"Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion…is more needed in democratic republics than in any others." Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

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Day 14: July 4, 2014 – Dignitatis Humanae

15. The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public. Indeed, religious freedom has already been declared to be a civil right in most constitutions, and it is solemnly recognized in international documents.(38) The further fact is that forms of government still exist under which, even though freedom of religious worship receives constitutional recognition, the powers of government are engaged in the effort to deter citizens from the profession of religion and to make life very difficult and dangerous for religious communities.

This council greets with joy the first of these two facts as among the signs of the times. With sorrow, however, it denounces the other fact, as only to be deplored. The council exhorts Catholics, and it directs a plea to all men, most carefully to consider how greatly necessary religious freedom is, especially in the present condition of the human family. All nations are coming into even closer unity. Men of different cultures and religions are being brought together in closer relationships. There is a growing consciousness of the personal responsibility that every man has. All this is evident. Consequently, in order that relationships of peace and harmony be established and maintained within the whole of mankind, it is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an effective constitutional guarantee and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society.

May the God and Father of all grant that the human family, through careful observance of the principle of religious freedom in society, may be brought by the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to the sublime and unending and “glorious freedom of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:21).

Reflection Questions:

  • What personal responsibility do I have in respect to my own religious freedom, and that of the people with whom I share this life?
  • What is the relationship between growing religious diversity, as well as increasing interaction among people of different faiths, and religious liberty?

“Dignitatis humanae: 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 Dec. 7, 1965. Notes: 38. Cf. John XXIII, encycl. “Pacem in Terris“, April 11, 1963:AAS 55 (1963) pp. 295-296.

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Day 13: July 3, 2014 – Dignitatis Humanae

14. In order to be faithful to the divine command, “teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19-20), the Catholic Church must work with all urgency and concern “that the word of God be spread abroad and glorified” (2 Thess. 3:1). Hence the Church earnestly begs of its children that, “first of all, supplications, prayers, petitions, acts of thanksgiving be made for all men…. For this is good and agreeable in the sight of God our Savior, who wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church.(35) For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself. Furthermore, let Christians walk in wisdom in the face of those outside, “in the Holy Spirit, in unaffected love, in the word of truth” (2 Cor. 6:6-7), and let them be about their task of spreading the light of life with all confidence(36) and apostolic courage, even to the shedding of their blood.

The disciple is bound by a grave obligation toward Christ, his Master, ever more fully to understand the truth received from Him, faithfully to proclaim it, and vigorously to defend it, never-be it understood-having recourse to means that are incompatible with the spirit of the Gospel. At the same time, the charity of Christ urges him to love and have prudence and patience in his dealings with those who are in error or in ignorance with regard to the faith.(37) All is to be taken into account-the Christian duty to Christ, the life-giving word which must be proclaimed, the rights of the human person, and the measure of grace granted by God through Christ to men who are invited freely to accept and profess the faith.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do I continually form my conscience in conformity with the doctrine of the Church?
  • How do I, in love, patience and prudence, bring light to those in error or ignorance of the faith?

“Dignitatis humanae: 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 Dec. 7, 1965. Notes: 35. Cf. Pius XII, radio message, March 23, 1952: AAS 44 (1952) pp. 270-278. 36. Cf. Acts 4:29. 37. Cf. John XXIII, encycl. “Pacem in Terris“, April 11, 1963:AAS 55 (1963), pp. 299-300.

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Day 12: July 2, 2014 – Dignitatis Humanae

13. Among the things that concern the good of the Church and indeed the welfare of society here on earth-things therefore that are always and everywhere to be kept secure and defended against all injury-this certainly is preeminent, namely, that the Church should enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for the salvation of men requires.(31) This is a sacred freedom, because the only-begotten Son endowed with it the Church which He purchased with His blood. Indeed it is so much the property of the Church that to act against it is to act against the will of God. The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle in what concerns the relations between the Church and governments and the whole civil order.

