Fortnight for Religious Freedom Reflection Day 8

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Since the family is a society in its own original
right, it has the right freely to live its own domestic
religious life under the guidance of parents. Parents,
moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance
with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious
education that their children are to receive.

Government, in consequence, must acknowledge
the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of
schools and of other means of education. The use of
this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for
imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly
or indirectly. Besides, the rights of parents are violated
if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions
which are not in agreement with their religious
beliefs. The same is true if a single system of education,
from which all religious formation is excluded, is
imposed upon all.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 5
December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Eight
The Council Fathers now address the religious freedom
that is enjoyed by the family. Families have the
right to live out their faith within the family. Moreover,
parents have a natural right to religiously guide
their families. They are the ones who have primary
responsibility for the care and education of their
children, and this is especially true of the religious
education of their children. Thus, while parents are
primarily responsible for the religious education, they
are also free to choose the kind of religious education
their children receive.

From within the Catholic tradition, Vatican II
stated that the family is a “domestic church,” that is,
it is within the family that children are first taught the
Gospel, are taught to pray and to keep the Commandments.
Together the members of a family live out the
Gospel life of love. In keeping with this, the Council
states that parents must be free to choose their children’s
schooling. The exercise of this freedom should
not be the cause of undue financial burdens upon
the family. Likewise, children should not be forced
to attend instruction that is contrary to the religious
belief of their families. Lastly, if there is only one form
of education within a country, this does not mean that
all religious instruction should be forbidden. Accommodation
is to be made.

What we see here is the Church ardently wanting to assure a broad and extensive
scope for families to live out their faith as families,
and this extends to the education of children.
Why is the above important for parents and their
families? Are the above aspects of domestic religious
freedom jeopardized today?


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