Pacem In Terris 14-15: The Right to Worship God According to One’s Conscience

The right to worship, preeminent among the rights cited for any person who has faith:

14. Also among (a person’s) rights is that of being able to worship God in accordance with the right dictates of (one’s) own conscience, and to profess (one’s) religion both in private and in public. According to the clear teaching of Lactantius, “this is the very condition of our birth, that we render to the God who made us that just homage which is His due; that we acknowledge Him alone as God, and follow Him. It is from this ligature of piety, which binds us and joins us to God, that religion derives its name.” (Divinae Institutiones, lib. IV, c.28.2; PL 6.535)

This right would not be as openly and explicitly stated in centuries before the twentieth. The Church recognized the rights of its own. But not Protestants, and certainly not non-Christians. That the urge to seek God is something written in our DNA, if you will, and is universal–this remains a difficult notion for people within the Church as well as outside of it.

15. Hence, too, Pope Leo XIII declared that “true freedom, freedom worthy of the (children) of God, is that freedom which most truly safeguards the dignity of the human person. It is stronger than any violence or injustice. Such is the freedom which has always been desired by the Church, and which she holds most dear. It is the sort of freedom which the Apostles resolutely claimed for themselves. The apologists defended it in their writings; thousands of martyrs consecrated it with their blood.”( Encyclical letter “Libertas praestantissimum,” Acta Leonis XIII, VIII, 1888, pp. 237-238)

Higher than a right to life, it would seem, if we accept that we have yet to see that notion elucidated in this document. Does it go without saying? What do you think?


About catholicsensibility

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