Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has said in his 50 years of voting in US elections, he has never seen the two major parties offer “two such deeply flawed” presidential nominees “at the same time”.

Without naming the nominees – Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton – the archbishop said that he presumed they “intend well and have a reasonable level of personal decency behind their public images, but I also believe that each candidate is very bad news for our country, though in different ways.

“One candidate, in the view of a lot of people, is a belligerent demagogue with an impulse-control problem,” he said in a speech at the University of Notre Dame. “And the other, also in the view of a lot of people, is a criminal liar, uniquely rich in stale ideas and bad priorities.”

Archbishop Chaput delivered the 2016 Tocqueville lecture on religious liberty, sponsored by the school’s Tocqueville Program for Inquiry into Religion and Public Life.

Though faced with flawed presidential candidates, he said, Catholics and other Christians do not have “the luxury of cynicism”, because if they “leave the public square, other people with much worse intentions won’t.” Many honest public officials were currently serving the country well, and both parties had “good candidates for other public offices”, he said.

Christians “have a duty to leave the world better than we found it”, the archbishop said. “One of the ways we do that, however imperfectly, is through politics. Elections do matter.” He added that the next president might have the chance to appoint Supreme Court justices.

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