Archbishop Chaput’s frank talk makes me think he might actually be farther along to a fuller experience of the truth than his detractors might give him credit. He rightly topples Karl Marx:
But the real opiate of the people – the coca leaves of modern culture that we’re all expected to chew – is the river of consumer comforts and distractions that we use to damp down our deeper hunger for God and our gnawing sense of obligation to so many other people.
I think this is correct. Corporations want to promote business. Profit is interrupted when people are generous with their time and treasure. As long as we waste time grasping for lost youth, getting angry at our manufactured opponents, and parroting sound bites as presented to us in various media conduits, we continue to worship at the Golden Calf of Capitalism Gone Wild. And all is well. Banks continue to hold the world’s economy hostage. The people who draw our outrage are truth-tellers and leakers. Not the neo-aristocrats who have drained our economies.
Archbiship Chaput hammered away on drug use and trafficking. And he wasn’t wrong. Just incomplete. Chemical dependency is just one of many addictions that plague modern society. And have probably plagued societies for millennia. We can’t help but medicate ourselves with sex, power, consumption, and of course, chemicals of various kinds.
But make no mistake. The drug issues the archbishop hammers away on are just part of a greater set of symptoms.
I liked this personal insight:
The third problem is we ourselves; each of us as a believer and bishop; our limitations; our weaknesses. God called us to lead. The Church ordained us to lead. Therefore we’re responsible. Yes, we bishops didn’t create the world in which we now live. Yes, we don’t control most of the factors that will shape the world tomorrow. I also don’t pretend to understand the unique and serious pressures my Latin American brothers face that I don’t. I ask your indulgence for that, and I hope you will add to and correct what I say here according to your experiences.
As a parent, what the archbishop says here resonates with my sacramental role as a family member. I didn’t create the various pitfalls for the modern teenager. But I am responsible for watching over my daughter and doing my best to ensure she doesn’t fall for the nonsense that’s out there.
Unfortunately, I think Archbishop Chaput is still largely a child of the culturewar, dreaming of a once-Christian US that has been taken over by the barbarians.
But I do know that when I spoke at the Special Assembly for America 16 years ago, I spoke from a moral consensus in the United States that was still largely Christian. Today that is no longer the case. I do know that the mass media of the United States shape the appetites, beliefs and prejudices of much of the rest of the world – including Catholic young people — and with few exceptions, these media are no friend to the Catholic faith.
The media is largely a tool. I suppose you can blame gun violence on the guns. But really, it is the puppeteer behind the firearm that is commiting the transgression. Sound like conspiracy fodder? It’s no less believable than widely scattered tv, radio, print, and internet outlets conspiring to bring down the institutional Church.
Corporations shape the appetites of people. The lust for products that enhance one’s pleasure, the indulgence of immediate gratification. That includes easy answers for the difficult problems of the day.
The mass media exists mainly to gather profit for the powers behind the curtain. Which isn’t to say that the world’s neoaristocracy doesn’t have sycophants willing to sell themselves to get a piece of that pie.
I do think Archbishop Chaput is right to rail against the forces arrayed against Christ and his Gospel. I don’t think his targeting very accurate, is all.