As Catholics, we respect the separation of church and state and value religious pluralism. The Catholic hierarchy, however, has spent years redefining what religious liberty means—pursuing religious freedom protections for large institutions at the expense of individuals.
Catholics for Choice believes that protections for religious freedom extend to one’s personal religious beliefs and practices. They do not give license to institutions like the Catholic hierarchy to obstruct or coerce the exercise of an individual person’s conscience.
Questions about Religious Freedom
We've compiled these talking points to help inform Catholic conversations about religious freedom.
As Catholics, we believe religious freedom is a two-sided coin—it means freedom of religion and freedom from religion for each individual. Everyone has the right to live according to their own beliefs and consciences, and they also have the right to live free from having the religious beliefs of others imposed on them.
Every individual person’s conscience matters. Catholics trust people to make decisions about their personal wellbeing and health care. We may or may not agree with them, but it is each person’s right to make those decisions about their personal wellbeing and health care.
Institutions—both secular and religious institutions, including Catholic institutions—cannot have a conscience. Conscience is sacred to Catholics, and it belongs to a person. What an institution has is a policy, which is very different. Once it is a policy, then you’re dealing with the political or the strategic dimensions of it, but you can’t say that the institution has a conscience.
No, we do not believe in imposing our values or beliefs on others. As Catholics, we believe that one’s own individual conscience is the final arbiter of what is right or wrong.
In fact, this is exactly the point. Many individual providers want to provide the best care for their patients, including reproductive health care and abortion, but they are prevented from following their consciences in institutions that impose policies that restrict patient care. No one should be forced to follow someone else’s beliefs.