Are we who we say we are?

This is, or should be, the question of the hour — the question that ought to be at the center of our lives, drawing on and demonstrating our purpose.

All the more so now, during an election season in which the White House has instituted a policy that puts unprecedented limits on the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

A conference at the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences, a Vatican think tank, yielded some related thoughts and warnings. The conference was convened in order to prepare for the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris. The Pontifical Academy was founded in 1994 and is meant to facilitate a continuing dialogue between faith and reason, and between the social sciences and the social thought of the Church. The latter provides — in the words of Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy — “criteria for judgment” and “guidelines for action,” always keeping “the human person at the center of concern.”

To an American sitting in on the conference, some of its sessions amounted to a warning siren. A “religion of humanity” has taken hold of supposedly enlightened opinion and increasingly guides the judgments and actions, private and public, of people in the West, especially in Europe, cautioned Pierre Manent, a professor at the Centre de Recherches Politiques Raymond Aron.

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