On Religious Freedom and Fr Rauscher SJ

On Religious Freedom and Fr Rauscher SJ
Rev Anton Rauscher SJ

Rev Anton Rauscher SJ presented a speech on “Religious Freedom in a pluralistic society” at the 11th German American Catholic Conference in Munich Germany. Fr Rauscher  was the director of the Catholic Social Science Center in Monchengladbach. He has written numerous articles on Catholic social teaching. He spoke about the two sides of Catholic social teaching concerning religious tolerance. On the one hand there is a concern about the right of truth and the need to speak about the truth of revelation and the truth of revelation. On the other hand, there is the right of the person to seek the truth and to live according to the truth as one understands it. The right of personal conscience is the basis for tolerance. But too many have failed to mention that conscience imposes a duty on the person to seek the truth.

At Vatican II Cardinal Bea worked for a better understanding of religious freedom. In Gaudium et spes we find the following statements on conscience:

16. In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose   upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart:   do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is   the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the   most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice  echoes in his depths.  In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law  which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth.   

17. Only in freedom can man direct himself toward goodness.  . . . authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within man. For God has willed that man remain “under the   control of his own decisions,” so that he can seek his Creator spontaneously, and come freely to utter and blissful perfection through loyalty to Him. Hence man’s dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure.

This freedom of conscience is the basis for religious tolerance. Fr Rauscher argued that this was not a novel teaching at Vatican II, even if Pope John XXIII emphasized the right of the person over the right of truth.But there is a continuity of teaching.

On Dec. 6,1953, Pius XII addressed a discourse to the National Convention of Italian Catholic Jurists. He spoke on the problems of religious liberty in the growing community of nations:

The duty of repressing moral and religious error cannot therefore be an ultimate norm of action. It must be subordinate to higher and more general norms, which in some circumstances permit, and even perhaps seem to indicate as the better policy, toleration of error in order to promote a greater good. Thus the two principles are clarified to which recourse must be had in concrete cases for the answer to the serious question concerning the attitude which the jurist, the statesman and the sovereign Catholic state is to adopt in consideration of the community of nations in regard to a formula of religious and moral toleration as described above. First: that which does not correspond to truth or to the norm of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be spread or to be activated. Secondly: failure to impede this with civil laws and coercive measures can nevertheless be justified in the interests of a higher and more general good.


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