America edging toward confrontation on religious freedom, Archbishop Chaput warns. (Catholic World News)

July 28th, 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.