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America edging toward confrontation on religious freedom, Archbishop Chaput warns

July 27, 2012

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia delivered an urgent call for Catholics to take action to protect the American tradition of religious freedom, in a July 26 address to the Napa Institute in California.

The archbishop questioned whether America has “crossed the Rubicon” on religious-freedom questions, reaching a point at which political confrontation is inevitable. Without answering the question directly, he challenged the members of his audience to answer for themselves.

Catholics have always shown a deep love for the US, and the hierarchy has supported the country fully, Archbishop Chaput said. “So if the bishops of the United States ever find themselves opposed, in a fundamental way, to the spirit of our country, the fault won’t lie with our bishops. It will lie with political and cultural leaders who turned our country into something it was never meant to be.”

Later in his talk, the archbishop summarized his concerns by saying that “the America of Catholic memory is not the America of the present moment or the emerging future.” He continued:

Sooner or later, a nation based on a degraded notion of liberty, on license rather than real freedom—in other words, a nation of abortion, disordered sexuality, consumer greed, and indifference to immigrants and the poor—will not be worthy of its founding ideals. And on that day, it will have no claim on virtuous hearts.

Archbishop Chaput said that all Christians must reject the secularist argument that religious freedom requires only the freedom to worship. Christianity makes greater demands on believers, he said:

Christian faith demands preaching, teaching, public witness, and service to others—by each of us alone, and by acting in cooperation with fellow believers. As a result, religious freedom is never just freedom from repression but also—and more importantly—freedom for active discipleship.


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  • Posted by: - Jul. 28, 2012 11:58 AM ET USA

    Archbishop Chaput is correct in that it is indeed time for Catholics to take bold action. Thank goodness for some of the newer Bishops like Chaput who understand that the Church is under attack and must now defend itself. The Bishops must take action and lead the charge to protect their flock. For too long they have remained passive and silent. It is now time for the Pulpit to awaken! There is an election coming up and Catholics need to know who is friend and who is foe.

  • Posted by: unum - Jul. 28, 2012 7:32 AM ET USA

    Justin8110 says, "We cannot win in the courts." I'm not sure of the basis for that statement. But, if "We the People" don't win the fight for freedom of religion in the courts, then our country is no longer America and we are no longer free. This is not a fight about freedom of religion vs. "freedom to worship". It is a fight about God-given rights vs. privileges conferred by an almighty government.

  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Jul. 28, 2012 1:13 AM ET USA

    Though Christianity cannot be said to be the national religion its religious tenets largely shaped the moral framework of America's Founding Fathers who knew the nature of religion was not just a matter of private conviction but was meant to be experienced and lived in accord with man/woman's social nature which is meant to be expressed in the public square in community with others. Christians will fight for the right to express themselves in proportion to the depth of their convictions.

  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Jul. 27, 2012 4:36 PM ET USA

    The good archbishop is right about this. If we are Catholic we cannot compartmentalize our faith into just something we do on Sundays and amongst our Catholic friends and family but must be Catholic everytwhere, all the time. The bottom line is that throughout history we have been opposed and even killed for our Faith but we cannot let that stop us from being who we are. We cannot win in the courts. We must simply bear witness to our Faith with our lives come what may. That is all that is left.