Remarks of Robert P. George, Professor at Princeton University – National Catholic Prayer Breakfast


          The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over.  The days of comfortable Catholicism are past.  It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel.  A price is demanded.  There are costs of discipleship – heavy costs.

          Of course, one can still safely identify oneself as a “Catholic”, and even be seen going to mass.  That is because the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call “political correctness” do not assume that identifying as “Catholic” or going to mass necessarily means that one actually believes what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.

          And if one in fact does not believe what the Church teaches, or, for now at least, even if one does believe those teachings, but is prepared to be completely silent about them, one is safe – one can still be a comfortable Catholic.  In other words, a tame Catholic, a Catholic who is ashamed of the Gospel – or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed – is still socially acceptable.  But a Catholic who makes it clear that he or she is not ashamed is in for a rough go – he or she must be prepared to take risks and make sacrifices.  “If”, Jesus said “anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.”  We American Catholics, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless Gospel truth.  There will be no ignoring it now.

         The question each of us today must face I that:  Am I ashamed of the Gospel?

         Powerful forces and current in our society press us to be ashamed of the Gospel – ashamed of the good, ashamed of our faith’s teachings on the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions.  These forces insist that the Church’s teachings are out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted – even hateful.  These currents bring pressure on all of us – and on young Catholics in particular – to yield to this insistence.  They threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good evil, and what is evil good.  They command us to conform our thinking to theirs.

         Do you believe, as I believe, that every member of the human family, irrespective of age or size or stage of development or condition of dependence, is the bearer of inherent dignity and an equal right to life?  Do you hold that the precious child in the womb, as a creature made in the very image and likeness of God, deserves respect and protections?  Then, powerful people and institutions say, you are a misogynist – a hater of women, someone who poses a threat to people’s privacy, an enemy of women’s “reproductive freedom”.  You ought to be ashamed!

      To be a witness to the Gospel today is to make oneself a marked man or woman.  It is to expose oneself to scorn and reproach.  To unashamedly proclaim the Gospel in its fullness to place in jeopardy one’s security, one’s personal aspirations and ambitions, the peace and tranquility one enjoys, one’s standing in polite society.  One may in consequence of one’s public witness be discriminated against and denied education opportunities and the prestigious credentials they may offer; one may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement; one may be excluded from worldly recognition and honors of various sorts; one’s witness may even cost one treasured friendships.  It may produce familial discord and even alienation from family members.  Yes, there are costs of discipleship – heavy costs.

          There was a time, not long ago, when things were quite different.  You see, for us, as for our faithful Evangelical friends, it is now Good Friday.  The memory of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded.  Yes, he had been greeted – and not long ago – by throngs of people waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David”.  He rode into the Jerusalem of Europe and the Jerusalem of the Americas and was proclaimed Lord and King.  But all that is now in the past.  Friday has come.  The love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over.  Elite sectors of the cultures of Europe and North American no longer welcome his message.  “Away with him”, they shout “Give us Barabbas!”

          So for us there is no avoiding the question:  Am I ashamed of the Gospel?  Am I unwilling to stand with Christ by proclaiming His truths?  Oh, things were easy on Palm Sunday.  Standing with Jesus and His truths was the thing to do.  Everybody was shouting “Hosanna.”  But now it’s Friday, and the days of acceptable Christianity are over.  The days of comfortable Catholicism are past.  Jesus is before Pilate.  The crowds are shouting “crucify him.”  The Lord is being led to Calvary.  Jesus is being nailed to the cross.

          And where are we?  Are we afraid to be known as his disciples?  Are we ashamed of the Gospel?