Friday, March 30, 2007
Rob asked about the relationship between religious liberty and truth and wondered why truth doesn't limit the operation of religious liberty. I think Dignitatis Humanae does make it clear that religious liberty must be understood in light of and is limited by the objective moral law. According to Father Brian Harrison, Dignitatis Humanae's reference to the objective moral law was inserted after an intervention by then-Archbishop Karol Wojtyla. This linkage between freedom and truth was a key theme for Pope John Paul II throughout his pontificate, in particular in Vertitatis Splendor.
The Catechism (at 2108-2109) makes this point in this way: "The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right. The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a 'public order' conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner. The 'due limits' which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with 'legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order.'"
Dignitatis Humanae did not endorse Casey-style reasoning about individual moral autonomy.