St. Thomas More, said Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller, exemplified “the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God.” Photo from Wikipedia

Archbishop Miller calls for robust religious freedom

By  Nicholas Elbers, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 8, 2023

VANCOUVER -- Speaking to Catholic lawyers at this year’s Red Mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral, Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller emphasized the need for a broader understanding of religious freedom in Canada, challenging the nation to uphold its reputation for “healthy secularism.”

In his homily, Miller said, “Canada has traditionally been marked by a ‘healthy’ or ‘open’ secularism,” in which the State recognizes religion is not “an individual matter to be confined to the private sphere alone” and underscored the important role religion has played in shaping public institutions.

“What the Church asks for is simply the space to continue to serve with integrity the common good through the institutions it has developed over centuries,” said Miller.

The Church, he said, opposes “every attempt to impose on those institutions … programs or practices” that go against its teachings.

Freedom of religion cannot be “limited to the individual dimension alone,” Miller said, and authentic exercise of faith must be “manifested publicly.”

The archbishop said religious freedom extends beyond just the act of worship, encompassing “cultural, educational, health care and charitable activities” that are integral to communities of faith.

Citing the late Pope John Paul II, he said religious freedom serves as the “litmus test” for the respect of all other human rights and Canada is “blessed” by its enshrining of freedom of religion and conscience in Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, forming “the bedrock” of the nation’s democratic society.

“Its authentic exercise demands that its beliefs, including its inherent moral imperatives, be manifested publicly.”

He also spoke to the responsibility of law professionals to “render divine justice” in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Miller said St. Thomas More, the patron of law professionals, exemplified “the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God.” More was executed for treason for refusing to approve King Henry VIII’s divorce. 

Canada today needs lawmakers, judges and lawyers of well-formed conscience who bring their principles into their professional lives, the Archbishop told the lawyers. 

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