Is Relativism Leading to Hate Crimes?

Vatican Official Reflects on Anti-Christian Persecution

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ROME, SEPT. 13, 2011 ( An official of the Vatican secretariat of state is suggesting that moral relativism could be a factor in hate crimes against Christians.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, addressed a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Monday in Rome. The OSCE was considering discrimination against Christians.

The archbishop recalled how Benedict XVI’s 2011 message for the World Day of Peace notes that Christians are «the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith.»

The prelate acknowledged that most hate crimes against Christians occur outside the area of the OSCE, but he said there are «warning signs» in Europe too. He cited a report that showed «irrefutable proof of a growing intolerance against Christians.»

Archbishop Mamberti proposed that promoting and consolidating religious liberty is at the heart of preventing these crimes.

«Religious freedom cannot be restricted to the simple freedom of worship, although the latter is obviously an important part of it,» he explained. «With due respect to the rights of all, religious freedom includes, among others, the right to preach, educate, convert, contribute to the political discourse and participate fully in public activities.»

Transcendent and social

The Vatican official clarified that religious liberty is not synonymous with relativism or «the post-modern idea that religion is a marginal component of public life.»

«Relativism and secularism deny two fundamental aspects of the religious phenomenon, and hence of the right to religious freedom, that call for respect: the transcendental and the social dimensions of religion in which the human person seeks to be related, according to the dictates of his conscience, to the reality, so to say, above and around him,» he explained.

Archbishop Mamberti went on to say that if it is true that the risk of hate crimes is related to a denial of religious liberty, «we should not forget that there are serious problems even in areas of the world where fortunately there is no violent persecution of Christians.»

While admitting that the marginalization of religion cannot be equated with actual persecution, he said that «hate crimes almost invariably feed on an environment where religious freedom is not fully respected and religion is discriminated against.»

«In the OSCE region,» he noted, «we are largely blessed with a consensus on the importance of religious liberty. This is why it is important that we continue our conversation on the substance of religious liberty, on its fundamental connection with the idea of truth, and on the difference between religious freedom and relativism that merely tolerates religion while considering it with some degree of hostility.»

He added: A vision that «identifies freedom with relativism or militant agnosticism, and which casts doubt on the possibility of ever knowing the truth, could be an underlying factor in the increased occurrence of those hate incidents and crimes which will be the object of our debate today.»

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