Summer 1968

Page 4


It is not by accident that in Vatican II's Declara:ion on Religious Freedom ( Dignita¡ tis Humanae Personae) the phrase "freedom of conscience" does not appear. The Declaration is a clear univocal affirmation of an individual's right to religious freedom within society. Specifically it affirms a person's immunity from coercion in the practice of religion: society may not force a man to act against his conscience, nor may it forciA Catholic possesses a gelULine bly prevent him from acting according to his conscience. freedom of conscience in But the Council Fathers did not base their affirmation of every area of his life. religious liberty on the slip¡ pery notion of freedom of + conscience but on the objective truth of the dignity 'of the JOHN F. DEDEK human person: the dignity of a person requires that he act + freely, according to his own judgment, without external coercion. It was the intention of the bishops, following the express wish of Pope Paul, to distinguish carefully in the Deelaralion between two different freedoms--the religious freedom of a citizen within society and the freedom of a Catholic within the Church. In endorsing freedom of religion as a principle in the civil order, the Council affirmed a person's immunity from external coercion 115

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