Some thoughts on ‘Our First, Most Cherished Liberty’

By Archbishop Charles Chaput

Editor’s note. The following is excerpted from Archbishop Chaput’s column.

Archbishop Charles Chaput

On Thursday, April 12, America’s bishops issued one of their most important statements in years. “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” is not just a compelling defense of religious freedom. It’s also a call to action no committed Catholic can afford to ignore. …

America’s Founders expected religious groups to contribute actively to the nation’s social fabric. For all their many differences, the Founders agreed that a free people cannot remain free and self-governing without religious faith and the virtues that it fosters. John Adams’ famous words to the Massachusetts militia in 1789 were typical: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” …

What we believe about God shapes what we believe about man. And what we believe about man shapes what we believe about the purpose and proper structure of human society. So it should surprise no one that at the heart of American life is a Christian-informed definition of what it means to be human.

That richly developed idea of what it means to be “human,” and even the nature of religious freedom itself, now face heavy attacks in our courts, our mass media and our legislatures.

As “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” shows, the current HHS healthcare mandate fight – which threatens the mission of many Catholic employers and organizations by forcing them to violate the teachings of their Church – is not an isolated assault. It’s part of a growing pattern. The bishops list at least six other high-profile, recent cases where government has aggressively interfered with the rights of religious communities and believers. And these violations are happening right here, in our own country, right now.

I encourage Catholics throughout the Archdiocese to download the bishops’ statement from the link provided below. It’s an outstanding and urgently needed resource. Read it. Pray over it. Then share it with others. Most importantly, the statement calls for a “Fortnight for Freedom” in dioceses across the United States from June 21 through July 4. In the days and weeks ahead, please check our archdiocesan website for our local efforts to observe this important event.

Philadelphia is the birthplace of American independence. It’s the cradle of our rights as a free people. There’s no better place to begin the renewal of our nation’s first and most important freedom: religious liberty.

(Please see Our First, Most Cherished Freedom.)