Dignitatis Humanae 3

Dignitatis Humanae 3 begins:

Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law-eternal, objective and universal-whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love.

God makes us to seek and embrace this law, this truth. The understanding is that for every human being, our obligation and duty is to seek the truth and be wholly unencumbered in doing so. This inquiry might involve “teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which (people) explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.”

DH wisely recognizes the pursuit of truth isn’t solely academic exercise. Once uncovered, it isn’t necessarily supplemented by more head knowledge, but rather by a “personal assent.” The human conscience mediates divine law. Therefore, it is improper to force someone to violate one’s conscience or to hinder a person from following the conscience.

Our social nature as human beings “requires that (we) should give external expression to (our) internal acts of religion: that (we) should share with others in matters religious; that (we) should profess (our) 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, provided just public order is observed.”

DH 3 continues:

There is a further consideration. The religious acts whereby (people), in private and in public and out of a sense of personal conviction, direct their lives to God transcend by their very nature the order of terrestrial and temporal affairs. Government therefore ought indeed to take account of the religious life of the citizenry and show it favor, since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare. However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its power, were it to presume to command or inhibit acts that are religious.

Showing favor … hmmm … in some quarters that wouldn’t play too well. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad idea. I’m feeling a little out of sorts on this topic, which seems pretty much a repeat of DH 2, so I’ll leave the discussion to anyone who’s hanging around.


About catholicsensibility

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