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The former archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, noted in an interview Friday that religious liberty is in peril in the United States due to declining appreciation for the importance of faith.

“The United States was founded by Europeans seeking religious liberty,” Archbishop Chaput noted in his interview with Angelus News. “It was a very important issue for them, even though they didn’t really recognize the liberty of Catholics at first, or the liberty of slaves, in the first decades of our country.”

“It seems there is real danger to religious freedom now and in our country — mostly because people aren’t serious about religion or religious freedom,” he observed.

Recognizing and defending religious liberty goes hand in hand with recognizing the dignity of every single person, the archbishop suggested, as well as the order of God’s creation.

“You’re going to have a difficult time if you don’t respect the dignity of every individual,” he said. “Today, we don’t have any respect for the dignity of the unborn as a country. When you don’t do that, you begin to embrace ideologies that enable us to interfere with the order of creation, like gender theory.”

“Likewise, if we don’t respect the elderly, which we don’t, then we embrace things like euthanasia,” he added. “Things can turn pretty bad pretty quickly and I worry about that.”

Politically, the country is also in trouble, Chaput asserted.

“This is going to sound a little bit political, but it seems strange that the best we can do as a country in terms of leadership were the options we had for president in the last election,” he said. “Neither of those were very good, objective options in themselves. Like, is this the best we really could do? It’s just a strange time.”

The archbishop has been especially critical of President Joe Biden, noting that as a Catholic who openly supports abortion on demand, he should not receive Holy Communion.

“Public figures who identify as ‘Catholic’ give scandal to the faithful when receiving Communion by creating the impression that the moral laws of the Church are optional,” Chaput wrote in an essay last December. “And bishops give similar scandal by not speaking up publicly about the issue and danger of sacrilege.”

Bishops themselves contribute to the scandal when they act as if supporting abortion does not harm a person’s relationship with the Church, he added.

He also warned against “bishops who publicly indicate in advance that they will undertake their own dialogue with President-elect Joseph Biden and allow him Communion,” noting that this position “gives scandal to their brother bishops and priests, and to the many Catholics who struggle to stay faithful to Church teaching.”

In Friday’s interview, Chaput said the present situation calls for heroes willing to lay down their lives for the good of their brothers and sisters and heroes who love their country despite its flaws.

“I believe that our fellow citizens are worth dying for, and that we have to be willing to lay our lives on the line for them,” he said.

“In my generation, we were all raised to believe that military service was a noble thing and now it’s seen as a fearsome thing,” he added. “It’s as if they don’t see our country as having any virtues that would be worth dying for. That’s something to be afraid of now, I think.”

“I would say that I worry about the future of our country in a way that I didn’t worry about 10 years ago,” the archbishop said.

I developed an interest in our country’s roots “because I began to worry about religious freedom and the loss of commitment to our founding principles,” he said. “And I thought that my contributions might help change that. I don’t know that they have, but we’ll see.”

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