Regina Elsner is an appointed professor of Eastern Churches and Ecumenical Theology at the Catholic-Theological Faculty at the University of Münster.
After one and a half years, the diplomatic efforts in Russia’s war against Ukraine have caused major global disillusionments—no means, strategy, or peace plan has yet brought a truly viable end to the war closer or opened options for a just peace in the region. This includes the Vatican’s multiple diplomatic initiatives. In its dual role as an actor in the community of states and as the center of one of the world’s largest religious communities, the Vatican has ways of maintaining a conversation with warring parties where many other actors can no longer gain access. This position has raised the hope that the Vatican, particularly the Pope, can play a mediating role in Russia’s war.
Brett G. Scharffsis Rex E. Lee Chair, Professor of Law, and Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University
Andrea Pinis Associate Professor of Comparative Public Law, University of Padua, and Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law & Religion Emory University
Dmytro Vovkis Director of the Centre for the Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University (Ukraine) and co-editor of Talk About: Law and Religion
This blogpost is modified from Scharffs, Pin, and Vovk’s Introductionto “Human Dignity and Human Rights—Christian Perspectives and Practices: A Focus on Constitutional and International Law,” in a special issue of the BYU Law Review.
The relationship between Christianity and human rights is a matter of deep controversy, drawing the attention of theologians, historians, lawyers, and philosophers alike. The historical connections between various denominations of Christianity and human rights and the dialectics between Christianity and human rights are matters of endless academic debates. How much contemporary narratives of rights are owed to Christianity, what Christianity has borrowed from nonreligious modern and post-modern thinkers, the extent to which the contemporary language of rights clash with Christian values, and the theoretical foundations of such clashes keep scholars busy.
The topic, however, is all but confined to theoreticians. How Christianity understands or ought to understand rights is often discussed within legal and political circles. The public role of Christianity and Christians in contemporary societies surfaces whenever a policy that touches upon Christian values is discussed. Parliaments and courts, especially in countries born out of Christianity, are often busy trying to reconcile religious freedom claims put forward by Christians with rights that contradict Christian morality.
Jeremy Patrickis a Lecturer for the University of Southern Queensland School of Law and Justice
There are many laudable statements in “Religious Freedom for the Good of All.” The document acknowledges the Church must exist in a pluralistic and multicultural society (para. 10), that individual freedom is the birthright of every human being (para. 37), that coercion is not a legitimate means of religious conversion (para. 41), that the existence of “intermediary bodies” (including religious associations) between the individual and the state is crucial for a well-functioning society (para. 52), and that the free exercise of religion should be limited only when the rights of others or the necessities of public order are infringed (para. 79). These may not be new positions for the Catholic Church since 1965, but they certainly represent real progress in the Church’s understanding of religious freedom across its long (and in the document, carefully-elided) history (see, e.g., para. 27).
The irony is that they are all also quintessential elements of the self-professedly “neutral” secular liberal democratic state that is repeatedly castigated throughout the document. According to the document, the liberal state is (somehow) simultaneously indifferent to religion (and thus responsible for the rise of “religious radicalization”) but also actively hostile to religion (and thus responsible for a “soft totalitarianism”) (para. 4). The heart of the problem, we’re told repeatedly, is the false idol of state neutrality towards religion (para. 5, 62-65, and 86).