PopeWatch: Religious Freedom




Last month Pope Francis spoke out on the subject of religious freedom:



“Every human is a ’seeker’ of truth on his origins and destiny. In his mind and in his ’heart’, questions and thoughts arise that cannot be repressed or stifled, since they emerge from the depths of the person and are a part of the intimate essence of the person. They are religious questions, and religious freedom is necessary for them to manifest themselves fully”. Francis emphasised that “reason recognises that religious freedom is a fundamental right of man, reflecting his highest dignity, that of seeking the truth and adhering to it, and recognising it as an indispensable condition for realising all his potential. Religious freedom is not simply freedom of thought or private worship. It is the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly, consequent to the truth one has found”. The Pope described this situation as the “great challenge of the globalised world, a sickness, in which weak thought even reduces the general ethical level, in the name of a false concept of tolerance that ends up persecuting those who defend the truth on humanity and its ethical consequences”.


Go here to read the rest.  It is instructive in recalling from the Gospels how little of Christ’s message was conveyed in Synagogues or in the Temple.  Instead, the vast bulk of it was delivered in the open air, often while people were going about their daily lives.  His miracles were all performed in such settings and not manifested in religious buildings.  If we restrict our Faith to Mass once a week and on Holy Days, what a pallid thing it becomes.  We must be about the business of Christ and that business is ever in the World, and Caesar with all his power cannot stop us.

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  1. Religious Freedom is the second most sacred right we have (the first being the right to life). Without it we are faced with the Dictatorship of Relativism or the religious fanaticism of the Islamicists’ imposed Sharia law. The West and the Middle East are real ‘studies’.

  2. I’m torn on the topic and this is a very open ended rant. Please correct if I speak falsely.

    I agree with Botolph in that it is a sacred right. But, that right to worship comes from an obligation to God. To worship Him as He intended. So, do other religions who profess something contrary to the Magisterium of the Church deserve religious freedom? While we as Americans do enjoy a certain amount of religious freedom which gives us the ability to profess the one true faith of Catholicism, can we say that religious freedom has been that beneficial to society? If there were a baseline which is necessary to attain salvation (and there is a baseline: no salvation outside of the Catholic Church) what other religions would be or could be above the line? So, if we give freedom for the other religions (include cults) the ability to thrive, fully knowing they are insufficient to attain salvation, will society rise or fall?

    Conversely, there is more rejoice in all of heaven over the repent of one sinner than all the just. Religious freedom does give the Catholic Church the ability to influence society and save souls. St. Francis De Sales had many many conversions despite the political climate of his time. Based on that, religious freedom looks like a good opportunity to make saints and converts.

  3. Kevin,

    I understand your ambiguous feelings in response to the issue of religious freedom. However, do not confuse ‘religious freedom’ with ‘religious indifference’ or that much overused word ‘tolerance’. Neither should we confuse ‘religious freedom’ with either the radical ‘laicism’ or radical secularism witnessed in post French Revolution France and exported to other countries which is really ‘freedom from religion’ [one notices that this has been imported into America by our cultural elites]

    Each human being born into this world is fundamentally religious; this is not something ‘taught’ or ‘forced’ on people. At the same time we know that this religious nature can become very disoriented due to the human condition (original sin) and end up in some form of idolatry, which always leads to grave errors and evils done ‘in the name of god (s)’ toward others.

    This ‘religious impulse’ then needs to be constantly re-oriented, re-formed and purified by the truth concerning God and human reason. This cannot be done by a government or a combined government-religion. It can be done within certain level by reason itself [look at the ancient Greek philosophers vis a vis Greek paganism or to some extent the writings of Buddha or Confucius within their religious milieux] but the religious impulse, man seeking God needs the response of the God Who reveals Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who Himself is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is Jesus Christ Who reveals to us the full revelation of what it means to be God and at the very same moment what it means to be ‘man’. It is the Gospel [all that Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition taught by the Catholic Church] that can and does re-orient, re-form and purify the religious impulse into faith, hope and love.

    The Catholic Church has a long history of struggling to come to terms with this. WE have the Lord’s own teachings concerning giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s [therefore distinguishing the two realms that pagan and Israelite society fused]. Since the beginning of the Church we have sought ‘religious freedom’ for ourselves, so that we could worship, proclaim the Gospel and serve the needy in freedom. We have not always seen that freedom for others. However, how can we cry out or even protest for our own religious freedom if we do not recognize that others have the same right?

    In Vatican II, the Church made some baby steps concerning this issue. It did not make the sweeping changes in this area that both ‘progressives and conservatives’ believe and say it did. It is instructive to note that the name of the Declaration is “On Human Dignity”. I believe it deserves a re-read but seeing it in light of the whole Tradition of the Church. An example of this is precisely what Pope Francis was doing in the above speech. However as the “Dictatorship of Relativism” grows in America and in the West and as the Islamicists continue to expand their campaign for Sharia law across the face of the earth, I believe that ‘religious freedom’ is and will be an extremely important subject and issue for the rest of the twenty-first century

  4. @Kevin: I’m torn on the topic and this is a very open ended rant. Please correct if I speak falsely. I agree with Botolph in that it is a sacred right. But, that right to worship comes from an obligation to God. To worship Him as He intended.
    You are right.
    Free will that God gave us is for us to choose good and do good freely and not to do as one likes [licentiousness] or worse, to choose evil [over good]; because, He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin. (Si 15:20)One of those goods to be freely chosen is worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth [the Son]

  5. Do other religions who profess something contrary to the Magisterium of the Church deserve religious freedom?

    Yes they do. God gave Adam and Eve religious freedom, and He gives it to us. He does not force us nor deny our free will. We have the right to choose Him and to worship HIm. Even when Peter was nailed to his own upside down cross, he was free and worshipping God. Peter spent his life after Pentecost witnessing to others hoping that they would receive Christ, but not forcing them.

  6. cf. The Benedictus – Canticle of Zechariah | Handbook of Prayers – Rev. James Socias
    Blessed be the LORD our God
    Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel;
    he has come to his people and set them free.
    Through his holy prophets he promised of old
    that he would save us from our enemies,
    from the hands of all who hate us.
    This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
    to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
    free to worship him without fear,
    holy and righteous in his sight
    all the days of our life.

    It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, LORD holy Father, almighty and eternal God. cf. Preface at Mass.
    A human example:
    The UN and [them recognizing] the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledge that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights and [their subsequent] [r]esolution call[ing] upon States and international organizations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable [clean] drinking water and sanitation for all.
    The analogy here is that there should be no hindrance to anyone accessing clean drinking and sanitation. That’s the right as opposed to a buffet choice between potable water and other water not fit for human consumption.
    Summary: no hindrance but free access to good and truth, which is plain.
    Concluding, recall that the ones who misuse their freedom to choose evil and proceed to sin, immediately forfeit that freedom as they become slaves to their sin.

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