Summary of Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom “Dignitatis Humanae”

Chapter 1 – Religious Freedom in Light of Reason

Religious freedom

  • The human person has a right to religious freedom.
  • No one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly.

The dignity of the human person

  • The foundation upon which everyone has a right to religious freedom is the dignity of the human person.

Divine law

  • The highest norm of human life is the divine law, where every man has the duty and the right to seek truth in religious matters in order that he may form right and true judgments of conscience.

Follow conscience

  • Man is to follow his conscience in order that he may not be forced to act in a manner contrary to that, nor should he be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience.

Beyond the individual…

  • Religious communities rightfully claim freedom to govern themselves according to their own norms, should not be hindered by legal measures, or to teach publicly and witness to their faith.
  • The family has a right to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents, who have the right to determine the kind of religious education that their children are to receive.

Protecting this right to religious freedom

  • Duty upon the whole citizenry, upon social groups, government, the Church, and other religious communities.
  • The protection of these rights is essential to government, who is to see the quality of citizens before the law.

Norms for guidance

  • Religious freedom is exercised in human society, hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms.
  • However, the government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship.

The goal of this Council

  • This Council urges everyone to do their utmost to form men who will respect the moral order and obedience to lawful authority, and who will be lovers of true freedom.

Ch. 2: Religious Freedom in the Light of Revelation

  • The dignity of man comes from divine revelation.
  • Man’s response to God must be free: Jesus did not force his revelation on anyone, so we must not use coercion to force anyone to embrace the Christian faith against his own will.
  • The Church must enjoy a sacred liberty which her care for the salvation of souls requires — to be faithful to “teach all nations”
  •  Our present-day task to strive that the whole human family will one day enjoy religious freedom.


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