RSiscoe asked the following:
The following proposition is condemned as an error. In other words, anyone who believes what I am about to quote is in error.
Syllabus of Errors #15. “Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true”. – CONDEMNED STATEMENT ( Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.)
Do you believe each person is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true? Do you believe that? A person who believes such a thing is condemned by the Catholic Church.
I don’t mean to pick on you, but I am curious whether or not you believe each person is free to believe and profess whatever religion they choose; or if you believe people are not free to believe and profess any religion they choose.
People have free will and are certainly free to either assent to or dissent from the truth. So strictly speaking, all men have such a freedom understood in this sense. They are not, however, permitted to do so without sin. This is the context of the above condemnation. It is a condemnation of the heresy of Indifferentism. It is within this context which we ought to understand the above condemnation.
According to Pope Gregory XVI (1832):
Now we examine another prolific cause of evils by which, we lament, the Church is at present afflicted, namely indifferentism, or that base opinion which has become prevalent everywhere through the deceit of wicked men, that eternal salvation of the soul can be acquired by any profession of faith whatsovever, if morals are conformed to the standard of the just and the honest… And so from this most rotten source of indifferentism flows that absurd and erroneous opinion, or rather insanity, that liberty of conscience must be claimed and defended for anyone. … ***But what death of the soul is worse than freedom for errors? ***(D 1613-1614)
This is the context in which freedom of religion is condemned. It is not that people ought to be forced into one religion or another against their will. But what is condemned is the proposition of indifferentists that man has freedom to believe one religion or another, or to not believe any religion at all, without sinful consequence.
So, if one is speaking of absolute freedom to either accept or reject the workings of the Holy Spirit. We certainly do have such a freedom of religion. However, if one means that such a choice of conscience does not matter, that one can reject the truth of Catholicism without the consequence of sin, then this is incorrect.