Abp. Charles Chaput has written a lengthy and excellent review of Brad Gregory's book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, an important historical study that David Paul Deavel reviewed for CWR earlier this year.
A well-formed Catholic conscience can choose wisely between the candidates. And this year, vital issues are at stake.
Still, elections are tough times for serious Catholics. If we believe in the encyclical traditionfrom Rerum Novarum to Evangelium Vitae; from Humanae Vitae to Caritas In Veritatethen
we can’t settle comfortably in either political party. Catholics give
priority to the right to life and the integrity of the family as
foundation stones of society. But we also have much to say about the
economy and immigration, runaway debt, unemployment, war and peace. It’s
why the US bishops recently observed that
“in today’s environment, Catholics may feel politically
disenfranchised, sensing that no party and few candidates fully share
our comprehensive commitment to human life and dignity.”
Any committed Christian might be tempted to despair. But the truth is
that it’s always been this way. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “here
we have no abiding city” (Heb 13:14). Augustine admired certain pagan
Roman virtues, but he wrote the City of God to remind us that
we’re Christians first, worldly citizens second. We need to
learnsometimes painfullyto let our faith chasten our partisan
In the United States, our political tensions flow from our cultural
problems. Exceptions clearly exist, but today our culture routinely
places rights over duties, individual fulfillment over community, and
doubt over belief. In effect, the glue that now holds us together is our
right to go mall-crawling and buy more junk. It’s hard to live a life
of virtue when all around us, in the mass media and even in the lives of
colleagues and neighbors, discipline, restraint, and self-sacrifice
And here is a bit about Gregory's book:
Gregory argues that today’s relativism and cult of the consumerwhat
he ironically calls “the goods life”have roots that run centuries deep.
He wastes no time on nostalgia for a golden age that never existed. But
he does show with riveting clarity that in the sixteenth century,
Protestant Reformers unintentionally set in motion certain ideas that
eventually enabled today’s radical self-centeredness.
Gregory also shows that while the Reformers lit the fuse, medieval
Catholics laid the dynamite. Late medieval laity were, quite often,
profoundly pious. And because they were pious, they minded when their
leaders weren’t. Pious laypeople had an appetite for reform precisely
because of their devotion. Late medieval clergy too often preached one
thing and did another. Greed, simony, nepotism, luxury, sexual license,
and schism in the hierarchy created an intolerable gap between Christian
preaching and practice.
Many Catholics worked for reform from within. Some had success.
Franciscans, Dominicans, and Cistercians owe their origins to medieval
reform. Humanists such as Erasmus and Thomas More were part of an
international community of letters determined to renew Christian life
from the inside. Saints such as Catherine of Siena and Bernard of
Clairvaux spoke truth to ecclesiastical power.
But one key difference separated these Catholic voices from the
Protestant Reformers: The Catholics believed that the Church had her
teachings right. She just needed to actually live them. The Catholics
believed that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and other sacraments,
in the Scriptures, in the saints, and in the Church’s historic doctrines
offered an authentic, all-encompassing Christian way of life sufficient
to sanctify human existenceif it was actually embraced and shorn of
Read the entire piece on the Public Discourse website.