Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sunday 24 April 2016

Dear Friends in Christ,

The killing of an unborn child is the sin and crime of murder and should be against the law. All human persons have the natural right to immigrate in order to provide economic or political liberty for themselves and their families. Marriage between one man and one woman is not created by the state; it is an arrangement of nature and nature’s God that comes before all governments, and no state can justly declare any other form of sexual friendship to be marriage.

Those statements are examples of how moral and legal arguments intersect in the never-ending conversation about religion and public life, and every Catholic is called by Baptism to be able to articulate a coherent Christian understanding of what the Gospel requires of us. To help in the formation of that coherent understanding, I recommend three books for your careful study.

“Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Faith” is a splendid book by Archbishop Charles Chaput, one of the finest bishops in the universal Church. Chaput’s work is a brilliant meditation on the necessity of living of our faith boldly and publicly precisely in order to serve the legitimate pluralism of a secular nation. Too many argue that living together in peace with those who do not share our faith or who have no faith at all requires compromising our principles or muting our public voice; Archbishop Chaput explains winsomely why just the opposite is true.

“American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile” was the last published work of the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, perhaps the single most important voice in the discussion of religion and public life in the past fifty years. Neuhaus began his ministry as a Lutheran pastor serving an African American congregation in Brooklyn, and he became an important figure in the national movements for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. As time passed, though, Neuhaus found himself drawn ineluctably towards becoming – as he would later put it – the Catholic he always was. Neuhaus wrote an entire shelf of books on religion and public life, all of which are worthy of study, but this final volume reflects the wisdom of the old warrior near the end of his campaigns, battered and bruised but still filled with hope.

“Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel” is a compelling book by Russell D. Moore, a Southern Baptist minister and the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore makes a strong case for the best way to understand from a Christian perspective what are usually described as the “culture wars” and explains why the radical demands of the Gospel always surprise both those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and those who don’t.

Father Newman