ARLINGTON, Va. — Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., implored Catholics to speak up for religious freedom and for truth after explaining the link between the two at a lecture in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 23.
“Freedom of religion is the most basic of all the human rights, because the other human rights are limited to matters of time,” he said in a talk at the Institute of Catholic Culture. “Freedom of religion relates to my eternal salvation: whether I’m free to achieve that, by God’s grace, or not. There’s nothing more important than that.”
Bishop Morlino spoke on Dignitatis Humanae, the Vatican II declaration outlining the Church’s relationships to states and the proper understanding of religious freedom. Explaining the historical development of religious freedom as a concept, he said that the last three ecumenical councils — Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II — are “the Church’s responses to modernity.”
He described how, prior to modernist philosophy, both the Church and society recognized that “to know the truth meant that there was a correspondence between the mind and the reality out there.” This correspondence enabled man to know the natural law — the participation of human reason in Divine law.
“There was a conformity of the mind to what was real, independent of the mind,” the bishop explained. The philosophical movement of modernity, he added, was a “major turn in the way human beings thought about knowing.” It shifted thinking towards a more subjective view of reality, in which the individual’s perception determines what he or she thinks to be real.