Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Religious freedom and "proselytization"

Professor Friedman (Religion Clause blog) has a very helpful post, chock full o' links, on the recent Holy See / WCC document, "Conversion:  Assessing the Realities."  Here is a bit:

Freedom of religion is a fundamental, inviolable and non-negotiable right of every human being in every country in the world. Freedom of religion connotes the freedom, without any obstruction, to practice one’s own faith, freedom to propagate the teachings of one’s faith to people of one’s own and other faiths, and also the freedom to embrace another faith out of one’s own free choice.

We affirm that while everyone has a right to invite others to an understanding of their faith, it should not be exercised by violating other’s rights and religious sensibilities. At the same time, all should heal themselves from the obsession of converting others.

Freedom of religion enjoins upon all of us the equally non-negotiable responsibility to respect faiths other than our own, and never to denigrate, vilify or misrepresent them for the purpose of affirming superiority of our faith.

Hmmm.  What, exactly, is or constitutes an "obsession with converting others"?  Put differently, what distinguishes this "obsession" from, say, the Great Commission:  "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations"?  Perhaps the drafters simply made an unfortunate word choice.  Certainly, the evangelization of those who are not Christian should proceed in accord with a Christian respect for persons and religious freedom.  That said, it seems quite wrong to suggest that there is something unworthy about wanting -- a lot -- others to embrace the Truth that is Christ.

It strikes me as a bigger problem that, in the name of constraining "proselytism", countries are limiting conversions and religious expression, than that some evangelists are behaving or speaking in an unworthy and non-"transparen[t]" way.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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