DH 6: The Role of Government

Dignitatis Humanae 6 treats the role of government:

Since the common welfare of society consists in the entirety of those conditions of social life under which (people) enjoy the possibility of achieving their own perfection in a certain fullness of measure and also with some relative ease, it chiefly consists in the protection of the rights, and in the performance of the duties, of the human person.

Typical Church pronouncement: concern not only for the rights of citizens, but a recognition of their duties as well, an item not always emphasized in the US.

Therefore the care of the right to religious freedom devolves upon the whole citizenry, upon social groups, upon government, and upon the Church and other religious communities, in virtue of the duty of all toward the common welfare, and in the manner proper to each.

Another sensible point, namely that all human groups or communities bear responsibility for ensuring religious freedom. Then a three-point list for the government, which has a duty in “the protection and promotion of the inviolable rights” of its people:

  • To assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means.
  • To help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in (human) faithfulness to God and to His holy will.

The Church teaches that religious life fosters values supportive and constructive of society at large.

If, in view of peculiar circumstances obtaining among peoples, special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional order of society, it is at the same time imperative that the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom should be recognized and made effective in practice.

… which leads us to the last of the three duties of government:

(The) equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens.

And a final caution about the grave situation when religious freedom is curtailed or denied:

It follows that a wrong is done when government imposes upon its people, by force or fear or other means, the profession or repudiation of any religion, or when it hinders (people) from joining or leaving a religious community. All the more is it a violation of the will of God and of the sacred rights of the person and the family of nations when force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion, either in the whole of mankind or in a particular country or in a definite community.

Thoughts? Y’all have been somewhat silent about DH thus far.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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