Fortnight for Freedom Reflection Day 4

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On his part, man perceives and acknowledges
the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation
of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to
follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may
come to God, for whom he was created. It follows
that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary
to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be
restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience,
especially in matters religious.

For, of its very nature, the exercise of religion
consists before all else in those internal, voluntary, and
free acts whereby man sets the course of life directly
toward God. No merely human power can either command
or prohibit acts of this kind.

However, the social nature of man itself requires
that he should give external expression to his internal
acts of religion; that he should participate with others
in matters religious; that he should profess his religion
in community. Injury, therefore, is done to the human
person and to the very order established by God for
human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in
society when the just requirements of public order do
not so require.
Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3
December 7, 1965

It is through their consciences that human beings
perceive the requirements of the divine law. Human
beings must follow faithfully their conscience if they
are to grow in their knowledge of and union with
God. Again, the Council restates that, because of
this, no one should either be forced to act contrary to
his or her conscience or be forbidden to act in accordance
with his or her conscience. This is especially
the case when it involves one’s religious beliefs.

The Council Fathers note that this applies not only to
one’s internal private religious acts but also to public
communal religious acts. Human beings hold religious
beliefs within a community of like-minded believers
and so have the right to publicly live out their beliefs.
To forbid the just and proper public expressions of
religious belief would be contrary to the order that
God has established for human beings as social and
religious beings.

The Council Fathers want to ensure that religious
liberty is understood to be both private and public. It
cannot be limited to what takes places in houses of
worship. Rather, since religion is by its nature a social
phenomenon, its presence within the broader society
and culture should not be hindered or forbidden.

In what ways is religion being reduced to the
merely personal and private? Why should religion
have a voice in the public square?


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