Click on the links below for catechetical resources:
Click on the links below for liturgical resources:
Click on the links below to learn more about the following topics:
Click here to find additional resources created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Pope Francis speaks about religious freedom…
“In today’s world, religious freedom is more often affirmed than put into practice”, the pope said. It is often threatened, and not infrequently violated. The serious outrages against this fundamental right are a source of serious concern, and need to be confronted at the global level.
Defending religious liberty and making it available for everyone, Pope Francis said, is everyone’s responsibility. Doing so “guarantees the growth and development of the entire community."1
Pope Benedict XVI speaks about religious freedom…
Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many [American bishops] have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.
Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church's participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.2
Cardinal Donald Wuerl speaks about religious freedom…
“There is a time to be on your knees. The presence of our Lord is one of them. There is also a time to stand up for who we are. Today we are simply reminded, as we look back over our history and we look at our freedoms, that there are some things worth standing for. And religious liberty is one of them. My brothers and sisters, we simply need to stand. To stand for what is right. To stand for what is ours. To stand up for religious liberty. And anytime we feel personally, or even as a group, challenged; remember, Jesus already has one the victory."3
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about religious freedom…
The right to religious liberty is … a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.
The "due limits" which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with "legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order."4
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church speaks about religious freedom…
Emphasis is given to the paramount value of the right to religious freedom: "all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits."
Citizens are not obligated in conscience to follow the prescriptions of civil authorities if their precepts are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or to the teachings of the Gospel. Unjust laws pose dramatic problems of conscience for morally upright people: when they are called to cooperate in morally evil acts they must refuse. Besides being a moral duty, such a refusal is also a basic human right which, precisely as such, civil law itself is obliged to recognize and protect. "Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane."
It is a grave duty of conscience not to cooperate, not even formally, in practices which, although permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to the Law of God. Such cooperation in fact can never be justified, not by invoking respect for the freedom of others nor by appealing to the fact that it is foreseen and required by civil law. No one can escape the moral responsibility for actions taken, and all will be judged by God himself based on this responsibility (cf. Romans 2:6; 14:12).5
The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults speaks about religious freedom…
The First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion, has been interpreted in such a way that it excessively marginalizes religion. Society has reached the stage in which people of faith are pressured to act publicly as though religion does not matter. This has caused many believers to think that their faith is strictly a private matter and that it should have no influence on society and politics.
From its foundation, the United States has maintained the freedom of its citizens to worship according to their consciences and has prohibited infringement upon religious freedom by the government…. Catholics must participate in political life and bring to bear upon it—by their voice and their vote—what they have learned about human nature, human destiny, and God's will for human beings from his self-revelation. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is relevant for all times and all places.5
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops speaks about religious freedom…
Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or to pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here at home and overseas.
What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.7
The Maryland Catholic Conference speaks about religious freedom…
The right of religious liberty had long been denied in Europe when Maryland's early settlers promoted it in the mid-17th century. But by the end of the 18th century our nation's founders embraced freedom of religion as an essential condition of a free and democratic society.
James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution, described conscience as "the most sacred of all property." He wrote that "the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate." George Washington wrote that "the establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive that induced me to the field of battle."
It is therefore no surprise that when the framers of our Constitution adopted a Bill of Rights, religious freedom was given the distinction of being at the forefront of the First Amendment. The First Amendment, modeled in part on Maryland's Act Concerning Religion, guarantees that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It is this First Amendment that provides the foundation for our pluralistic society, in which people of different faiths can live and worship in peace.
This primacy of religious liberty was later guaranteed in the Maryland Constitution and in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Religious freedom is not merely a civil right afforded us by our government, but, more fundamentally, it is a natural right due each person because of his or her human dignity.
Each person is made in the image and likeness of God. We are therefore made to know Him and to seek His truth. The Lord—as evidenced by the incarnation, death, and resurrection of His Son—wishes to unite us with Himself. Yet Christ came to convince, not to compel. He offers us His love but He does not force us to accept it. The Lord respects our freedom to accept Him or to reject Him; so too must government and society.
Religious freedom, therefore, is an essential element of the human person and a basic human right. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, "Openness to truth and perfect goodness, openness to God, is rooted in human nature; it confers full dignity on each individual and is the guarantee of full mutual respect between persons. Religious freedom should be understood, then, not merely as immunity from coercion, but even more fundamentally as an ability to order one's own choices in accordance with truth."
Thus religious freedom protects the ability to practice any faith or no faith. It defends a person's right to convert from one faith to another. It preserves the right to follow one's conscience, in acts both internal and external, in private and in public, as an individual and as a member of a community.8