The Right and the Good, and the Place of Freedom of Religion in Human Rights
Proceedings of the Conference, "Dignitatis Humanae and the Rediscovery of Religious Freedom," held at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of America, February 21-23, 2013
40 Communio International Catholic Review 456 (Summer-Fall 2013)
14 Pages Posted: 11 May 2017
Date Written: February 16, 2013
To the extent that the project of defining and protecting human rights in the post-World War II era has in fact represented a systematic effort to place the priority of rights over the good, it has both failed on its own terms and also can become quite dangerous to human dignity and liberty. From that perspective, the endorsement and deployment of the language and concepts of human rights by the Catholic Church in Dignitatis humanae and contemporaneous or subsequent magisterial documents, can be seen as puzzling and perhaps problematic. At the same time, there is another, more limited, way to understand and to pursue the legal and political protection of human rights in practice that is more defensible and coherent, as a recognition and respect for the structural openness of the human person to the truth, and as an articulation of certain aspects of the common good. This latter approach to human rights can hold, if at all, only insofar as there is a robust primacy given to the right of religious freedom within the canon of human rights. In this way, the centrality of religious freedom to the protection of human dignity is, in fact, key to the coherence and viability of the entire human rights project.
Keywords: Human Rights, Human Dignity, Religious Freedom, Catholic Church
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