Render Unto Caesar

I recently finished reading Render Unto Caesar by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput (Doubleday: New York, 2008.)  The subtitle “Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life” really speaks to his point, ‘we must stand up for what we believe in.’

Render unto Caesar is, of course, a biblical reference to Matthew 22:16-22 where the Pharisees ask about paying the tax to Caesar.  Jesus’ reply is to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.

Many people today believe separation of church and state means church and state have no relationship to each other and so our “church views” should have nothing to do with our political views.  The Church does not seek to tell the state what to do.  What the Church does seek is to stand up for what we believe in. Chaput writes

If we really love this country, and if we really treasure our faith, living our Catholic beliefs without excuses or apologies, and advancing them in the public square, are the best expressions of patriotism we can give to the nation (219).

What we believe in is not determined by a majority vote. 

Pope Liberius, of the first bishops of Rome to be hauled before a hostile emperor, said it best, “The truth of the faith is not lessened bythe fact that I stand alone” (Chaput, 197).

What we are to believe in is determined by Christ’s teaching to us.

Unfortunately many people today don’t really understand Church teaching on many issues such as gay marriage, birth control, or abortion.  They say they simply follow their conscience.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says we must follow our conscience but that we have a duty to a well-formed conscience (paragraph 1785), meaning it is not enough to know what the Church teaches on a particular issue.  We must study why the Church has the teaching so we can make an informed decision.

Only when we understand Church teaching ourselves can we stand up for what we believe in.  We live in a pluralistic society and trying to be tolerant can lead to complacency.  Christ was never complacent.  He stood up for what he believed in.  Do you?


Fr. Jeff

For Further Reading

From“Do We Listen to Our Conscience?”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.”  Doubleday: New York, 2008.

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