John Paul II: The Quintessential Religious Witness in the Public Square
Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, Vol. 45, p. 241, 2007
36 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2007
When John Paul II was consecrated as Bishop for the See of St. Peter nearly thirty years ago, political and legal scholars and commentators in the United States were about to enter into a vitally important intellectual debate on the proper place and appropriate comportment of religious voices in the public square. As that scholarly debate unfolded, John Paul offered through his papacy the model case example for the religious witness in public life. Over the past quarter-century, he left a broad and meaningful legacy of social action with his catalytic role in bringing about the fall of communism, especially in his homeland of Poland; his prophetic critique of political and economic systems and cultural trends that undermine the innate dignity of each human person; his simultaneously reproachful and hopeful call to western societies to abandon the Culture of Death and heed the Gospel of Life; his heart for the poor and disenfranchised; and his words of peace in a troubled world. To be sure, more work remains to be done, as human dignity continues to be assaulted in diverse ways, while secularist societies and institutions continue to be uncomfortable with and insistent upon diminishing the religious element in public life. But, through John Paul's vital and faithful presence, the place in public discourse for the religiously prophetic voice is more secure now than it has been in many decades.
Keywords: Religious freedom, free exercise of religion, religion, religion in public life, Catholic Legal Thought, John Paul II, freedom of speech
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