Scholar Warns of Attempts to Privatize Religion

Former Norwegian Official Addresses Congress on Catholics and Public Life

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MADRID, Spain, NOV. 17, 2003 ( Norway’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs warned against the tendency in Europe to consider religion as a private matter, much like a hobby.

«There is a strong current in Europe that attempts to privatize Christianity,» Janne Haaland Matlary said in an address to the Congress on Catholic and Public Life here Sunday.

«This implies that one can be a Christian as a private matter, as a hobby: some collect stamps, others are religious,» she said. «Not only is this model not realistic, but it is contrary to what religious freedom and democracy signify.»

The former Norwegian Minister and current professor of political science of Oslo University explained that religion and politics are two independent spheres that have a common field: the concept of the human being.

«The political sphere, especially democracy, has its own limitations and its own autonomy,» Matlary said. «There is a legitimate pluralism and there are many possible ways for political action on every issue, in which we Christians can opt for one or another. However, there is a series questions in which we, Christians, cannot accept a compromise. It regards all that is related to human dignity and what it implies.»

According to Matlary, there is a «profound conviction that if something is true and good, we must mobilize citizens so that it will become a general norm for all. If something is right and true, it is so in general, it isn’t so just for Christians. It is not a question of creating Christian states, but rather states based on the truth of the human being.»

For this Catholic professor, the primary task of Christians in the political sphere is that of «establishing the nature of politics and of laws.»

«The first step,» she said, «is to reintroduce logical reasoning: the language of universals, the language of morality, stemming from the truth of things. Is something good or bad? Here, the natural law is the only possible way. Normative questions cannot be established by the vote of majorities, rather, they are good or bad in themselves.»

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