The Second Vatican Council moved toward adjournment this month with religious liberty the most far-reaching issue still to be resolved.
On the eve of final voting on the religious liberty declaration, Belgian Bishop Emile de Smedt announced on behalf of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity that an important new amendment had been introduced. It asserts that all men have the “sacred duty to profess and embrace the Catholic faith insofar as they are able to know it.”
The bishop said there had been no change in the portion of the text upholding the basic contention that all men have the right to believe and worship according to their consciences. He declared, however, that “in keeping with the wishes of many fathers, special care had been taken to declare explicitly that the right to religious liberty does not free either the individual or society from its moral duties toward the true religion.”
That brought groans of disappointment from champions of religious liberty throughout the world who were looking for a clear-cut affirmation. Dr. Stanley I. Stuber, American Baptist guest at the council, charged that the change “takes away freedom of conscience.”
Several other passages in the proposed declaration also came under fire. One said that states should not oblige children to attend schools where anti-religious subject matter is taught. Another warned against state school systems that exclude religious training. Associate Director C. Stanley Lowell of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, just back from Rome, told a rally in Washington’s Constitution Hall that the declaration “specifically exempts all existing concordats between the Vatican and Catholic countries.” He said it falls considerably short ...1
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