Category Archives: Religious Freedom

Clarifying the meaning of religious freedom

A timely piece to think seriously about daily is the notion of religious freedom not only around the globe, but also and significantly here in the USA. Today, the Most Reverend William E. Lori addressed the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on the Constitution. Here are a few paragraphs (the link to the full text is noted below):

liberty is not merely one right among others, but enjoys a certain primacy. As
the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI recently explained: “It is indeed the first
of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be
recognized but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man, his
relation with his Creator.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Diplomatic Corps,
10 Jan. 2011
.) The late
Pope John Paul II taught that “the most fundamental human freedom [is] that of
practicing one’s faith openly, which for human beings is their reason for
.” (Pope John Paul II, Address to Diplomatic Corps, 13 Jan. 1996
, No. 9.) Not coincidentally, religious
liberty is first on the list in the Bill of Rights, the charter of our Nation’s
most cherished and fundamental freedoms. The First Amendment begins: “Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof….” It is commonly, and with justice, called our “First

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US Commission on International Religious Freedom could cease in November

US Congressman Frank R. Wolf, 72, (Virginia 10th District) proposed the bill in 1998 which created The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is a bi-partisan US Federal commission, appointed by the US President to advise him and Congress on matters pertaining to the freedom of religion. The CIRF reports to Congress and the State Department, is now in jeopardy.

It’s work is research and advocacy for freedom and human rights. It looks at the practice of religion and it’s freedom to exist.
HOWEVER, there is one senator who is blocking funding, anonymously. We need to write to our senators. We need to speak out!!!
After November 18 the Commission may go out of business.
Congressman Wolf thinks that if the bill is passed, Obama will sign the bill. But truth be told, the President is not really in favor the Commission’s work.
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Catholic bishops and religious freedom

Amy Sullivan of Time magazine wrote a piece today, “Why Catholic Bishops are Targeting Obama on Religious Freedom.” I don’t particularly think Sullivan’s article is not all that informative, in fact, I think she needs to review it again and republish it. She does, however, indirectly say that Catholics –indeed all people of faith– better wake up today and get with the program: the current presidential administration of the US government is narrowing an understanding and practice of religious freedom. Catholics, unlike the Jews or the Muslims are too often slow to know the horizons of the debate. Catholics don’t often go up to Mount Nebo to survey the geography or their own history. Whether recent events are the most egregious in 30 years is a matter of opinion, but the trampling (or reduction) of religious freedom harms everybody, atheist and the Legion of Mary member alike.

It’s time to get fluent in the terms of religious freedom, pun intended.
This is not a Catholic issue. This is an issue for all people who live a life of faith.

Pope addresses the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences: true freedom of religion permits human fulfillment & the common good

The regular cycle of the Pope’s work is addressing those groups that advise him on a variety of subjects like theology, law, science, politics, life issues, etc. Benedict’s address to Professor Mary
Ann Glendon, President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, talks about the theme of “Universal
Rights in a World of Diversity: the Case of Religious Freedom.” He reminds not only the head of this academy about the deep roots of Western culture being Christian, but it was Christianity that gave humanity the awareness of the various freedoms we know and love, that contribute to human flourishing and many time even take for granted. It was the Christian gospel that upheld and promoted the dignity of the human person, protected women and children, that organized labor freedom of worship, and other social systems. Most notably, the Pope reminds us, that the freedoms spoken of in
the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human
Rights have their roots in our belief and life in Christ. However, we can’t become smug –too satisfied– with what we’ve been given, even freedom. The Pope’s talk is not long but here are some germaine points for us to consider:

Deeply inscribed
in our human nature are a yearning for truth and meaning and an openness to the
transcendent; we are prompted by our nature to pursue questions of the greatest
importance to our existence. Many centuries ago, Tertullian coined the term libertas
(cf. Apologeticum, 24:6). He emphasized that God must be worshipped
, and that it is in the nature of religion not to admit coercion, “nec
religionis est cogere religionem” (Ad Scapulam, 2:2). Since man enjoys the
capacity for a free personal choice in truth, and since God expects of man a
free response to his call, the right to religious freedom should be viewed as
innate to the fundamental dignity of every human person, in keeping with the
innate openness of the human heart to God. In fact, authentic freedom of
religion will permit
the human person to attain fulfilment and will thus
contribute to the common good of society

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Pope’s State of the World address, 2011

We have the
state of the school address, the state of the state address, the state of the
nation address, and even have the state of the world. Today, Pope Benedict XVI
delivered his ‘state of the world’ speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to
the Holy See. Depending on how you count, there are between 178 to 181 diplomats
at the Holy See. Please note the Pontiff’s concentration on religious freedom; he is, head and shoulders above all world leaders, the voice for religious freedom as the path to true, lasting peace. The
Pope’s address, the original was delivered in French:

Your Excellencies, Ladies
and Gentlemen,

Pope sits with Vatican Gentluomini in the Sala Clementina Jan 10 2011.jpg

I am pleased to welcome you, the distinguished representatives
of so many countries, to this meeting which each year assembles you around the
Successor of Peter. It is a deeply significant meeting, since it is a sign and
illustration of the place of the Church and of the Holy See in the
international community. I offer my greetings and cordial good wishes to each
of you, and particularly to those who have come for the first time. I am
grateful to you for the commitment and interest with which, in the exercise of
your demanding responsibilities, you follow my activities, those of the Roman
Curia and thus, in some sense, the life of the Catholic Church throughout the
world. Your Dean, Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza, has interpreted your
sentiments and I thank him for the good wishes which he has expressed to me in
the name of all. Knowing how close-knit your community is, I am certain that
today you are also thinking of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the
Netherlands, Baroness van Lynden-Leijten, who several weeks ago returned to the
house of the Father. I prayerfully share your sentiments.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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