Joseph A. KomonchakMay 14, 2007 - 9:57am0 comments
Catholicism and Religious Freedom
Contemporary Reflections on Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty
Edited by Kenneth L. Grasso and Robert P. Hunt
Rowman & Littlefield, $26.95, 258 pp.
The Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis humanae) was one of the most controversial documents issued by the Second Vatican Council. Before the council, Protestants in the United States and at the World Council of Churches in Geneva had expressed the hope that the bishops would reconsider a doctrine that permitted or even obliged the state in Catholic countries to restrict the religious activities of non-Catholics and that in theory would legitimate similar restrictions in the United States should Catholics ever attain a sufficient majority here. Efforts at such a rethinking, particularly by Jacques Maritain and John Courtney Murray, had met with resistance from some Catholics in the United States, and from others in allegedly Catholic countries such as Spain and Italy, and in official circles in Rome. Maritain barely escaped public condemnation in the mid-1950s at the same time that Murray learned that some of his views had been declared erroneous by the Holy Office, which led his Jesuit superiors to advise him to find some other topic to study.
The classic modern doctrine was often articulated in terms of “thesis” and “hypothesis.” The thesis (what ought to be) was the Catholic confessional state in which the church enjoyed the favor and protection of the state to the point that it could invoke its coercive power to limit the public activities of non-Catholic religious bodies. In the hypothesis of a...