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May a theologian's dissent be voiced through the public media?

May a theologian’s dissent be voiced through the public media?

During the Second Vatican Council the question of free theological discussion was incorporated into the Council statements. This also includes discussion in public opinion through the media.

“All the faithful, both clerical and lay, should be accorded a lawful freedom of inquiry and of thought, and the freedom to express their minds humbly and courageously about those matters in which they enjoy competence.”

Gaudium et Spes, no 62L.

The Second Vatican Council also recognised the crucial role played by public opinion in today's society.

"Public opinion exercises enormous influence nowadays over the lives, private or public, of all citizens, no matter what their walk in life. It is therefore necessary that all members of society meet the demands of justice and charity in this domain. They should help, through the means of social communication, in the formation and diffusion of sound public opinion."

Second Vatican Council, Inter Mirifica, no 8.

Public opinion, with freedom of expression as a necessary constituent, also plays a crucial part in the Church, as Pope Pius XII reminded Catholic journalists in an address on 17 February 1950 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 42 (1950) p. 251.

  • "Freedom of speech is a normal factor in the growth of public opinion which expresses the ideas and reactions of the more influential circles in a society" (no 25).
  • "If public opinion is to emerge in the proper manner, it is absolutely essential that there be freedom to express ideas and attitudes. In accordance with the express teaching of the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary unequivocally to declare that freedom of speech for individuals and groups must be permitted so long as the common good and public morality not be endangered" (no 26).

From Communio et Progressio, Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication, 29 January 1971 (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 63 (1971) pgs. 593-656).

The present Roman authorities refuse to consult anyone except their own hand-picked theologians. Critical voices will not be heard if not through the media.

John Wijngaards

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Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

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