Rorate Caeli

A "renewed anthropological foundation to religious freedom"

From the message of Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, released today, on the occasion of its plenary meeting:
Deeply inscribed in our human nature are a yearning for truth and meaning and an openness to the transcendent; we are prompted by our nature to pursue questions of the greatest importance to our existence. Many centuries ago, Tertullian coined the term libertas religionis (cf. Apologeticum, 24:6). He emphasized that God must be worshipped freely, and that it is in the nature of religion not to admit coercion, "nec religionis est cogere religionem" (Ad Scapulam, 2:2). Since man enjoys the capacity for a free personal choice in truth, and since God expects of man a free response to his call, the right to religious freedom should be viewed as innate to the fundamental dignity of every human person, in keeping with the innate openness of the human heart to God. In fact, authentic freedom of religion will permit the human person to attain fulfilment and will thus contribute to the common good of society.

Aware of the developments in culture and society, the Second Vatican Council proposed a renewed anthropological foundation to religious freedom. The Council Fathers stated that all people are "impelled by nature and also bound by our moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth" (Dignitatis Humanae, 2). The truth sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32), and it is this same truth that must be sought and assumed freely. The Council was careful to clarify that this freedom is a right which each person enjoys naturally and which therefore ought also to be protected and fostered by civil law.

Of course, every state has a sovereign right to promulgate its own legislation and will express different attitudes to religion in law. So it is that there are some states which allow broad religious freedom in our understanding of the term, while others restrict it for a variety of reasons, including mistrust for religion itself. The Holy See continues to appeal for the recognition of the fundamental human right to religious freedom on the part of all states, and calls on them to respect, and if need be protect, religious minorities who, though bound by a different faith from the majority around them, aspire to live with their fellow citizens [Rorate: notice caveatspeacefully and to participate fully in the civil and political life of the nation, to the benefit of all.
It should be noticed -as we had mentioned here only last week- that the Holy Father once again emphasizes, as he had done in his epoch-making Christmas Adress to the Curia, in December 2005, that the foundation for the conciliar position on Religious Freedom is anthropological - that is, its foundation is essentially non theological. It is pragmatic and practical, a response to what in French would be termed "les contingences du moment", the contingencies of the moment ("aware of the developments in culture and society") - and perfectly compatible with the Traditional doctrine of the Church, in order to protect true liberty of worship (see Libertas, 30, including a "moral obligation to seek the truth") and the full liberty of action of the Church.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that the people at Rorate might be willing to accept this position on religious freedom and that a huge issue regarding Vatican II might soon be resolved for many?

Pascendi said...

We should also notice the stress the Holy Father lays upon each and every person being bound to seek the truth. The ad hominem religious liberty of VII - restricted to liberty in the civil domain - is a call for liberty within these parameters.

Anonymous said...

interesting comment.

I will add the pope is underlining the n°2 of Dignitatis humanae which is more often totally ignored by the modernist theologians and bishops.

It's interesting to remember this precision was inserted into the Declaration as a response to the criticisms of the Minority at Vatican II.

Alsaticus

Flambeaux said...

Thank you for bringing this to my attention, New Catholic.

I'm finding these posts very helpful.

jasoncpetty said...

Amen. Timely and instructive.

Cruise the Groove. said...

These Holy Father seems to mean what the Church has always taught, that all men are, by obligation, free to choose the Catholic Church as the only means to attain the Beatific vision.
This is great news for the FSSPX Rome doctrinal talks!

Anonymous said...

Can it be honestly held that Vatican II's adoption of so-called 'religious liberty' was really a contingent judgment when it bases this extension on something recognized as a God-given (and thus non-contingent) right?

It would be one thing if the Council said for the higher good we are recommending that states now grant religious toleration to all faiths (or that the expectation of toleration that is so widespread it might be called a right), but the Council went further and said the basis for doing so was an intrinsic natural human right that existed all along.

Cruise the Groove. said...

That should read:
"The Holy Father..."

Anonymous said...

But what about those groups, the Amish for example, who do not wish to participate fully in the political life of the larger society? Is there no requirement to respect and protect them?

K Gurries said...

