Church Claims Right to Propose in a Democracy

Secularity Isn't Secularism, Archbishop Tells Conference

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CORDOBA, Spain, JUNE 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In a democratic system, representatives of the Catholic Church and of other religions have the right to propose without being accused outright of "intolerance," says the Holy See.



Intolerance would be an attempt by religious representatives to "impose" their convictions or to try to deny the right to free expression, added Archbishop Antonio Cañizares of Toledo, during a conference on "Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Violence."

The international conference was held in Cordoba on June 8-9 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Spanish archbishop focused an address to the assembly on clarifying the difference between "secularity" and "secularism," when speaking about "The Struggle Against Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians and Members of Other Religions: Respect for Religious Identity in a Pluralist Society."

In his address, published today by the Holy See, Spain's primate explained that "the distinction between the spiritual and civil power does not entail estrangement, indifference or incommunicability, but dialogue and confrontation at the service of the authentic good of the human person."

Human dignity

"Secularity is not secularism," he emphasized, quoting an expression of Pope John Paul II's.

"The secular state ensures the free exercise of worship and spiritual, cultural and charitable activities of the communities of believers," Archbishop Cañizares said. "In a pluralist society, secularity is a place of communication among the different spiritual traditions and the nation."

He continued: "If the religious communities express reservations or propose alternatives in regard to legislative decisions or administrative dispositions, this must not be considered, 'ipso facto,' as a form of intolerance, unless such communities, instead of proposing, wish to impose their own convictions and exert pressures on the consciences of others.

"On the opposite side, it would be intolerant to try to impede such communities from expressing themselves in the proper way, or denigrate them for the simple fact of not sharing the decisions that are contrary to human dignity."

The prelate echoed a key concern of Benedict XVI's when he indicated that "ethical relativism -- which recognizes nothing as definitive -- cannot be considered as a condition of democracy, as if it were the only thing that guarantees tolerance, reciprocal respect between persons and adherence to the decisions of the majority."

"A healthy democracy promotes the dignity of every human person and respect of his intangible and inalienable rights," the Spanish prelate said. "Without an objective moral base, not even democracy can ensure a stable peace."