This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men (and women) are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his (her) own beliefs.
– [cf. The Declaration on Religious Freedom, #2, chapter 1]
This fundamental teaching of Vatican II applies to all people regardless of religious affiliation or none. Religious freedom requires that Catholics respect the way other people understand and relate to God and make their decisions, just as we expect others to respect us. It demands that we develop informed consciences in order that our religious choices will be truly rooted in the full teaching of Christ and our Church.
Conscience is the sacred core and the sanctuary of the human person. There they are alone with God whose voice echoes in their depths.
– [cf. Gaudium et Spes, #16]
Religious freedom is not only about ‘freedom from’ intervention but also ‘freedom to’ grow as a human person and develop God-given gifts for the building up of the community for the common good of all.
The Church must act to promote a healthy balance between the right of individuals to exercise their freedom and the importance of promoting the common good—listening to God’s Spirit moving among all. It should not be co-opted to advance partisanship in politics or a particular ideology. Catholics ought not to impose their will and convictions on other individuals or religions. Flowing from this teaching, the sovereignty of conscience and the religious freedom of every person should be protected and upheld.
About This Series
Vatican II is a priority of the AUSCP. The AUSCP Vatican II working group has prepared a three-year agenda, which will focus on the following topics:
- The People of God
- Religious Freedom
- The Church in the Present World