“Social dialogue in a context of religious freedom” is our topic for the next four sections (255-258). Let’s keep in mind that the world’s bishops and Pope Francis have a wider view of religious freedom. For many Christians around the world, it’s not just about unintended cooperation with political realities. It involves life and limb.
255. The Synod Fathers spoke of the importance of respect for religious freedom, viewed as a fundamental human right.[Cf. Propositio 16] This includes “the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public”.[Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente (14 September 2012), 26] A healthy pluralism, one which genuinely respects differences and values them as such, does not entail privatizing religions in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques. This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism. The respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions. In the long run, this would feed resentment rather than tolerance and peace.
This assessment is true. I suspect that what operates most places in the First World is a simple but unhealthy hermeneutic of suspicion. People fear what they do not know or understand. The modern explosion of worldwide communication actually reinforces those “enclosed precincts.” It is easy to find like-minded persons today, even if they are only an electronic presence in our lives. Those enclosures are very much havens for resentment. But members-only gatherings have themselves, in part, to blame. Unless and until people seek out real friends and engage in dialogue, the suspicion of the other will continue, and all fine efforts at conversation and relationships will falter.
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, is available online.