The Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church establishes the right of the Church to proclaim the Gospel and expound it, and to proclaim moral principles especially when this is required by fundamental rights or ‘for the salvation of souls’ (Canon 747). While this was taken for granted for centuries, society and culture have undergone rapid and extensive changes, especially over the last forty years. From what was once a Christian society and culture, we have moved to a multicultural and secular society, and have seen the rise of ‘ideological secularism’. The place of religion and religious values in the public forum is being questioned, and an aggressive secularism seeks to reduce religion and its practice to the private sphere. However, a healthy secularity should recognise both the autonomy of the state from control by the Church and also the right of the Church to proclaim its teaching and comment on social issues for the common good of humanity. This right is recognised in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. From the Church's point of view, this right was recognised for all religions in the Second Vatican Council's ‘Declaration on Religious Liberty’. We must defend that right because the Church exists not for its own sake but for the sake of humanity.
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