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Cardinal Wuerl Says Faith Sets Standards for Morals, Behavior

September 13, 2012 – The role of religious faith has functioned as the conscious of American society, Cardinal Donald Wuerl said today during a “Catholic Perspectives on Religious Freedom” symposium at Georgetown.

“With religious faith comes a way of living,” said Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C. “[That way of living] is a set of standards for moral and civil behavior. …Those expectations of conduct ... are threads, to this day woven into the very fabric of our society.” 

The university’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs’ Religious Freedom Project co-sponsored the symposium with the Maryland Catholic Bishops Conference. 

Religious Liberty

“Our tradition as a Catholic and Jesuit university and our history as an American university are inextricable from our commitment to the preservation of religious liberty,” President John J. DeGioia said before introducing Cardinal Wuerl.

The symposium also marked that it was 50 years ago the Second Vatican Council met and placed emphasis on the importance of religious freedom as a matter of human dignity in a democratic society.

Wuerl said Vatican II is a reminder of “the importance of our freedom, individual freedom, in living and articulating those values and finally of the fragile nature of freedom.”

He also noted that fragility is compounded in a pluralistic society, in which diverse people live in one nation and observe different religions.

Catholic Perspectives

Thomas Banchoff, professor of government and director of the Berkley Center, said the conference was an opportunity to talk about different Catholic perspectives.

“When [the Religious Freedom Project] began [its] work in early 2011 … religious freedom was not really in the headlines,” Banchoff said. “We … see [the project] as an opportunity to elevate and to inform debate on a set of issues critical to our academy, critical to our country and the world.”

Panelists at the event included Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project, who moderated a discussion on the legacy of Vatican II that included Rev. John O’Malley, S.J., a theology professor at Georgetown.

Promoting Peace

Another panel, Religious Freedom, the Church, and International Law, included the university’s Cardinal Bernardin Chair in Catholic Social Thought – Rev. John Langan, S.J. – and Marilyn McMorrow, RSCJ, a visiting assistant professor at the School of Foreign Service.

The Berkley Center, established within DeGioia's office in 2006, is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of religion, ethics, and public life. It explores global challenges such as democracy and human rights, economic and social development, international diplomacy and interreligious understanding.

Guiding the center’s work is the idea that a comprehensive examination of faith and values is critical to address such challenges and that the sharing of religious and cultural traditions promotes peace.

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