The "anthropological foundation" simply means that the doctrine is based on the very nature of man -- and therefore is deeply rooted in the natural law.

"Since man enjoys the capacity for a free personal choice in truth, and since God expects of man a free response to his call, the right to religious freedom should be viewed as innate to the fundamental dignity of every human person, in keeping with the innate openness of the human heart to God."

This is the traditional foundation that was "renewed" at Vatican II in light of modern developments in culture and society (i.e., totalitatianism, culture of death, etc.).

At the same time, there are prudential aspects -- since the immutable principles must be applied juridically within a given state. The juridical formulation could vary depending on the circumstances of a given nation, however, the basic (immutable) principles ought to be "protected and fostered by civil law."

This is so often the case with Catholic social teaching. There are often prudential/contingent aspects (application) that has its foundation in immutable principles. The principles are immutable whereas the application can change depending upon the circumstances or social context.

Dan said...

In the latest issue of APROPOS, the excellent periodical out of Scotland edited by Tony Fraser (son of the late, great Hamish Fraser) this whole issue is discussed with a clarity and a "sensus Catholicus" I have seen nowhere else. Sadly this article is not on the APROPOS website (which is still "under construction") but if one wants a brilliant study of this topic I can highly recommend subscribing to this periodical or at least requesting that particular back issue.

It is not possible to summarize this study in a few lines here but let us just say that it puts into focus the often confusing and ambiguous comments coming from Rome on this issue and brilliantly compares them with constant Church teaching through the centuries. It is an eye opener, which cuts through the Vatican 2-induced fog.

Hans Coessens said...

Thank God this is an interpretation of religious liberty I can agree with. Coming from the very words of the Holy Father himself!!! We are truly in a spring of renewal in the Church and it shall rise in splendour with the triumph of the Imaculata. SSPX Traditionalists and those followers of other groups can easily agree with this address. Deo Gratias!

Cruise the Groove. said...

"But what about those groups, the Amish for example, who do not wish to participate fully in the political life of the larger society? Is there no requirement to respect and protect them?"

Yes, of course,as the Church always taught they are to be tolerated for the civil good, while we pray and evangelise them for their conversion and salvation.

Social Reign Booster said...

Anon. 14:36 hits the nail exactly on the head.

This is from Dignitatis Humanae:
"Over and above all this, the council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society."

This isn't an anthropological contingency or pruduential judgment. We should be so lucky.

And with all due respect, New Catholic, Pope Leo XIII should not be selectively quoted the way Pope John XXIII did in Pacem in Terris.

We know what Pope Leo XIII's views were on the rights of a Catholic state to suppress publicly propagated error contravening Catholic faith and morals and what the full, comprehensive vision of Libertas and Immortale Dei signify. The sublime Leonine worldview is not the same as what John XIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have been giving us.

Tom the Milkman said...

Yes, of course,as the Church always taught they are to be tolerated for the civil good..

Indeed, and loved for Christ's sake.

craig said...

I'm with K Gurries: I don't think it's logically possible to reduce a right rooted in anthropological truth to a pragmatic contingency.

Where the state does not explicitly enshrine a right in law, the state will eventually consider exercise of that particular right as an attack on the state's authority and punish it as treason. This is equally true for the rights to worship, speech, association, self-defense, property, and even life.

Mike B. said...

Another example of the brilliant use of language by Pope Benedict XVI to explain the relationship between God and man. Frankly, I cannot imagine how coercive conversion in today's world brings anyone truly to Christ. Free Will must be dominant or resentment abounds. The mentality of the Papal State era is bankrupt, and dangerous to those in the Middle East, China and Africa. Let Faith and Reason prevail.

Michael F Brennan
St Petersburg FL

Jordanes551 said...

The mentality of the Papal State era is bankrupt

However, what you call the mentality of the Papal State era predates the Papal States by about four centuries. The States of the Church date from the early Carolingian period, but St. Augustine of Hippo in the 400s A.D. spoke out in support of the secular arm's repression of the Donatists.

New Catholic said...

Well, I believe we can wrap this up for now. We will reopen this shortly.

Thanks,

NC