Phila. archbishop releases e-book on religious freedom


At the heart of defeating attacks on the country’s religious liberty is the need for faithful to rebuild a Christian culture that serves as the essence of a democracy, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote recently.

In his new e-book titled “A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America,” the former Denver archbishop discusses the ties between religious freedom and a good society.

The American experience of personal freedom, he said, is in fact inconceivable without a Christian grounding.

“Modern ideas about human dignity, rights, obligations and freedom are the child of Western culture, and Western culture is a child of Christianity,” Archbishop Chaput told the Denver Catholic Register, archdiocesan newspaper.

Although American culture today is nothing like the Founding Fathers’ society in early America, Christianity remains the moral framework of the Western world, which must recognize religious liberty as a natural right to all of mankind, he said.

“What Christianity does so uniquely and so well is to balance the dignity of every individual person with our social obligations to the common good,” Archbishop Chaput said.

In response to these growing threats, instead of simply listing the problems with America and complaining, he added, Christians need to construct this religious culture and protect religious liberty through personal conversion and saying “yes” to Christ.

“The only way to do it is to actually live what we claim to believe. Nothing is more powerful or more attractive than personal example,” Archbishop Chaput said. “But we also need to speak up vigorously for our rights and press our elected representatives to do the same.”

In his e-book, he further discusses the current state of American society and global threats to practicing the faith. Christianity is now more than ever under attack, he says.

A reported 70 percent of the world’s people live in nations where religious liberty is gravely restricted, which makes it a global crisis, he notes.

America specifically was founded on the ideas of religious coexistence, yet the court system and elected leaders have become increasingly hostile to the practice of Christianity in public, he said.

“I think there’s a much more aggressive secularism at work in American life today. Religion gets in the way of what some people see as progress on issues like abortion, bioethics and sexuality,” Archbishop Chaput told the Register. “Christianity requires not just personal conversion but public witness in a believing community and moral engagement with society. That’s inconvenient if you want to rewire the country’s moral framework.”

He concludes his book by reiterating Catholic faithfuls’ call to restore Christian culture in America — to set the world ablaze with their witness.

A genuinely Catholic life, among other things, should feed the soul and mind while also recapturing the nobility of the human story and the dignity of the human person, he wrote.

“This is the kind of witness that sets fire to the human heart,” he wrote in his book. “It starts the only kind of revolution that really changes anything: a revolution of love. … Our task is to start that blaze and then help it grow.”

Archbishop Chaput’s e-book is available for purchase at, or