This article considers key aspects of the Vatican II declaration on religious freedom Dignitatis Humanae and John Courtney Murray’s role in its formulation. This will be done with concern for the broader theological context as exemplified in Thomas Aquinas. After a brief outline of the difficulties Murray faced and their resolution, the discussion moves in four stages: a summary of the key ideas in the document on the relationship between truth and freedom from which the following three ideas receive a focus; the person (dignity and conscience); rights and their evolving context; historical consciousness and its role as a mode and locus of theological reflection. Here, a suggestion is offered about the interrelationship of speculative and practical reason in doctrinal development.

About the Author

Thomas Ryan SM is a Marist priest who lives in Sydney. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor of the School of Philosophy and Theology of the University of Notre Dame Australia and an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy of the Australian Catholic University. Apart from chapters in books, he has had numerous articles published in theological journals both national and international.