Friday, September 3, 2010

Freedom of Religion vs. Freedom of Worship

Archbishop Chaput explains the difference.
The Enlightenment-derived worldview that gave rise to the great murder ideologies of the last century remains very much alive. Its language is softer, its intentions seem kinder, and its face is friendlier. But its underlying impulse hasn’t changed -- i.e., the dream of building a society apart from God; a world where men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves, satisfying their needs and desires through their own ingenuity.
This vision presumes a frankly “post-Christian” world ruled by rationality, technology and good social engineering. Religion has a place in this worldview, but only as an individual lifestyle accessory. People are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and do not presume to intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on the workings of government, the economy, or culture.
Now, at first hearing, this might sound like a reasonable way to organize a modern society that includes a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural traditions, different philosophies of life and approaches to living.
But we’re immediately struck by two unpleasant details.
First, “freedom of worship” is not at all the same thing as “freedom of religion.” Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith. This is the classic understanding of a citizen’s right to the “free exercise” of his or her religion in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It’s also clearly implied in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In contrast, freedom of worship is a much smaller and more restrictive idea.
Second, how does the rhetoric of enlightened, secular tolerance square with the actual experience of faithful Catholics in Europe and North America in recent years?
In the United States, a nation that is still 80 percent Christian with a high degree of religious practice, government agencies now increasingly seek to dictate how Church ministries should operate, and to force them into practices that would destroy their Catholic identity. Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as “hate speech.” Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence.
In Europe, we see similar trends, although marked by a more open contempt for Christianity. Church leaders have been reviled in the media and even in the courts for simply expressing Catholic teaching. Some years ago, as many of you may recall, one of the leading Catholic politicians of our generation, Rocco Buttiglione, was denied a leadership post in the European Union because of his Catholic beliefs.


Julygirl said...

Excellent points! With the 'Age of Reason' and 'Rational' thinking came lots of irrational thinking, mental illness and despair.

anothertwocents said...

I suspect Arbp. Chaput's claim that Rocco Buttiglione was not wanted because he is a Catholic is rather far-fetched.

It seems to me that the politicians in Brussels found it much easier to make an issue of his views on homosexuality than to say aloud that they would never ever accept an Italian as EU justice minister any more than they would accept a Greek politician as EU finance minister.

If Buttiglione truly believes it was his beliefs that did him in - or quite likely, that he was even nominated in good faith by that arch-schemer Berlusconi - he may lack the cynicism necessary to thrive in politics.

Unknown said...

Yes, freedom of religion and freedom of worship are different. Freedom of religion is more broad, and that's exactly why our founding fathers used those words.

And the Marxist utopian ideals of a community without God is another important thing too.

Unknown said...

"Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith."

Oh, I like this! We need to change our leadership. We are headed in the wrong direction.