Catholic Social Doctrine and Freedom for the Church
determine their spheres of competence, although, since societies and the men which compose them are one and not divided, they may be some overlap.
"The Second Vatican Council," the Compendium states, "solemnly reaffirmed that, 'in their proper spheres, the political community and the Church are mutually independent and self-governing.'" In some respects, they are autonomous. "The autonomy and independence of these two realities is particularly evident with regards to their ends." (Compendium, No. 424)
As we discussed in our last article, the State must respect the religious freedom of its citizens since they are under a duty under the natural moral law which impels them to seek truth, to accept it once recognized, and to live their life in accordance with their well-formed conscience as they travel--in full light or in partial shade--to the one True God.
But the Church also has rights separate and apart from these. The State must in particular respect the religious freedom of the Church, as a perfect society, one whose existence, constitution, and mission is by divine warrant. With respect to the Church, "[t]he duty to respect religious freedom requires that the political community guarantee the Church the space needed to carry out her mission." (Compendium, No. 424)
Failure to do so is against the will of God.
We might therefore craft a sort of "Bill of Rights" of the Church as summarized by the Compendium:
- The right to the legal recognition of her proper identity
- The right to express her moral judgment on "all of human reality," to the extent that it may be needful to "defend the fundamental rights of the person or for the salvation of souls."
- The right to freedom of expression
- The right to teach and to evangelize
- The right to worship God in a public manner
- The right to her own organization, her own internal government, without interference from the State, including the right to select, educate, name, and transfer ministers
- The right to construct religious buildings
- The right to acquire and possess sufficient goods for her activity
- The right to form associations not only for religious purposes, but also for educational, cultural, health case, and charitable purposes
Communist governments (e.g., China) and Islamic governments (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.) grossly violate these rights, and so, in their laws which prevent the Church from exercising freely her mission, may be said to be acting manifestly against the will of God as revealed both in the natural moral law and in divine law as contained in the Gospels. Unfortunately, we increasingly see the same kind of violations in liberal or secularist governments of the West. Particularly offensive, however, are the actions of the Islamic countries which, ostensibly in name of God act against the will of God.
We must insist that the Church's rights be respected by all governments of the world. This is based upon a preeminent law: salus animarum suprema lex. The salvation of the souls is the supreme law. In the words of the crusaders: Deus lo vult, God wills it.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Religious Freedom, religious liberty, inalienable rights, Catholic Social Teaching, Natural Law, Andrew M Greenwell,
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