Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Canadian bishops issue letter on religious freedom, speak of conscientious objection

The Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a pastoral letter on religious liberty. The letter, dated April 2012, was released on May 14.

Lamenting threats to religious freedom abroad, the letter also noted that:
in the past decade in Canada there have been several situations that raise the question whether our right to freedom of conscience and religion is everywhere respected. At times, believers are being legally compelled to exercise their profession without reference to their religious or moral convictions, and even in opposition to them. This occurs wherever laws, which most often deal with issues linked to the dignity of human life and the family, are promulgated and which limit the right to conscientious objection by health-care and legal professionals, educators and politicians.  
The bishops reminded the faithful that “it is sometimes necessary to resist, even in a heroic manner, the directives of the state, a court, or an organization that tries to force them to go against their convictions in matters of faith and morals.”
"For example, it is never licit for a Catholic to support the legal right to abortion or euthanasia,” the bishops continued. “Asserting one’s right to conscientious objection is often difficult. It entails courageously resisting those who favor or require an action contrary to one’s conscience. Those who will not cooperate with the requirements of an immoral law must be prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to uphold the truth and to bear the suffering that results.”
“Especially inspiring as a model of steadfast fidelity is St. Thomas More, the patron of statesmen and politicians,” the bishops stated, adding:

The Church’s vitality has often been nourished by persecution. Our era is no exception. Those who refuse to cooperate with an unjust law or practice that would oblige them to act against their conscience – and are not given the right to conscientious objection or accorded respectful accommodation – must be prepared to suffer the consequences that result from fidelity to Christ. They deserve the effective solidarity and prayerful support of their religious communities. The bold “Be not afraid!” of Blessed John Paul II continues to ring out, giving us courage to follow our conscience in every circumstance, regardless of the cost.

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