By Vatican News
“The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person,” says Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, the acting president of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty. “Religious freedom is the human right that guarantees all other rights — peace and creative living together will only be possible if freedom of religion is fully respected.”
"For the Good of All"
Archbishop Wenski’s statement comes at the beginning of the annual Religious Freedom Week, which runs from the Feast of Sts Thomas More and John Fisher, 22 June through 29 June, the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul. During this week, Catholics are encouraged to pray and uphold religious liberty at home and abroad. The theme for this year’s Religious Freedom Week is “For the Good of All.”
“Religious freedom is under stress throughout the world,” Archbishop Wenski declares in his statement. “Even in our Western liberal democracies,” he stresses, “discrimination against religion in general and Catholic Christianity in particular, is growing — albeit in perhaps more sophisticated and less violent ways.”
While acknowledging that “Political analysts and human rights advocates do include religion on their agenda,” he notes that, “most emphasize ‘tolerance’ as if religion were only a source of conflict. Or, they speak about religion in terms of ‘individual choices,’ as if religion were merely the concern of an individual’s conviction and were devoid of any social consequences.”
Protecting individuals and institutions
On the contrary, he explains, “just as freedom of speech depends not only on one’s right to say what’s on one’s mind but also on the existence of institutions like newspapers, universities, libraries, political parties and other associations that make up what we call ‘civil society,’ so too freedom of religion ‘for the good of all’ must also encompass protecting those institutions that nourish the individual’s free exercise of religion.”
Defending religious liberty
The U.S. Bishops’ Religious Freedom Week – originally the “Fortnight for Freedom” – was conceived in 2012 as a defence of religious liberty against threats “both at home and abroad.” Each day of the week is dedicated to a different issue having to do with religious liberty; this year’s topics include freedom to serve in health care, respect for houses of worship, and Catholic schools.