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Fortnight for Freedom Reflection Day 6

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The freedom or immunity from coercion in
matters religious which is the endowment of persons
as individuals is also to be recognized as their right
when they act in community. Religious bodies are a
requirement of the social nature both of man and of
religion itself.

Provided the just requirements of public order are
observed, religious bodies rightfully claim freedom in
order that they may govern themselves according to
their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public
worship, assist their members in the practice of the
religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote
institutions in which they may join together for the
purpose of ordering their lives in accordance with their
religious principles.

Religious bodies also have the right not to be
hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative
action on the part of government, in the selection,
training, appointment, and transferral of their own ministers,
in communicating with religious authorities and
communities abroad, in erecting buildings for religious
purposes, and in the acquisition and use of suitable
funds or properties.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 4
December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Six

The Council once more addresses the public nature of
religious belief. Religious communities have a right to
act as a community of faith, for this is inherent within
the social nature of human beings and religious belief
itself. Provided that the just civil and religious rights
of others are not transgressed, religious bodies must
possess the freedom to live out publicly what they
believe. They must be free to gather for worship, to
instruct their members, and to develop institutions
that further the religious life of their members. From
within the Catholic tradition this would include religious
institutes and orders, schools, fraternities and
sodalities, prayer groups, and Bible study groups.

Likewise, religious bodies must be free to appoint
and train their own ministers. For Catholics, that
means the Church’s freedom at least to appoint
bishops and ordain priests. It also means that Catholics
are free to be loyal to their church and its leaders
while also being loyal to their country and its leaders.
Religious bodies should also be free to govern themselves
financially.

Consider examples in contemporary life where
governments—federal, state, or local—fail to respect
the above rights? What is the relationship between
the religious freedom of individuals and institutions?

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