We changed our server to escape an attack on 12/18. Contact form, CC mailings, and donations not working yet.
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Secularism and fundamentalist intolerance are equal threats to religious freedom, Pope says

Catholic World News - December 16, 2010

In his annual message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI concentrates on the crucial importance of religious freedom, and argues that militant secularism can be as dangerous to religious freedom as sectarian intolerance.

The Church marks the World Day of Peace on January 1, the feast of the Mother of God. The Vatican released the Pope’s message for the upcoming observance on December 16, with a press conference chaired by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The papal message—which was made available in French, English, German, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish as well as Italian translation-- is entitled “Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace.”

The Pope opens his message with a reference to the October 31 massacre of 52 Iraqi Catholics at a parish church in Baghdad. He calls special attention to the continued campaign of violence against Iraq’s Christian minority, but observes that the persecution of Christians continues in many places around the world. “At present,” the Pope remarks, “Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith.”

While he decries the severe restrictions on religious practices that are commonplace in the Middle East, and thereby implicitly criticizes the approach taken by Islamic governments, Pope Benedict is also critical of the secularized societies that have pushed religion out of the public square, following a false ideal of secularism or individual freedom. “A freedom which is hostile or indifferent to God becomes self-negating and does not guarantee full respect for others,” the Pope writes.

“It should be clear that religious fundamentalism and secularism are alike in that both represent extreme forms of a rejection of legitimate pluralism and the principle of secularity,” Pope Benedict argues. Some of the toughest language of the papal message is directed at Western democracies. He expresses the hope that “in the West, and especially in Europe, there will be an end to hostility and prejudice against Christians.”

Governments have a moral obligation to ensure the religious freedom of their people, the Pope argues. He notes that religious liberty is derived from natural law, and has claims prior to those of the state. He challenges governments by saying: “Whenever the legal system at any level, national or international, allows or tolerates religious or antireligious fanaticism, it fails in its mission, which is to protect and promote justice and the rights of all.”

In introducing the papal document, Cardinal Turkson underlined the message that religious freedom is not confined to “those who kneel in church and pray.” True religious freedom, he said, citing the Pope’s text, allows the believer to express his faith freely and openly in public and to be a full participant in the life of his society.

Cardinal Turkson told Vatican Radio that the violence against Christians in Iraq has drawn the world’s attention to a problem that lingers in many other places; he mentioned Nigeria, southern Sudan, and the Balkans. In Iraq, the cardinal said, one sees “the naked face of this religious intolerance and how it can lead us to be really murderous and give vent to the worst sentiments within us.”

Questioned about Pope Benedict’s claim that secularism is as great a threat to religious liberty as fundamentalist intolerance, Cardinal Turkson replied:

It is. It’s easier to identify religious fundamentalism because you can see where it’s coming from, from its traits. Secular fundamentalism is more difficult to deal with because it becomes a pervasive culture in which people live and that gets expressed in its forms of governance, so that imperceptibly you have governments assuming and adopting certain positions that are not so friendly to the human spirit and human growth.

Additional sources for this story
Some links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($27,707 to go):
$150,000.00 $122,292.96
18% 82%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Another side of Francis: US-Cuba role shows Pope's diplomatic muscle 21 hours ago
Silly season: a Christmas approaches, a scholar questions whether Jesus ever existed 22 hours ago
The intrinsic immorality of torture: still not convinced? December 18
The Complexity of Reforming Religious Communities December 17
Speaking Softly to Women Religious December 16

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis: Europe seems 'elderly and haggard' CWN - November 25
Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch sign joint declaration, lament persecution of Christians CWN - December 1
Consistory for new cardinals scheduled for February CWN - December 11
Vatican report on US women religious calls for further self-assessment CWN - December 16
Pope brokered deal to open US-Cuba ties CWN - December 17