 Catholics.

Highlights

By Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

The Catholic Sun (www.catholicsun.org/)

5/10/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Catholic, American, Americanism, fidelity, anti-Catholic, religious freedom, new evangelization, Diocese of Phoenix, Americanism, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted


PHOENIX, AZ (The Catholic Sun) - (Note from the Editor in Chief: Bishop Thomas J Olmsted is one of my heroes. His fidelity to the teaching of the Church, pastoral care for the people under his care, committment to the New Evangelization and courage in the public square has inspired me, and many others, for years. This is the first article in  an important series which the Catholic Sun has granted us permission to reprint. We will present every installment going forward for our readers. We ask you to pray for this good Bishop and take his clear and compelling direction to heart. Deacon Keith Fournier) 

If you asked Catholics in the United States in the 1950s if it was possible to be fully Catholic and fully American, most would have answered with an enthusiastic YES! In the first decade after World War II where Catholics and non-Catholics had fought side-by-side against common enemies, simultaneously overcoming some deep-seated prejudices among themselves, the great majority of Catholics had few if any worries about the compatibility of the Catholic faith with American culture. Do we still feel that way today?

Can we still be Catholic and American?
Sixty years ago when Catholics were pursuing higher education as never before, when vocations to the priesthood and religious life were at an all time high level, when Catholic hospitals and schools were expanding and flourishing at unprecedented rates, most Catholics in the United States were proud to be here; and very few anticipated the tensions that would erupt within American culture in the 1960s and the crises that would fray the fabric of the Catholic community after the Second Vatican Council.

Now, over half a century later, many Catholics have at best ambivalent feelings about the relationship between Catholicism and America. So much has changed since the good old days of the '50s. Consider, for example, the following: 45 years of legalized abortion has killed more than 50 million unborn children, the HHS mandates of the federal government seriously threaten religious liberty, and the powerful political and other societal forces gravely weaken the institution of marriage and with it serious threats to the well-being of children. Should Catholics still be excited about being American citizens?

Do we even have a problem?
Last year, the archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, spoke of the obstacles to the New Evangelization found in Canada and the United States today. He said: "Public opinion polls indicate a disturbing phenomenon. While we are trying to evangelize, the rulers of this age, who shape popular culture, are effectively de-evangelizing many Christians. Often the misguided ideas against which we speak are increasingly attractive, and the principles we affirm are unattractive, to Catholics as much as any others, who are unconsciously absorbing the false wisdom of the age."

What is it in American society today that makes "misguided ideas" attractive? And what makes solid principles of Catholic faith and morals unattractive? It is not hard to see how this cultural phenomenon greatly hinders efforts of the Church in North America to bear witness to the saving message of Jesus Christ. But how many even see and acknowledge that we have a problem?

The depth of the present crisis is evidenced in the fact that large numbers of Catholics, being more embedded in our secularist culture than in the life of the Church, feel quite at home in this world. Not only do they not feel motivated to work for cultural change, writes Russell Shaw in his new book "American Church," they do not even see a problem, not even feel a need to take a good, hard look at what is happening to the basic foundations of American society and at its corrosive effect on the Church and other faith-based institutions, and upon human dignity and the foundational institutions of society, especially marriage.

As Russell writes (p. 13), "On the evidence, many appear neither ready nor willing to provide a Christian critique of things like legalized abortion. the contraceptionist consumerist mentality that dominates the American dream of material success, the idol of American exceptionalism abroad, and much else in the world view of contemporary secular America in serious tension with their religious tradition."

Keep your eye on the Chair
A recent headline caught my eye, NOT because it conjures up memories of a former basketball coach but because it expresses the opposite of apathy. The headline read: "Sometimes, Throw a Chair." The greatest challenge that we Catholics face in America is indifferentism, not Americanism; it is not a problem of being too patriotic but a problem of being morally lazy, intellectually sloppy and spiritually asleep.

Many things can freeze us in our tracks and keep us from responding to crises that threaten us individually or as a community: from doubts and fears on the one hand to failure even to notice that there is a crisis. We can fail even to notice "a progressive secularization of society and a kind of eclipse of the sense of God" (as Pope Benedict XVI described the crisis); or even worse we can fail even to care about this dramatic drift away from faith in God that has poisoned the culture of so-called "first world" countries like America.

In striking contrast to this sickly slide into sloth that has weakened our American culture, we have the startling words of Jesus (Lk 12:49), "I have come to set a fire on the earth, how I wish it were already blazing!" We also have the refreshing spontaneity and compelling witness of Pope Francis who continually challenges mediocrity even as he inspires love. His personal witness to Christ has been formed in the crucible of suffering, in his relentless advocacy for the forgotten and poor, and in his courageous defense of human dignity and religious freedom before hostile governments in his native land.

Pope Francis, perhaps more by his own person and deeds than his words, is awakening Catholics to our mission from Christ at this pivotal point in history. We don't have to worry about Pope Francis throwing a chair but we can be sure that his witness to Christ from the Chair of Peter will continue to make the indifferent uncomfortable and ignite the fire of love among followers of Christ today. May we welcome that fire with grateful hearts.

In the next issue of The Catholic Sun, I will look more closely at the relationship between the Church and American culture, at the challenges we Catholics have faced and continue face today, and what we must do in order to be faithful to our mission. The vast field of evangelization in America has both disturbing trends and grace-filled marvels. It is precisely in face of both that we have the duty and privilege of knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ.

