Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion

Yesterday the Canadian Bishops issued their new Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion.  It makes a number of charitable but forceful points about the need for the free exercise of religion, in both the private and public spheres, and even gives a fervorino at the end about the need for bold courage in the face of persecution.  Some excerpts:
"Recent international and national events present a disturbing trend of threats to freedom of conscience and religion  experienced by those who suffer from bias, prejudice, hate propaganda, discrimination and persecution because of their  religious beliefs."
"Conscience is not, however, an absolute placed above truth. Rather, by its very nature, conscience has a relation to objective truth, a truth which is universal and which all must seek."

"Believers must therefore be allowed to play their part in formulating public policy and in contributing to society as a way of living their faith in daily practice. When this right is truly acknowledged, religious communities and institutions can operate freely for the betterment of society through initiatives in the social, charitable, health care, and educational sectors, which benefit all citizens, especially the poorest and most marginalized."

"In the past decade in Canada there have been several situations that raise the question whether our right to freedom of conscience and religion is everywhere respected."

"We all need to be vigilant in preserving, in a respectful manner, the religious symbols and  celebrations which express the particular spiritual heritage of nations shaped in the crucible of Christianity. Forcing religious believers to keep their convictions to themselves, while
atheists and agnostics are under no such restriction is, in fact, an expression of religious intolerance."

"Those who refuse to cooperate with an unjust law or practice that would oblige them to act against their conscience – and are not given the right to conscientious objection or accorded respectful accommodation – must be prepared to suffer the consequences that result from fidelity to Christ."

Read the rest there.