In human society and in the face of government the Church claims freedom for herself in her character as a spiritual authority, established by Christ the Lord, upon which there rests, by divine mandate, the duty of going out into the whole world and preaching the Gospel to every creature.(32) The Church also claims freedom for herself in her character as a society of men who have the right to live in society in accordance with the precepts of the Christian faith.(33)

In turn, where the principle of religious freedom is not only proclaimed in words or simply incorporated in law but also given sincere and practical application, there the Church succeeds in achieving a stable situation of right as well as of fact and the independence which is necessary for the fulfillment of her divine mission.

This independence is precisely what the authorities of the Church claim in society.(34) At the same time, the Christian faithful, in common with all other men, possess the civil right not to be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their consciences. Therefore, a harmony exists between the freedom of the Church and the religious freedom which is to be recognized as the right of all men and communities and sanctioned by constitutional law.

Reflection Questions:

  • What present circumstances specifically threaten the freedom of the Catholic Church?
  • Do these threats always come from outside the Church, or do threats arise from within the Church?

“Dignitatis humanae: 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 Dec. 7, 1965. Notes: 31. Cf. Leo XIII, letter “Officio Sanctissimo“, Dec. 22 1887: AAS 20 (1887), p. 269; idem, letter “Ex Litteris”, April 7 1887: AAS 19 (1886), p. 465. 32. Cf. Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:18-20, Pius XII, encycl. “Summi Pontificatus“, Oct. 20, 1939: AAS 31 (1939). pp. 445-446. 33. Cf. Pius XI, letter “Firmissiman Constantiam“, March 28, 1937: AAS 29 (1937), p. 196. 34. Cf. Pius XII, allocution, “Ci Riesce”, Dec. 6, 1953: AAS 45 (1953), p. 802.

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Day 11: July 1, 2014 – Dignitatis Humanae

12. In faithfulness therefore to the truth of the Gospel, the Church is following the way of Christ and the apostles when she recognizes and gives support to the principle of religious freedom as befitting the dignity of man and as being in accord with divine revelation. Throughout the ages the Church has kept safe and handed on the doctrine received from the Master and from the apostles. In the life of the People of God, as it has made its pilgrim way through the vicissitudes of human history, there has at times appeared a way of acting that was hardly in accord with the spirit of the Gospel or even opposed to it. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm.

Thus the leaven of the Gospel has long been about its quiet work in the minds of men, and to it is due in great measure the fact that in the course of time men have come more widely to recognize their dignity as persons, and the conviction has grown stronger that the person in society is to be kept free from all manner of coercion in matters religious.

Reflection Questions:

  • How can I ensure that all men continue to come to a more full understanding of the dignity of the human person?
  • How do I respond to those who feel their freedom and dignity have not been upheld in past encounters with people of the Church?

“Dignitatis humanae: 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 Dec. 7, 1965.

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Catholic Conference ‘elated’ with U.S. Supreme Court decision

Catholic Conference ‘elated’ with U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding religious freedom for Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Specialties

CHICAGO  –  The U.S Supreme Court today issued a 5-4 ruling in favor of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties lawsuits against the mandate handed down by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)requiring all employers to offer insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilizations.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, issued the following statement on the ruling:

We are elated the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes and affirms the importance of religious freedom in the practice of business. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties have scored an important victory regarding religious conscience that we hope portends a triumph for religious-based and nonprofit employers pursuing similar lawsuits.

All of these cases challenge the federal mandate requiring insurance coverage of such objectionable services as abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations. But the issue at hand goes far beyond birth control, which today’s ruling addresses.

The issue strikes at the heart of the first 16 words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. …”

As we approach the Fourth of July and the celebration of our country’s independence, we in the Catholic Church observe our third annual “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21-July 4, in recognition of America’s first freedom – religious freedom. We breathe a sigh of relief that it has been affirmed.


The Catholic Conference of Illinois was created in 1969 to serve as the public policy voice of the Illinois bishops and the six dioceses of the state: Belleville, Chicago, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield-in-Illinois.

Mary Massingale
Director of Communications
Catholic Conference of Illinois
65 E. Wacker Place, Suite 1620
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 368-1066

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