Holy See warns European Court judgments against UK Christians make relativism the norm

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, has given the Holy See’s response to the European Court’s decisions against the human rights of UK Christians:

These cases show that questions relating to freedom of conscience and religion are complex, in particular in European society marked by the increase of religious diversity and the corresponding hardening of secularism. There is a real risk that moral relativism, which imposes itself as a new social norm, will come to undermine the foundations of individual freedom of conscience and religion.

The Church seeks to defend individual freedoms of conscience and religion in all circumstances, even in the face of the “dictatorship of relativism”. To this end, the rationality of the human conscience in general and of the moral action of Christians in particular requires explanation. Regarding morally controversial subjects, such as abortion or homosexuality, freedom of consciences must be respected. Rather than being an obstacle to the establishment of a tolerant society in its pluralism, respect for freedom of conscience and religion is a condition for it.

Addressing the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See last week Pope Benedict XVI stressed that: “In order effectively to safeguard the exercise of religious liberty it is essential to respect the right of conscientious objection. This “frontier” of liberty touches upon principles of great importance of an ethical and religious character, rooted in the very dignity of the human person. They are, as it were, the “bearing walls” of any society that wishes to be truly free and democratic. Thus, outlawing individual and institutional conscientious objection in the name of liberty and pluralism paradoxically opens by contrast the door to intolerance and forced uniformity.”
The erosion of freedom of conscience also witnesses to a form of pessimism with regard to the capacity of the human conscience to recognize the good and the true, to the advantage of positive law alone, which tends to monopolize the determination of morality. It is also the Church’s role to remind people that every person, no matter what his beliefs, has, by means of his conscience, the natural capacity to distinguish good from evil and that he should act accordingly. Therein lies the source of his true freedom.



20 comments to Holy See warns European Court judgments against UK Christians make relativism the norm

  • Joseph Matthew

    A number of people believe that Christians can get on with their lives while tolerating “homosexual marriages” etc. We now know that Christians are being forced to act against their conscience or resign.Fellow Christians, Wake up !

  • ms Catholic state

    I have tried to understand the Holy See’s response but it’s not very clear. I feel they should be defending and promoting Christianity, not freedom of conscience or democracy. These can lead to all kinds of abuses. The message from the Vatican even seems contradictory in ways.

    • Haslam

      The sentance “The Church seeks to defend individual freedoms of conscience and religion in all circumstances” struck me as out of character. A perfectly laudable aim IMHO, but not in line with the Vatican’s usual approach.

      • ms Catholic state

        I don’t like to criticise the Vatican…but I feel the Church should promote and defend Catholicism only….while defending all people. But not all religions. (Some religious tenets you could never support.)

      • spesalvi23

        I think their interpretation of conscience might not be the one of contemporary society.
        They are referring to a conscience which is formed by solid, catholic upbringing and teaching and, consequently, confident implication of that knowledge in the choices you make.
        They are not referring to a conscience which is formed by emotions trends, politics and the media.

        • Haslam

          what about conscience formed by solid upbridging and teaching in a non-Catholic religion or in a non-religious philosophy? It isn’t just Catholic conscience and trendy “conscience” out there. There are plenty of conscientious positions which are not Catholic positions but which are nevertheless established, settled, not-emotional, rational and based on proper philosophical thought. Some of them are comparitively recent, others pre-date Christianity. Of course from a catholic view point they can only at best be partly true, but I would argue that although the Church obviously can’t defend the positions themselves they must defend people’s rights to hold them as part of their general defence of human dignity because these positions are just as much a part of some people’s identity as yoru Catholic faith is to you.

          • spesalvi23

            Fine and dandy – but what a kind of conscience formation do you think a member of the Roman curia would be referring to?

          • ms Catholic state

            Not really. Can the Church uphold people’s right to believe in abortion before 3 months gestation…or polygamy?! These are the established conscientious positions of many religious people….but the Church cannot be champion of people’s right to hold such beliefs. To do so would itself be a form of relativism.

          • Haslam

            So you are saying that noone has a right to disagree with the Church! That is totalitarian and not the way to promote true faith. Humans as social communicating animals live in a marketplace of ideas. Someone with inferior ideas would take as their main strategy limiting expression of the competing ideas. Someone with faith in the superiority of their ideas ought not to be doing that.

          • ms Catholic state

            Anyone can disagree with the Church’s teaching….but they are disagreeing with the Truth. It is not the Church’s job to promote the right to have an opinion….it is the Church’s job to promote the Truth. People can choose to take it or leave it after that. I don’t agree with the Church wading into every secular debate going. Only that she defend and support the Truth ie Catholicism and nothing else.

  • spesalvi23

    “Thus, outlawing individual and institutional conscientious objection in the name of liberty and pluralism paradoxically opens by contrast the door to intolerance and forced uniformity.”

    Perfectly put and deliberately ignored by the tolerance police.

  • Yorkshire Catholic

    Politicians and administrators who wish to diminish the role of traditional Christianity in the life of society in England and elsewhere began by using social welfare legislation and are now using equality legislation to force Christians to conform to their agenda. The ostensible goals are the protection of life and health and disadvantaged human beings. The real aim seems to be to create a pliant form of pseudo-Christianity subordinate to the politicians’ agenda. Catholics have been far too slow to speak up about this and it would appear that both laity and clergy because of their own left-of-centre attitudes have failed to grasp the implications of what is happening.
    It is good to learn that Rome has done.
    “outlawing individual and institutional conscientious objection in the name of liberty and pluralism paradoxically opens by contrast the door to intolerance and forced uniformity.” should be pinned up in entrances to Catholic schools and churches everywhere.

  • Karla

    Off topic

    UK Coalition for Marriage Hands Out One Million Leaflets in Swing Precincts


  • John

    The editorial in today’s Tablet states that the Court’s judgements including the three cases they found against were based on common sense!!

  • Michael Petek

    We have an advantage over the secularists. We Christians are moral absolutists. This means that we act consistently when we use whatever legitimate power we have to compel people to act justly, and when we assert conscientious objection to anything which would compel us, or anyone, to act unconscionably. The secularists, however, are moral relativists. They make up their own morality at their own convenience. They have no coherent basis for forcing their morality on anyone else. Neither can they have any basis for conscientious objection to being forced to conform to Christian morality. Here we stand with our absolutism. There they stand with their relativism. We’ll see who prevails.

    • Haslam

      sounds like a rather unpleasant recipe for conflict if you ask me.

    • Michael Petek,
      I would say the moral relativists are hypocrites. I am yet to meet the person who would accept that their spouse cheated on them in certain cases, who would think that the morality of it all depends on circumstances, that it is just a matter of personal point of view and therefore would not want to impose their own morality on their spouse.

      These people know deep down that some acts are intrinsically wrong and that there is such a thing as objective morality.

      • John Dare

        Maybe beig a bit miffed at the antics of a ‘spouse [who] cheated goes rather deeper than how ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ the ation is, intrinsic, or not.

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