CNA reports on remarks by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, stressing the need for Catholics in Catholic organizations to be Catholic.
It’s somewhat sad that this is even news, but for several reasons the speech is an important one.
Notably, he gave his presentation at the Catholic Social Workers National Convention, which was being held in Denver, and it is a great credit to them that he was chosen to speak.
Catholic social agencies are right to be concerned about their ability to live out their identity, because they have been targeted by for discrimination by certain governments because of those agencies’ decision to adhere to traditional Catholic teachings on marriage and sexuality.
The social work field itself is also a massive battleground in which secular schools and professional organizations are trying to exclude any Catholic or Christian who adheres to traditional moral teachings. Social work and counseling as professions are on the brink of making it so that no Christian who needs help or counseling will be able to seek assistance from someone committed to Christian values, because a person or agency with such values won’t be allowed to get an education or license.
At the same time, some Catholic social service agencies have been criticized for having many employees who do not embrace and advance the agencies’ Catholic identity, but who sometimes believe and act counter to it.
The Archbishop stated it bluntly: “if our social work isn’t deeply, confidently and explicitly Catholic in its identity, then we should stop using the word ‘Catholic.’ It’s that simple.”
Ironically, while many attacks come upon Catholic institutions because they adhere to Church teaching, the best chance legally that Catholic institutions have to win those battles is for them to be thoroughly Catholic instead of marginally Catholic.
That doesn’t mean such an agency would only serve Catholics–on the contrary, its mission is to bring Jesus to the world. And it may or may not mean that every employee is Catholic, though one would expect most of them to be. What it does mean is that every employee, and the very heart and trajectory of the organization, must be unswervingly committed to advancing the Catholic mission of such an agency, namely, as Archbishop Chaput expressed it, that “Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ” and his body the Church.