Text of Atlanta Archbishop on Religious Liberty

Following is the text of the speech delivered by Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan of Atlanta, Ga., on religious liberty in the ecumenical council on Sept. 17.

A. The schema is the expression of a true development (progressum authenticum) of Catholic doctrine.

B. Its root is the dignity of the human person. The common good consists in the preservation of the rights and duties of the human person. Public authority (the state) is bound to provide effective safeguards for these rights.

C. Essential point: The public authority does not have responsibility for religion, but it does have responsibility for the freedom of religion.

D. In a constitutional government (in statu juridico) the state does not profess religious indifferentism, false neutrality, nor agnosticism.

E. Rather, it acknowledges and fosters the social value of religion in a manner distinct to itself.

F. In conclusion therefore, the state fosters religion best when it fosters the free exercise of religion.

My brothers in Christ:

  1. The present text of the declaration on religious liberty is very satisfactory (valde placet). I wish only to add a few words on one point — the extension and limits of public authority, that is, the state, in religious matters.
  1. This teaching contained in the schema is solid in itself, and it is precisely suited to our times. For it depends upon the doctrine of the Church, recently evolved, concerning the juridical state (or as we say in English) “constitutional government.” Pope Pius XII developed this doctrine, and was followed by Pope John XXIII. Both Popes brought about an authentic development (progressus authenticus) of Catholic doctrine in this matter.
  1. Moreover, the schema corresponds, not only to the truth, but also to the deep aspirations of people all over the world, especially in those nations, which recently have happily achieved their own independence.
  1. The root of this concept on the state is the dignity of the human person which is, as Pius XII said, “the subject, the foundation and the end of social life.” It follows then that the common good consists in the full preservation of the rights and duties of the human person. Further, it follows that this public authority (the state) is circumscribed by certain limits which are first of all determined by the state’s office of protecting and cultivating human and civil rights.
  1. This general teaching is well applied in the schema on religious liberty. For since the right of religious liberty is clearly proved to be a right based on the dignity of the person, the public authority is bound to assure an effective safeguard for this right.
  1. The care of religious liberty rightly pertains to the public authority, but not the care of religion itself. For religion (as the schema shows from the teaching of Pope Leo XIII) is of a higher order which the state cannot touch.
  1. It must finally be noted that where the civil law of religious liberty, based on constitutional law, really thrives, the state does not profess a religious indifferentism, a false neutrality, nor an agnosticism in religious matters.
  1. Rather, where religious liberty is secure, the state simply acknowledges its own limitations over human rights which cannot be relinquished (“inalienable”). In other words, the state recognizes that it has no right to constrain the exercise of religious liberty except in the case of civil crimes.
  1. The state in this concept acknowledges also the social value of religion to be of the first importance. Therefore it must promote this social value of religion, but in a manner distinct and proper to itself.

The state, therefore, best fosters religion when it fosters the free exercise of it.

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