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These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.
Reflection for Day Nine

Once again, the Council Fathers turn to what they
consider a very important issue. It is not simply that governments should not deny or impede the religious freedom of their citizens, it is also of the utmost importance that they positively, through just laws, be the guardians of religious freedom, so that no constituency—religious or secular—within society would seek to undermine the religious freedom of all. While few today would consider this, the next point that the Council Fathers make is also very significant. Governments should actually “help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life.” While governments do not control religions, they should recognize
their value and so promote their well-being. This
allows all religious bodies and their members to exercise their religious rights and “fulfill their religious duties.” The government’s fostering the religious life of its citizens not only benefits those citizens but also, the Council states, contributes to the good of society as a whole. It helps society grow in its understanding and implementation of what contributes to justice and peace. This justice and peace find their origin in God, who desires the good of all.
     How do governments protect and promote the
religious life of their citizens? Do governments take
this into consideration today? In the U.S., how does the government foster religious life while respecting the principle of separation of church and state?

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Reflection for Day Ten

Because all human beings possess equal dignity, value, and worth, the government is to ensure that this equality is maintained both for the good of the individual and for the good of society as a whole. This equality specifically should not be violated on religious grounds. Each religious body and the members of that body have equal rights to religious liberty. This equality demands that there be no discrimination based upon one’s religious beliefs.
     The Council Fathers now stress that, based upon this equality among its citizens, no government is permitted to impose in any way “the profession or repudiation of any religion.” Such an imposition is a violation of the right to be true to one’s conscience.  Because of the freedom of conscience, the government is also not permitted to deny a person the right to join or leave a religious body. The government has no right to stipulate what a person can or cannot believe.
     If the above is true, then the Council states that
it is all the more wrong when “force is brought to
bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion.” This not only applies to governments but also to religious bodies themselves. No religious body is permitted to harass or seek to eliminate another religious group.
     Within our contemporary world, where is religious equality denied or religious discrimination tolerated? Are there instances where one religion violates the rights of other religions? 

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