-----

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted was installed as the fourth bishop of Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2003. Since 1974, Bishop Thomas James Olmsted has been a member of the Jesus Caritas fraternity of priests, and thus has been deeply influenced by the witness and wisdom of Charles de Foucauld and by the prayers and encouragement of many brother priests. For 16 years, Bishop Olmsted lived in Rome, Italy, where he obtained a master's dgree in theology, a doctorate in Canon Law, and worked more than nine years in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.

During the nine years of serving in the Holy See, he resided at the Pontifical North American College and assisted seminarians with spiritual direction. Having been reared on a family farm on the Kansas-Nebraska border, he attended a single-room grade school near Oketo, Kan., and a small rural high school in Summerfield, Kan. His first contact with Catholic schools came when he entered St. Thomas Seminary College in Denver, Colo., from which he graduated in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in philosophy. This article is reprinted with permission and originally appeared in the May 9, 2013 edition of the Catholic Sun.

---

The Catholic Sun, as the official newspaper for the Diocese of Phoenix, shares in the mission of evangelizing the Catholic faithful, under the direction of the bishop, by providing news, information, education, a forum for discussion and guidance in matters of faith, morals and spiritual life. This article is reprinted with permission.



Comments


More U.S.

Suspected Indiana serial killer foiled by text messages Watch

Image of Darren Deon Vann is suspected in the death of a woman in Hammond - and possibly six more in neighboring Gary, possibly even more.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Darren Deon Vann told Indiana Police he "messed up" and expressed surprise that he was found so quickly, in the biggest understatement in recent memory. Vann is suspected in the death of a woman in Hammond - and possibly six more in neighboring Gary, possibly ... continue reading


Guns Do Not Have Rights, People Do. Legitimate Self Defense is One of Them

Image of Guns have no rights, only people do.Yes, one of them is the Right to Self Defense - and the Right to defend your neighbor. You may ask,

By Keith A. Fournier

We live in a precarious time in the United States of America. Many of us are deeply concerned about the effort to infringe upon the fundamental rights which were delineated in the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution. I have written extensively about ... continue reading


Guest Commentary by Ken Blackwell: Houston's Mayor is Endangering Civil Rights

Image of Ken Blackwell

By Ken Blackwell

In Houston, Texas, we have seen a bizarre twist on traditional Civil Rights play out. The Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, has been waging an uncivil war on people who oppose the far-reaching homosexual rights ordinance she powered through the City Council. That ... continue reading


United States developing quick-strike team to deal with Ebola Watch

Image of The U.S. Ebola strike team will include five doctors, 20 nurses and five trainers, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In response to the crisis in Dallas, the United States is developing a 30-person "quick-strike team" in order to attend to the needs of Ebola patients within the U.S. The team will be under orders to deploy within 72 hours at any time over the next month. The ... continue reading


After 21 days, the family of Thomas Eric Duncan are Ebola free Watch

Image of Thomas Eric Duncan's family, including his fiancee and her son and nephews, are nearing the end of their 21 day quarantine. So far, none of the four have developed Ebola like symptoms.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The fiancee of Thomas Eric Duncan-the first man diagnosed with Ebola in the United States-is nearing the end of a 21 day quarantine, and she and her son and two nephews are grateful that this period is coming to an end. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - If ... continue reading


Supreme Court backs Texas' war on voter fraud Watch

Image of The U.S. Supreme Court has backed a 2013 Texas law that requires voters to show ID before they submit a vote.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Supreme Court has given Texas the go ahead for a law that requires voters in the state to show certain forms of identification before they are able to cast a ballot. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The October 18 decision came from a majority of ... continue reading


Father Peter M. J. Stravinskas on the Synod on the Family: Duc in Altum

Image of Lorenzo Lotto's depiction of the Holy Family's rest on the flight into Egypt.

By Father Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.

Christians today in most parts of the world find themselves in a world much like the one inhabited by the first Christians - rampant sexual license, abortion, contraception, family break-down.  Those early Christians took a counter-cultural stance, echoing ... continue reading


(Video) Nina Pham's incredible goodbye will bring you to tears Watch

Image of Supporters of Nina Pham, the nurse who was infected with Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has released a video which shows the goodbye between Ebola-patient Nina Pham and her doctor, as she leaves Dallas for treatment in Maryland. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The 26-year-old nurse was infected with Ebola after ... continue reading


(Video) South Carolina's shocking SHARKNADO! Watch

Image of A rare shark feeding frenzy was caught on video in North Carolina, as hundreds of sharks attacked a school of Blue Fish.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An amazing video has appeared on YouTube which shows 100 of sharks engaged in a feeding frenzy just feet from the shore in Cape Lookout, North Carolina. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The bizarre video was taken on October 9, but was not made public until ... continue reading


Fed takes in record of over $3 trillion in taxes Watch

Image of A Treasury Department report has revealed that the U.S. government has taken in a record amount of tax revenue for the 2014 fiscal year, at over $3 trillion.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The latest Monthly Treasury Statement has showed that inflation-adjusted federal tax revenues and tax revenues have reached their highest point even as of the 2014 fiscal year. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The inflation-adjusted tax revenue reached ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:12-22
12 do not forget, I say, that you were at that time ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:35-38
35 'See that you have your belts done up and your ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 21st, 2014 Image

St. Hilarion
October 21: Abbot and disciple of St. Anthony the Great, companion of St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter