This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae, Of Human Dignity). These reflections and articles are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, and the readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.
The theme of this year's Fortnight will focus on the "freedom to bear witness" to the truth of the Gospel. The Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Bear Witness will take place from June 21 to July 4.
- Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 6 December 7, 1965
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?