Thursday, June 21, 2012


One can scarcely do better than the words of Dignitatis Humanae, the Decree on Religious Liberty from the Second Vatican Council in 1965, which said in part:

This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.  This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious on one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs.  Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.
The Synod further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself.  This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed.  Thus it is to become a civil right.   [paragraph 2]

As the first "Fortnight for Freedom" is set to begin today, with a two weeks' period leading up to Independence Day, the Vatican II document takes pride of place in American Catholic thinking.  It is worth observing that bishops from countries under communist rule were strongly in favor of this decree, rightly seeing in it an affirmation of the Church's right to exist even in a State formally atheistic.  Among the supporters of Dignitatis Humanae was the Polish Abp Karol Wojtyla, whom some of us were to know better from his subsequent ministry in the Church...

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