Question about Dignitatis Humanae "Declaration on religious freedom."

Hello everyone. I just finished reading Dignitatis Humanae which is a document of the 2nd Vatican Council on religious freedom. This one specific part confused me:

Finally, government is to see to it that equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens.

It is under Section 6.

Anyway, does this mean that Catholics are forbidden by the Catholic Church to refuse services for “gay weddings” such as in the case of the florist, baker, and photographer who faced legal action for doing so?

I know that in a very large portion of the document it proclaims that all people should have their right to practice their faith in public and private but I am just wondering if it would be right for a Catholic or anyone else to practice their faith in their business by refusing to provide services for “gay weddings” because it would seem to them to be an implicit approval of “gay marriage”.

Thanks in advance for your help. :slight_smile:

On the contrary, I saw:

Human equality is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons
meaning that people’s faith should not be used as a reason to chastise or marginalize.

By directly cooperating with something morally objectionable you may be comitting scandal.

Also, its a Vatican II document. It so tried to cater to a divided house (the liturgical movement euphoriacs and those that were not under its influence) that many of VII’s aspirations were never realized and probably never will be.

What did get realized was the Liturgical Movement. Many of its aspirations did get realized.

The meaning of the passage you cite is for governments not to discriminate among people when they make laws.
The US Constitution says pretty much the same.
Neither says that individuals cannot discriminate. In fact the right to practice ones faith is inherent in both.
So no…the VII document most certainly does NOT mean that the Church says catholics must service gay weddings.

Thank you everyone for your answer. So, I want to make sure I am understanding this correctly. The passage in question means that the government cannot discriminate against people but we can discriminate so long as our discrimination is justified such as a photographer, baker, or florist refusing to provide services for a “gay wedding” because they would be indirectly (or possibly directly, not sure) participating in a grave sin, right?

I have a question for you. You’re saying that one’s faith should not be used to chastise or marginalize people. I completely agree that we should not use our faith to marginalize people. But as far as chastising goes, wouldn’t admonishing sinners which is a spiritual work of mercy fall under chastising people or are you talking of punishment?

I don’t think that “admonishing sinners” is an ethical reason for refusing to photograph their wedding.
You would refrain from doing so simply to avoid being a participant…
That’s all. It’s not our place to admonish or punish people.

The photographer I can understand, because he or she would need to be present for the ceremony – but a baker or a florist is just providing products and is not expected to approve or disapprove of what people then do with the products.


Perhaps we should leave the determination of what is remote or material cooperation in evil, up to the consciences of the individuals in question, as well as the good counsel of their confessors. We should not presume to be a moral authority in anyone else’s life.

I second that!!!

I wasn’t saying that admonishing sinners was an ethical reason to refuse to photograph a wedding. I was saying the same as you that one would refrain from doing so simply to avoid being a participant. The part about admonishing sinners was separate from the first paragraph I posted.

That said, if it is not our place to admonish people then why does the Catholic Church teach that it is a spiritual work of mercy. I don’t think the Catholic Church would call it a spiritual work of mercy if we were not supposed to do it.

Well, you can go around admonishing sinners if you like. I’ll stick to instruct…advise…console…comfort…forgive…bear wrongs patiently…pray for people.
But nope…no admonishment. No punishment. No public scoldings. No shunning.
No casting stones.

Per the OP, that section refers to the directive that governments should not treat people of different religions differently before the law.

However, if you go further in part 7, it discusses the abuse of freedom and how the government can limit it. It says that when restricting freedom:

However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

The government cannot force people to act in a manner contrary to the objective moral order, nor does it always have to tolerate acts contrary to the objective moral order when they threaten the common good and public morality.

Given that we (collectively, in the U.S. and likely other countries) seem to be engaged in a public debate over where to draw the line between harm to the customer who is refused service and harm to the seller with certain moral convictions, leaving the decision to the individual conscience of each party may not be an option.

If we talk more (and listen to the Church when the appropriate authorities speak) about what counts as various levels of cooperating with evil, we might be able to work out what must never be done versus what may be done without harm, and anything in between.


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