Religious Freedom

We live in an age of change. The winds of ecumenism are blowing the halls and temples of the world's great religions. Much of the blustering originates the shadowy recesses of the Vatican. Witness, if you will, the bright words of Vatican II's Declaration on Religious Liberty, from which we learn that religious freedom is a right.

The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits. The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right. -- Laurence Ryan, Trans., Dignitatis Humanae[Declaration on Religious Liberty], Chapter 1, para 2, Second Vatican Council, 4th Session, Promulgated by Paul VI on December 7, 1965, quoted in "Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents", Austin Flannery, Ed., Costello Publishing Co (1975), p. 800 – has Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur

Well, that certainly seems fair. From accounts in the news media, Rome has been making serious efforts throughout the world to obtain religious freedom, at least for herself. Vatican emissaries have urged the governments of China, India, Sudan and who knows where else to not only permit the establishment of Catholic churches and missions in their countries, but to protect priests and other religious who run them. In a sense, I suppose, the RCC is attempting to make the council's declaration a reality.

Did the Council proclaim this freedom of religion as a right to be extended to all churches and peoples? Of course it did not. Sure, everyone is included, but not to the same degree as Mother Church on the Tiber. A footnote on the declaration reads:

The Catholic Church claims freedom from coercive interference in her ministry and life on grounds of the divine mandate laid upon her by Christ Himself…It is Catholic faith that no other Church or Community may claim to possess this mandate in its fulness. In this sense, the freedom of the Church is unique, proper to herself alone, by reason of its foundation. In the case of all other religious Communities, the foundation of the right is the dignity of the human person, which requires that men by kept free from coercion, when they act in a community, gathered into Churches, as well as when they act alone. Walter M. Abbott & Joseph Gallagher, The Documents of Vatican II, Guild Publishing (1966), p. 682

In other words, everyone in the word has the right to religious freedom, alone or in assembly. However, the Roman Catholic Church has a more right than other churches or communities. This claim, as are most other pretensions to special authority, seems to be built on the very particular RCC interpretation of Matthew 16:18. In that Rome's self-serving interpretation of this verse is incorrect, as has been demonstrated here and on other Christian websites time and again, her claim to special privilege in the area of religious freedom also is invalid.

Was it always thus in the visible church, the church that Rome claims to rule? I am aware of no document from apostolic times that even hints that the first Christians claimed religious rights "in greater fulness" that those of other belief systems. In fact, the Scriptures show that the earliest Christians continued to keep the Mosaic Law and to meet in synagogues on Shabbos.

Has Rome honored this declaration of religious freedom that she demands for herself in her dealings with other faiths? That is a question easily answered. Just try to find a church or temple of another religion within the territory of the Vatican.

What it all works out to is this: The Vatican is declaring that all other nations/commuions must do as she says, but that they may not do as she does. Is this not the way of a hypocrite?

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. -- Matthew 23:27-28, KJV

I am not asking you to believe me simply because I say this is so. Read the Declaration in it's entirety. It is available online. As you read, ask yourself whether the RCC is practicing the high virtues the document proclaims. Then read your Bible and compare the specifics of the declaration and Rome's performance with the Scriptures. Chapter 13 of Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church would be a good starting point.

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