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Archbishop Chaput on American religious liberty, shari’a

Catholic World News - March 03, 2011

In an address delivered on March 1 at Georgetown University, Archbishop Charles Chaput reflected on the heritage of religious freedom in the United States, noting that “we’re not acting like we revere that legacy, or want to share it, or even really understand it.”

“The American model of religious liberty is rooted in the thought-world and idea-architecture of the Christian humanist tradition,” he said. “Whatever it becomes in the future, America was born Protestant.” The archbishop added that he was

not saying that our Protestant heritage is uniformly good. Some of the results clearly are good: America’s culture of personal opportunity; respect for the individual; a tradition of religious liberty and freedom of speech; and a reverence for the law. Other effects of Reformation theology have been less happy: radical individualism; revivalist politics; a Calvinist hunger for material success as proof of salvation; an ugly nativist and anti-Catholic streak; a tendency toward intellectual shallowness and disinterest in matters of creed; and a nearly religious, and sometimes dangerous, sense of national destiny and redemptive mission.

“The global situation is made worse by the inaction of our own national leadership in promoting to the world one of America's greatest qualities: religious freedom,” he said later in his address. “This is regrettable because we urgently need an honest discussion on the relationship between Islam and the assumptions of the modern democratic state. In diplomacy and in interreligious dialogue we need to encourage an Islamic public theology that is both faithful to Muslim traditions and also open to liberal norms. Shari'a law is not a solution. Christians living under shari'a uniformly experience it as offensive, discriminatory and a grave violation of their human dignity.”

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Tau - Mar. 04, 2011 11:59 AM ET USA

    “America was born Protestant.” Protestant is a misnomer. Did he forget a fellow by the name of "Carroll". francistau

  • Posted by: unum - Mar. 04, 2011 10:18 AM ET USA

    ABP. Chaput is right. The U.S. should tout its religious freedom instead of going weak kneed at the thought that we might offend some other faith or nation. The spread of Islam is frightening and the terror of its radical elements intimidates other religions. The U.S. offers legal immigrants a safe haven from religious terrorism.

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Mar. 03, 2011 8:21 AM ET USA

    Archbishop Chaput is a great scholar and pastor. Long may he reign in Denver or wherever else the Church needs him!

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