Archbishop Chaput – Catholic Social Workers Must Be Catholic

Denver, Colo.(CNA/EWTN News) — Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver has warned Catholic social workers against the danger of Church institutions losing their religious identity amidst increasing hostility from the government and society.

“The more that Catholic universities or hospitals mute their religious identity; the more that Catholic social ministries weaken their religious character… the less useful to the Gospel they become,” he said.

Archbishop Chaput delivered a dual message to Catholic social workers this week, urging them not to let their Christian identity wane and also stressing that the government has no right to impede the work of Catholic institutions.

Archbishop Chaput of Denver

At an address to the Catholic Social Workers National Convention in Denver, he said that civil society consists “not just of autonomous individuals” but communities as well. “Those communities also have rights. Catholic institutions are extensions of the Catholic community and Catholic belief,” he emphasized.

The state has no right to interfere with their legitimate work, even when it claims to act in the name of individuals unhappy with Catholic teaching,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Chaput’s remarks were made against the backdrop of Catholic Charities in several dioceses across the U.S. shutting down adoption and foster care services after their local states enacted civil union laws.

Despite these setbacks, however, the Denver archbishop said that Catholic ministries “have the duty to faithfully embody Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social justice, sexuality, abortion and other important issues.”

“And if the state refuses to allow those Catholic ministries to be faithful in their services through legal or financial bullying,” he added, “then as a matter of integrity, they should end their services.”

“Catholic social ministry begins and ends with Jesus Christ,” he said. “If it doesn’t, it isn’t Catholic.”

“And if our social work isn’t deeply, confidently and explicitly Catholic in its identity, then we should stop using the word ‘Catholic,’” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Archbishop Chaput warned that “a new kind of America” is emerging in the 21st century, one that is likely to be “much less friendly to religious faith than anything in the nation’s past.”

The reason for this, he said, is that “America’s religious soul – its Christian subtext – has been weakening for decades.”

The archbishop observed that religious communities have historically had a great deal of power in shaping attitudes and behavior in the U.S. “And that’s why, if you dislike religion or resent the Catholic Church, or just want to reshape American life into some new kind of experiment, you need to use the state to break the influence of the Church and her ministries.”

He said that in the years ahead, the nation’s religious communities will encounter more attempts by civil authorities to interfere and will find less “unchallenged space” to carry out their work in the public square. “It’s already happening with Catholic hospitals and adoption agencies, and even in the hiring practices of organizations like Catholic Charities,” the archbishop said.

He noted that this increasing hostility towards Catholicism shows how “no one in Catholic social work can afford to be lukewarm about his faith.”

“Being faithful to Catholic teaching isn’t something optional for a Catholic social worker,” said Archbishop Chaput. “It’s basic to his or her identity,” adding that the faith “is much more than a list of dos and don’ts.”

Rather, Catholic teaching is part “of a much larger view of the human person, human dignity and our eternal destiny,” he said. “The content of this teaching comes from God through his son Jesus Christ. It’s defined by the universal Church and then preached, taught and applied by the local bishop.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his remarks by saying he “painted a pretty stark picture of the America we may face in the next few decades.”

“But we shouldn’t lose heart, even for a minute,” he said. “Our job is to let God change us, and then to help God, through our actions, to change the lives of others. That’s what we’ll be held accountable for, and it’s very much within our ability – if we remain faithful to who we are as believers.”

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11 comments to Archbishop Chaput – Catholic Social Workers Must Be Catholic

  • Febe

    We are very grateful for archbishops such as archbishop Chaput, who is clear on our faith and willing to stand up for Christ.

  • Carol Klein

    Archbishop Chaput has always been forthright and decided about the faith. He speaks the truth. And truth is the magnet that will draw all to God. Even the dissenters and the haters respect truth. When the Church forgets our Truth and does not clearly and strongly say what is expected they lose all credibility….and more, the soul. Thank God we have men like the archbishop in our midst.

  • Archbishop Chaput is right on target, except we shouldn’t be closing our doors, but defiantly disobeying morally corrupt laws and challenging them in the courts.

  • social worker

    Whoa!!! I am curious do these “Catholic Social Workers” have a degree? or you just call yourselves social workers because you “help”?

    • Stephanie Grace Prost

      I cannot speak for each person who identifies themselves as a “Catholic Social Worker,” however, I am. I obtained my MSW from a fully accredited state university and practice in my community in a variety of settings (hospitals, substance use treatment, juvenile justice” and am working toward obtaining my PhD in social work as we speak. I appreciate your willingness to ask an important question-but I do not believe this piece was aimed at establishing these social workers as necessarily BSWs or MSWs.

  • Thank God for the Catholic Church. To David, our job as educators is to try to help young people and all people, I guess, as well as ourselves, sort through this mess. We have the right Pope. I just started reading his books!

  • terrig

    You are a true Shepherd, Archbishop. I wish all American bishops were as courageous.

  • David Morris

    I wish my own Bishop would be so courageous… i have graduated from a Catholic university, and taught in catholic schools for 20 years… this Bishop is so right on the money, my most frustrating experience was to deal with the powers that be, who were totally in opposition to official church teachings. i want to do God’s work, but am unable due to those in power…in universities and in catholic education offices… help

  • I am a Catholic Social Worker. I follow my Catholic faith, the teachings of the Magisterium, and I unabashedly state this clearly to potential patients. I ignore so called ethics that are contrary to Catholic teaching, and I remain vigilant in the face of the secular-humanist onslaught.

    I applaud Archbishop Chaput and I am grateful for his leadership for Social Workers.

    May Almighty God bless him and may the Virgin Mary keep him safe under her mantle and in her immaculate heart.


    • Nedra

      If the goal of belief is to be relevant in the times in which we are situated, to be effective in the world, then, reading the times we are presently in, all indications are that the faithful need the sacraments and the goodness of the Church more than ever before. It would be altogether too narrow a framework to believe that our only responsibilities to God and neighbor are in American politics. We of course need to be responsible about the times not only in America but in the wider world. Looking at it from this perspective, relative to many situations the human family finds itself in, America of course enjoys great riches, power, freedoms. The poorest of our country enjoy a higher standard of living relative to the poorest of many other countries and this is in no small part due to the teaching authority and concrete actions of the Church in America. How ought we bring our spiritual solidarity into play in the world as members of the Church in which all are our brothers and sisters without reference to geographic citizenship? It cannot be through continued teaching that liturgy and doctrine do not matter and are useless or pointless which in terms of their effects have led the faithful away from active participation in communal prayer and the sacraments. If we wish to further dissipate our energies, then more of the same seems the order of the day. If we recognize we are called to some greater participation in the light and dignity of God then our Catholic leaders, even despite vehement attack and criticism every step of the way, rightly point out the better way in courage, and continually and tirelessly, in a winsome way, attract those of us who may not have had the opportunity or encouragement previously to understand that we are not only in sum and substance, a vote, taxes, pocketbook, comment, purchased items, career success, results, tastes, media preferences, informed or not so informed opinions. Why this should be perceived as such a danger to some in positions of power and authority is an unfortunate and tiresome reality which we must face together in assenting to the path of goodness.

      • Dorinda sears

        Nedra You put a lot of words into play; yet, I am not quite sure what you mean. Pleade be more clear. The Catholic Church has stretched the faith across the globe so I am sure that what you are trying to say is fundamentally intended for political purposes rather than for matters of spiritual direction.

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