The Church vs. the Culture: the Score Thus Far

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Much in our culture is incompatible with full and authentic Catholic faith. In this sense, there is a “cultural war” under way. How ought we react?

Getting angry is not the best solution. Sometimes righteous anger is a necessary response to real abuses, but it often gives way to bitterness and antagonisms that are not, in the long run, conducive to spreading the Gospel.

We owe our culture the best and most authentic vision of our Faith. We must live it faithfully and bring it with us into every aspect of our lives. In particular the lay faithful must endeavor to sanctify the world. Our first witness will be the witness of our lives. If we are living our faith, we will exude peace and joy. This in itself is a powerful witness.

But we also must give testimony to our society of its shortcomings. Most importantly we must unmask the false notion of liberty underlying much of modern culture. Radical autonomy is not true freedom. Every person who has been in love knows this. Authentic love compels the lover to sacrifice everything for his or her beloved. The person in love wishes to give himself or herself away in a total gift of self. This is authentic love and true freedom. It is also the opposite of absolute, radical autonomy. This is the authentic freedom that Jesus gives witness to on the Cross. We discover ourselves only if we give ourselves away. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:26).

John J. Myers, J.C.D., D.D., is the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

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