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Appleby praises religious liberty doctrines in Catholicism and Islam

Author: Arts and Letters

There may be lessons for Islam in the evolution of Catholic teaching on religious liberty, according to R. Scott Appleby, director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Speaking Jan. 17 in Rome at a conference sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, Appleby charted the ecclesial history that culminated in the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom (“Dignitatis Humanae”), which asserted that religious liberty is a human right.

According to a Jan. 19 Catholic News Service story, Appleby described the council’s declaration a “striking reversal” of earlier Catholic teaching on religious liberty, which had been called “madness” as recently as 1832 in an encyclical written by Pope Gregory XVI.

The declaration was a welcome development which “laid the groundwork for [the Catholic Church’s] new role as global proponent of religious liberty and universal human rights,” Appleby said. He also praised what he saw as similar developments in Islamic teaching, describing them as “good news for Islam that there are competing traditions and voices and interpretations of what ‘jihad’ might mean and how it might be applied.”

Other speakers at the conference were Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington and James Towey, director of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Appleby may be reached for further comment at (574) 631-5665 or

Originally published by Michael O. Garvey at on January 20, 2006.