Role of Religion in the public square
There are those that advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square.
– PBXVI, address at Westminster Hall, 9-17-2010
Reflecting on this, a friend writes:
What should be the role of religion in the public square and how can religions avoid competing in the same public space? What exactly is “the legitimate role of religion in the public square”?
1 – The more religion is relegated purely to the private sphere the more likely it becomes that persecution will follow. To understand the persecution angle we’d have to discuss some of anti-theist philosophical roots of liberalism, modernism, and post-modernism. Suffice it to say what we are seeing now is result of deliberate efforts by some and less conscious but still deliberate efforts by others to pursue a certain brand of freedom which rejects God as creator in order to assert the autonomy of man to the extent that man can create himself. Who he is, all that matters, is the personal choice — freedom as license. God is a threat to this freedom and must be pushed out of the way. Thus, in the short term the relegation of religion to the purely private sphere may in the short term diminish persecution as fewer religious voices are their to persecute. But by its nature religion is a public and communal phenomenon. People of faith will eventually feel moved to speak up, to witness to their faith in a public way. After becoming accustomed to the silence of the religious, when those who want God pushed out of the way are confronted again by religious voices they will believe they have a “right” to keep the voices silent. Count on it.
2. It seems at the very least that religions should have the same dialogical role with the government as do other interest groups, interest groups which often, though not always, are motivated by self-serving interests rather than the common good, but we would have to be comfortable with other religions (including distorted forms) having as much dialogue with the government as we would want. This is pretty much what the Church says in VCII’s Declaration on Religious Freedom. The key, as Pope Benny mentioned, is the collaboration of faith and reason: when either is silenced ( faith silenced by govt or reason by fundamentalist groups), bad things result.
3. The Pope sort of answers your questions in the speech from which you quoted, although you probably already know that. He said,
“the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these [ethical] norms [which prescind from natural law], as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves.”
Finally I would add that in America the practice of Catholicism, generally speaking, is already too privatized. We laity do not witness to Christ eloquently enough to effectively ethe places in which we work and live, and that, after all, is our vocation. (See Lumen Gentium 31).
What do you all think?