DH 2: Religious Freedom Congruent with Human Dignity

Dignitatis Humanae 2 doesn’t mince words:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.

Which means that people “are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power,” and that none are “to be forced to act in a manner contrary to (their) own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.”

DH 2 continues, stating that religious freedom has been revealed by both the word of God and by human reason. States are obliged to accept this freedom, granting it to their citizens. The individual bears a responsibility to live out this freedom fully:

(All people) should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.

Americans often reflect upon rights as theoretical, as something to bank and to be able to withdraw from an account when needed. A minority of citizens exercise an annual right to vote, but they might tip their numbers when the issues, usually national ones, have caught their perked attention. I suspect most Americans in favor of abortion see their stance in that way. Individual people aren’t going out and undergoing abortions weekly, but many want that option at hand, just in case their plans go awry.

DH’s approach is that religious freedom is not a theoretical right. Individuals granted this right by states or other powers are therefore obliged to explore this search for the truth with appropriate gravity. Even so, the right is not forfeit:

(T)he right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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