Dignitatis Humanae 14 brings us back to a consideration of the Church’s role in religious freedom. We claim the freedom. In many places we possess it. What do we do with it?
First, spread the Word:
(T)he Catholic Church must work with all urgency and concern “that the word of God be spread abroad and glorified” (2 Thess. 3:1).
Second, pray for all:
Hence the Church earnestly begs of its children that, “first of all, supplications, prayers, petitions, acts of thanksgiving be made for all men…. For this is good and agreeable in the sight of God our Savior, who wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
Third, inform ourselves:
In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church.
This follows on the heels of the last statement. A shift back to the hierarchy? An acknowledgement of the lay participation in evangelization?
For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself. Furthermore, let Christians walk in wisdom in the face of those outside, “in the Holy Spirit, in unaffected love, in the word of truth” (2 Cor. 6:6-7), and let them be about their task of spreading the light of life with all confidence and apostolic courage, even to the shedding of their blood.
Our obligation is “grave” as described here:
The disciple is bound by a grave obligation toward Christ, his Master, ever more fully to understand the truth received from Him, faithfully to proclaim it, and vigorously to defend it, never-be it understood-having recourse to means that are incompatible with the spirit of the Gospel.
And we are reminded that using certain “incompatible” means to achieve fruitful proclamation and defense are outright forbidden. In other words, if you can’t think of something constructive, get out of the way and let somebody else get it done.
At the same time, the charity of Christ urges him to love and have prudence and patience in his dealings with those who are in error or in ignorance with regard to the faith. All is to be taken into account-the Christian duty to Christ, the life-giving word which must be proclaimed, the rights of the human person, and the measure of grace granted by God through Christ to men who are invited freely to accept and profess the faith.
Patience: the most challenging of the virtues for so many of us.