An Alleged Contradiction in Dignitatis Humanae

Angelicum 98 (2):99-118 (2021)
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The declaration on religious freedom issued by the Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae claimed: Ā«the human person has a right to religious freedomĀ» (no. 2). Nevertheless, some think the modern declaration of Vatican II contradicts prior Catholic magisterial teaching on religious liberty. I evaluate whether the Magisterium is proposing an inconsistent set of propositions. I argue that a careful reading of the relevant magisterial propositions from classical papal encyclicals, namely, those that apparently opposed religious freedom, reveals they do not contradict any of the propositions concerning religious freedom in the declaration of Vatican II. While proving the absence of a contradiction does not prove that the teaching is true or plausible, there is value in doing so because it allows Catholic theologians to focus on demonstrating that the propositions proposed by the Magisterium are jointly plausible and to propose consistent explanations in which both sets of propositions figure.

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James Dominic Rooney
Hong Kong Baptist University


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