DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
ON THE RIGHT OF THE PERSON AND OF COMMUNITIES
TO SOCIAL AND CIVIL FREEDOM IN MATTERS RELIGIOUS
PROMULGATED BY HIS HOLINESS
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 7, 1965
On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Religious Matters
- The dignity of the human person presses itself on the conscience of man. This Vatican Council proposes to declare it to be greatly in accord with truth and justice. God has made known to man the way in which He is to be worshiped, thus saved by Christ, and these teachings subsist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church. Religious freedom is necessary to worship God and has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society.
Chapter 1 – General Principles of Religious Freedom
- The human person has a right to religious freedom and no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly. This write has a foundation and the dignity of the human person.
- The highest norm of human life is the divine law, where every man has the duty and the right to seek truth in religious matters in order that he may form right and true judgments of conscience. Man is to follow his conscience in order that he may not be forced to act in a manner contrary to that, nor should he be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience.
- Religious communities rightfully claim freedom to govern themselves according to their own norms, should not be hindered by legal measures, or to teach publicly and witness to their faith.
- The family has a right to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents, who have the right to determine the kind of religious education that their children are to receive.
- The care of the right to religious freedom to devolves upon the whole citizenry, upon social groups, government, the Church, and other religious communities. The protection of these rights is essential to government, who is to see the quality of citizens before the law.
- Religious freedom is exercised in human society, hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. However the government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship.
- This Council urges everyone to do their utmost to form men who will respect the moral order and obedience to lawful authority, and who will be lovers of true freedom.
Chapter 2 – Religious Freedom in the Light of Revelation
- The rights of man to religious freedom has in its foundation in the dignity of the person and its roots in divine revelation.
- It is one of the major tenants of Catholic doctrine that a man’s response to God must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will.
- God calls man to serve him in spirit and truth, hence they are bound in conscience but this day and under no compulsion. We see an example of this when Jesus sent His apostles into the world saying that those who are baptize will be saved, and those who are not will be condemned. But He was speaking of God at harvest time, which is the end of the world, refusing to be a political messiah who rules by force.
- Throughout the ages the Church has kept safe and handed on the doctrine received from the Master and from the apostles. Thus the leaven of the Gospel has long been about its quite work in the minds of men.
- Among the things that concern the good of the church and indeed the welfare of society here on earth is preeminent that the church should enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for the salvation of men requires.
- In order to be faithful to the divine command, “teach all nations,” the Christian faithful should carefully attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church.
- The fact remains that men in the present day one to be able to freely profess their religion in private and in public. Many countries have this freedom, but many countries don’t. May God grant all of the human family religious freedom.